Britain Grants Livni Temporary Immunity From Arrest Warrants During Visit

Senior Israeli politicians and military officers could face arrest and prosecution for war crimes when visiting Britain.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Credit: Benny Gamzo Letova
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The British government granted Justice Minister Tzipi Livni temporary diplomatic status obstructing any attempt to arrest her during her visit to London this week, the Guardian reported on Tuesday. Livni's office confirmed the report.

The Guardian states that the British Foreign Office will grant Livni, who will leave to London Wednesday evening to meet with her British counterpart William Hague, a "special mission" status – effectively giving her a temporary diplomatic immunity from being legally arrested or prosecuted.

The British Foreign Office told the Guardian that Livni's trip satisfies all "essential elements" to qualify as a "special mission" and that in order to avoid "any doubt on the matter, [the office] has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission."

This decision comes after numerous attempts have been made to issue a warrant for Livni's arrest on account of her alleged involvement in the perpetration of war crimes. The move 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.

With the help of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the London law firm asked the Director of Public Prosecution to order Livni's arrest and to open criminal action against her.

The law on "universal jurisdiction" made it possible to prosecute foreign officials, while on British soil, for violation of international law. This placed senior Israelis who wished to visit the United Kingdom in risk of being arrested. In 2009 the law was changed to encumber the issuing of arrest warrants for Israeli officials by demanding that any such request be authorized by the DDP.

The law firm filed the request late in April, but on Monday the DDP was informed that Livni has received diplomatic immunity from the British Foreign Office and was therefore safe from having legal procedures opened against her. During a 2011 visit to the United Kingdom, Livni had also received a "special mission" status, while pro-Palestinian activists motioned to have her arrested.

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