IDF man Almog cancels charity trip over universal jurisdiction fear

Seven years after almost being arrested at Heathrow, former Israeli general Doron Almog has cancelled his participation in a London fundraiser, following concerns regarding Britain’s universal jurisdiction law.

Major General (res.) Doron Almog was commander of the IDF’s Southern Command from 2000 to 2003. In September 2005, he travelled to London for a fundraising event for Aleh, an Israeli charity that supports homes for severely disabled children and young people.

When he landed, he was warned by the Israeli embassy that an arrest warrant had been issued for him by a magistrates’ court, over the suspicion of alleged war crimes committed under his command in the Gaza Strip. He remained on the plane and returned to Israel.

Mr Almog was the first of a number of senior Israeli officers and officials, including former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, prevented from visiting Britain, due to the fears that pro-Palestinian activists would obtain arrest warrants against them.

Last September, after repeated promises by successive British governments, the universal jurisdiction law was changed, so that an arrest warrant could only be issued via the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

While Israel praised the change, subsequent analysis by its legal experts raised concerns that the DPP, a civil servant, could still issue an arrest warrant at the request of pro-Palestinian activists.

Aleh UK was due to hold a fundraising dinner on June 28, in London. Mr Almog, who has been one of Aleh’s most active spokespeople over many years and one of the founders of a rehabilitative village for severely disabled young adults in the south of Israel, was to be the guest of the honour at the event. The village was named Nahalat Eran, after Mr Almog’s son Eran, who died in 2007 at the age of 23.

Last month, following advice he received from the Israeli government, he decided to pull out and the event has been postponed.

A senior Israeli official said: “It’s true that the new British law is better than the original one, which allowed any magistrate to issue a warrant, but the government promised it would be changed so that only the Attorney-General, who is a political figure we can trust, could authorise universal jurisdiction arrests.

"The DPP is a civil servant who may decide that he is going to authorise arrest warrants. We are still waiting for assurances on this from the British government.”

Doron Almog confirmed the cancellation. He said: “The change to the law is cosmetic and if I were to arrive tomorrow in London, the arrest warrant could still be used against me. I don’t know what the British prosecutor is going to decide.”

Gail Seal, a trustee of Aleh UK, said: “We are very disappointed for Aleh that Doron Almog, who has done so much for these children, cannot come to the UK, and we hope that it will be possible to hold the event in November.”

Last updated: 11:20am, June 5 2012