UK grants Israel’s Livni diplomatic immunity ahead of diplomatic visit
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has been granted temporary diplomatic immunity for an upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, in order to protect her against arrest for her alleged war crimes, British media reported on Tuesday.
The British Foreign Office confirmed it had granted “special mission” status to Livni, The Guardian wrote, ahead of a planned meeting between the Israeli politician and Foreign Office ministers in London.
Livni’s office confirmed the news, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
The Gaza-based NGO Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and London law firm Hickman & Rose have been leading efforts to prosecute Israeli officials accused of breaching international law.
Livni had a key role in the 2008-2009 Israeli attack on Gaza, also known as Operation Cast Lead, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
Raji Sourani, PCHR director, told The Guardian that he was very disappointed at the British government’s decision to grant immunity to Livni.
“The [British government's] stated policy of ‘ending impunity for international crimes’ can only be properly pursued if the rule of law and due process is allowed to prevail, rather than Britain giving a safe haven to suspected war criminals, even for a few hours,” Sourani said.
He noted that a British judge had ruled in December 2009 that there was sufficient evidence to justify Livni’s arrest over her role in Operation Cast Lead.
The UK’s law on universal jurisdiction – which allows for foreign leaders to be arrested on British soil for breaches of international law – was changed in recent years to make approval from the Director of Public Prosecutions mandatory before an arrest warrant can be issued.
The change in legislation took place shortly after Livni canceled a visit in 2009 over fears of arrest. She has since been granted diplomatic immunity for an October 2011 visit to the UK.
In July 2013, Israel’s army chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz was also granted judicial immunity during a visit to the European country in order to discuss military cooperation. Gantz has been accused of involvement in the commission of war crimes, particularly in the November 2012 assault on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Pillar of Defense.