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Israel presses UK to restrict private war crimes lawsuits

[JURIST] Israeli officials announced Sunday that they will urge Britain to restrict laws which allow private war crimes suits to be filed against foreign citizens. The request was prompted by an incident last week where Doron Almog, former commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, refused to disembark a plane [JURIST report] landing in London after being warned that a British magistrate had issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the Israeli army's 2002 demolition of Palestinian homes [Guardian report] in a Gaza refugee camp. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni [official profile] will ask Britain to amend the magistrate's authority to issue arrest warrants for alleged war crimes, instead proposing that the attorney-general be required to approve such suits. Another proposal would establish a list of countries exempted from war crimes suits filed privately. Livni said, "It is unconscionable that an Israeli who served as a soldier must fear to set foot in a friendly nation." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw [official profile; Wikipedia profile] said the matter was best left for the courts to decide. Reuters has more.

11:49 AM ET - A British court has withdrawn Almog's arrest warrant because Almog is no longer in the jurisdiction. Kate Maynard, part of the legal team who brought the charges against Almog, said Monday that her law firm is calling for an investigation into the criminal liability of any embassy staff that helped Almog evade jurisdiction. Maynard also questioned why British police did not board Almog's plane to arrest him. AFP has more.

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