Lord Bingham of Cornhill obituary
The Guardian: The greatest English judge of the modern era, he saw judicial independence as essential to the protection of human rights
It seems fitting (to me) to mark Lord Bingham’s death with three quotations – of many – from his writings and judgments:
If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law.
For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council …
The Rule of Law in the International Order (Nov. 2008)
Lord Goldsmith’s ‘revival argument’ for the legality of the Iraq war: “…all that resolution 1441 requires is reporting to and discussion by the Security Council of Iraq’s failures, but not an express further decision to authorise force.”
Lord Bingham’s response: “This statement was, I think flawed in two fundamental respects… First, it was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had: Hans Blix and his team of weapons inspectors had found no weapons of mass destruction, were making progress and expected to complete their task in a matter of months.
Secondly, it passes belief that a determination whether Iraq had failed to avail itself of its final opportunity was intended to be taken otherwise than collectively by the Security Council.”
The former senior law lord noted that Lord Goldsmith’s “revival” argument had been ill-received. Lord Alexander QC described it as “unconvincing”. Prof Philippe Sands QC called it a “bad argument”. And Prof Vaughan Lowe QC described it as “fatuous”.The Rule of Law in the International Order (Nov. 2008)
It would appear that our governments have ‘form’….
Writing to the Prime Minister on 7 November 1956, the Attorney General, Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller QC, said “… I support and have supported the Government’s actions though I cannot do so on legal grounds.” After a meeting the next day he wrote again, on behalf of himself and the Solicitor General, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster QC: “Although I support what we have done and have said so publicly, we cannot, as you know, agree with the statements made on behalf of the Government that we were legally entitled so to act.”
The Rule of Law, Nov 2006