Adviser quits British Foreign Office over legality of war

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Sat Mar 22 00:45:51 MST 2003

Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Saturday March 22, 2003
The Guardian

A senior legal adviser to the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has quit
the Foreign Office because of a difference over the legal advice
sanctioning the war against Iraq, it emerged last night.

Elizabeth Wilmhurst, 54, deputy legal adviser, is understood to be
unhappy with the government's official line that it has sufficient basis
for war under UN resolutions. Ms Wilmhurst has been a legal adviser at
the Foreign Office for 30 years, and deputy legal officer since 1997.

Her resignation will be an embarrassment to Tony Blair as well as to Mr
Straw and raises new doubts about the legal basis for the war. It will
encourage anti-war MPs to renew pressure on the attorney general, Lord
Goldsmith, to publish in full his legal advice to the government.

The Foreign Office was reluctant to discuss Ms Wilmhurst's departure. A
spokesman said: "A legal adviser has decided to leave over the last few
days." Asked the reason, he said: "That is a matter for them."

After a week of reported unease within the government about the legality
of going to war without a second UN resolution, Lord Goldsmith on Monday
published a condensed version of his advice to Mr Blair. But anti-war
MPs and many lawyers suspect the full version may be more evenly

Concern about the legal advice was expressed this week by two former
Foreign Office legal advisers. In a letter to the Times, Sir Franklin
Berman, legal adviser from 1991-99, and Sir Arthur Watts, legal adviser
from 1987-91, expressed regret that the search for a second resolution
had been abandoned. They said the onus was on the government to account
"for their actions to the international community in whose name they
claim to act".

The Guardian was unable to contact Ms Wilmhurst.,12956,919647,00.html

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