UK- Israel Relations and Universal Jurisdiction

The suspension of the rather nebulous “strategic dialogue” between the UK and Israeli governments announced last year is predicated upon the most extraordinary attempt to subvert international law, to which the UK government is not only complicit but active.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have expressed serious concerns that the principle of universal jurisdiction is being used by Palestinian advocacy groups in the UK to seek the issuing of arrest warrants for members of the Israeli government and military, should they enter Britain.  The foreign secretary has made clear that he seeks to prioritise the “Amendment” and “Correcting” of the principle as applicable in UK law.

The principle often alluded to by state power, judicial process and the like that “if you are innocent you have nothing to fear” from the justice system, appears not to apply here.  The fact that the government sees fit to change Britain’s role in the enforcement of universal jurisdiction solely to protect military and political officials from one country from arrest seems at best illogical and at worst to advertise the UK as a safe haven for war crimes suspects.

The principle of universal jurisdiction should be upheld worldwide, and the idea that a high court judge would not be able to distinguish between an application for an arrest warrant which was genuinely supported by clear evidence and one which was vexatious, is both laughable and insulting.

This leads one to suspect, rightly or wrongly, that the government believes that the current status of universal jurisdiction in the UK courts provides a highly realistic prospect of warrants being issued for certain, high ranking members of the Israeli military and defence establishment should they enter the UK (particularly those directly involved in operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008 and the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, both of which, subsequent investigations by numerous impartial organisations have revealed, demonstrate prime facie evidence of War Crimes on BOTH SIDES).

To approach international law with the “buffet” mindset that the Foreign Office and Number 10 appear to be doing currently is both disgraceful and unsustainable, and the fact that persons of interest to international war crimes courts are staying away from the UK until the law is altered to benefit them leaves the distinct feeling that they may have something to fear from the hearing of evidence in open court.




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