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Joshua Rozenberg
Thursday 22nd July 2010
Law on Universal Jurisdiction to Change -- Official

As I disclosed last night, the government is to change the law under which arrest warrants have been obtained for Israeli politicians visiting London. Once the legislation is in force, the consent of the Director of Public prosecutions will be required before an arrest can be made.

 

The following statement, with additional comments, is now on the Ministry of Justice website.

The United Kingdom has asserted universal jurisdiction over war crimes under the Geneva Conventions Act, and over a few other offences of exceptional gravity, because of our international obligations and our commitment to ensuring that there is no impunity for those accused of such crimes. 
That commitment is unwavering. It is important, however, that universal jurisdiction cases should be proceeded with in this country only on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution - otherwise there is a risk of damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy. It is unsatisfactory that, as things stand, an arrest warrant for these grave offences can be issued on the application of a private prosecutor on the basis of evidence that would be insufficient to sustain a prosecution.
The Government has concluded, after careful consideration, that it would be appropriate to require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be issued to a private prosecutor in respect of an offence of universal jurisdiction. This would interfere as little as possible with the existing rights of private prosecutors, and would not prevent them from initiating prosecutions for these offences where the evidence justified that course
A suitable legislative amendment will be brought before Parliament at the first opportunity. 
 
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soovey
July 23rd, 2010
11:07 AM
"..It is important, however, that universal jurisdiction cases should be proceeded with in this country only on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution - otherwise there is a risk of damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy..." Very important, I would say. Many warrants brought out against Israeli citizens are malice-driven rather than based in fact.

elixelx
July 23rd, 2010
6:07 AM
This means that Joe Blow won't be allowed to arrest Tzipi Livni when she visits London, but will Joe Blough be allowed to arrest Omar al-Bashir? In other words will Universal Jurisdiction continue to reign over those indicted ONLY by the ICC at the Hague, because that begs a question: What happens when the ICC itself turns activist and starts issuing indictments left, right and centre? So, this amended Law does not go far enough! Britain MUST change its Law so that ONLY people indicted in BRITAIN ITSELF, by the MoJ--all be they ALSO indicted by the ICC--may be arrested in Britain under a local warrant! I hope I've made myself clear! "Pinochet" can still be arrested because a warrant is issued for him IN BRITAIN by the MoJ, but until one is issued for "Omar al-Bashir" IN BRITAIN by the MoJ, he cannot be arrested for Darfur though he dance in Trafalgar Square!

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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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