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UK war crimes law strains relations with Israel

Israel has cancelled its special strategic dialogue with London to protest a law that enables Britain to arrest visiting foreign officials for alleged war crimes, press reports in both countries said Wednesday.
 
This week Israel's deputy prime minister Dan Meridor was forced to cancel a visit to London following warnings he could be arrested for alleged war crimes, the Daily Mail reported.
 
He did so after Britain’s Foreign Office and Ministry of Justice warned him he could face an arrest warrant from pro-Palestinian activists.
 
Last year, Ms. Tzipi Livni, who was foreign minister during the war in Gaza in early 2009, cancelled her visit to UK after pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a London judge to issue an arrest warrant for her.
 
The warrant was withdrawn after she canceled her trip, but the matter strained relations between Britain and Israel. A delegation of senior Israeli military officers were also forced to cancel their own visit to the UK.
 
Britain is one of the European pioneers of universal jurisdiction, a broad legal concept that empowers judges to issue arrest warrants for nearly any visitor accused of committing war crimes anywhere in the world.
 
In the wake of the difficulties with Israel, the new UK government is planning to amend the law to require the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer before any private prosecution for war crimes could be brought.