Miliband: War crimes law failure is Tories' fault

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010
David Miliband: Tories blocking Crime law are to blame for no Universal Jurisdiction change

David Miliband: Tories blocking Crime law are to blame for no Universal Jurisdiction change

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has blamed the Conservatives for preventing an early change in the law in order to make it more difficult to arrest visiting Israelis.

Although the government published its proposal to amend the law last week, there is no prospect of it being passed before the next election.

Mr Miliband told a meeting organised by the Movement for Reform Judaism in London at the end of last week: “The reason it is not being done in this Parliament is that in the period after January to the election, there wasn’t a suitable bill that had cross-party support, because the Tories have said they want to support the change on universal jurisdiction but they don’t support the Crime Bill, which would have been the obvious place to put it.

“So there wasn’t really a legislative vehicle that existed to do it this side of the election.”
Pressure for change increased after former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a planned visit to London at the end of last year after pro-Palestinian campaigners obtained an arrest warrant from magistrates for alleged war crimes.

The government has now proposed that arrests can only be made with the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Miliband added: “People were worried we took six weeks… before we came out with our proposals. But actually it was time well spent because the proposal that we’ve come out with is actually well thought through. It does the job in respecting both the diplomatic and international relations aspects of this and also the legal aspects.”

In an hour-long appearance, Mr Miliband faced questions mostly on issues of general policy than specifically of Jewish interest.

The words Kaminski, Goldstone, passports and East Jerusalem were not mentioned once.

But he rejected the idea that a military strike now remained the only way to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.

"I don’t believe it is right to say the diplomatic track has yet failed,” he stated. “I think that anyone who has responsibility for the deployment of military force has to believe that it is always the last option, and if you start reaching for military force before you’ve reached the last option, you’ll end up creating many more wars than you solve.”

A diplomatic solution should be pursued “more energetically perhaps…I don’t think that’s an impossible goal. It’s not going to be resolved by a quick strike.”

But the trickiest question came from Abigail Morris, the director of new Jewish ethics organisation Responsibility, who asked him why he had not stood for the Labour leadership since many people felt Gordon Brown to be an electoral liability.

“I think we have got a strong platform on which to present ourselves to the electorate,” Mr Miliband said. “I think the Prime Minister has proved himself in some of the most difficult domestic and international challenges that we have faced. So it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.”

Last updated: 2:23pm, March 25 2010