Livni 'willing to get cuffed'

Universal jurisdiction law fix could wait until after UK's elections.

February 15, 2010 12:17
2 minute read.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni

Tzipi Livni 311 Ariel J. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The amending of current British law in order to ensure Israeli officials visiting the UK are not be arrested on charges of war crimes may be in jeopardy, The Times reported on Monday.

The proposed change is apparently in danger due to a “cabinet split” regarding its timing.

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Also, according to the report, Kadima head and opposition leader Tzipi Livni has suggested a willingness to “take the bullet” and face arrest in the UK on a future trip in order to force the British government into action. She was quoted as saying, “Britain has obligated itself to me personally that this subject will be taken care of.”

An arrest warrant was issued for Livni in December, 2009, for her involvement in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Back then, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called Livni and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and, according to a statement put out by Livni's office, expressed his "shock" at the arrest warrant and promised to work immediately to ensure that a similar occurrence would not happen in the future against Livni or other Israeli officials.

Miliband told Lieberman that the warrant was "completely unacceptable."

In his statement, Miliband said that "The procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales. The government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again.”

The arrest warrant was made possible because of a fairly unusual legal situation in Britain whereby any individual could go to court and ask for an arrest warrant against an alleged war criminal without the government having to know about it and, as a result, not having any say about whether it should be issued.

Within British offices there is a dispute as to how to go about changing the law. The Times report cited British Justice Secretary Jack Straw as making private warnings against a quick change, suggesting the issue be explored by a committee. A committee review would postpone any change until after parliamentary elections.

The Times reported that another possible change is mandating the attorney-general, rather than a magistrate, authorize a warrant.

The Times quoted Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor as saying “If Israeli dignitaries cannot travel unhindered to Britain, than they will not travel. Automatically the political dialogue between the two countries will be reduced. This is not something that London or Jerusalem wants.”

Yaakov Katz, Herb Keinon and Ron Friedman contributed to this report.

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