In December 2008 and January 2009 Israel launched a military assault, Operation Cast Lead, on
the Gaza Strip (one of the most densely populated areas on earth). Around 1300 Palestinians
were killed, overwhelmingly civilians. Over 6000 homes were totally destroyed. Amnesty
International called the operation (quote), "22 days of death and destruction". The United
Nations Fact Finding Mission that followed found prima facie evidence of war crimes committed
The United Kingdom has an international obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to seek
out and pursue justice against war criminals. This can be done under the principle of universal
jurisdiction that says that individuals complicit in such crimes - committed anywhere - can
be prosecuted here.
Tzipi Livni was Israel's Foreign Minister during the attack on Gaza and ordered the
military assault. Since then she has affirmed (quote), "I am proud and fully stand behind
the decisions I made during Cast Lead". She has had to cancel visits to the UK for fear
of being arrested for her role in the attack on Gaza.
The position of this coalition government and the previous government has been dismay
that this country's allies could be subject to arrest on visiting the country. The Foreign
Secretary William Hague said last year (quote), "We cannot have a position where Israeli politicians
feel they cannot visit this country" (end quote). And so the war crimes law has been
amended so that the government's Chief Prosecutor has control over which arrest warrants see
the light of day. This has allowed Tzipi Livni to today make her first visit to the UK since
the law's amendment.
Earlier today Livni met with Foreign Secretary William Hague. Hague said he was (quote),
"delighted to welcome Ms Livni to London" and reaffirmed that "Israel is an important
I'm here outside Downing Street where citizens are protesting against Tzipi Livni's visit.
Why are people demonstrating here today?
>> Today we've got a war criminal that's been allowed into the UK, so we're protesting to
say no to war criminals in Britain. Tzipi Livni—she was in the inner-circle during
Operation Cast Lead where 1400 innocent Palestinians were killed, under her directions. So today
we're saying we don't welcome her here.
>> We're here today to protest about her presence and about the action of the British the government
and indeed the opposition in supporting the ending of Universal Jurisdiction .
>> She couldn't come here two years ago: what's changed—what's going on in this respect?
>> Two years ago it was possible for any citizen to go to Westminster Magistrate's Court and
with prima facie evidence against an individual make an application for an arrest warrant
which would then by issued by the magistrate. The law was changed to restrict this to the
Director of Public Prosecution. He was asked to issue an arrest warrant on this occasion
and refused to do so.
>> However, now because of this change (it's been lobbied by Israel)—now war criminals
are not only allowed, they're actually being invited into the UK and it's absolutely outrageous;
but although she's been allowed, what's interesting is that the CPS actually released a statement
today saying that she's been given 'special status' to actually come here, which means
that there's actually enough evidence to prosecute her, so that the CPS have had to give a 'special
status' and she's under a 'special mission' during her visit.
>> It's a totally unsatisfactory position isn't it?
>> Totally—It's absolutely and totally unsatisfactory. If we are in favour of Universal Jurisdiction.
If we are in favour of protecting human rights around the world then we have to stick by
it and do it.
>> You're in a room with a war criminal, you had a meeting with her, you invited her, and
you didn't take her to court, and you're telling me you're going to try war criminals in British