31 July 2012

UK government overrules Information Commissioner’s decision to release records on Iraq war

The UK government has overruled a decision of the independent Information Commissioner to release the minutes of cabinet meetings held immediately before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, had ruled that the documents be released because he considered the "exceptional gravity and controversy" of the matters discussed at the meeting meant that the minutes should be disclosed.

However, the government has determined to use its veto power to overrule the decision of the Information Commissioner. UK newspaper, the Guardian, has reported that Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, justified the government decision on the basis that "the issue discussed was exceptionally serious, being a decision to commit British service personnel to an armed conflict situation', that the issue ‘remains the focus of both domestic and international interest', and that ‘Iraq remains very much a live political issue in its own right' with links to the ‘overall security situation in the Middle East and the perceived link between the terror threat to the UK and military action in Iraq".

In South Africa, cabinet documents are specifically excluded from the Promotion of Access to Information Act, which governs access to information of government records.