Jewish lawyers debate Goldstone, boycotts at UK conference

Notables attend “Democratic and Legal Norms in an age of terror” meeting.

July 5, 2010 05:36
2 minute read.
Goldstone in Gaza.

Goldstone in Gaza 311 ap. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LONDON – Jewish lawyers and jurists from across the world deliberated issues such as the Goldstone Report, the calls to boycott Israel and the law that restricts Israeli officials from visiting the UK at a London conference last week.

The conference was organized by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and its UK counterpart, in cooperation with the Center for Jewish Studies at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

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Ambassadors, lawyers, academics and legal experts from across the Jewish world took part in the three-day conference, titled “Democratic and Legal Norms in an age of terror.”

The conference opened on Wednesday with a keynote speech by Labor MP Dr. Denis MacShane, chair of the All- Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism and author of the Globalizing Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism.

Former Canadian justice minister and attorney-general, Prof.

Irwin Cotler, closed the conference on Friday. He spoke about the dangers of a nuclear, genocidal and rights-violating Iran.

He suggested that although Iran is not party to the International Criminal Court, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be referred to the court, as was Sudanese President Omar Bashir.

Iran’s nuclear threat, its support for worldwide terrorism, silencing of internal dissent and the existential threat to Israel is the subject of a new report being published by Cotler next week.

In a discussion on Thursday on the controversial universal jurisdiction law, which allows private complaints of war crimes to be lodged against foreign military personnel even if they are not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, professor of law at Bar-Ilan University and International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists vice president, said the law is legally justifiable for “heinous crimes,” as was originally intended, such as those of Adolf Eichmann or Bashir, but not for mainstream Israeli officials such as Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak.

In the UK, any NGO or activist can go to a magistrate, most of whom are relatively inexperienced, with a dossier, and seek an arrest warrant under this law.

Former attorney-general Lord Peter Goldsmith said that the law needs to be changed so that the initial decision to pursue the case is taken by the attorney-general or director of public prosecutions, and not by a magistrate.

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