FAMILIES of soldiers killed in the Iraq War will take legal action if the Chilcot Inquiry is not published by the end of the year, the father of one of the war dead has said.
Reg Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed in Iraq in 2003 aged 20, criticised inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot for not understanding the feelings of the bereaved.
Mr Keys is part of a group of 29 families who have issued a legal ultimatum to Sir John, believing the law requiring inquiries to be concluded in a reasonable timeframe may have been breached.
Much of the anger is focused on the ongoing “Maxwellisation” process, which gives the opportunity to individuals facing possible criticism in the report to respond and is holding up publication.
The delay has been a growing source of frustration for Prime Minister David Cameron, who has demanded a timetable for publication be set out “pretty soon”, but Whitehall sources do not expect one before Parliament returns in September.
Sir John insisted last month that his inquiry – launched in 2009 – was making “significant progress”, although he could not set a date for the publication of his findings.
But Mr Keys said the families of soldiers killed need closure and called on Sir John to publish the report by the end of 2015 or face legal action. He criticised Sir John for failing to grasp the gravity of the war and insisted that there is no legal requirement for the inquiry to go through the Maxwellisation process.
Mr Keys told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think what Sir John doesn’t understand is the strength of feeling amongst the bereaved.
“I think what Sir John has to bear in mind now is that we want closure on this, it has to be done fair, it has to be done right.
“But he’s had time enough now and he’s not imposing deadlines on this and that’s where our argument is, we want to give a deadline now, by the end of the year or legal action will be following.”
Mr Keys said the failure to publish the inquiry is stopping him moving on from his son’s death.
Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Crispin Blunt said he did not expect to see the report before next year but stressed that it will be stronger for having given those criticised the chance to respond.
The Tory MP told the programme: “If the people being criticised have the opportunity to respond and for those responses if they are valid then to be incorporated into the report, or if not, not incorporated into the whole report, that does mean that the inquiry itself will carry even more authority.
“I think that should be borne in mind, we are engaged in a process that is going to produce an inquiry into an immensely important historic event and the Maxwellisation process gives us the best chance of getting it right.”
The mother of a teenage soldier killed in Iraq said families are “ready for the truth” as she backed a call for legal action over the publication. Anti-war campaigner Rose Gentle believes the bereaved have struggled to move on with their lives as they await the findings of the report.
Ms Gentle, whose son Gordon, 19, was killed in a bomb attack in 2004, said: “We’ve still got this thing hanging over our heads.
“We can’t get closure, it’s been going on too long now. It’s hard for all the families, we really just want it over and done with.
“I would definitely support legal action if there’s not a date given of when the report is going to be published.”