Tories to make life easier for war criminals


10:12 am - March 30th 2011

by Newswire    


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Amnesty International is calling for controversial measures in a new policing bill due to be debated tomorrow (30 March) to be dropped, warning that it could lead to suspected war criminals in the UK evading justice.

The measures, contained in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill (Clause 152), will, for the first time, mean that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be required before an arrest warrant can be issued for suspected war criminals and torturers present in the UK.

Under international law as well as under current UK law, those suspected of extremely grave offences like torture and war crimes can be prosecuted in the UK on the basis of “universal jurisdiction” even if their crimes were committed outside the UK, and even if they were committed by non-UK nationals.

Recently the government has argued that the system is open to “abuse” by “political groups”, claiming warrants can be obtained from magistrates on flimsy evidence.

However, the government has failed to provide any examples of magistrates issuing them in such circumstances, despite repeated requests from campaigners for the government to back up these claims. Foreign governments are known to have lobbied the UK authorities for changes to the law.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

At a time when it is discussing international justice and Libya, it’s unbelievable that the government is preparing to weaken the UK’s own commitment to international justice.

Clause 152 sends out the unmistakable message that the UK is soft on crime if those crimes are war crimes and torture.

It introduces dangerous delays that could mean even people suspected of the worst imaginable crimes are less likely to face arrest. Even Libyan government officials might escape justice in the UK if this lumbering arrangement is set up.

Under current law in England and Wales, as in many other countries around the world, victims of war crimes, torture and hostage-taking can mount private prosecutions against suspected perpetrators in any country, regardless of nationality or where the crime was committed, under the international rule of universal jurisdiction.

Victims need to meet a high threshold of evidence in order to obtain an arrest warrant.

From a press release

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Reader comments


Don’t think it’s about Pinochet, no. Wasn’t there a case recently where someone tried to get a warrant for the arrest of the Israeli Foreign Minister? PM? Something like that?

@2

My point which you apparently missed was that the Tories have a history of being friendly to war criminals and dictators. (And before anyone says it: yes yes we all know New Labour cosied up to scum as well – Blair was the heir to this tradition as much as anyone.)

What do Labour have to say on this? I remember first hearing about the issue when David Miliband balled his eyes out over an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8415161.stm

5. Chaise Guevara

In fairness, there IS an argument for not making leaders of foreign powers feel that they can’t visit the PM without being arrested.

Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of.

“Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Israel was a “close friend” of the UK’s and stressed he was keen to “avoid this sort of situation arising again”.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners have tried several times to have Israeli officials arrested under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that some alleged crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere, regardless of where the offences were committed.

In a statement on Tuesday evening Mr Miliband said: “Israel is a strategic partner and a close friend of the UK.”

“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.

“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.

“The Government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again.” ”

Amnesty seem to be being a little light on the actualite here.

@5

Yeah, but it’s a shit argument grounded in the politics that led us to arm Gaddafi a few months before bombing the very same fellow. If you don’t want to get arrested for war crimes it’s very simple… don’t commit them.

Bluntly, this is to stop narrow interest groups who are not representative of anyone other than themselves seeking the arrest of people as a political stunt.

If there is a case to answer, the DPP should allow it, or if it is blocked, the entire thing can be brought up publically for political debate. I doubt the DPP should be allowed to make the decision behind closed doors after all.

What this measure seems to stop is the use of the courts for politics and in particular gesture politics. It does not stop people bringing the cases and publicising them – it just means there is a (hopefully) reasonable check that there is a chance of conviction rather than a chance of publicity for a cause.

@7 “If you don’t want to get arrested for war crimes it’s very simple… don’t commit them.”

You do know that being arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty I assume?

10. Mr S. Pill

@9

Indeed, so there’s nothing to worry about for innocent world leaders then is there? I’ll rephrase – if you don’t want to get convicted, don’t commit war crimes. Any holes to pick in that one?

11. Mr S. Pill

@8

“this is to stop narrow interest groups who are not representative of anyone other than themselves seeking the arrest of people as a political stunt.”

Arguably Peter Tatchell’s attempted citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe would fall into your category, but it’s a bit churlish to dismiss it as a political stunt when the guy was quite badly hurt by Mugabe’s hired thugs.

Amnesty International is calling for controversial measures in a new policing bill due to be debated tomorrow (30 March) to be dropped, warning that it could lead to suspected war criminals in the UK evading justice.

They won’t drop them, of course. It’d be like a Landlord changing his dress code to bar some of his best friends.

S,Pill,

Arguably Peter Tatchell’s attempted citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe would fall into your category, but it’s a bit churlish to dismiss it as a political stunt when the guy was quite badly hurt by Mugabe’s hired thugs.

Actually it was a clear stunt – even if Mr Mugabe was guilty of said crime (quite probably…) the arrest itself would not have been valid. Citizen’s arrest is to be used in the arraignment of a suspect at the scene of or fleeing a crime – it is not something that can be used on suspicion. In fact, if Mr Tatchell had succeeded, he may have been guilty of abduction.

Now, since we know stunts exist (the Israeli foreign minister incident was another, since no court can convict on such disputed evidence), we have to allow for the fact that innocent people could be disadvantaged by accusations of war crimes, an accusation that will require investigation – hence the need to ensure political activists (mainly of the left, but there may be their equivalent on the right who would use the same tools) cannot use criminal justice as a way of making a political statement. Basically, this is a measure to ensure innocent people are not persecuted by political opponents through prosecution.

And since I believe it is better that innocent people are not prosecuted than guilty people are (I seem to differ from Amnesty International on this, which seems rather surprising to me), I see this measure as a good thing.

BenSix,

They won’t drop them, of course. It’d be like a Landlord changing his dress code to bar some of his best friends.

I think you need more evidence that just Henry Kissenger there – he is not a war criminal by any definition I know (albeit, I am happy enough with scoundral).

15. Mr S. Pill

@13

Errr, how many innocent people have been arrested on war crimes charges to date?

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Mr S. the Pill

“Yeah, but it’s a shit argument grounded in the politics that led us to arm Gaddafi a few months before bombing the very same fellow. If you don’t want to get arrested for war crimes it’s very simple… don’t commit them.”

I don’t know, I’m honestly on the fence on this one. On the one hand I don’t like the idea of torturers swanning around the country with diplomatic immunity – both on point of principle and because in many cases we could do a lot of good by arresting them. On the other hand I worry about the realpolitik implications of creating a system where no world leaders feel safe getting into the same room as one another.

Of course, in theory you should be able to achieve everything you can from a state visit with videoconferencing instead. But given that a lot of world leaders still expect to be wined and dined, and considering that we have peace settlements that are artifically pushed back because both sides are apparently too childish to even discuss the issue, I think there’s a case for making diplomacy as easy as possible.

17. Mr S. Pill

@16

Hmm, but if wikileaks proved anything it was that most diplomacy is carried out by faceless beaurocrats (sp) in locked rooms etc…

I do get your point, but it smacks of hypocrisy for us to bomb Gadaffi (obvious example because most recent) for being a genocidal maniac while letting, say, Ariel Sharon off the hook for his part in the massacre at Sabra in 1982. One rule if you’re on “our” side another if not, etc. If we want to be the good guys from now on – as pro-interventionists keep saying – we need to have clear rules about what is and isn’t acceptable, we can’t simply pick and choose which war criminals to condemn and which to tacitly accept.

18. Mr S. Pill

@16 again

also this “given that a lot of world leaders still expect to be wined and dined” – attitudes can be changed and in this case probably need to be changed, by legal force if necessary. I’m fed up of our country playing host to people responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands – it’s bad enough having a war criminal as a former PM (use of depleted uranium in Iraq, aside from the legality of going to war in the first place).

tl;dr Basically I think we should stop being dicks.

Mr S.Pill,

Errr, how many innocent people have been arrested on war crimes charges to date?

A number smaller than or equal to the number arrested on war crimes charges to date, depending on how many were found guilty (innocent until guilty remember – however overpowering the evidence). The number actually arrested is in itself I believe pretty small?

But as with the death penalty, one innocent person is too many – so why take an unnecessary risk. Basically, if there is a case against someone for being a war criminal, why does having to have the DPP cause problems (unless they are leaving the country in a hurry I suppose…)? I can see no argument for allowing political activists to cause the arrest of people on a whim (however good the evidence) – if there is the evidence, compile it and leave it on file with the DPP so they can make the decision immediately.

Watchman

I recommend The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and note that he can’t even visit France or Spain without being indicted.

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 S. the Pill

“If we want to be the good guys from now on – as pro-interventionists keep saying – we need to have clear rules about what is and isn’t acceptable, we can’t simply pick and choose which war criminals to condemn and which to tacitly accept.”

I’d agree there. And the most obvious hypocrisy is to condemn Gadaffi now but to have been friendly with him when he kept quiet and traded with us (also see Hussein and pretty much every other despot in recent history).

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 S The Pill

“also this “given that a lot of world leaders still expect to be wined and dined” – attitudes can be changed and in this case probably need to be changed, by legal force if necessary.”

Long-term benefits there, possible, but short-term losses. Obviously it’s tempting to say that anyone who feels insulted if they visit the UK without being treated to a six-course banquet in their honour and a chance to meet Susan Boyle is too childish to deserve being a world leader. But that doesn’t change the fact that they ARE a world leader.

“tl;dr Basically I think we should stop being dicks.”

Our guiding philosophies match. What does tl:dr mean?

Under international law as well as under current UK law, those suspected of extremely grave offences like torture and war crimes can be prosecuted in the UK on the basis of “universal jurisdiction” even if their crimes were committed outside the UK, and even if they were committed by non-UK nationals.

The victims of Loyalist and Republican violence in Northern Ireland and Great Britain are sick to the back teeth of double standards regarding torture war crimes , terrorism and murder. The Gov have just expelled four Libyan diplomats for supporting
Gaddafi but in N.I they release terrorists who commit murder with arms from Libya !
Go figure ?

To put it another way there getting rid of laws that could see us deport people who may be prosecuted for war crimes in another country, Yet when the last labour government deported Innocent till proven guilty people to other countries where they may face persecution, the Civil liberties lot was saying Nu labour stasi etc. sneding people to countries where they may be intimidated, yet the toires do something aobut Labours sned them back to their own country policy, and were criticisng the tories for keeping people here!
reemmber they are not war criminas only suspected ones and are we sending thenm back at the moment without knowing they’ll get a fair trial.

25. Mr S. Pill

@Chaise

tl;dr = too long, don’t (or didn’t) read. See here: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tl%3Bdr for detail 😉

26. Mr S. Pill

@24

Yes because offering asylum seekers fleeing persecution protection is exactly the same as inviting suspected war criminals/genocidal maniacs for tea at Number 10 isn’t it. Glad you made that observation.

No MR s Pill, the point i said was tehy were only suspected war criminals, and If you were referencing General Pinochet, I missed the part where had the Government in 1999 sent him back to Chile ,He would have been prosectuted at that time,

@10 Given that various pressure groups use this as a publicity stunt, regardless of the merits of doing so, getting hauled off to the police station is a bit more than “nothing to worry about”.

On the general point, are there ever circumstances where we might want to talk to people that some may regard as war crimes suspects, in this country, without the threat of arrest hanging over their heads? If the answer is yes, then we need a mechanism to deal with this and the proposal appears to be a sensible option to accomplish that aim.

29. Mr S. Pill

@28

OK, well I’ll ask you what I asked Watchman – how many global diplomats/digitories have been arrested on war crimes in Britain & subsequently released without charge (question slightly changed to reflect pedanticness of certain readers)?

Is there really any need for this law to be changed, other than to cosy up to (suspected) criminals in the Israeli government?

Moussa Koussa .

Known to be Gaddafi Torture king no safe in the hands of the British Government, he will soon be passed off as a hero of the Libyan people.

Watch More Than 50+ Most Popular Indian T.v Serials Daily Episode In H.d Quality Video With Good Sound To Watch Please Visit at: http://www.desiindianserial.blogspot.com

Has anyone ever been arrested and successfully tried under this type of arrest warrant? I think not.

(Pinochet was an extradition case from Spain, which is something completely different.)

This legal instrument is a stunt, nothing more.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. MerseyMal

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  3. Steve Hynd

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  4. Ed Allen

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  5. Dave Parry

    RT @libcon Tories making it easier for war criminals to escape http://t.co/WIL20lX < one day they will pass a law that isn't plainly evil.

  6. TrutherMedia

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  7. Ian Culbard

    Can you say Pinochet? RT @markclapham: RT @libcon: Tories making it easier for war criminals to escape http://bit.ly/giYrDm

  8. Ciaran McNulty

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  9. Peter Thomas

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  10. John Symons

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  11. Andy

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  12. Michael Hanley

    RT @libcon: Tories making it easier for war criminals to escape http://bit.ly/giYrDm < shameful actions

  13. Ian 'Cat' Vincent

    Tories to make life easier for war criminals http://j.mp/dN78D5

  14. Stardust we are

    Tories to make life easier for war criminals | Liberal Conspiracy: http://bit.ly/gU5rFP via @addthis

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