British Muslims Slam U.K. Pledge to End Arrest Threats Against Israelis

Pledge came after Livni arrest warrent; Muslim Council of Britain: Move was 'manifestly partisan.'

Britain's flagship Muslim organization on Wednesday attacked a government pledge to reform a war crimes law used to try to arrest visiting Israeli dignitaries, saying the move could hurt Britain's image in the Middle East.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was deeply disappointed that foreign minister David Miliband promised to change the law so that judges could no longer issue secret arrest warrants against Israeli officials or military officers, saying the move was biased toward Israel.

You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law, the council's Secretary General Muhammad Abdul Bari wrote in a letter to Miliband. This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East.

Israelis were outraged and British government officials were embarrassed when it emerged last week that a London judge had issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who had been due to visit Britain earlier this month.

The warrant was later withdrawn when it became clear Livni would not come to the country, but the matter badly strained relations between Britain and the Jewish state.

Last week Israeli President Shimon Peres demanded that Britain change the law. The British promised they would fix this and it is time that they do so, he said.

Miliband has said that the British government is determined to put an end the threat of arrest hanging over officials of Livni's stature, explaining that Israeli leaders needed to be able to travel freely to Britain if U.K.-Israeli relations were to endure.

The Muslim Council urged Miliband to reconsider.

Justice and fairness is not served by being or by being seen to be partisan and compliant to demands made by one major player in the conflict, it said.

Calls seeking comment from Britain's Foreign Office and its Ministry of Justice were not immediately returned.

Last week, The Guardian reported that Britain had begun to make good on Foreign Secretary

  • David Miliband's pledgeto reform the law.

    According to the paper, Britain's attorney general will be asked to approve warrants before suspected war criminals can be arrested in future, under a plan being negotiated by the Foreign Office in response to the row over attempts to arrest Livni.