Israel row sparks UK law changes
London - Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to propose changes to ordering arrests in Britain under international law on Thursday after a row with Israel over a British warrant issued for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a newspaper said.
Livni reportedly cancelled a trip to Britain in December for fear of being arrested after a court issued the warrant following an application by Palestinian activists.
The affair acutely embarrassed the British government and Brown pledged to change the law that allows judges to consider a case for an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes suspects brought by any individual.
Brown presents the proposed legal changes to a parliamentary committee on Thursday. They will then be consulted on before the government legislates, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Writing in the paper, the prime minister said proposals would put the public prosecution service - as opposed to judges - in charge of considering whether an arrest warrant should be issued in any case brought under international law.
“The only question for me is whether our purpose is best served by a process where an arrest warrant for the gravest crimes can be issued on the slightest of evidence,” wrote the prime minister.
“As we have seen, there is now significant danger of such a provision being exploited by politically-motivated organisations or individuals.” A London court last year issued a warrant for the arrest of Livni, now the leader of Israel's opposition Kadima party, over her role in Israel's 22-day war against the Hamas-rule Gaza Strip, launched at the end of 2008.
Livni was foreign minister at the time.
Judges in Britain can issue arrest warrants for war crimes suspects around the world under the Geneva Convention Act 1957, without any requirement to consult public prosecutors.
Livni on Thursday welcomed the proposed changes and attacked the original decision to issue the warrant as “absurd”.
“The current situation in (Britain) enables the more cynical elements to take advantage of the system. The warrant that was issued against me according to the legislation was an absurd use of this law,” she told the paper.
A United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission to Gaza last year said both Israel and Palestinian militant groups were guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the war that ended on January 18, 2009 with mutual ceasefires.
The conflict, which Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the territory, killed some 1 400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.