UK Law Lords reject Iraq anti-war protesters' necessity defense

[JURIST] The Law Lords [official website], the judicial panel of the UK House of Lords that is Britain's highest court, Wednesday dismissed [opinion text] appeals brought by anti-war protesters who argued [JURIST report] that under the Criminal Law Act 1967 they were allowed to break British law in an attempt to stop what they termed a "greater crime of aggression", i.e. the invasion of Iraq. The Lords ruled that the British government's violation of international peace could not be treated as a crime under British law that would allow the activists to argue necessity as a legal defense. In his judgment Lord Bingham of Cornhill [Wikipedia profile] noted that international law does not automatically create domestic crimes, writing,

[I]t is for those representing the people of the country in Parliament, not the executive and not the judges, to decide what conduct should be treated as lying so far outside the bounds of what is acceptable in our society as to attract criminal penalties.
Greenpeace [official website] registered its disappointment in the verdict [press release] in a statement later Wednesday, saying "It is bizarre that people who followed their conscience to prevent an illegal war are penalised while the architects of that war get away scot free." The activist group counted 14 members [Greenpeace profiles] among the defendants, who were convicted of aggravated trespass [Greenpeace press release] for staging a protest at a British military base in an effort to delay the export of military hardware in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraqi invasion. Greenpeace anti-war activist Ben Ayliffe maintained that protesters “would [trespass] again tomorrow if necessary regardless of the legal consequences." The London Evening Standard has more.


 

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