Iraq war report’s ‘inordinate delay’ criticized by Baroness Butler-Sloss

Sir John Chilcot has been publicly criticized by retired High Court judge, Baroness Butler-Sloss, over the extensive delay to the publication of his Iraq war inquiry report. The baroness even offered Chilcot tips on how to speed up the process.

Butler-Sloss said on Tuesday she was frustrated the report had not been published while bereaved families await answers as to why Britain went to war.

The probe into Britain’s role in the 2003 Iraq war was launched by Sir John Chilcot in 2009, and completed its evidence-taking in 2011.

The former judge advised Chilcot to set deadlines for the Maxwellization process, which allows those criticized in the report a right of reply before publication.

Her intervention comes a day after Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper said Britain must not pursue further military action against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) until Chilcot’s report is published.

Butler-Sloss dismissed the idea that Maxwellization is holding the report back. Writing in a letter to the Times, she advised Chilcot he should use deadlines to force respondents to reply in good time.

I fail to understand why the passages critical of witnesses could not be sent to them with a deadline for replies if that is indeed the main reason for what appears to be an inordinate delay in completing the report,” she said.

When I chaired the Cleveland child abuse inquiry in 1987, my report was critical of a number of witnesses. I sent each a copy of the relevant chapter and asked for comments. I also gave a deadline within which the replies were to be returned to me.

I completed my report on more than 120 children removed from their homes on unsatisfactory medical evidence of serious sexual abuse within 11 months of starting hearing evidence,” she added.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon have also criticized Chilcot for taking so long to publish his findings.

The PM told the BBC on Saturday he found the delays “immensely frustrating.”

People listening to this will think, ‘Why on earth can’t the prime minister order this thing to be published?’ I can’t. It’s an independent inquiry. It has to be that way,” Cameron told the BBC.

Butler-Sloss said she shared the frustration felt by soldiers and families affected by the war.

I feel it not just because the politicians want to see this, but actually you meet mothers and fathers of those who died in Iraq who want to know the answers, and want to know before they reach the end of their lives,” she said.