Britain welcome War Criminals
Since 2001, UK’s universal jurisdiction law has given the power to British courts to prosecute suspected war criminals and torturers, even if their alleged crimes took place in another country. The principle of the law goes back to the belief that some crimes including genocide, torture and hostage-taking must be fought wherever the criminal can be arrested.
Now, the legal reform has angered ordinary citizens and human rights campaigners, believing the amendments would keep the criminals away from justice.
Geoffrey Robertson, a UN judge who has delivered main verdicts on war crimes, said, “This marks a backward, nervous step by the U.K., which is reluctant to bring tyrants and torturers to justice if it suits the government to sell them arms or to turn a blind eye to their human rights violations.”
Amnesty International also accused the British government of planning to give war criminals “a free ticket to escape the law.”
Israel has been urging the British government to amend its legal law, after former foreign minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a visit to Britain in 2009, fearing arrest over crimes committed during Gaza war.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy said, “The cloud that has hung over the UK’s ability to play a role in our area has been lifted, and should no longer cast a shadow over the diplomatic relationship between our two countries.
“We are hopeful that this correction will finally close that loophole which was abused by opportunistic groups promoting their sinister purposes.”
Moreover, UK ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould called Livni to inform her about the new legal amendment. He claimed that Britain’s justice system could no longer be abused for political reasons.
“The change will ensure that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations,” he added.
In 2007, Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter was forced to refuse an invitation from British officials after being informed he would be detained for his part in the assassination of a Hamas leader, killing 14 people, including nine children.