Families of servicemen and woman killed in Iraq War issue legal ultimatum to Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry

Staff sergeant Sharron Elliott

Staff sergeant Sharron Elliott - Credit: Archant

It has been reported the family of a soldier who grew up in Suffolk are amongst those saying they will take legal action if the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war is not published by the end of the year.

Staff sergeant Sharron Elliott, who had lived in Hadleigh, was only the second British servicewoman to be killed in the conflict.

She and three others died when a makeshift bomb exploded while they were on a boat patrol on the Shatt al Arab waterway in Basra City on Remembrance Sunday in 2006.

It is thought staff sgt Elliott’s family are among a group of 29 who have issued a legal ultimatum to Sir John Chilcot, who heads up the inquiry, believing the law requiring inquiries to be concluded in a reasonable timeframe may have been breached.

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.

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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.

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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.

He said: “Tom was killed in 2003 and Iraq bubbles up in the headlines over the years and it’s like an open wound that is continually prodded.

“The only way for me to move on from this now is to consign Iraq to history and part of doing so is to get this inquiry published.

“Yes I’d like to see Tony Blair dragged in shackles off to court as a war criminal because we have to bear in mind 180 British service personnel were killed here, over 3,500 wounded, two million Iraqis fled Iraq, over 100,000 innocent Iraqis have been killed.

“This is an inquiry into a war. This isn’t an inquiry into, I don’t know, the price of milk, the price of rail travel or the price of energy, and I don’t think Sir John has actually got that to be honest, the gravity of what’s happened here.”

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