Asking questions, bringing balance, confronting predjudice

Britain’s Universal Jurisdiction Law Finally Changed

Under British law, the UK has what is called “universal jurisdiction” over a small number of serious offences. Even if someone commits one of these offences somewhere else in the world, they can be prosecuted and punished for that crime here in Britain. Universal jurisdiction covers such crimes as torture, hostage-taking and certain war crimes. Anyone in the UK can apply to the courts for an arrest warrant to be made out against a person they accuse of one of these crimes.

In recent years, some groups have taken advantage of this quirk pf British law to attempt to bring a prosecution against prominent Israeli political and military figures, whereby they would be arrested on arrival in Britain through an arrest warrant procured by an individual here. Perhaps the most prominent of these cases was when, a few years ago, Israeli Labour leader Tzipi Livni had to cancel a visit to Britain because of such a warrant raised under the law of universal jurisdiction.

Anti-Israel groups in Britain have attempted to use this law as a weapon against Israel – what is becoming known as “lawfare”!

Today, however, an amendment to the law of universal jurisdiction was given royal assent that changes all this. To quote “Parliament Today”…

“Offences covered by universal jurisdiction include certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking and, under UK law, anyone can apply to the courts for an arrest warrant to ensure those guilty of these crimes abroad face justice here.

New changes to the law in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act will not affect this right and those accused of these grave crimes will still be brought to justice if there is sufficient evidence against them. However, as of today, the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will now be required before an arrest warrant is issued in universal jurisdiction cases brought by individuals.

This change to the law will ensure that the system is no longer open to abuse by people seeking warrants for grave crimes on the basis of scant evidence to make a political statement or to cause embarrassment.”

This change has been a while coming, but it does remove one weapon from the armoury of those who want to bring wild accusations against Israeli politicians and generals when they visit our shores for legitimtate diplomatic reasons.


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