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The price of a child’s life

When does the life of one child become more precious than another? The answer should be that all children are valued in equal measure unless you use the double standards rule set by Western governments and their allies.

As I write this, British Prime Minister David Cameron has deployed a mixed team of experts, led by the Foreign Office, from the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development and the ubiquitous intelligence agencies to Nigeria. Their mission is to assist the Nigerian government rescue more than 270 teenage girls who were abducted from their boarding school in the north east of the country by a terror group more than a month ago.

It has certainly been a busy week in Downing Street because as the PM signed off on this mission he was also asked to rubber stamp the granting of temporary diplomatic status to a suspected war criminal visiting Britain. Now I don’t know if Israel’s Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni is indeed a war criminal but some people, including a judge, think that as one of the architects of the war against Gaza in 2008/9 in which 412 Palestinian children died, she is and should be charged as such.

Yesterday, though, Cameron trampled on the memories of those 412 children to block legal moves to issue a warrant for Livni’s arrest. The attempt was led by lawyers from Hickman and Rose, who represent the relatives of a Palestinian killed during the bombing of a Hamas police base on the first day of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in December 2008. Working with the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the law firm requested the Crown Prosecution Service to advise police to arrest Livni for suspected war crimes, and to liaise with the attorney general to approve criminal charges.

Raji Sourani, PCHR director, said he was very disappointed at the government’s decision given that a British judge decided way back in December 2009 that there was sufficient evidence to justify Livni’s arrest on charges related to the three-week Israeli military assault on Gaza.

The law on “universal jurisdiction” makes it possible to prosecute foreign officials while on British soil for violations of international law even though it was changed to make it as hard as possible to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials by demanding that such requests be authorised by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In short, the legal system has been politicised.

Lawyers were informed that Livni has now received diplomatic immunity from the British Foreign Office and she is therefore safe from having legal procedures opened against her. As I say, I don’t know if she is guilty or not but the British government should display an even hand on these matters.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic there was a display of even more political amnesia, this time by America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, who delivered her husband’s weekly presidential address to express outrage over the Nigerian hostage crisis.

Speaking for the first time instead of the US president she said that the couple were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction, adding: “What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.”

The fact that her husband has deployed armed drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and the Philippines, killing more than 200 children in the process, seems to have bypassed Mrs Obama.

When will this hypocrisy stop?

I pray that in Nigeria common sense prevails and Michelle’s hashtag campaign #Bring Back Our Girls bears fruit, but it is too late for the children slaughtered in the Gaza war or those blown to pieces by US drones. However it is not too late to deliver justice on their behalf. The question is, will that be seen as too high a price to pay by those who govern us in the so-called civilised world?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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