Jack Straw: No deal over war crimes law

By Jessica Elgot, February 12, 2010

The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has denied that pressure from Muslim leaders is to blame for his lack of action on war crimes legislation.

Mr Straw has faced allegations that legislation needed to prevent magistrates issuing arrest warrants for Israeli politicians travelling to Britain, has been delayed because of pressure from the Muslim Council of Britain and from the sizeable Muslim population of Mr Straw’s Blackburn constituency.

A spokesman for Mr Straw said: "Suggestions have been made in media reports that Jack has been lobbied on this issue by Muslim leaders.

“For the record, this is completely untrue. Jack has not spoken to the Muslim Council of Britain about this issue or to any of the Muslim leaders in his constituency or elsewhere.

Community leaders are now facing the real possibility that the change to the legislation — promised by Foreign Secretary David Miliband in December — will not happen before the election in May.

In December, Israeli Opposition leader Tzipi Livni cancelled a planned trip to London to address a JNF conference after a warrant was issued for her arrest for alleged war crimes.

She now says she is willing to challenge Britain’s response by travelling to the UK, potentially to face arrest.

Mr Straw has pledged to meet a delegation from the Jewish Leadership Council and Labour Friends of Israel “in the coming weeks” to address their concerns, after both groups wrote urgent letters to the minister.

However, it may be that the date by which legislation needs to be amended — February 23 — will come and go before Mr Straw meets anyone from the Jewish community.

Last updated: 2:02pm, February 12 2010