Saturday, 6 February 2010

Universal jurisdiction: more evasions from Tom Harris and Ivan Lewis

A further exchange with my MP, Tom Harris, on universal jurisdiction. Previous exchange here.


3 February 2010

Dear Mr Hilley


Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about universal jurisdiction and asking me to sign Early Day Motion 502 Law and Human Rights.

Rather than sign the motion, I decided to seek ministerial advice on the matter. As such, I wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and have now received a reply.

Please find enclosed a copy of the Minister's response. I would be interested to hear your views on this.

Best wishes

Tom Harris MP
Member of Parliament for Glasgow South

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

20 January 2010

Tom Harris Esq MP
House of Commons

Dear Tom

Thank you for your letter of 11 January to the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of your constituents, about Tzipi Livni and arrest warrants. I am replying as Minister responsible for our relations with the Middle East.

Israel is an important strategic partner for the UK across a number of foreign policy priorities. We need to maintain and develop ties with Israeli leaders as well as other key international partners. It is essential that Israeli leaders, and leaders from other countries, should be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the UK government. The UK cannot hope to advance its principal goal of a just and lasting two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict if it cannot host discussions with and between leaders from key regional states. The cancelled visit of Mrs Livni had included a scheduled meeting with the Foreign Secretary.

We are looking currently at what options are available to us to address this issue. I can assure your constituents that any amendment to the current system will not undermine our commitment to ensuring those guilty of war crimes are held to account for their actions.

Ivan Lewis
Minister of State


6 February 2010

Dear Mr Harris

Thank you for your letter of 3 February 2010.

Your prevarications and evasions are becoming all too predictable. Either you support the case for universal jurisdiction, or you don't. If not, please just say so, rather than referring to Ivan Lewis and the Foreign Office which has sought to bend, ignore and undermine every legal and judicial rule in the book to protect Tzipi Livni and other prima facie Israeli war criminals.

The parliamentary motion in support of universal jurisdiction - as advocated in the Goldstone report - applies to any person reasonably suspected of committing war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. There should be no practical or ethical reason for failing to support it. Or do you believe that the free movement of elites involved in mass murder is more important than justice for the victims of those actions?

If UK government ministers wish to speak with their Israeli counterparts, they can always travel to Israel - knowing that they'll be safe in that territory from indictment over their own criminal conduct in Iraq.

But we know, of course, that this is about much more than the convenience of diplomatic dialogue. It's about this government's priority treatment of Israel and panicked efforts to block due legal process. Labour Friends of Israel, indeed.

It's also notable that you had no such reticence in signing a petition recently in support of Tony Blair It's darkly ironic that he is now technically at risk of arrest in countries signed up to universal jurisdiction, while you refuse to sign a motion calling for similar indictment of war criminals in this country.

I note also that you continue to evade my question regarding Ivan Lewis's membership of LFoI and its relevance to his dismissal of Goldstone.

As ever, all this is duly noted. I hope your constituents pay appropriate attention come the election.

Yours sincerely

John Hilley

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