UK begins amending universal jurisdiction legislation

An amendment nullifying a law that allows Israelis to be prosecuted in the UK for alleged war crimes moves to the House of Lords for final approval.

April 1, 2011 04:42
1 minute read.
anti-Israel protest in front of the Israeli Embass

British Anti-Israel Protest 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

An amendment nullifying a law that allows Israelis to be prosecuted in the United Kingdom for alleged war crimes passed an important hurdle when it was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. It now moves to the House of Lords for final approval, which could take months.

The amendment, part of a larger legislation package on police reform and social responsibility, would end a situation in which private citizens in the UK can request that arrest warrants be issued against non-citizens suspected of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity anywhere in the world.

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The existing law allowed a warrant to be issued in December 2009 for the arrest of former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who had been scheduled to visit to address a Jewish group.

Under the amendment, a private prosecutor would have to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions prior to the issue of an arrest warrant under universal jurisdiction. The new legislation would make it much more difficult to use the UK courts for political purposes.

In the last few years the issue has been a source of friction between the two countries.

Critics of the amendment have charged the law is being changed solely to appease the Israeli government. On Wednesday, when pro-Israel Labor MP Louise Ellman rose to refute such a charge, she was criticized by a Labor MP Gerald Kaufman.

“Here we are, the Jews again,” he said. He later apologized.

JTA contributed to this report.

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