B’nai B’rith International praises the United Kingdom for amending a law that had previously allowed the issuance of arrest warrants against visiting Israeli politicians under the international legal principle of universal jurisdiction. Through this legislative reform, the United Kingdom has demonstrated its resolve to prevent its judicial system from being abused and manipulated for political motives.
The impetus for this legislative reform came in December 2009 after an arrest warrant was issued against opposition leader Tzipi Livni at the encouragement of pro-Palestinian activists. The warrant was revoked soon after the British government discovered Livni was not visiting the United Kingdom.
In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Livni said she is “pleased that the warrant issued against me opened Britain's eyes and will put a stop to the cynical use of British legislation against IDF commanders and soldiers… Real justice has been done, and it will distinguish between leaders and commanders who defend their country against terrorism, and real war criminals.”
Also in 2009, pro-Palestinian lawyers attempted to arrest Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak under universal jurisdiction, the international law which allows for states to claim criminal authority over those whose alleged crime is considered so grave it can be tried anywhere. Barak’s status as a cabinet minister gave him diplomatic immunity.
Over the past few years, Palestinian activists have sought arrest warrants for several other senior Israeli civilian and military figures.
Israeli officials must not be subjected to such legally condoned harassment. B’nai B’rith hopes other states with similar regulations will follow in the U.K.’s footsteps in revoking such biased and odious legislation.