Blair waged war illegally, say leading lawyers.

Tony Blair is facing a formal complaint to the international war-crimes tribunal by a panel of senior international legal experts for unlawfully waging war in Iraq.

The panel of eight law professors, including experts from Oxford University and the London School of Economics, is studying evidence that alleges Britain has broken international treaties on war and human rights in Iraq.

The allegations centre on Iraqi civilian deaths caused by British cluster bombs, the targeting of power stations and the use of toxic depleted uranium shells against tanks.

Lawyers advising the panel allege that these tactics have led to thousands of avoidable civilian casualties - in breach of the Geneva Conventions. The case against the Prime Minister is strengthened, they claim, by his failure to get UN sanction for the war.

The panel will meet in London on Saturday to decide whether the evidence is strong enough for a formal complaint to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Under the Rome statute that set the ICC up in 1998, the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, an Argentinian who investigated atrocities by his country's former military junta, can launch independent inquiries into war crimes complaints.

The inquiry's organisers think it highly likely the panel will find enough evidence to justify a complaint, but it remains unclear how the court will react. Earlier complaints about the war in Iraq, by groups of Greek and Belgian lawyers, were rejected.

[Source: By Severin Carrell, The Independent, London, UK, 02Nov03]

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