UK PM seeks to limit war crimes arrest warrants for international leaders

UK PM seeks to limit war crimes arrest warrants for international leaders

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official profile] on Thursday proposed [Telegraph report] tighter restrictions on the use of politically motivated arrest warrants for foreign leaders accused of war crimes. Brown said that he would seek to make tougher "the evidential basis on which arrest warrants can be allowed" and to restrict the right to prosecute universal jurisdiction crimes to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) [official website]. Writing about the UK's policy of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Brown explained that he is seeking to introduce these changes because "there is now significant danger of such a provision being exploited by politically-motivated organisations or individuals." Brown wrote:

But by bringing the risk of arrest into closer alignment with the risk of prosecution, our system of universal jurisdiction can be stronger. For it would be clear that we only bring cases based on evidence of sufficient strength to convince the Director of Public Prosecutions that there is a credible case.

With this approach, I am confident that an amendment on better enforcement of existing legislation will serve to enhance Britain's status in the eyes of international law, world opinion and history.

Brown intends to propose these changes and have them in place as soon as possible.

In January, Israeli officials abandoned a trip to the UK [JURIST report] over fears that they would be arrested on war crimes charges for their involvement in last year's Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In December, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni [official website, in Hebrew] canceled a trip [JURIST report] to the UK, just two months after Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon [official profile] called off a trip [JURIST report] over fears of being arrested for war crimes. Other countries have also recently moved to limit the reach of their universal jurisdiction statutes. France, which in January proposed a new judicial unit [JURIST report] for war crimes and genocide, requires that the crime have a connection to France, which runs counter to the principle of universal jurisdiction. Last year, in a move that drew criticism, Spain limited universal jurisdiction [JURIST reports] to crimes committed by or against Spaniards, or where the perpetrators are in Spain.