The right to arrest war crime suspects
[I have reproduced the Guardian Letter in full]
We are horrified at the proposals by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke to give the director of public prosecutions a veto over arrest warrants in private prosecutions for international crimes (Report, 22 July). The justice secretary’s statement appeared to question the ability of magistrates themselves to weed out flimsy cases. To imply that any previous arrest warrants were issued without judges being satisfied of the existence of serious evidence against the person concerned is an insult to the British legal system and the senior magistrates that preside over such cases. Involving the DPP risks adding a political dimension to a legal decision and introduces a source of delay when urgent action may be required to stop a suspect escaping justice.
Since we call on other countries to uphold human rights and international law, our legal system also has to abide by those principles, in particular bringing to justice those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and hostage-taking. It’s no secret that this move is the result of pressure from the Israeli government to try to ensure that ex-ministers and military staff will not have to face warrants for their arrest on entering this country.
Rather than bending to pressure to change the existing law, our government should be issuing a statement of intent that all those responsible for serious international crimes, whatever their nationality, will be brought to justice if and when the evidence supports criminal prosecution. The proposed changes will apply to everyone, making it more difficult to prosecute all suspects, whether from Israel or any other country involved in systematic human rights violations. Britain must not be seen as a safe haven for anyone suspected of committing such grave international crimes.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Keith Sonnet Deputy general secretary, Unison
Hugh Lanning Deputy general secretary, PCS
Sally Hunt General secretary, UCU
Kevin Courtney Deputy general Secretary, NUT
Andy Dark Assistant general secretar, FBU
Tony Woodley Joint general secretary, Unite
Simon Dubbins International director, Unite
Betty Hunter General secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Lindsey German Chair, Stop the War
Daud Abdullah Director, Middle East Monitor
Chris Doyle Director Council for Arab-British Understanding
Mohammed Sawalha British Muslim Initiative
Farooq Murad Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain
Diana Neslen Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Diane Abbott MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Emily Thornberry MP