Wednesday, August 17, 2011

UK Arrest Warrants and the Law of Universal Jurisdiction

The procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales. In addition, 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 was planning a timetable 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 law, which is part of the new Police and Social Responsibility bill, does 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. In effect it would ensure that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions was required before an arrest warrant could be issued. This is an attempt to prevent the courts being used for political purposes.

The bill was introduced in Parliament on 30 November 2010, is passing through Parliament at the moment. On 20 July 2011, there was the third reading of the bill in the House of Lords, where final amendments were made to it.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Oil and gas discovery off eastern Mediterranean.

Political turmoil in the Middle East is rife. Tensions could drastically increase in future months if Israel and Lebanon are unable to come to an agreement surrounding the recent discovery of oil and gas off their coasts. Given the fragile nature of Lebanon's economy at the moment, the country is desperate to secure its rights over these natural resources.

It is estimated that nearly two billion barrels of recoverable oil and huge reserves of gas have been found in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The problem of this discovery relates to the inability of both countries to agree their maritime border. This could escalate into real political tension because Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah has recently entered into this disagreement. In a televised statement, Nasrallah stated that "Israel should keep your hands off our waters...and if Lebanon's facilities are targeted by a country... that country' facilities will be targeted too".

Whilst Israel has already begun to sale exploration rights of two natural gas fields (called Tamar and Leviathan), Lebanon does not have the financial resources to explore.