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Israeli politician says British police sought to question her over war crimes

Published 04/07/2016

Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni claims she was sought for questioning by UK police during a visit to England
Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni claims she was sought for questioning by UK police during a visit to England

Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has said a British war crimes investigator sought to question her during a trip to Britain over her role in Israel's 2008-2009 Gaza war.

Speaking to Israeli Army Radio during a visit to London, Ms Livni said British police emailed her a summons on Friday.

She called it "unacceptable", saying the request defined the questioning as non-mandatory, and she did not comply.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it views the British request "with great concern" and would "engage" with British authorities until the matter is resolved.

Britain's Foreign Office, the Metropolitan Police in London and Scotland Yard declined to comment.

Ms Livni, a former lead peace negotiator with the Palestinians, enjoys a dovish reputation in much of the West. But she staunchly defends Israel's devastating three-week military offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009, saying the operation was meant to end years of rocket fire by Gaza militants against Israel. There was widespread international criticism of the hundreds of civilian casualties.

Ms Livni served as foreign minister during the war and, as a member of the Israeli Cabinet, she was part of the decision-making process regarding the military campaign.

Pro-Palestinian groups have previously tried to go after her and other Israeli officials using universal jurisdiction, a principle that lets British courts prosecute foreigners accused of crimes against humanity wherever they were committed.

The law strained UK-Israeli relations, as senior Israeli officials cancelled trips rather than face possible arrest in Britain. In 2009, an arrest warrant was issued in Britain against Ms Livni, and Israel's foreign ministry said the warrant was later cancelled, after officials learned she was not on British soil.

Previously, anyone in Britain could apply to a judge for such warrants. But the law was amended in 2011 to make such arrest warrants harder to pursue. That year, Britain's chief prosecutor blocked an attempt to serve Ms Livni with an arrest warrant during a visit to Britain.

British officials extend diplomatic immunity to Israeli officials to shield them from such arrests.

However, Ms Livni said she declined immunity for her current trip to Britain on principle. She told Israeli Army Radio she wanted to test what British authorities would do in cases of Israelis who are not eligible for diplomatic immunity but who could be pursued for alleged war crimes.

"Israeli army commanders and Israeli decision-makers who are threatened with arrest warrants each time they arrive in London - this is an absurd sight that is unacceptable and must stop," she wrote on Facebook.

"Just as we respect and admire Britain's actions against international terror and Israel is open for any British minister to visit, without questions about his decisions in the Cabinet, such is how Israel expects from Britain," she added.


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