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Israeli opposition leader avoids war crime arrest threat

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Summary of story from The Guardian, October 6, 2011

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni will not be prosecuted for war crimes in Britain after the Foreign Office said she has temporary diplomatic immunity.

A private application for a warrant for Livni’s arrest when visiting London was made on Tuesday, to be considered by the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC.

Livni was foreign minister during an Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008 that killed more than 1,000 Palestinians.

In 2009, another private warrant made for Livni’s arrest resulted in the cancellation of her visit to the UK.

Legislation passed earlier this year stipulates that the DPP must give their consent to any private prosecution for war crimes launched in courts in England or Wales. This would prevent politically motivated cases and ensure there was sufficient evidence.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said the DPP had been blocked from any arrest decision by a “retrospective grant” of diplomatic immunity to Ms Livni, not for a lack of evidence.

“Ms Livni is not a member of the Israeli government, but the leader of the opposition,” the centre said. “This action exhibits a serious and worrying disregard for the rule of law, and appears to be in violation of the UK’s international obligations.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “It was an appalling situation when political abuse of our legal procedures prevented people like Ms Livni from travelling legitimately to the UK.”

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