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World News

Mothers call for Iraq war inquiry

LONDON (Reuters) - The mothers of two British soldiers who died in the Iraq war took their battle over the legality of the invasion to the House of Lords on Monday.

A British soldier takes up position before the start of the handover ceremony outside Basra's airport December 16, 2007. The mothers of two British soldiers who died in the Iraq war took their battle over the legality of the invasion to the House of Lords on Monday. REUTERS/Atef Hassan

Lawyers for Rose Gentle of Pollock, Glasgow, and Beverley Clarke of Stafford launched their test case before a sitting of nine law lords, the country’s highest court.

The mothers say human rights law means the government should hold an investigation into Britain’s decision to join the Iraq invasion, which cost the lives of their sons Fusilier Gordon Gentle and Trooper David Clarke, both 19.

That claim was dismissed by the Appeal Court in December 2006.

The women said in papers before the law lords that the government had a duty to protect the lives of its armed forces by taking “reasonable steps to ensure that it did not send them to take part in unlawful military activities.”

Opening the case on Monday, human rights lawyer Rabinder Singh said it could be argued there had been a breach of European Convention on Human Rights provisions relating to a right to life as a result of the way the government agreed to the invasion.

“It’s really important to us to find out why my son was sent there and why he was killed in this war,” Rose Gentle said before the hearing.

“We believe they should never have been there in the first place,” she added.

Lawyer Phil Shiner, representing the mothers, said an inquiry would need to hear evidence from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.

Advice from Goldsmith over the legality of the war was a key element in Blair’s decision to take part in the U.S.-led invasion.

Shiner said an inquiry would also call former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The hearing will continue for the rest of the week after which judgment will be reserved to be given in writing later, probably in two to three months’ time.

Britain has already held a number of inquiries into events linked to the Iraq war.

A 2004 report cleared Blair of distorting intelligence assessments on Iraq but exposed faulty work. A second report cleared Blair of blame for the suicide of Iraq weapons expert David Kelly.

Writing by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison

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