Wednesday, January 6, 2010

UK Attorney General Visits Jerusalem

In Jerusalem on a quasi-official visit, the UK Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, has had meetings with Israeli officials relating to the recent attempts to arrest Livni in the UK, proposed changes to UK universal jurisdiction legislation and to give a lecture at Hebrew University entitled: "Lawfare – Time for Rules of Engagement?"

Though the Attorney General was short on specifics of what a new law would look like, there is the implication that the Attorney General them-self would be given a veto over any arrest warrants under universal jurisdiction laws. Reading British press, however, it sounds as though the law will be specifically written to say "Israelis shall be exempt." A circumstance which is highly unlikely.

If the AG is given veto over arrest warrants there are certainly grounds for concern as to the political pressure that may be brought to bear on the AG. The judiciary should be sealed off from influence by political considerations, but in this case, it is easy to imagine how political and other non-legal considerations would seep into the AG's decision making. As argued previously, however, cases of universal jurisdiction are almost by definition political cases and decisions may come down to something as simple as a consideration of which country will be too expensive to pursue. For example, the political pressure against arresting a Chinese official may make such an action too costly, but a country like Israel, may be less 'expensive' to take to court. This is a fine line the UK may be walking between injecting legislative, executive and other powers into the judiciary, and separating the three.

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