Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Pippa Bartolotti (PR 06)

I write to you as a representative of COEXIST a peace and justice group of some 3000 members concerned that the undermining of true justice will negate efforts for peace.

 The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill 2010-11 introduces a new and retrograde requirement for private prosecutors to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutors prior to the issue of an arrest warrant for 'universal jurisdiction' offences such as war crimes or torture. Under current legislation individuals can be served with an arrest warrant and charged with war crimes outside their own country.

Under the current legislation Charles Taylor is currently being prosecuted for alleged war crimes in connection with the Sierra Leone Civil War. Radovan Karadžić has been indicted for crimes committed during the Siege of Sarajevo and Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladic has also been indicted and is a fugitive from justice.

War crimes are being committed practically every day. In Palestine, especially Gaza which is suffocating under a siege declared illegal by the UN, war crimes are being committed every day. I have been there and I bear witness.

The principle of universal jurisdiction asserts that individuals accused of crimes against humanity, such as torture, genocide, extrajudicial executions or war crimes, can be charged with those crimes outside their native country. A UK court issued an arrest warrant for the Israeli opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, on war crimes charges last year but later withdrew it.

Said William Hague: "We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians feel they cannot visit this country. The situation is unsatisfactory [and] indefensible. It is absolutely my intention to act speedily."

It is underhand of the government to bury any far-reaching changes to Universal Jurisdiction under the weighty tome of Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill where they hope it will be largely overlooked.

No one - even Israel - should be above the law of universal jurisdiction, and we resent the laws of Britain being changed to accommodate the most vile crimes of our generation.

It is only by enforcing stringent, just, international laws against Israel and the rulers of countries with similar disregard for human life and human rights, that they may be persuaded to desist from perpetuating their crimes against humanity. 

We hope that the government will drop this transparent favour to despots everywhere .

December 2010