Conservative Friends of Israel

Supporting Israel and Promoting Conservatism


Universal Jurisdiction

In December 2009, Israeli opposition leader and former Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni was forced to cancel a trip to the UK as a warrant for her arrest was issued by a British court under Universal Jurisdiction law.

Under, Universal Jurisdiction legislation a national court can try a foreign citizen for a serious crime (e.g. war crime), when neither the suspect nor the victim is a national of that country.

CFI’s campaigned at all levels of the Conservative Party to secure a change in Universal Jurisdiction law to enable the system to withstand attempts to exploit the law for settling political scores.

Universal Jurisdiction legislation passes into law fulfilling Conservative Party pledge

Net and CamIn September 2011, the British Government amended Universal Jurisdiction legislation, in a move that finally enabled senior Israeli officials to visit the UK without the threat of facing politically motivated arrest warrants for alleged war crimes. In passing the new legislation the Conservative Party made good on their pre-election pledge to amend Universal Jurisdiction legislation.

The amended Universal Jurisdiction legislation correcs previous irregularities that had for too long enabled politically motivated individuals to pressure local magistrates to issue arrest warrants merely to generate controversy and appear in the media limelight. Universal Jurisdiction cases are now only able to proceed to a private prosecutor if the Director of Public Prosecutions finds enough solid evidence to lead to a successful prosecution. The previous legislation had been a major point of contention after it had been politically exploited to prevent high-ranking Israeli officials visiting the UK.

We are friends of Israel. And we welcome Israelis to Britain. Our Coalition Government has legislated on Universal Jurisdiction to make sure that Israeli officials and ministers can come to this country free from fear of politically motivated attempts to arrest them. And it was right that we did so.
Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, CST Annual Dinner, 29 February 2012
Mr Clarke: We are clear about our international obligations and these new changes to existing law will ensure the balance is struck between ensuring those who are accused of such heinous crimes do not escape justice and that universal jurisdiction cases are only proceeded with on the basis of solid evidence that is likely to lead to a successful prosecution. 
These changes are essential to ensure we do not risk damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy.
Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, Justice Secretary, Statement, 15 September 2011

The move was welcomed by Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel, who responded to its entry into law by giving Tzipi Livni a phone call. Ambassador Gould asserted that the UK’s justice system could no longer be “abused for political reasons”, and would “ensure that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations”.

Mr Gould: The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which has now received Royal Assent, includes an important amendment to ensure that the UK’s justice system can no longer be abused for political reasons. The change will ensure that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations. 
The UK remains committed to ensuring that those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice. This amendment requires the Director of Public Prosecutions to consent to the issuing of an arrest warrant for crimes of universal jurisdiction and will put an end to requests for warrants where there is no realistic chance of prosecution.
Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, Statement, 15 September 2011