UK amends law that allows arrest of Israeli officials
Queen of England signs amendment to bill that enabled to issue arrest warrants against foreign officials, prevented IDF commanders, Israeli politicians from visiting UK. British ambassador to Israel: UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould announced on Thursday that the Queen of England has signed an amendment to a bill that will prevent the issuing of arrest warrants against Israeli officials.
“The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which has now received Royal Assent, includes an important amendment to ensure that the UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons," Gould said, adding that "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.
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The British ambassador emphasized that “the UK remains committed to ensuring that those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice. This amendment requires the Director of Public Prosecutions to consent to the issuing of an arrest warrant for crimes of universal jurisdiction and will put an end to requests for warrants where there is no realistic chance of prosecution.”
'London is waiting'
Gould called Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who had an arrest warrant issued against her on December 2009, and announced the news. "Mrs. Livni, London is waiting," he reportedly told her.
Livni welcomed the decision, saying "I am glad that the arrest warrant issued against me served as a wake up call for Britain, and will bring an end to the cynical abuse of the British legislation against IDF commanders and soldiers.
"True justice has been served, and it will distinguish between leaders and commanders that defend their country against terrorism – such as the IDF soldiers – and real war criminal against whom this law was originally legislated.
In an interview with Ynet, Gould said he believes the amendment will have a positive affect on the relations between the two countries, and will lead to a flow of visitors to London.
According to the British ambassador, Israel is not the only one who had suffered from the political exploitation of the law, claiming there are at least five other countries whose representatives were issued arrest warrants under the previous legislation.
'Britain's position has not changed'
Addressing the Palestinians' announcement that they would appeal to the Security Council for full membership at the UN, Gould said that his country's stance has not changed, but because it is still unclear what the Palestinians will request, he does not know how Britain will respond.
Gould stressed that the one thing his country is certain about, is that the goal should be two states, and it should be achieved through negotiations between the sides.
The law that allows issuing arrest warrants against foreign nationals has not been amended since the Second World War, and has prevented several IDF officers, including former Southern District Commander Major General (res.) Doron Almog and Head of the Intelligence Corps Major General Aviv Kochavi from entering Britain.
Last May, Major-General Yohanan Locker, the military secretary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had to cancel his trip to Britain due to his role in Operation Cast Lead, where he served as the head of the IAF's Air Division.
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report