Today, 6 October 2011, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited the United Kingdom .
Ms. Livni was Foreign Minister during Israel’s 27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead. OCL). Significant evidence was collected indicating her individual criminal responsibility for war crimes and other international crimes committed during this period.
In December 2009, after reviewing this evidence at the request of a civilian victim of OCL, a warrant for her arrest was issued by a senior district Judge in London, UK.
In advance of Ms. Livni’s current visit, a Palestinian civilian war crimes victim, represented by lawyers from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Hickman & Rose Solicitors, invited the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to authorise the arrest of Ms Livni to enable an urgent decision to be made by the Attorney General to charge her for war crimes. Alternatively, the victim requested the DPP’s permission to apply to a judge for an arrest warrant for Ms. Livni.
At lunchtime today, the DPP made a statement that he has been blocked from any arrest decision or giving his consent to an application for the issue of an arrest warrant – BUT NOT on the basis of a lack of evidence. The only reason given by the DPP is the retrospective grant of diplomatic immunity to Ms Livni by the British Foreign Secretary on the basis of a ‘Special Mission’ (which is not accepted by the victim).
Ms Livni and the Foreign Secretary have claimed this week that the recent change in the British law on arrest warrants (requiring the consent of the DPP before a magistrate could issue a warrant) has spared Ms Livni from arrest. If that were true then no certificate was needed from the Foreign Secretary. Rather, it was the issue of a certificate of diplomatic immunity that allowed a war crimes suspect, Ms Livni, the subject of a previous arrest warrant, to escape due process.
The Palestinian victim who brought this claim is frustrated at the delay in the DPP’s decision, given that Ms Livni could have been arrested yesterday, prior to the grant of the certificate. The DPP’s delay means that the victim has not been given any realistic prospect of bringing a successful legal challenge while Ms Livni remains here, it being publicly known that her visit was for 24 hours. Access to justice has been denied in the name of political expediency.
The British Government has abused the law in order to ensure that Ms. Livni escapes accountability. Ms Livni is not a member of the Israeli Government, but the leader of the opposition. This action exhibits a serious and worrying disregard for the rule of law, and appears to be in violation of the United Kingdom’s international obligations.
Mr Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR said
This decision is a clear abuse of process and of law. The UK Government has granted Tzipi Livni immunity despite clear evidence indicating her responsibility for the commission of international crimes which should have been tested in court. Shame on the Briish Government for protecting war criminals and discarding victims rights. With this illegitimate decision the UK sends the clear message to civilian victims of war crimes in Gaza that international law is purely an academic exercise, and that the government will not protect civilians in practice. Instead of fighting to uphold the rule of law the British government is inviting in the rule of the jungle. They are abusing the law to provide immunity and are in effect complicit in the denial of justice to victims and the cover up of international crimes. This decision must be and will be challenged, in the name of universal justice and victims’ fundamental rights.’
Hickman & Rose and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights are advising the civilian victim on a potential legal challenge to try and ensure that the rule of law is upheld, and that individual victims are granted their legitimate right to judicial redress.
For more information please contact:
Mr. Raji Sourani , Director, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, or
Daragh Murray, International Legal Officer, PCHR
00 (972) 599 608811, 00 (1) 646 229 2871
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is an independent human rights organization working on a wide variety of human rights violations by both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian National Authority
In London, UK:
Daniel Machover, Partner, Mobile : 00 +44 (0)7773 341096 OR
Kate Maynard, Partner, Mobile : 00 +44 (0)7812 974613
Hickman & Rose solicitors Website: http://www.hickmanandrose.co.uk
Hickman & Rose is a niche city firm with a criminal defence team and civil department. The civil team is renowned for its work in seeking public and private law remedies in the UK and other jurisdictions on behalf of victims of crime and other victims of the abuse of power by state agents within the criminal justice system. The combined resources and joint working of the civil and criminal defence teams position the firm uniquely to fight for justice on behalf of their clients in all arenas.