PACE welcomes the Westimnster Magistrates Court arrest warrant issued against the former Israeli Foreign Minister as an important landmark in the ongoing tension between the application of universal jurisdiction and a clear delineation of the impunity of former government officials suspected of war crimes.
Despite the murky circumstances of Tzipi Livni’s visit to the UK and the political manouvering of the British and Israeli governments, PACE is adamant that the court’s sole consideration was the rule of law, a principle which Israeli officials time and time again have displayed utter contempt for in Gaza and the West Bank. We find it abhorrent therefore that Israel is pressuring the British government to reform British laws that are not in the interest of the Israelis. It is shocking that the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned Tom Phillips, the UK ambassador to Israel and demanded the removal of potential lawsuits and arrest warrants
The US administration and the UK government must take heed of the ground swell against Israel’s continuing and blatant defiance of international law. The UK Foreign Office must respect its own legal system and not conflate the dispensation of justice with strategic and political considerations. Nor must it appease the Israeli government and act as if was an appendage of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The UK and the US are undermining their own roles as honest brokers in the peace process by showing anything less than deference to this ruling.
David Milliband’s unconditional defence of Israel unsurprisingly has emboldened Tzipi’s office openly defiant declaration that she is proud of all the decisions she made regarding Operation Cast Lead during the Gaza offensive despite the damning Goldstone Report.
PACE also urges British and European human rights group to step up their efforts to keep their respective public informed of the significance of this ruling, the considerable revulsion against universal jurisdiction in political circles in many of their states as well as the fact that countries like France, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have previously capitulated under Israeli pressure and curtailed if not reformed completely powers of their judges to apply universal jurisdiction.
Muhammad Tahir Ali
(Palestine Centre of Excellence)