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Elizabeth Wilmshurst

Elizabeth Wilmshurst at Chatham House in 2013

Elizabeth Susan Wilmshurst CMG (born 28 August 1948), Distinguished Fellow of the International Law Programme[1] at Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs), and Professor of International Law at University College London, is best known for her role as Deputy Legal Adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

She resigned from the Foreign Office on 20 March 2003, three days after Lord Goldsmith's final advice[2] to the British government reversed her legal opinion (in Lord Goldsmith's first secret memo 10 days earlier[3]) that the invasion was illegal without a second United Nations Security Council Resolution to SCR 678. Although her resignation was public at the time,[4] the detailed reasons and resignation letter were not, and caused a stir when they were released two years later.[5]

Juliet Stevenson played Wilmshurst in "A Simple Private Matter", an episode of the BBC series 10 Days to War.

On 26 January 2010, Wilmshurst gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry about the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the advice given to then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the same day as her former boss, Sir Michael Wood.[6]

Wilmshurst was educated at King's College London (LLB, 1969). She was the leading British negotiator of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, both within the framework of the UN Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of an ICC (1996-1998) and the Rome Diplomatic Conference (June–July 1998). Her writings and publications in the complex area of International Criminal Law include the widely used An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure, co-edited with Robert Cryer, Hakan Friman and Darryl Robinson.


Further readingEdit

Introductory note on the General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974 (Definition of Aggression) in the Historic Archives of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG".
  2. ^ "A case for war". The Guardian. London. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  3. ^ BBC News (PDF) Retrieved 1 May 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (22 March 2003). "Adviser quits Foreign Office over legality of war". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Wilmshurst resignation letter". BBC News. 24 March 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  6. ^ "Straw rejected advice that Iraq invasion was 'unlawful'". BBC News. BBC. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2010.

External linksEdit