Palestinian human rights groups this week slammed the British authorities for awarding an Israeli politician diplomatic immunity ahead of a UK visit, saying the “rule of the jungle” had trumped the rule of law.
It comes as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) gave “special mission” status to visiting Israeli minister Tzipi Livni, after arrest warrants were sought for her involvement in the 2008/9 Gaza military campaign ‘Operation Cast Lead.’
“Since the visit meets all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the FCO has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission,” the FCO said.
This is the second time Livni has been granted “special mission” status – effectively diplomatic immunity for a temporary period – as the government seeks to avoid the embarrassing prospect of her arrest upon landing.
The detention of the Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator in the recent peace talks has been sought by City law firm Hickman and Rose on behalf of the family of a Palestinian who was killed on the first day of hostilities.
Lawyers have been liaising with the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which issued a statement saying that it was “very disappointed” with the decision.
“PCHR is very concerned that these kind of political acts endorse the rule of the jungle rather than the rule of law,” said director Raji Sourani.
“The policy of ending impunity for international crimes can only be pursued if the rule of law and due process is allowed to prevail, rather than Britain giving a safe haven to suspected war criminals,” he said.
Last year, the Israeli military chief of staff and a retired major general were also granted special mission status for visits to the UK, which led to Prime Minister David Cameron speaking out about the subject last month.
Addressing the Knesset, he said he had spoken out against the law on universal jurisdiction, which meant that “Israelis could not safely come to my country without fear of ideologically motivated court cases and legal stunts”.