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Entries in Britain (6)


Today on EA (28 December 2009)

TOWN CRIERIran: The situation remains tense today. As we follow events and consider long-term significance,  we have an interim assessment: has Iran reached a point of no return? This follows Scott Lucas' five-minute, five-point reaction, given last night to an Italian journalist.

Demonstrations continued well into the night: we've posted the most recent clips we've received. And we now have the video of President Obama's statement this evening on Iran.

Josh Shahryar, who also live-blogged Ashura, concludes that, for the first time in 200 days, Iranians decided "enough was enough". His overall assessment, "Iranians are not punchbags", offers provocative thoughts on non-violence and self-defence.

As always, all the news as we hear it, can be found in our live weblog.

Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya reviews Mahmoud Abbas' interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, where he promised "No Third Intifada".

Israel/Palestine: EA's Ali Yenidunya analyses the anniversary of the Gaza War and asks "Who Won" after operation Cast Lead?

Britain/Israel: The controversy over the arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni continues: the head of Britain's Muslim Council has written to the British Government criticising Foreign Secretary Miliband's statement on the need to change British law to prevent any further warrants.


Britain-Israel: Muslim Council Challenges Government in "Livni Arrest Warrant" Case

tzipi_livniThe Muslim Council of Britain's Secretary-General Muhammad Abdul Bari has written to Foreign Minister David Miliband, criticising his statement on the need to change British law to prevent another arrest warrant being issued - thereby preventing an Israeli official from visiting Britain.

Bari stated that Miliband's proposal, prompted by the recent arrest warrant for Israel's former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, would not only undermines judicial independence, but be an unjustified departure from the centuries-old legal traditions of Britain. It would damage respect for international law; all of which would, in the end, undermining Britain's reputation at home and abroad:

Israel-Palestine: Hamas “Provided Evidence” for Arrest Warrant for Livni
Israel and Britain: The Reaction to the Livni Arrest Warrant

Dear Mr Miliband,

I am writing to express the deep disappointment and grave concern of the Muslim Council of Britain (the MCB) at your views with regard to the warrant which a magistrate had lawfully issued for the arrest of the former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, for suspected war crimes. As is well known the arrest did not take place and the warrant was withdrawn.

It appears that following expression of strong disapproval and anger by the Israeli government and representations by the Jewish Leadership Council you have shown willingness to review and remove the powers of magistrates in the UK to issue warrants of arrest against alleged Israeli war criminals.

As you must surely know the cornerstone of our much cherished legal system is respect for the rule of law. The separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary flow from it. It seems to us that you are allowing political exigency to undermine and erode fundamental legal traditions and conventions which are centuries old and have served our society well.

Your motivation to review and reconsider the current process for bringing war criminals to justice if found within our jurisdiction is political as well as manifestly partisan. Law in our legal system is the same for all – friend or foe. Your proposed step will treat “political friends” differently and indeed more favourably than those who may face same allegations but for whom a different process will apply. This cannot be right and will give rise to well founded perception of double standards in law enforcement.

We note that in your commitment to review and revise the process for issue of warrants by courts you have taken account of and been persuaded by the legal opinion of David Pannick QC. It is quite interesting that you have not chosen to seek views of others before making the commitment. Whilst we respect the capacity and standing of David Pannick QC to give legal advice, we do not accept that he is the only person in the legal fraternity to have expertise on matters of this kind. The matter is inherently very sensitive and it is contaminated by a perception of bias in choosing to rely solely on him. Such a major and far-reaching change in legal policy and process should not, we contend, be undertaken without due public consultation. We regret to have to say that the process that the government appears to have chosen to follow on this issue is fundamentally flawed.

It is our considered view that the change contemplated by you is such that it not only undermines judicial independence but also makes a wholly unjustified departure from the centuries old legal traditions of our country. The office of Magistracy is centuries old and people who hold such office are chosen irrespective of their political or other background and solely on the basis that they have the ability to apply the law without fear or favour. An appraisal of how their power to enforce international law has been exercised when called upon to do so will demonstrate that they have done so with competence and fairness.

Your proposed change sends out a clear signal that the government wants the courts to be subservient to political considerations. After all, the Attorney General is a political appointee and holds office, strictly speaking, at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

The change that you propose also has the serious potential of severely reducing respect for international law and the treaties that give international jurisdiction for the pursuit of alleged war criminals. Commission of war crimes is an international crime as is engagement in torture. It is the clearly expressed wish of the international community as articulated in international law that people suspected of such crimes should be tried wherever they are found. We believe that the change that you propose may exempt some accused from prosecution and this will have a gravely adverse impact on the reputation of our country both at home as well as abroad.

You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law. This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East.

Whilst we respect your quest to advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East, justice and fairness is not served by being or by being seen to be partisan and compliant to demands made by one major player in the conflict.

May we respectfully remind you that in your address at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in May this year on ‘Building coalitions, winning consent’, you said, ‘To broaden the coalition and win consent, we need to understand the Muslim world better, or we will risk undermining the force of our own argument... we need to hold fast to our own values and support those who seek to apply them, or we will be guilty of hypocrisy...'.

It is hard to imagine how we could escape the charge of hypocrisy from those all too eager to point out our vacillation on allowing the law to take its course in the case of those suspected of committing war crimes.

We suggest that to understand the Muslim world better is to be aware of the deeply held view that our approach to states in the region is unequal and that our commitment to the observance of international law is ambivalent. Any change to the current procedures on universal jurisdiction and the right of magistrates to issue a warrant will only reinforce this view, with detrimental consequences.

The Prevent programme and your own department’s involvement in it through the ‘Bringing Foreign Policy Back Home’ project is built on the foundations of respecting the rule of law and the pillars of a democratic society. In deliberating over the recent controversy and prevaricating on upholding the rule of law, we run the risk of strengthening the claims of those who reject our democratic processes and view our commitment to law, domestic and international, as utilitarian and malleable.

We urge you to consider the grave consequences of interfering with established legal procedures and jeopardising our reputation at home and abroad.

I am copying this letter to the Minister for Justice, the Right Honourable Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as your expressed views on this matter impact on their areas responsibilities in the government.

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Abdul Bari
Secretary General

Israel-Palestine Analysis: Did Britain Just Endorse Israel's "Moral" War in Gaza?

1_Israeli_F16Following British Foreign Minister David Miliband's emphasis on the "strategic partnership" between Israel and Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday and expressed his objection to the arrest warrant issued by a London court against her. Brown stated that Livni is always welcome in the United Kingdom and assured Livni that his government will seek to change the legal system.

Israel and Britain: The Reaction to the Livni Arrest Warrant

Meanwhile, eight IDF soldiers received medals of honor on the same day for heroism they showed during Operation Cast Lead last year.Major-General Yoav Galant underlined the "moral values" of the Israeli Defense Forces, with its soldiers committed to preserving these values even during the offensive in the Gaza Strip. Galant said:
The IDF reached its goals. The enemy was badly beaten. IDF soldiers acted out of faith in the justice of our cause, and their moral norms are praiseworthy. In the tough hours of the trial through fire you bravely and resiliently persevered. You are a lighthouse of morality and values.

So, does Brown's apology to Livni constitute a British endorsement of Israel's "moral" war in Gaza?

Israel and Britain: The Reaction to the Livni Arrest Warrant

081020_livniHaving denied initially that a British court had issued an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister and current Leader of the Opposition Tzipi Livni, Israel shifted to condemnation on Tuesday. Livni told the BBC:
What needs to be put on trial here is the abuse of the British legal system. This is not a suit against Tzipi Livni, this is not a law suit against Israel. This is a lawsuit against any democracy that fights terror.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv, she continued, "Israel must do what is right for Israel, regardless of judgements, statements and arrest warrants. It's the leadership's duty, and I would repeat each and every decision."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the warrant "an absurdity" and declared:
We will not accept a situation in which [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defence Minister] Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the defendants' chair.

We will not agree to have Israel Defence Force soldiers, who defended the citizens of Israel bravely and ethically against a cruel and criminal enemy, be recognised as war criminals. We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry added, "Israel rejects the cynical act taken in a British court," and summoned the British Ambassador to Israel to deliver a rebuke.

As for Britain, its diplomats quickly moved to put the British judiciary in its proper place. The Foreign Office stated, "Britain is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel. To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government."Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the law allowing judges to issue arrest warrants against foreign dignitaries, without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor, must be reviewed and reformed. He added, "Israel is a strategic partner and a close friend of the United Kingdom. We are determined to protect and develop these ties. Israeli leaders - like leaders from other countries - must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government."

Today on EA (15 December)

TOWN CRIERIran: Mr Azadi has written a Beginner's Guide to Moharram, and we have today's videos of university protests.

In snubbing "the Iran protester", and thus the entire Green movement, Time magazine has managed to succeed where the Iranian regime has failed.

A group of US Congressmen introduced two proposals yesterday aimed at helping people in Iran and targeting the business interests of the regime. Meanwhile, the US State Department is trying to take control of other Congressional bills pursuing strict sanctions, asking for no introduction of the measures until 2010.

All the latest news is available on our live weblog.

Israel and Britain: There's still some confusion over Britain's plans with regard to Israeli opposition chair Tzipi Livni and the UK arrest warrant issued last year.

Palestine: Will President Abbas cling to his office indefinitely?

Afghanistan: Tom Englehardt points out, through "The 9 Surges of Mr Obama's War", how the US is committed to a long-term stay in and around its military intervention.