Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sleep easy war criminals - Michael Mansfield

Britain's insulting rules on arrest warrents will only encourage Israel's view of itself as above the law.
Israell  has violated innumerable UN resolutions and international laws over the past 50 years  without any sanction being incurred - whether legal, economic, political or military. Most blatant is its disregard for the overwhelming opinion of the international court of justice in The Hague, which in 2004 declared the erection of a wall through the occupied territories to be unlaful. If you add the illegal occupation pf Palestinian  tterritory, continued extension of illegal settlements, forced evictions and house demolitions, requisitions of water recources, Gaza blockade and illicit use of cloned passports to facilitate an assasination outside Israel, anyone might br think that this is a state that regards itself as above the law.
The creation of international crimes with universal jurisdiction was accomplished after years of negotiation and careful deliberatin for one purpose: to ensure there could be no hiding  place or safe haven for the perpetrators of the most heinious crimes against humanity. Examples of such cases are genocide, war crimes and torture.
The ICJ itself made clear in the wall case that the obligation to prosecute is the concern of all states. The problem is that no state has been willing to take on this task is-a-vis Israel other than on a very muted diplomatic level. Lawyers acting for individuals in Palestine have been forced to do so themselves.
In 2009 Westminster magistrates court issued an arrest warrent for Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister at the time of Operation Cast Lead , which caused an estimated death toll of 1,400 in Gaza. Britain's Labour government hierarchy fell over itself rushing to the Israeli authorities, not about the death but to apologise for the warrant.
A dramatic incident occurred as Livni was about to appear on Israeli television during the invasion. The interviewer Shlomi Eldar recognised a name that appeared on his mobile - Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who had given services equally to Israelis and Palestinians. "They sheeled my house. They killed my daughters. What have we done? Shlomi, I wanted to save them  but they are dead. They were hit in the head. They died on the spot. Allah, what have we done to them?" Three of his daughters and his niece had just been killed by Israeli forces. The call was broadcast and transmitted round the world. The whole story is told in his acclaimed book I shall not hate.
There could be no question  that this admired physician was associated with Hamas or terrorism, or even a hostile thought. Only two possibilities make sense: a deliberate attack, or an indiscriminate one that dod not afford proper protection for civilians. In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict found that the Israelis -and Hamas - had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
In September the British Government changed the ground rules by providing the director of public prosecutions with the power of veto over private applications for arrest warrants. It is an insult to the court to insinuate that they cannot be trusted  to assess the requisite threshold for issuing a warrant. In 10 years only two out of 10 such applications had been granted. We are dealing here with arrest, not charge.
It is therefore highly unlikely that any prosecutions of consequence will ensue either at the instigation of the government itself or of an individual - ax - Livni's meeting with William Hague in London last week demonstrated. Given the British Government's lacklustre performance in this field when it comes to nations or individuals who are seen to be unacceptable (eg Pinochet, where it took a Spanish magistate to act), those in positions of command and responsibility at times when war crimes are committed can now rest easily in their beds.


The concept of universal jurisdiction is that a national court . of one country , should be able to try cases in which grave crimes against humanity are suspected. The principle is that no country should be a safe haven for those thought to have committed crimes recognised as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The bill to approve the change in Britains Universal Jurisdiction Law was passed because of one decisive vote. Meanwhile the foreign Office has declared that Tzip Livni, former model now enjoys temporary  diplomatic immunity. Wth a what  the **** message to the world, Welcome to Great Britain , War Criminals gratefully recieved., our government is openly compliant!


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