- Shazia Arshad, Middle East Monitor, Oct. 7, 2011
The failure to uphold Britain’s obligations towards universal jurisdiction were demonstrated this week when Tzipi Livni met with Foreign Secretary William Hague in London and managed to avoid arrest for alleged war crimes. Livni’s previous, disrupted, visit to London in late 2009 was the catalyst for the British government’s move to change the law on universal jurisdiction. The then Labour government began to make changes to universal jurisdiction and these were put into effect by the Coalition with the recent Royal Assent for the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. The changes to the law mean that the Director of Public Prosecutions has to give consent to any application for an arrest warrant with prima facie evidence, whereby previously any citizen could apply to Westminster Magistrates Court for such a warrant.
Livni and other suspected war criminals have postponed visits to London for fear of arrest and, backed by the influential pro-Israel Lobby, had pushed the British government to effect changes to the law on universal jurisdiction. With both the Coalition Government and the Labour Party supporting these changes, ex-Foreign Minister Livni’s visit to London was inevitable. William Hague said that he was “delighted” to welcome Ms Livni to London at a critical moment for the Middle East. “It was an appalling situation when political abuse of our legal procedures prevented people like Mrs Livni from travelling legitimately to the UK,” he added. “We have dealt with this urgently as we promised to on coming to office.”