Livni in Paris earlier this month.(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)
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UK Court Issued Warrant for Livni

Former PM accused of Gaza war crimes; Foreign Office apologizes

by
Marc Tracy
December 14, 2009
Livni in Paris earlier this month.(Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images)

Turns out that, as al-Jazeera reported earlier today (and as Israel earlier denied), a London court issued a warrant for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel’s Kadima Party, on account of alleged war crimes committed in the course of last January’s conflict in the Gaza Strip, during which time she was acting prime minister. The warrant, which came at the request of lawyers representing alleged Palestinian victims of the conflict under a theory of “universal jurisdiction,” was abruptly withdrawn when it turned out that Livni—who had planned a trip to London, but canceled two weeks ago—was not in the country. While one London-based Palestinian group lauded the initial warrant, the British Foreign Office expressed atonement and concern: “The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel,” it said in a statement. “To do this, Israel’s leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case.” Though lawyers have requested such warrants of the Westminster Magistrates Court before—including for former prime minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak—this was the first time a UK judge actually issued such a writ. A final nota bene: Livni does not technically enjoy diplomatic immunity, while, say, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does. Though the legal reasons for that discrepancy are internally logical, it nonetheless seems inconsistent if as important a figure as Livni cannot feel safe to travel.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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