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UK prevents arrest of Israel ex-foreign minister

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] on Thursday declared that former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livini [official website, in Hebrew] enjoys temporary diplomatic immunity during her visit to London, thereby sparing her from arrest. Livini risked arrest after an application was made [press statement] on Tuesday to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) [official profile], seeking his consent to a private prosecutor for a warrant to arrest her based on war crimes charges relating to Israel's Gaza Offensive [JURIST news archive]. A Palestinian police officer whose brother was killed in the attacks on Gaza, submitted the application [Guardian report], which was supported by a "body of information" requested by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) [official website]. However, according to the CPS, this information, though carefully considered, was still not sufficient to support a "realistic prospect of conviction against Ms. Livini in relation to the alleged offenses." Additionally, the CPS received a certificate indicating that the FCO had consented to the visit as a "special mission," a designation that the High Court ruled a court was not able to call into question. As a result, Livini was able to complete her visit [FCO news report] with Foreign Secretary William Hague to discuss UK-Israel relations. A previous trip scheduled for December 2009 was canceled [JURIST report] after a British magistrate court issued, and later revoked, an arrest warrant for her on the war crimes charges.

Last month, the UK Parliament [official website]approved [JURIST report] the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act [materials], which makes it more difficult for ordinary citizens to obtain arrest warrants for suspected war criminals present in the UK. The controversial act [AP report] removes the exclusive power of granting arrest warrants from local magistrates, requiring that all such warrants receive approval from the DPP. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke of the UK Ministry of Justice said [press release] about the bill, "[w]e are clear about our international obligations and these new changes to existing law will ensure the balance is struck between ensuring those who are accused of such heinous crimes do not escape justice and that universal jurisdiction cases are only proceeded with on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution." The amendment is seen as a move by the UK government to improve relations with foreign countries such as China and Israel.

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