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UK considers limiting law on war crimes arrests

[JURIST] The British government has said it may restrict a univeral jurisdiction law [backgrounder] authorizing citizens to seek international warrants for the arrest of any individual accused of war crimes who enters the country. The Guardian newspaper reported Friday that UK ministers have cited the unpredictable nature of the current law and the strain it puts on international relations. Consideration of a change in the law stems from an incident in September 2005 in which former Israeli general Doron Almog at the last minute eluded arrest in Britain [JURIST report; PSC backgrounder] for alleged war crimes in connection with the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2002 [Guardian report]. Shortly after that incident, the Israeli government began lobbying Britain for a change in the law [JURIST report]. The Israeli cabinet has since approved legal aid for military officers charged overseas with war crimes [JURIST report]. A Home office spokesperson has said that the law "has been used by people to promote their own agenda, and that's the worry we're expressing." Amnesty International has already voiced [press release] "dismay that the UK government would even contemplate weakening its domestic legislation and thereby undermining global efforts to ensure that those accused of the most egregious crimes under international law, wherever committed, are brought to justice." The Guardian has more.

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