William Hague looking serious 311.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
LONDON – The British government has begun the process of changing legislation
that allows private individuals to obtain an arrest warrant for alleged “war
crimes” aimed at Israeli dignitaries who visit the UK.
campaigning, anti- Israel activists failed to have any impact on the government,
which had pledged to change the controversial universal jurisdiction law before
coming into office following May’s general election. This followed the attempt
last December to issue an arrest warrant for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, and the
attempt to issue arrest warrants against other Israeli dignitaries visiting the
UK, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and, more recently, Deputy Prime
Minister Dan Meridor.
British Foreign Minister William Hague announced
last Wednesday the proposed amendment to the law and the arrangements for
obtaining arrest warrants.
It is included in the Police Reform and Social
Responsibility Bill, which was presented to parliament last week. Under the
proposed change, the consent of the director of Public Prosecutions would be
required before an arrest warrant could be issued to a private prosecutor in
respect of an offense of universal jurisdiction.
“The UK is committed to
upholding international justice and all of our international obligations,” Hague
said. “Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be
brought to justice.
Hague said the current law is an “anomaly” which
allows activists to abuse the system.
“This government has been clear
that the current arrangements for obtaining arrest warrants in respect of
universal jurisdiction offences are an anomaly that allows the UK’s systems to
be abused for political reasons. The proposed change is designed to correct
these and ensure that people are not detained when there is no realistic chance
of prosecution. It is now important that the amendment is considered by
parliament in line with normal constitutional practice,” he said.
sustained campaign by the anti-Israel fringe group Palestine Solidarity
Campaign, backed by attempts by pro-Palestinian MPs, to introduce motions in
parliament to stop any changes to the law, failed to have an impact.
PSC group called on people to contact their MP and set up an e-tool to make it
easy for people to do this, calling for MPs to vote against the change in a
campaign titled “War Criminals Not Welcome.”
Israel has welcomed the
British government’s move.
“We see this as a positive initiative, and we
welcome this move that is in line with promises made by the British government
in the past. We hope that this will be completed as early as possible,” Foreign
Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said following the announcement last week.