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UK: Boris Johnson accused of obstructing investigations into war crimes in Gaza

January 4, 2024 at 1:44 pm

Britain’s former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in west London, on December 7, 2023 [UK Covid-19 Inquiry/AFP via Getty Images]

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has accused former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of trying to pervert the course of justice regarding investigations conducted by the Metropolitan Police into allegations that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza specifically, and in Palestine in general. The organisation is considering the submission of a formal complaint against him.

The ICJP referred to statements made by Johnson on Wednesday, in which he said that he was concerned about “the worrying politicisation of the Met Police”, in relation to the investigation of war crimes in Gaza. Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit has been appealing to people travelling through British airports to report evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip.

The work is being undertaken by the war crimes team to support an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Posters at airports have said that “UK policing is supporting the work of the [ICC], which is investigating alleged war crimes in Israel and Palestine from June 2014 onwards.”

It is worth noting that during his tenure as Prime Minister, Johnson publicly opposed the ICC investigation, although he was quick to accuse Russia of committing war crimes following its invasion of Ukraine. He also remained silent when the Metropolitan Police investigated war crimes in Ukraine and did not accuse the Metropolitan Police Commissioner of wasting public funds.

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“This inconsistency by Johnson shows a worrying and unacceptable attempt by him to politicise the Metropolitan Police force’s war crimes work,” said ICJP Director Tayyab Ali. “A police investigation should not be subjected to political interference in this way. Johnson, who may have an axe to grind having found himself on the wrong side of the law by breaking Covid regulations, has a record for interfering with law enforcement investigations when it comes to Israel.”

As prime minister, Ali pointed out, Johnson openly opposed the ICC’s investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes. “Doing the same but with a domestic police investigation could render Johnson on the wrong side of the law again, but this time for the serious offence of perverting the course of justice by trying to interfere with a police investigation. We at ICJP will consider making a complaint about Johnson’s conduct.”

Johnson made comments to the Telegraph on Wednesday, in which he condemned the investigations being conducted by the Metropolitan Police into Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip, and said that he was concerned about the “worrying politicisation” of them.

Scotland Yard said that the British police had a “responsibility to support” the ICC and that with “higher volumes” of British nationals returning to the UK since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, it expected a greater number of potential witnesses and victims of war crimes committed in Palestine arriving from the region. The Met Police headquarters confirmed that its war crimes team had received more than 40 referrals in recent weeks, including from individuals returning from the region. The vast majority of these are believed to be allegations of war crimes against Israel. Any relevant information is being passed to the ICC.