Following the issue of an arrest warrant in December against former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Gordon Brown announced last week that Britain will “legislate as soon as possible” to prevent people “motivated purely by political gesture” from seeking and obtaining arrest warrants against foreign dignitaries. He acknowledged that it is Britain’s international duty to prosecute alleged war criminals, but added that the evidential basis on which arrest warrants can be allowed should be tougher and the right to prosecute should cover a narrower range of crimes falling under universal jurisdiction and be left to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) alone. Ironically, it is Brown himself who has politicised the process by reducing what is a longstanding common law right to the discretion of the CPS.
Two days after this statement, the Jewish Chronicle announced that Israel’s ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will attend a Manchester United football match. Olmert is reported to be coming to the UK to watch Manchester United play AC Milan in the second leg of the first knock-out stage of the Champions League. According to the Jewish Chronicle, this visit is being made on a “purely personal basis”. It is not difficult to envisage that Olmert will be conducting meetings with Conservative Friends of Israel, amongst other groups.
Mr. Olmert is currently facing corruption charges at the Jerusalem District Court over three separate cases of corruption, and was forced to resign last year due to allegations of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying records, tax evasions and fraudulently obtaining benefits. He could also face a potential arrest warrant under the current universal jurisdiction laws because he was Israel’s Prime Minister during Operation Cast Lead.
However, Ehud Olmert’s travel to the UK and back to Israel will probably remain uninterrupted in any way, shape or form. This visit, along with Gordon Brown’s recent comments about reforming universal jurisdiction laws, makes a complete mockery of internationally-recognised norms of justice. Nevertheless, the challenge to Israel’s “Culture of Impunity” should continue, even while Ehud Olmert attends a football match.