Campaign groups have attacked delays in the publication of the final report by the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war as a “gross abdication of responsibility”.
The inquiry was launched in July 2009 to look into the way decisions were made under the premiership of Tony Blair, to establish what happened and identify lessons that could be learned.
Chaired by Sir John Chilcot, its last public hearing took place on February 2, 2011, but it is still yet to publish its report – more than 10 years since the start of the war.
The delay has previously been put down to the sheer scale of the inquiry, whose report is expected to run to more than a million words.
It has been suggested that delays are due to disagreements over what documents can be published as part of the report, but the inquiry has dismissed claims that the report is being delayed because the Government will not declassify Cabinet minutes or records of conversations between Tony Blair and former US president George Bush, saying it is in the process of seeking declassification of extracts of a large number of documents.
The report is unlikely to be published before the end of the year.
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said: “Delay to the publication of Chilcot means that there is resistance to its findings from some of those responsible for the war in Iraq.
“While the truth is being delayed and therefore denied to all those who suffered as a result of the war, Tony Blair sees fit to pronounce on a new war, this time with Syria.
“This totally misnamed envoy for peace in the Middle East should be in the dock, and the evidence from Chilcot should put him there.”
Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “It is a grim irony that news of the Chilcot Inquiry’s delay has been drowned out by the drumbeats of a new war in the Middle East. Now more than ever, the delay of the Chilcot Inquiry is a gross abdication of responsibility.
“If it had not been kicked into the long grass, the inquiry could have played a constructive part in informing the debate around Syria. It was supposed to shed light on how the UK was dragged into an illegal war in Iraq, on spurious grounds, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. But without scrutiny of these issues – of war crimes and dodgy dossiers – we are doomed to make the same mistakes.”
The war, which started on March 20, 2003, lasted more than six years, claimed the lives of 179 UK personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
Britain ended combat operations in 2009, but a decade on, the war remains contentious. On the 10th anniversary, it was claimed that the conflict had probably led to the deaths of more than 174,000 people.
The Iraq Body Count project said it had added data from media reports, hospital and morgue records to previously unreported civilian deaths released by WikiLeaks and found that overall there had been 25 Iraqi civilian deaths for every coalition forces death.