The Muslim Council of Britain has attacked Foreign Secretary David Miliband for saying he would change the law of universal jurisdiction in the wake of the Tzipi Livni arrest warrant row.
In a long letter to Mr Miliband, MCB general secretary Mohammad Abdul Bari said: “We regret to have to say that the process that the government appears to have chosen to follow on this issue is fundamentally flawed.”
Ms Livni planned to visit Britain two weeks ago to speak at a JNF conference. But she cancelled her trip after warnings that a warrant for her arrest would be sought, over her involvement in the Israeli war cabinet before Operation Cast Lead in G aza a year ago. The warrant, issued at City of Westminster magistrates’ court, was withdrawn when it became clear she was not in Britain.
Afterwards Mr Miliband, who , with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, apologised to Ms Livni, said that he would change the law. He is considering a legal opinion from leading human rights lawyer Lord Pannick, wh o recommended that an arrest should take place only if the Attorney-General had given consent.
But Mr Abdul Bari said: "It appears, that following the expression of strong disapproval and anger by the Israeli government, and representations by the Jewish Leadership Council, you have shown a willingness to review and remove the powers of magistrates in the UK to issue warrants of arrest against alleged Israeli war criminals”.
He accused Mr Miliband of “allowing political exigency to undermine and erode fundamental legal traditions and conventions which are centuries old”. He asked why the foreign secretary chose only to rely on Lord Pannick’s opinion and not sought different views.
The proposed change, he said, “sends out a clear signal that the government wants the courts to be subservient to political considerations”.
The letter ended by urging Mr Miliband of the “grave consequences of interfering with established legal procedures” and the damage it would do to Britain’s reputation both at home and abroad.
The letter was also sent to the Minister for Justice, the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as, according to Mr Abdul bari, Mr Miliband’s proposed changes also affected those areas of government.