Sir Geoffrey Bindman: Livni has no right to claim immunity from prosecution

16 December, 2009 — The Independent

The protestations of Israel’s government should not be allowed to interfere

It is not at all surprising that the Israeli government is outraged at the attempt – initially successful – to obtain an arrest warrant in Britain against their former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. But their characterisation of it as a “diplomatic offence” is wide of the mark. Those who come to Britain are subject to its laws.

It is necessary to step back from the particular case and look at the broader picture. War crimes and crimes against humanity are international crimes transcending national boundaries. Universal jurisdiction to put those accused of them on trial is a logical development of that recognition. Such crimes are unlikely to be redressed in the country where the perpetrators hold political power. If they are not, they can only be adjudicated in courts of another state, or in an international court or tribunal.

Since the Second World War there has been a steady expansion of legal mechanisms designed to ensure that there is no hiding place for the perpetrators of international crimes. Complying with UN treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, many countries, including the UK, give their courts jurisdiction to try specific crimes committed outside their own territory.

There is an inherent tension between the sovereignty of nation states and the aspirations of international law. And, of course, there is the day-to-day practicality of international diplomacy between nation states under the threat of prosecution. Compromises always have been and will continue to be made.

Traditional immunities – of the head of state, of its diplomatic representatives, and of the state itself – have been sufficient to enable normal inter-state relationships to proceed. But these immunities are being whittled away where international crimes are concerned, and Tzipi Livni appears to have no claim to any of them. She is not a head of state; nor does it appear that her visit has a diplomatic purpose.

Ex-president Pinochet of Chile failed in his challenge to the attempt to extradite him to Spain to stand trial for torture. His case encouraged progress towards universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity. The protestations of the Israeli government should not be allowed to interfere with that progress.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman represented Amnesty International and others in the Pinochet case. He is currently chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights


Re Tzipi Livni: Attention foreign secretary David Miliband

17 December, 2009

Dear Mr Miliband,

I wish to urge you to resist the Israeli government’s claims of immunity from universal jurisdiction regarding its war crimes against the Palestinian people. As a Jew concerned about the human rights of everyone, regardless of ethnicity or faith, I find suggestions that Israel should be held to lower standards than other perpetrators of war crimes indicative of Zionism’s perverse racism.

I commend to you a short discussion of the legal issues by Sir Geoffrey Bindman, a prominent lawyer and signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, of which I am also a member. See this link:

Could you please explain to me the government’s position on the following points:

  • The government has a duty under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ‘seek out and prosecute’ alleged war criminals. Under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, the UK has universal jurisdiction to arrest and try suspected perpetrators of “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 (IVCG). War criminals should be pursued – Britain must not become a ‘safe haven’.
  • The judicial system is meant to be independent and the government’s role is not to intervene. If a judge believes there is sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant to be granted, it is irrelevant whether this embarrasses or causes problems for the British government.
  • The Goldstone Report detailed war crimes and potential crimes against humanity committed by Israel in Gaza. It was shameful that the government abstained on the vote for the Report at the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly.
  • Instead of responding to pressure from the Israeli government to end the right to charge and prosecute war criminals, the government should immediately change its position – it should support international law and justice, and act itself to uphold the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Britain cannot be a true and independent ‘partner’ for peace if its policies are one-sided, and it allows those responsible for war crimes against Palestinians to avoid justice.
  • Tzipi Livni is just the latest in a list of Israelis who have come under scrutiny over allegations of war crimes. Our government should reflect on this, and change its foreign policy, including ending its arms trade with Israel . I have copied this correspondence to my Member of Parliament, Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith. I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

Media Lens Alert: Chilcot Inquiry – the establishment goes to work – part 2

17 December, 2009 — MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

Buckling Under Bush

In an early leading article on the Chilcot inquiry, the Guardian observed:

“What is already clear from the first week alone is that the decisions, secret or otherwise, that led to war were the product of systemic failure. Intelligence analysts, diplomats, in fact the entire machinery of the British government, proved supine against Washington’s will. Under that pressure, almost everyone buckled.” (Leading Article: ‘Iraq inquiry: Dancing to American drums,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2009)

They certainly did. The Guardian’s Martin Woollacott wrote in January 24, 2003:

“Among those knowledgeable about Iraq there are few, if any, who believe he is not hiding such weapons. It is a given.” (Woollacott, ‘This drive to war is one of the mysteries of our time – We know Saddam is hiding weapons. That isn’t the argument,’ The Guardian, January 24, 2003)

This was close to being an exact reversal of the truth. Hans Blix, former head of UNMOVIC arms inspections in Iraq (November 2002-March 2003), said in June 2003:

“If anyone had cared… to study what UNSCOM [arms inspections in Iraq from 1991-1998] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we [UNMOVIC] were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.” (Miles Pomper and Paul Kerr, ‘An Interview With Hans Blix,’ Arms Control Today, June 16 2003)

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Get the war criminals arrested now By Khalid Amayreh

16 December, 2009 — Palestine Think Tank

livni.jpg(artwork by Edna Spennato)

The recent arrest warrant issued in London for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is more than justified.

This woman, along with two other Israeli leaders, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, stood at the helm of the Israeli government that ordered, supervised and charted the genocidal onslaught against the Gaza Strip this time last year.

She was a chief participant in the decision-making process who also supervised the progress of the hideous massacre from the beginning to the end.

Needless to say, the decisions taken by Livni, and other suspected Israeli war criminals, did lead to the murder of more than 1440 people, including hundreds of innocent children whose lives were terminated by indiscriminate bombings from air, land and sea. This is in addition to the pornographic destruction of a huge part of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including tens of thousands of homes, mosques and public buildings of every kind.

The monstrous, satanic and evil lady knew perfectly what she was doing. She knew that her SS-like army was murdering kids in their mothers’ laps, annihilating entire families, frightened and huddling in their refugee shanties or whatever other places they thought would shield them from death.

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