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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Livni to challenge British universal jurisdiction law

Two months after a British court issued a warrant for her arrest on 'war crimes' charges during a trip to the UK, an embarrassed British government still has not amended its universal jurisdiction law to allow Israeli politicians and army officers to travel safely in the country. Livni has apparently decided to force the issue. She says that she will travel to the UK and allow herself to be arrested in order to embarrass the British government into changing the law.
Tzipi Livni, the Israeli opposition leader whose threatened arrest sparked the dispute, indicated last night that she was prepared to travel to Britain and “take the bullet” if that was the only way to shame the Government into action. “Britain has obligated itself to me personally that this subject will be taken care of and fixed,” she said. “Now is the time.”

Ministers promised to act after a magistrate in London issued a warrant for the arrest of Ms Livni last year, for alleged war crimes in Gaza when she was Foreign Minister. The warrant was withdrawn after she cancelled her planned trip.

The issue embarrassed the Government, and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that ministers were looking urgently at changing the law so that Israeli leaders felt free to visit the UK.

It would mean rewriting the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which private citizens can secure arrest warrants for offences such as war crimes committed abroad. Under one proposal, the Attorney-General, rather than just a magistrate, would have to authorise such a warrant.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Attorney-General, went to Israel to reassure political and military leaders that the Government was taking the issue seriously. But it has now become snarled up in the end of the parliamentary session.
What if the Brits actually put her on trial? What could go wrong? (My bet is that the people behind trying to get Livni arrested won't seek a warrant in the hope that by not forcing the issue, they will cause the government not to amend the law. But they may be stupider than I give them credit for being).


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