UK to Change War Crimes Arrests Law

Published: July 22nd 2010
in News » World

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni
Pic: wikimedia commons

On Thursday, the British government announced that they are planning to amend the U.K.’s universal jurisdiction law. Such a move will mean that Israeli officials will no longer have to worry about being charged with war crimes when they arrive in the U.K.


The government stated that they are in the process of amending the law so that any case brought up under the banner of international law will have to be studied by the Crown Prosecution Service for validity before proceeding.


Currently, any individual can bring up an arrest warrant case and the British court system is compelled to hear it.


The proposed legal change comes on the heels of harsh criticism last December when Tzipi Livni, the leaders of the Kadima party, was forced to postpone a trip to London after a pro-Palestinian group was able to get the British magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for alleged Gaza war crimes. Earlier trips by Defence Minister Ehud Barak and then Public Security Minister Avi Dichter were cancelled for the same reason.


Even if the proposed change became law – British parliament will vote on it in October in a months long process – it would not necessarily mean that Israelis would not be susceptible to prosecution for war crimes upon entering the U.K. under the country’s universal jurisdiction law. However, giving the Crown authority would make the charge much harder to put in place.


The Israeli government has been pressing for even greater changes to the universal jurisdiction law for some time.


Ron Prosor, Israel’s UK ambassador, is hopeful that the initiative is a step in the right direction which will “block the misuses of the system for political purposes.”


He told Haaretz that if the proposal is “followed through” by the British government that it will “assist in allowing Britain play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East, something which has been prevented at the moment.”


Six months ago, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that his government planned to begin working to end campaigns by politicized interest groups that sought the arrest on war crimes charges of foreign officials traveling to Britain.

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