Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Denny Fitzpatrick (PR 38)

This bill introduces a new requirement for private prosecutors to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions prior to the issue of an arrest warrant for ‘universal jurisdiction’ offences such as war crimes or torture. The Government's aim in introducing this change is to prevent the courts being used for political purposes.

Since the end of the Second World War, more than 15 countries have exercised universal jurisdiction in investigations or prosecutions of persons suspected of crimes under international law, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and others, such as Mexico, have extradited persons to countries for prosecution based on universal jurisdiction. 

The use of the court to right wrongs to seek justice and reparation is a basic human right and it is a good that it is used in this way .The fact that the Government ( Mr Hague ) tries to change this right is political . There is nothing wrong with politics but if the government wants to defend Israeli interests it should do so in open political forums not by an amendment to the Police reform bill.

I  support the principle of universal jurisdiction  which 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. Because of it  Charles Taylor is currently being prosecuted for alleged war crimes in connection with the Sierra Leone Civil War; and Radovan Karadžić for crimes committed during the Siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 7500 Moslems at Srebenica while his fellow Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladic has also been indicted and is a fugitive from justice. The  Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes in Darfur and cannot visit State Parties of the ICC without the prospect of arrest. The first application of the "Pinochet precedent" came in February 2000 when a Senegalese judge indicted the exiled dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, on torture charges. According to

Surely this is a better way of dealing with world despots - better  than the military interventions of Iraq and it gives hope to all those struggling against despotic regimes;  that world opinion is for justice and human rights 

Now William Hague wants to curtail this, stating that the Government's aim in introducing this change is to prevent the courts being used for political purposes. Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black ? He slips into the Police reform bill a measure to satisfy the Israeli government .
Such a change is overtly political - brought forward at the behest of the Israeli government pressure and is reprehensible in the face of blatant Israeli war crimes . It is a year since the invasion of Gaza and despite  the UN report that detail Israeli war crimes, this government attempts to make it easier for the perpetrators to avoid justice. Isnt it enough that the Government refuses to condem Israeli aggression and Occupation , continues to give preferential trading status through the EU. Now our Government seeks to remove from its own citizens the means to hold human rights violators to task through Legal means. What other means of opposition are we going to be allowed to exercise.

The issue is a political one should citizens enjoy the right to bring a case or not. The case for an arrest to be served has to have support.In allowing for this possibility (and it is not easy to mount such a private case) ensures that Britain  cannot be used as  a safe haven by the worst criminals.

The fact that today the Israeli government representatives feel unable to visit Britain for fear of arrest is testimony to the growing case against Israeli war crimes. It is the actions of the Israeli governement that need addressing. The legal redress being saught is a product of the continuing injustices against the Palestinian people.
Passing this amendment won't stop the campaign it simply brushes over the problem.

January 2011