Clarke: action soon on universal jurisdiction

The Justice Secretary was speaking in House of Commons

The Justice Secretary was speaking in House of Commons

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has promised that the government will address a law allowing private prosecutors to issue arrest warrants for visiting Israelis “in the very near future”.

Responding to a question on altering universal jurisdiction law by Hendon MP Matthew Offord, Mr Clarke described the current situation as “unsatisfactory”.

He said: “We are urgently considering how to proceed and expect to make an announcement shortly.

“It is not in any sense in this country's interests that people can be arrested upon arrival on a level of evidence that would not remotely sustain a prosecution.”

Last year a diplomatic row erupted between Israel and the UK after lawyers representing Palestinians in Gaza arranged for an arrest warrant for Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni when she visited.

Mr Offord, elected to represent Hendon in a narrow vote in May, called for the government to take action on limiting the power for such prosecutions to the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said: “Britain is unable to play a leading role in the diplomatic world if foreign politicians cannot visit this country without fear of arrest.”

Soon after the coalition government came in Foreign Secretary William Hague also repeated his campaign promise to change the law.

Last updated: 6:36pm, July 21 2010