A judge has rejected a Palestinian group’s application to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who is in the UK this week.
Deputy District Judge Daphne Wickham at Westminster Magistrates Court said: “I am satisfied that under customary international law, Mr Barak has immunity from prosecution as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal proceedings in this jurisdiction.”
Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, called the arrest attempt by the group “a continuation of a campaign to dehumanise and delegitimise the state of Israel".
The British barrister who filed the application, Michel Massih QC, said he was acting directly on behalf of bereaved families in Palestine.
He said: "There are allegations of war crimes, there are families seeking redress and because these families are seeking redress, they have asked the advice of lawyers in Palestine who have asked the advice of lawyers in the United Kingdom."
Mr Barak, who is in the UK to meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and to speak to the Labour Friends of Israel, was urged to flee the UK by his Israeli legal team after the application for his arrest was submitted, but chose to remain here.
The submission came under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, alleging that Mr Barak, who was in charge of the offensive in Gaza earlier this year, has committed offences against the 1957 Geneva conventions.
The 1988 act gives British courts universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.