Al-Quds al-Arabi editorial: "British Law Amendments Aim To Shield Israeli War Criminals"
British Justice Minister Jack Straw, who was one of the closest aides of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the main ally of the United States in their wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, is preparing to introduce serious amendments to British law that would repeal the rules that allow trials of war criminals passing through Britain and confine British jurisdiction to trials of British nationals or foreign residents living in the UK and suspected of committing war crimes.
The aim of these amendments is to prevent human rights organizations from suing Israeli officials and military officers suspected of committing war crimes against the Palestinians and the Lebanese in the war on Gaza early this year and the war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
These amendments, scheduled to be passed by the British parliament next autumn, conflict with international law which requires all states to try war criminals wherever they may be. Moreover, these amendments also constitute an insult to Western values of justice as well as human rights organizations.
Trying British nationals and foreign residents in the UK suspected of committing war crimes is certainly a good thing. Britain was one of the main participants in formulating rules of international law for the trial of Nazi war criminals who committed crimes against Jews, and therefore it is required today to stick to those laws and to tighten them so as to include people suspected of committing war crimes against Arabs and Muslims or against any other nationality or ethnic minority, and to let them know that there is no safe haven for them in the free world.
It was because of the British strict laws that many Israeli generals accused of committing war crimes used to avoid the UK, lest they be apprehended and tried for war crimes they committed in Qana in south Lebanon, and in Gaza in south Palestine, where thousands of civilians were killed or wounded.
It does seem that the Israeli lobby has succeeded in pressurizing the British Labour government to change these laws, so as to allow Israeli war criminals to visit the UK and pass through British territory without fear or anxiety, just as they succeeded in bringing about similar amendments in the laws of other countries such as Spain. Such amendments make it clear that the UK and Europe would only amend their criminal laws for two main reasons: the first is to tighten the noose on Muslims and target them on the pretext of combating terrorism; the second is to shield Israeli war criminals and to prevent trials for the massacres they have committed.
The British emergency laws which allow the detention without trial, of any person who in the opinion of the security forces constitutes a threat to British national security, and for as long as possible, only came into being after 11 September 2001, with a view to applying them to Muslim personalities, or using them to threaten and terrorize the British Muslim community, scores of whom are now in detention without trial.
We are calling on human rights organizations in the UK to launch a campaign objecting to these amendments and to prevent their adoption by the British parliament, as their adoption will tarnish Britain's reputation, British law, British democracy, and respect for the rules of international law.
War criminals and those of the children and grandchildren of the holocaust survivors who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity should not escape justice, whether in Britain, or any other European state. And the same should apply to British war criminals who caused the death of a million Iraqis in the second war against Iraq.
July 18, 2009
From the London-based Arab-language newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, as translated by BBC, July 11: