Israeli political, military leaders in fear of war crimes arrests

Israel is concerned the war crimes charges could be taken up by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Israeli political, military leaders in fear of war crimes arrests

An Israeli military delegation has canceled an official visit to Britain, the latest in a string of politicians and army officials to put off travel to the U.K. because of fears of war crimes prosecution.

Israel has delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain over possibilty the group could be arrested there on war crimes charges, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Tuesday.

"These officers were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have a 100 percent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country," Ayalon told public radio.

Ayalon protested the possibility of arrest to Patricia Scotland, the British government's chief legal adviser, on Tuesday when she visited Jerusalem, an aide said on Wednesday.

During a visit to Britain in October, Ayalon faced calls by rights groups for his arrest as an Israeli government official. His visit detail surrounded him during public appearances to ensure he could not be served with a warrant.

International human rights bodies, including a commission set up by the United Nations, have said Israeli political and military officials should answer allegations of war crimes over the three-week Gaza offensive launched in late December 2008.

Israel now face a UN war crimes report in that offensive, nearly 1500 Palestinians were killed. It also destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, mosques in the besieged land.

"Legal advice" against war crimes charges

Israel's top general has ordered the military to seek "legal advice" to escape war crimes charges while in the heat of battle and not just during the planning stages, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Military Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi issued the order despite opposition from several commanders, the paper said.

The decision follows fear of arrest in foreign trips over the military's devastating 22-day Gaza offensive one year ago.

Israel is concerned the war crimes charges could be taken up by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

In December, Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel's main opposition party Kadima and foreign minister during the Gaza war a year ago, cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued against her by a British court over Gaza war crimes.

Livni cannot enjoy any immunity as she is an ex-minister. Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, is in the same position.

UN report

In September, the court was asked to issue one for the arrest of Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which gives courts in England and Wales universal jurisdiction in war crimes cases.

Barak, who was attending a meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton, escaped arrest after the Foreign Office told the court that he was a serving minister who would be meeting his British counterparts. The court ruled he enjoyed immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978.

In 2005, a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, avoided arrest in Britain by returning to Israel without leaving the plane that had landed him in London after he learned an arrest warrant had been issued against him.

The report, which was compiled by a panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, had already been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored the fact-finding commission.

Israeli forces deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention, the 575-page report noted.

The firing of white phosphorous shells and the use of high explosive artillery shells were listed as "violations of humanitarian law."

Israel has rejected a cooperation with the Goldstone team or had not allowed it onto its territory.


Agencies


Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2010, 17:34
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