Universal Jurisdiction – letter in the Guardian

July 29, 2010
Richard Kuper

guardianThe right to arrest war crime suspects

Letters page, 29 July 2010

We are horrified at the proposals by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke to give the director of public prosecutions a veto over arrest warrants in private prosecutions for international crimes (Report, 22 July). The justice secretary’s statement appeared to question the ability of magistrates themselves to weed out flimsy cases. To imply that any previous arrest warrants were issued without judges being satisfied of the existence of serious evidence against the person concerned is an insult to the British legal system and the senior magistrates that preside over such cases. Involving the DPP risks adding a political dimension to a legal decision and introduces a source of delay when urgent action may be required to stop a suspect escaping justice.

Since we call on other countries to uphold human rights and international law, our legal system also has to abide by those principles, in particular bringing to justice those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and hostage-taking. It’s no secret that this move is the result of pressure from the Israeli government to try to ensure that ex-ministers and military staff will not have to face warrants for their arrest on entering this country.

Rather than bending to pressure to change the existing law, our government should be issuing a statement of intent that all those responsible for serious international crimes, whatever their nationality, will be brought to justice if and when the evidence supports criminal prosecution. The proposed changes will apply to everyone, making it more difficult to prosecute all suspects, whether from Israel or any other country involved in systematic human rights violations. Britain must not be seen as a safe haven for anyone suspected of committing such grave international crimes.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Daniel Machover
Louise Christian
Alexei Sayle
Miriam Margoyles
Keith Sonnet Deputy general secretary, Unison
Hugh Lanning Deputy general secretary, PCS
Sally Hunt General secretary, UCU
Kevin Courtney Deputy general Secretary, NUT
Andy Dark Assistant general secretar, FBU
Tony Woodley Joint general secretary, Unite
Simon Dubbins International director, Unite
Betty Hunter General secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Benjamin Zephaniah
Lindsey German Chair, Stop the War
Daud Abdullah Director, Middle East Monitor
Chris Doyle Director Council for Arab-British Understanding
Mohammed Sawalha British Muslim Initiative
Farooq Murad Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain
Diana Neslen Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Diane Abbott MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Emily Thornberry MP
Bruce Kent
Karma Nabulsi
Ahdaf Soueif
Caryl Churchill
John Austin
Eleanor Kilroy
Karen Mitchell
Victoria Brittain
Sarah McSherry
Katherine Craig
Ian McDonald
Penny Maddrell
Jackie Alsaid
Andrew Sanger
David Halpin
Bill Benfield
Yvonne Ridley
Andy Newman
Mohammed Asif

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