Lawyer: Pursuit of 'war criminal' Israelis to continue

UK lawyer says pursuit o

LONDON - British lawyers who called for an arrest warrant to be issued for Defense Minister Ehud Barak in London on Tuesday have vowed to continue to investigate and "bring to justice" Israelis who have committed "war crimes." "On behalf of [our] clients, our remit is to continue to investigate these crimes and bring to justice those committing these crimes," Tayab Ali, a lawyer with Irvine Thanvi Natas (ITN) told The Jerusalem Post. "Professionally, I think there is [a] case to answer, the allegations are so strong that [there] needs to be resolution. These allegations needs to be answered and the UK is failing to do this. Therefore, it falls on private lawyers to do so on a private basis - this is a sad indictment [of] British justice," he said. The British barrister who filed the application, Michel Massih QC, said, "There are allegations of war crimes, there are families seeking redress, and because these families are seeking redress, they have asked the advice of lawyers in Palestine, who have asked the advice of lawyers in the UK." Ali said there should be an investigation at the state or international level, instead of it falling to individuals to pursue private prosecutions. "The investigation of war crimes is not individual responsibility, it is state responsibility, therefore the state, or [the] International Criminal Court [ICC] should actively investigate these serious issues in a public manner. When a state fails to do this, it is up to individuals to [undertake] private prosecutions, and this is not right," he said. In reference to the Goldstone Report, he said there were serious allegations that Israel should engage with and investigate while it still could. "Israel ignoring the [Goldstone] report doesn't mean Israel will escape it - eventually it [will] come under the remit of the ICC. Israel should engage with the report and take seriously its findings while it is in their jurisdiction." According to Ali, the judge said allegations of war crimes had been well documented, and it was only his diplomatic immunity that saved Barak. On Tuesday, Deputy Senior District Judge Daphne Wickham at Westminster Magistrate's Court concluded that, as defense minister and deputy prime minister of Israel, Barak had immunity from prosecution in the UK and that therefore an arrest warrant could not be issued. "I am satisfied that under customary international law Mr. Barak has immunity from prosecution ratione personae, as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal process in this jurisdiction," she said. Ali called on Barak to waive his immunity to prove his innocence. "The minister has the option to remove his immunity and clear his name. He should stand trial in front of judge and jury and show his innocence," he said. Foreign Minister David Miliband said he had a very productive meeting with Barak. They discussed a range of issues, including the Middle East peace process, Gaza and Iran, he said, adding that dialogue with Barak was "an important part of the UK's engagement with Israel, a close ally."