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Government refuses to disclose whether Livni given immunity from prosecution for visit
The Government has refused to publish information on war crimes suspects given immunity from arrest – through the temporary ‘special mission status’.

When asked by Shadow Justice Minister, Andy Slaughter MP, for details of the “country of origin was of each special mission to the UK that has been refused since 4 March 2013”

The Minister replied:

“In view of the confidentiality of diplomatic exchanges, we have no plans to publish further details about requests that have been granted or refused.”

Previously the Government had revealed that at least three Israelis, Tzipi Livni herself, DF Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and Doron Almog had been given temporary immunity from prosecution, protecting them from arrest for war crimes. This time it seems the Government intend for Tzipi Livni not only to be protected from the law but from publicity, and the UK Government to be immune from scrutiny.

Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:

Tzipi Livni, architect of Israel’s massacre in Gaza – Operation Cast Lead – is speaking in London on 15 May. But it appears that the government wants to shroud in secrecy any decisions on granting immunity from prosecution via a ‘special mission’ status. What is the British government trying to hide? Surely we have the right to know if suspected war criminals are walking the streets of London? Why is it refusing to answer a simple question from the Shadow Justice Minister on what the country of origin was of each request for ‘special mission’ status? Both IDF Lieutenant General Benny Gantz and Doron Almog have recently been given special mission status – or what would be more appropriately called a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Those responsible for war crimes should be brought to justice, not freed from prosecution by holding a secretive special mission status.”

Key points:
  • Government refuses to publish information on war crimes suspects given immunity from prosecution for UK visits
  • Refusal gives not only legal protection to war crimes suspect, but protection for the suspect from adverse publicity, and offers Government protection from scrutiny
  • This is Livni’s 2nd visit since she cancelled UK engagements in late 2009 after an arrest warrant was issued for her on the grounds she had been a member of the Israeli war cabinet that sanctioned the assault on Gaza in which more than a thousand Palestinians were killed.
  • The Foreign Office announced during her last visit in 2011 she was given ‘special mission status’.
  • At least two other Israelis have also been granted temporary immunity from prosecution to visit the UK, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz of the Israeli Defence Forces and Doron Almog, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff for Bedouin Status improvement.
  • This suggests that the changes made to the application to universal jurisdiction laws in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 in order to protect Israel’s war crimes suspects from arrest have failed to offer the guarantee sought. Despite the fact any arrest would require prior approval from the Director of Public Prosecutions the Goverment are preventing justice from being done, or being seen to be done.
notes for the editor
  1. Read the full extract from Hansard>
  2. During Tzipi Livni’s last visit she was given immunity from prosecution>
  3. During his speech to the Knesset in April 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “When I was in opposition, I spoke out when – because of the law on universal jurisdiction – senior Israelis could not safely come to my country without fear of ideologically motivated court cases and legal stunts; when I became Prime Minister, I legislated to change it. My country is open to you and you are welcome to visit any time.” Read more>
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