Thursday, June 30, 2011

The relevance of the law of "Universal Jurisdiction"

Amir Peretz, former defense minister of Israel abruptly cancelled his trip to London this week. There is speculation that he cancelled his trip due to the impact of the law of "universal jurisdiction".

This is the procedure, which is an unusual feature of the English and Welsh justice system, by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor. Spain, Belgium and Norway also seek to arrest Israelis on charges of alleged war crimes through “universal jurisdiction” laws.

The principle of “universal jurisdiction” laws is that some alleged crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere, regardless of where the offences were committed. This law developed since the General Pinochet case in 1999.

In July 2010 the UK announced that it planned to introduce legislation which would somewhat restrict the application of universal jurisdiction in the UK, because threats of arrests are stopping Israeli politicians from visiting the UK. The proposed rules do not restrict the scope of universal jurisdiction in the UK but will affect the possibility of private persons obtaining an arrest warrant in relation to universal jurisdiction crimes.

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