Israel's ambassador to Canada encouraged former IDF Chief of Staff, Lieut.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon to accept invitations to speak in Toronto and told him he did not have to worry about being arrested or barred from entering the country by Canadian authorities, he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
"I told him to come," said Allan Baker, who was the Foreign Ministry legal adviser before being posted to Ottawa.
Baker said that a small number of Palestinian organizations and at least one Jewish group, have charged that Ya'alon was a war criminal. But the law in Canada is stricter than in countries like England and requires that the Attorney-General (who is also the Minister of Justice) approve the arrest warrant or that the Minister of Immigration issue the order preventing someone suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity from entering the country.
Baker said he was quite certain that neither would do so. "I'm not getting excited over this," he said.
Baker explained that the degree of risk that senior army officers face in visiting countries abroad is a function of the provisions of the specific law in each country granting that grants national jurisdiction over violations of international law.
Ever since Belgium indicted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes he allegedly committed in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut in 1982, Israel's Foreign Ministry has been dealing with each country individually. Government lawyers have been meeting with their counterparts in other countries and trying to persuade them to change their laws, said Baker. Short of that, they have tried to familiarize themselves with the foreign country's laws so that they know what to advise senior military officers wishing to travel to them.
In February, Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi announced that he had cancelled his plans to study in London on the advice of the Judge Advocate-General after learning that he might be arrested on war crime charges for his actions in the Gaza Strip. Kochavi was the second senior officer to change his mind about spending time in England in the past few months. Last September, Maj-Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog remained on board an airplane at London's Heathrow Airport after learning that policemen were waiting outside to arrest him. He had come to speak on behalf of a charity.
In England, unlike Canada, a private citizen may file a criminal complaint against anyone suspected of having committed a war crime. "We've been trying to urge legal advisers in the British Foreign Office to change the law," said Baker. "This overly liberal use of criminal jurisdiction is proving unjust, because it is being abused by terrorists. It is clear that Israel is fighting terrorism, and the Arabs are trying to invert this."