U.K. Seeks to Change Law on War Crimes Arrests

The government is now seeking to change the law in such a way that one government department, the Crown Prosecution Service, evaluate the merits of any case brought under international law.

The British government proposed Thursday an amendment to its universal jurisdiction law, which will effectively prevent Israeli leaders from being slapped with war crimes arrest warrants upon arrival in the United Kingdom.

The government is now seeking to change the law so that only the Crown Prosecution Service will now evaluate the merits of any case brought under international law.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators protest outside the Israel's embassy in Kensington, west London June 1

Such a change would not mean that Israelis could never be prosecuted in Britain for war crimes under universal jurisdiction – but it would make such a process more difficult and rare.

If the proposal is passed - something which parliament will look at in October and may take many months to go through - it would spell a certain victory for the Israelis, who have been pushing for even more dramatic changes.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., Ron Prosor, welcomed the initiative and said it was a “step in the right direction" which would “block the misuse of the system for political purposes”.

Prosor added that if Britain “followed through” and passed the resolution, it would “assist in allowing Britain play an important role in the peace process in the Middle East, something which has been prevented at the moment.”

The British Foreign ministry declined to comment on the matter Wednesday, as the proposal had not yet been brought in front parliament. “Addressing issues around universal jurisdiction remains a priority for this government,” an official there said.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown announced in March the government's initial plans to stop politically-motivated campaign groups from securing arrest warrants for visiting foreign officials.

Under the current system, British magistrates are obliged to consider an arrest warrant case presented by any individual.

This move follows an uproar last December when Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni canceled a trip to London because a pro-Palestinian group secured an arrest warrant for alleged crimes committed in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former public security minister Avi Dichter faced similar threats prior to their trips to the United Kingdom.