The Women’s Coalition for Peace sent a letter on Wednesday to Israel’s former Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, calling on her to cooperate with international investigations into her role in the assault on Gaza last winter, after a British court issued an warrant for her arrest on Monday.
The Israeli organization wrote in the letter, which was attached to a translated copy of the Goldstone report on alleged war crimes in Gaza, “We are convinced that if you refer to the report you will understand why British citizens and organizations have turned to the courts with a request to issue a warrant for your arrest.”
The letter added that the Goldstone report directly refers to remarks by senior political figures in Israel which encouraged indiscriminate attacks on civilians, in contradiction of international law.
It is in this context that Livni was quoted as saying, on 13 January 2009, “We have proven to Hamas that the equation has been altered. Israel is a state that, when its citizens are shot at, will respond insanely. And that’s a good thing.” [continued…]
Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni is not the only one, or even one of a select few, who face the near-certainty of arrest should they make the mistake of visiting England.
According to former Foreign Ministry legal adviser
Allan Baker, two of every three ministers in the cabinet would also likely be arrested and detained in a British jail if they did the same.
Britain is one of several west European countries that have passed laws granting it international jurisdiction – that is, the right to try anyone suspected of violating various provisions of international law, no matter where the alleged crimes were committed or the citizenship of the suspect.
Israel first tasted the sting of international jurisdiction in 2001, when a warrant was issued in Belgium for the arrest of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former army Chief-of-Staff Raphael Eitan and former head of IDF Northern Command, Amos Yaron, for their alleged roles in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut by Christian militiamen. The charges were eventually dropped, and Belgium changed its law to make it more difficult to apply universal jurisdiction.
But the threat remains in other countries. In 2005, former head of IDF Southern Command Doron Almog narrowly escaped arrest when he was advised to remain on board the plane that had brought him to London and immediately return to Israel. [continued…]
Four American Jewish groups are urging the US Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that could lead to Israeli officials being slammed with civil lawsuits in the United States.
Coinciding with a British judge’s decision to sign an arrest warrant for Kadima leader Tzipi Livni for alleged “war crimes” during Operation Cast Lead, the brief seeks to overturn a Fourth Circuit decision to strip foreign government officials from immunity in American civil lawsuits.
Written by Washington attorney Nathan Lewin on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Agudath Israel of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the “friend of court” brief warns against a “torrent of unfounded lawsuits against Israeli government officials” in the absence of absolute immunity. [continued…]
It is not at all surprising that the Israeli government is outraged at the attempt – initially successful – to obtain an arrest warrant in Britain against their former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. But their characterisation of it as a “diplomatic offence” is wide of the mark. Those who come to Britain are subject to its laws.
It is necessary to step back from the particular case and look at the broader picture. War crimes and crimes against humanity are international crimes transcending national boundaries. Universal jurisdiction to put those accused of them on trial is a logical development of that recognition. Such crimes are unlikely to be redressed in the country where the perpetrators hold political power. If they are not, they can only be adjudicated in courts of another state, or in an international court or tribunal.
Since the Second World War there has been a steady expansion of legal mechanisms designed to ensure that there is no hiding place for the perpetrators of international crimes. Complying with UN treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, many countries, including the UK, give their courts jurisdiction to try specific crimes committed outside their own territory. [continued…]