By Andrew Sanger
January 18, 2010
The UK’s powerful Palestinian lobby – which has a grip on the BBC, a number of British universities, several newspapers and the trade unions – is gearing up its campaign to prevent any change to the UK’s law on universal jurisdiction (‘war crimes’ law).
This is a law which permits any UK magistrate to issue, on request by anyone who can show prima facie cause, a warrant to arrest anyone in the world for “war crimes” as soon as they step foot on UK soil.
This sweeping war crimes law stems from the best of intentions. Insofar as there can be any agreement about what constitutes a war crime – and there is of course a degree of consensus expressed, for example, in Geneva Conventions – the principle behind the law is that there should be no place to hide for those responsible for deliberate acts of barbarism against civilian populations.
It rests on the flawed idea that there are crimes so awful that they transcend national jurisdictions. Flawed, because while awful acts are certainly committed, they can only properly be regarded as ‘crimes’ for citizens of the jurisdiction which has made them illegal.
The driving force behind universal jurisdiction is a benevolent concern for victims. Those who have suffered, the victims of torture, survivors of genocide, can never know justice if the perpetrators cannot be prosecuted – and they clearly will not be prosecuted in their own country.
Under this law, an Afghani militia leader was prosecuted in the UK. In other European states, universal jurisdiction has been used against Chile’s General Pinochet, and leaders of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The problem for universal jurisdiction in the UK is that the anti-Israel obsessives have hijacked it and brought it into disrepute. Since 2004, all four warrants issued in the UK have been for the arrest of an Israeli citizen. All were issued at the request of lawyers from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Universal jurisdiction has hardly ever been used against anyone except Israelis, or for any purpose except as a weapon against the Jewish homeland. No warrants have been issued against Kim Jong-Ill, for example, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad or – more to the point – the Palestinians responsible for attacks on Israeli civilians.
Universal jurisdiction has become highly politicised and is now part of the jihad. Who is campaigning to keep this law, and why? The familiar roll-call of anti-Israel obsessives have written to their newspaper, The Guardian, setting out the argument that the law of universal jurisdiction is a great bulwark against injustice and must not be changed. On the face of it, they present themselves as concerned only with justice, and injustice.
However, the signatories of the letter are dyed-in-the-wool Israel-haters. They range from the pro-Palestinian lawyers and madcap Labour MPs to the Muslim Council of Britain and the barmy army of self-blaming Jews, along with the sprinkling of out-and-out frothing antisemites. They include such luminaries as Baroness Jenny Tonge, Clare Short, Daniel Machover and Steven Rose. Their letter is now circulating the globe on Islamist websites.
Recently the Jewish Chronicle assured us in a confident headline that the law of universal jurisdiction will be changed so that Israelis can freely visit the UK. If it is, we can then expect an avalanche of assertions by the Anti-Israel Obsessives, to the effect that Jews forced the British government to do their bidding, and are secretly behind everything bad in this world. So what’s new?
Andrew Sanger – http://www.andrewsanger.com