Experts demand inquest into David Kelly death.
Back in August a group of ‘prominent experts’ demanded a full inquest into the death of government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. They described the official cause of death, haemorrhage, as “extremely unlikely” in the light of evidence since made public.
The call came in a letter to The Times signed by eight senior figures, including a former coroner, Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner, Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine.
The scientist was found dead in woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003 after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story disclosing anger within the intelligence service over use of Iraq arms data. Evidence has since shown that it was the government that leaked Dr Kelly’s name as the source in an attempt to smear him.
Mr Andrew Gilligan, on the BBC Today programme, 29 May 2003, reported Dr Kelly’s allegations that the Government ‘probably’ knew their claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes was incorrect, but decided to put it in its dossier anyway- and secondly, that 10 Downing Street ordered the dossier to be ‘sexed up”.
On 1st June 2003 the Mail on Sunday published an article written by Mr Gilligan describing his discussion with Dr Kelly, an ‘unknown source’ at this time. The article stated that his source said: “The Government’s dossier on Iraq’s WMD was transformed the week before publication”. “I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word ‘Campbell”. Alastair Campbell has publically called these allegations lies.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced on 3rd June 2003 that it would hold an inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan were one of the reasons why the FAC decided to hold its inquiry.
There are however doubts as to weather Dr Kelly was indeed the source of Mr Gilligan’s story. To-date Mr Gilligan has never confirmed or denied his source was Dr Kelly. On 30th June, Dr Kelly wrote a lengthy letter to Dr Wells, his line manager at the MoD. He stated that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, but that he was convinced he was not Mr Gilligan’s primary source of information.
A decision was taken at a meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday 8th July, to issue a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan on 22nd May, a week before his broadcast.
On the evening of 8th July the BBC issued a press statement referring to the MoD’s statement. The BBC said that the description of the individual contained in the MoD statement did not match Mr Gilligan’s source.
The press officers in the MoD were given a brief not to volunteer Dr Kelly’s name, but if the correct name were put to them by a journalist, it should be confirmed. At around 5.30pm, the Financial Times put Dr Kelly’s name to the Director of News at the MoD, and she confirmed it.
Hutton claims in his final report that Dr Kelly did not tell Gilligan “that the reason why the 45 minutes claim was not included in the original draft of the dossier was because it only came from one source, and the intelligence agencies thought it untrue”. Hutton claims this was Gilligan’s invention and that it was unfounded.
The final report by Hutton, published 28th January 2004, points to evidence submitted by Donald Anderson MP and Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP, of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Anderson said that after the Committee -who were about to publish a report on their Iraq inquiry- learned of the MoD statement of 8th July, that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had met Mr Gilligan, there was a meeting of the FAC to decide whether it should reopen its inquiry in to the Iraq War and call Dr Kelly to give evidence.
The meeting decided that “fundamental to our report had been the question whether the politicians had overborne the intelligence community in respect of the information. Our views on this question might well be fundamentally overturned as a result of meeting the person who may have been Gilligan’s source, and therefore it would look odd if we did not seek to clarify the position.” Mackinley states that he considered it the duty of the government to have immediately informed the FAC that a civil servant had stepped forward claiming to be Gilligan’s source.
The government learned of it on 30th June, but didn’t inform the FAC, who only heard of it once the MOD had issued its press statement on July 8th. Mackinley expressed the view of the FAC that the government “deliberately stalled, hoping the FAC report would be published before they had learnt that Gilligan’s source had come forward. It was designed to avoid him coming before the FAC’s Iraq inquiry.
The BBC issued a statement on the evening of 8th July that the source was not Dr Kelly, but “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier” as stated by Mr Gilligan in his broadcast on 29th May – “nor was it a source within the intelligence service as stated by John Humphrys on the Today Programme,” said the statement.
David Kelly (if he was the real source) claimed that Tony Blair’s press spokesman, Alastair Campbell “sexed up” his dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability, transforming it a week before it was published, to conclude Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed within 45 minutes. Dr Kelly, the British UN weapons inspector, not only refuted these claims, but said he thought Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction what so ever.
Dr Kelly stated prior to the war- in memos submitted as evidence to the inquiry in to his death- that the ‘45 minutes’ intelligence was based on one single unverified source. This source was an undergraduate’s thesis published on the internet. Dr Kelly said sarcastically, he knew of a source that claims it could be done in four minutes. The reality David Kelly said is that “reliable information was not obtainable and could not even be gained from detainees despite financial incentives”. Kelly further stated that “the sanctions in Iraq were working well. It was very hard to import things, and the Iraqi arms industry had been impeded”. He asserted in his memos that “there was no evidence of a WMD programme and a large weapons programme would be impossible to hide”.
The dossier was used by the British government as a pretext to invade Iraq. Studies by the British Medical Association, Havard University and University of Austin, Texas conducted between 2006 and 2007 agreed an estimated 1.2million to 1.8million people had died as a result of the illegal war – and still the casualties continue.
The inquest into Dr Kelly’s death was suspended before it could begin by the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer. The Lord Chancellor then used the Coroners Act to designate the Hutton Inquiry in to Dr Kelly’s death as ‘fulfilling the function of an inquest’ -so the inquest was never resumed. On the 5th August 2003, before the Hutton inquiry began, Hutton banned all broadcasting of its proceedings.
Just prior to the start of the inquiry, in a statement on the hutton-inquiry.org.uk web site, 23rd July 2003, Hutton said; “My terms of reference is this: To urgently conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly. I make it clear that it will be for me to decide, as I think right within my terms of reference, the matters which will be the subject of my investigation”.
In June 2010 The Mail on Sunday reported that Dr Kelly’s death certificate was officially registered before the Hutton inquiry ended and it was not properly completed. It was not signed by a doctor or coroner and does not state a place of death, as all death certificates should.
The Hutton report concluded “the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”. But the letter sent to the Times in August, insists that the conclusion is ‘unsafe’. The signatories claim a severed ulnar artery, the wound found on Dr Kelly’s wrist, was unlikely to be life-threatening.
Dr Hunt, the post-mortem pathologist, claimed Kelly was suffering from ischaemic heart disease. “And had a toxic dose of Dextropropoxyphene, a dangerous drug in overdosage with direct effects on the heart”. According to Dr Hunt, Kelly also had a toxic dose of coproxamol present. Dr Hunt added, these ‘may or may not’ have played a part in his death.
On 1st July 2010, the Mail on Sunday reported that a female colleague of Dr Kelly’s had recently claimed, in a letter to the Attorney General, that the UN weapons inspector could not have committed suicide, as he was too weak to cut his own wrist. She said a hand and arm injury meant that the 59-year-old even ‘had difficulty cutting his own steak’. Miss Pedersen also said Dr Kelly had been suffering from a severe throat infection and had difficulty swallowing pills. She casts serious doubts in the letter that he could have swallowed 29 painkillers before slitting his left wrist. Therefore, she said, “he would have had to have been a contortionist to have killed himself by slashing his left wrist, as Lord Hutton concluded in 2004”. The letter continued: “The absence of a full coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death and perpetual secrecy meant it was crying out for further scrutiny”.
Miss Pedersen said in the letter that she had provided the Hutton enquiry with a witness statement that voiced these concerns, but her statement was not presented to the enquiry. Miss Pederson states in her letter that she also offered to testify at the enquiry, but that her testimony was refused. When she asked why it was refused, she was given no answer.
On 25th January 2010 it was reported in the Mail on Sunday that Hutton had secretly barred the release of medical records, post-mortem results, witness statements and unpublished evidence. The records will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.
The normal rules on post-mortems allow close relatives and “properly interested persons” to apply to see a copy of the report and to “inspect” other documents. Hutton’s measure has overridden these rules, so the files will not be opened until all people are likely to be dead.
Hutton refused to speak to the Mail on Sunday about the ban, whilst a Ministry of Justice spokesman told them he was “unable to explain the legal basis for the order”. Such an order is totally unprecedented.
The ban and the existence of hidden, unpublished material – including witness statements not disclosed to the enquiry, all medical reports, the post-mortem findings of Dr Hunt and photographs of Dr Kelly’s body – only came to light a year after the conclusion of the enquiry in 2004.
The restrictions only came to light in a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council to a group of doctors who were challenging the Hutton verdict. The doctors claimed the artery is too small and difficult to access in cases of suicide and severing it could not have caused death.
Hutton is no stranger to controversy. He was the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, presiding over an occupying force condemned internationally for human rights abuses.
Brian Hutton QC was the representative of the British MOD during the 1973 “Bloody Sunday” inquest. Members of the Parachute Battalion had opened fire on unarmed civilians attending a civil rights march in Derry. Fourteen people were killed and another fourteen shot and wounded.
The Londonderry City coroner, Major Hubert O’Neill, accused the British army of “sheer unadulterated murder”, adding there had been “no justification for the soldiers to open fire”. Addressing Major O’Neill at the inquest, Hutton said: “It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion.” Hutton’s conclusion of the Bloody Sunday inquest has since been totally discredited and the British government has been forced to apologise for the actions of the British army.
In 1997 Brian Hutton featured in the case of David Shayler. Shayler, a former MI5 agent claimed in the Mail on Sunday that agents in the 1970s illegally tapped the telephone of Peter Mandelson, later to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary, and kept a file on Jack Straw who later became Foreign Secretary. David Shayler went on to expose an MI5 plot to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi.
Lord Hutton, together with Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough and Lord Scott of Foscote unanimously agreed that it was “not in the public interest” to report on the illegal activities of MI5. Their ruling cleared the way for Shayler’s prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
On the 11th of December 2003, as the Hutton Inquiry was nearing its climax. Hutton announced that he would retire as a Law Lord on the 11 January 2004, two weeks before his report was due to be sent to the printers.
The Hutton Report has failed to allay suspicions of foul play in Dr Kelly’s death and has been dismissed by many experts as a whitewash for clearing the Government of any culpability. Last year, a group of doctors, including former coroner, Dr Powers, compiled a 12 page medical dossier as part of their legal challenge to the Hutton verdict.
The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has also indicated that he believes “the case could merit a further inquiry”. On the morning of July 17th 2003, Dr Kelly mysteriously told a friend by email that there were “many dark actors playing games”. In 2007 it was discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the blunt pruning knife he is said to have used to cut his wrist had no fingerprints on it.
Michael Howard, former Tory leader has joined the call for a full inquest. He told the Mail on Sunday on 15th August, “Recent evidence by the first police officer on the scene, together with new statements by doctors raise serious questions which should be considered”.
So; Who killed David Kelly? Well I’m buggered if I know. Anyone with a stake in perpetuating the public illusion that Iraq was in possession of WMDs would have a motive. It’s a very long list, one that concievably even includes the Iraqis themselves. It’s even posible- though on balance highly unlikely, that Dr David Kelly killed himself. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a Tory before, but “serious questions need to be answered”.
Since 2009 the Chilcot Inquiry, the most recent inquiry into the Iraq war has been drifting on. Dr Kelly’s name has scarcely been mentioned. Chilcot was quoted admitting he “did not want to touch the Kelly issue”.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as an academic exercise, delving into some distant historical event in an attempt to understand what happened. But to many Iraqis, the inquiry is something else entirely. It is an inconsequential charade, a classic case of fiddling while Baghdad burns.
Last year Hans Blix, former chief UN weapons inspector, appeared before the inquiry. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he had made it clear to the UN that he needed a few more months to finish his task.
However when Blix appeared before the UN Security Council in 2003, 11 days before the invasion, he failed to make a clear, unequivical stand against the war. It allowed Tony Blair to push on with plans to drag Britain into the war.
Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact. The problem is, the Iraq war is not some bygone event. When Blair misled parliament into passing a motion to disarm Iraq of its non-existent WMDs he started a chain of events that destroyed a country, and left millions dead, maimed, orphaned or widowed. Its horrific consequences are still being visited upon Iraqis – such as the mothers who are delivering deformed babies because of the chemical weapons used by the invading forces.
Meanwhile, the litany of repressive policies gets longer. It is illegal to be a member of a trade union, just as it was under Saddam. Paul Bremer, the US envoy who ruled Iraq after the invasion, revived Saddam’s infamous “decree 150” in 2004, effectively banning all public sector unions. Activists are now treated as if they were terrorists, with a government decree under the 2005 anti-terrorism act, allowing their assets to be siezed.
The regime has also brought terror-related charges against oil industry trade union leaders. The president of the Federation of Oil Unions, Hasan Juma’a, and several other union leaders have been charged with contacting the media, sabotaging the economy and high treason. Juma’a believes that the regime is trying to “liquidate” the unions while transferring Iraq’s oil wealth to the multinationals.
Last year, troops opened fire on the demonstrators protesting against elcticity restrictions and prices. The prime minister described them as “hooligans” and deployed troops in Baghdad to stop the protests – dubbed by Iraqis as the “electricity uprising”.
Last week Tony Blair was recalled to the Chilcot Inquiry, but whilst Chilcot rumbles on, there is palpable anger across Iraq against the regime’s policies and corruption. Baghdad has the biggest US embassy in the world, from which, many Iraqis believe, the US dictates important regime policies and deepens Iraqi political divisions in order to maintain its control of the country. US aims have changed since the invasion – America wants to steer Iraq’s political and economic direction, and use the country as a base against Iran – but most of the Iraqi people continue to bravely resist.