Comment by Calvin L. Smith (Principal of King's Evangelical Divinity School, United Kingdom)
4 March 2010
According to this morning's Daily Telegraph Gordon Brown at last is going to put a stop to the politically-motivated abuse of our court system. About time! How can Britain ever be taken seriously as a peace broker if every time an Israeli official or politician comes to Britain they're threatened with arrest because a campaign group seeking publicity approached a magistrate? As usual, it's one rule for Israel and another for everyone else.
By Calvin L. Smith at 10:51
Labels: Middle East, State and Society
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Calvin, I must say I disagree. As things stand, the rules are the same for everyone. What the government proposes (and other sources say they have actually delayed this now) was to create a set of rules especially for Israeli officials. In other words, one rule for Israel, one for everyone else.
If Israeli politicians want to go to the UK without fear of arrest then it's quite simple what they should do. Firstly they should avoid doing things that could be thought of by a court as war crimes. And secondly, they can come on a diplomatic mission, and enjoy the resulting diplomatic immunity. Many foreign politicians and leaders have done this over the years.
According to Melanie Phillips our pleasure at this news might be a little premature.
Gordon Brown says that he will change the law to prevent the abuse of ‘universal jurisdiction’ through threats to arrest visiting Israeli dignatories for ‘war crimes’
Philip, we'll have to disagree on this one. My point is there have been various mass deaths of civilians as a result of Allied action in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but we've never dream of holding visiting officials from America on the basis of a politically-driven representation to a Magistrates' court. Indeed, we don't arrest some of the real "baddies" who visit the UK. Meanwhile, there'd be uproar if one of the Assads visiting the UK were held because of the massacre at Hama.
No, these representations to UK courts are quite simply politically-driven, and I'm rather surprised by your comment for one who seeks to be pragmatic. It is ridiculous Tzipi Livni, as official leader of the Israeli Opposition, couldn't come to the UK as she had no formal diplomatic status.
Hi Calvin. There are many who would like to hold certain leaders to account for Iraq especially, and would wish 'our' side would get out of Afghanistan. The claim that we need to train a country used to fighting how to form an army is weak.
Some would wish the leaders of Saudi Arabia etc. were to be detained for abuse of power. What about those Christians who challenged BAe for selling planes to another country for abusing power? Or the calls for recognition of the Armenian genocide? So I don't think the Israeli state is being singled out.
The government could have changed the law at the time of the Pinochet arrest, but the call to change British laws to suit one country does look like favouritism.
But we don't hear about politically-motivated campaigns to get them through the Magistrates' courts, do we?
No, it is not favouritism, it is correcting an abuse (though I agree with Stuart, looks like it won't happen anyway).
I'm not sure that you can hold a son responsible for what his father does...
I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're arguing for. Are you saying that you oppose universal jurisdiction laws in general? Or simply when they are used against Israelis and not against others? That is, if this law were applied, in your words, without favouritism, would you support the arrest and trial of Israeli leaders for war crimes?
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