February 16, 2007

War crimes to become no crimes in the UK?

Another one from the Jewish Chronicle (sub only). Apparently, Margeret Becket has told the Israeli government that the government is trying to change war crimes legislation so that Israeli war crimes suspects - ie just about anyone who has served in the Israeli army - can dodge prosecution for their crimes:
Israeli army officers may no longer face the threat of being arrested and charged with war crimes in Britain.

The issue was on the agenda

during last week’s meeting in Jerusalem between Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

According to Mr Olmert’s office, Mrs Beckett said UK law officers would “take care” of it.

In 2005, former IDF general Doron Almog, the Israeli army’s commander in Gaza until 2003, decided to remain on a plane at Heathrow rather than step on to British soil after an arrest warrant was issued by Bow Street Magistrates’ Court.

He had learned that he was facing arrest on suspicion of breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is an offence in the UK.

The warrant was issued after Gaza residents and the Palestine Committee for Human Rights urged a firm of London solicitors to pursue a case against him. It is believed that Israeli diplomats tipped him off and he flew back to Israel before the warrant could be served.

The then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, later apologised.

The Israeli government warned other senior IDF officers not to visit Britain, and the former Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, cancelled a trip to London the same year for a charity event.

The issue enraged the Israeli authorities.

Mrs Beckett told the Israeli premier that officers working for Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith, and Home Office officials, were “actively looking into the situation”.

However, a Westminster source told the JC that any moves to prevent IDF officers facing prosecution in the UK would require a controversial and difficult change in the law.
So are they going to insert a special get-out clause for Israelis or are they going to scrap the concept of war crimes altogether?

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