Changes in Universal Jurisdiction Law to Prevent Abuse
JERUSALEM – Following the passage of amendments to the UK’s “Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill 2010-11,” which now requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant is issued for a privately-instigated prosecution, Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor applauded the new law as an important step in preventing abuse of universal jurisdiction statutes.
“The UK legal system has been exploited by NGOs such as Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Yesh Gvul, Al Haq, and Al Mezan, and their British partners Daniel Machover, the Hickman & Rose Solicitors firm, and Irvine, Thanvi, Natas, and Imran Khan & Partners,” said NGO Monitor Legal Advisor Anne Herzberg. “Under the guise of ‘justice’ and ‘human rights,’ these groups have initiated highly politicized PR stunts in the form of meritless legal cases. The purpose of this lawfare is publicity that reinforces efforts to label Israelis ‘war criminals’ as part of the Durban strategy.”
British universal jurisdiction laws formerly allowed for private citizens to seek politically-motivated arrest warrants for individuals who had allegedly committed international crimes. The laws faced increased criticism, particularly following an attempt by a Hamas-linked NGO to arrest Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister and current opposition leader, for “war crimes.” Widespread protest led to demands for a change in the universal jurisdiction law to prevent further abuse by private litigants.
Several NGOs including Coalition of Women for Peace, Amnesty International, War on Want, and others have condemned or tried to block the sensible changes. In promoting their political agendas, officials allege that the legislation “introduces dangerous delays” and establishes the UK as “an effective ‘safe-haven’ for war criminals.”
“In fact, the law preserves the UK’s ability to adjudicate universal jurisdiction cases, while guaranteeing that NGOs and other private bodies will not be able to abuse the British legal system.” continued Herzberg. “NGO Monitor was one of the first organizations to highlight the problem of NGO ‘lawfare.’ In meetings with dozens of diplomats, we informed them of the groups responsible for the frivolous suits and their funding sources, particularly European governments.”
In a January 2010 lecture at Hebrew University, Attorney General Baroness Scotland referred to this abuse, noting that legal procedure in the UK was being abused for “political and other unjust purposes” and that “energetic efforts [were] being made to find a resolution to the problem.”
For more information on lawfare in the UK, see:
- Factsheet: The United Kingdom Changes Its Universal Jurisdiction Law, September 20, 2011
- NGO ‘Lawfare’: Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 2nd Expanded Edition, NGO Monitor Monograph Series, December 9, 2010
- Anne Herzberg, “Lawfare Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe, November 5, 2008
NGOs and lawyers behind politically-motivated universal jurisdiction cases in the United Kingdom:
- Daniel Machover (co-founder Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and head of civil litigation for Hickman & Rose Solicitors) – in concert with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Yesh Gvul – submitted evidence files to the Anti-Terrorist and War Crimes Unit of the London Metropolitan police regarding former IDF Southern Command Chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog. When police declined to act on the files, lawyers applied for an arrest warrant. Almog traveled to London, but did not leave the plane once he learned of the arrest warrant (Aug. 2005). An unsuccessful suit was filed in 2004 against Shaul Mofaz. PCHR is funded by the EU, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, Oxfam NOVIB; Yesh Gvul’s funding is completely non-transparent.
- Al Haq and Al Mezan – with the assistance of London law firms Irvine, Thanvi, Natas and Imran Khan & Partners – sought an arrest warrant for Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but were declined on immunity grounds (Sept.2009). Al Haq’s funders include NGO Development Center (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands), Norway, Diakonia (Sweden), ICCO and Kerk in Actie (funds originated with Dutch government), Ireland, Spain, and Open Society Institute; Al Mezan is funded by NGO Development Center, Norway, Open Society Institute, Diakonia (Sweden), and the EU.
- The Hamas NGO TAWTHEQ filed an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni which was revoked once it was deemed she was not present in the UK (Dec. 2009).
- A military delegation canceled a trip to the UK over arrest fears (Jan. 2010).
- Media outlets reported that Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor canceled a private trip to the UK after he was advised he could face charges (Nov. 2010).
- MK Amir Peretz escaped an arrest in the United Kingdom by changing his flight plans (July 2011).