Friday

30th Sep 2022

Journalist attempts citizen's arrest of Blair in EU parliament

A Brussels reporter attempted to place Tony Blair under a citizen's arrest on Monday (22 March) for his role in the invasion of Iraq, during a visit by the former UK prime minister to the European Parliament for a hearing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On the seventh anniversary of the invasion almost to the day, late afternoon, David Cronin, an Irish journalist with the Inter Press Service news agency and a regular writer on European Union affairs for The Guardian, the British centre-left daily, approached Mr Blair, as he was due to discuss with MEPs his current work as a Middle East special envoy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Tony Blair, currently a top-level envoy to the Middle East, is finding it hard to shake off the Iraq War ghosts (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Placing his hand on the former prime minister's arm, Mr Cronin said: "Mr Blair, this is a citizens' arrest."

The ex-Labour leader, in the parliament to speak as the special representative of the Quartet - the EU, US, Russia and the UN - momentarily flinched, but the 38-year-old reporter was quickly pushed away by a bodyguard.

"You are guilty of war crimes," he said, intending to invite Mr Blair to accompany him to the nearest police station to be charged with committing a "a war of aggression" - a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense - in breach of customary international law, specifically the Nuremberg Principles under the rubric of the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, the legal body that exercises jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.

Both Belgium and the UK have ratified the Rome Statute, although all parties to the text have yet to adopt a definition of the crime of aggression. The parties are due to hold a review conference in the first half of 2010 where a definition is expected to be agreed.

The reporter was not himself arrested or accosted by European Parliament security, but simply left the room of his own accord. Attempting to re-enter half an hour later, Mr Cronin was refused entry and guards later requested to see his press card.

Speaking to EUobserver after the event, Mr Cronin said he had been inspired by the attempts to arrest Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe by UK human rights activist Peter Tatchell in London in 1999 and in Brussels in 2001. The campaign launched in January by Guardian columnist George Monbiot to repeat the attempt on Mr Blair also featured in his thinking.

"My motivation in trying to arrest Blair is entirely based on my contempt for the crimes he has committed and abetted in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and Serbia," he told this website.

"Perhaps 1 million lives were lost in Iraq alone," he added, referring to the Lancet medical journal survey of war casualties.

It is the second such attempted arrest of the former British leader. British anti-war protester Grace McCann was the first to try to collar Mr Blair, following his January testimony before the Chilcot enquiry into the UK's role in the 2003 invasion.

Mr Monbiot's campaign has posted a rolling bounty on Mr Blair, collecting donations via the internet. Each person attempting an arrest is entitled to a quarter of the money collected at the time.

Mr Cronin said that if found to be eligible for the bounty, he would prefer that the money go to a Palestinian human rights charity in the Gaza Strip.

A spokeswoman for the European Parliament told EUobserver that she felt the security response to the incident was satisfactory.

"We find the behaviour of the journalist somewhat silly. Mr Blair's safety was at no moment in any danger. The bodyguards dealt with the journalist and for us that's it," Marjory van den Broeke told this website, adding that they "have no plans to withdraw his press card."

Spokespeople for the UK mission to the European Union refused to comment on the incident.

EU denies trolling UK with Blair meeting

Blair and Davis could cross paths in the EU Commission building at next Thursday's Brexit talks, but timing was innocent Commission said.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

The Union's next seven-year budget, new tax laws, Palestinian refugees, Belarus and Syria stand out on next week's EU agenda.

Feature

Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  2. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  3. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan
  4. Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy
  5. How US tech giants play EU states off against each other
  6. Deregulation of new GMO crops: science or business?
  7. The European shipping giants plying Putin's fossil-fuels trade
  8. Russian ideologue and caviar on latest EU blacklist

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us