Israeli war crimes suspect cancels London visit

The UK has changed its laws to shield Israeli war crimes suspects from prosecution.

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A suspected Israeli war criminal, retired Major General Doron Almog, canceled a visit to the United Kingdom on 26 June, despite an assurance of immunity from criminal jurisdiction by British authorities.

There is an outstanding warrant for Almog’s arrest on charges of war crimes committed in the occupied Gaza Strip.

However, “Almog made a last minute cancellation of his planned visit to the UK last week,” according to a statement today from the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

Almog’s cancelation followed action by the lawyers for the victims of his suspected war crimes to challenge the UK government’s decision to grant the Israeli general’s visit the status of a “special mission.” This status in effect put Almog beyond the reach of the law.

PCHR challenges the decision “given that it was made by the government despite the existence of a warrant for Mr. Almog’s arrest on war crimes charges.”

“No answers have yet been received to the questions raised with the government’s legal advisers,” PCHR adds.

Almog evaded arrest in 2005

This is not the first time Almog has evaded justice in the United Kingdom. As PCHR notes:

On 10 September 2005, a British court issued a warrant for Mr. Almog’s arrest in relation to the destruction of 59 houses in Rafah refugee camp on 10 January 2002, which formed part of a sustained policy of house demolitions in the Gaza Strip. The police stood ready to arrest Mr. Almog on 11 September 2005 on suspicion of that war crime and three other allegations relating to his period as commander of the Gaza Strip (2000-2004). Mr. Almog escaped arrest after refusing to leave his aeroplane at Heathrow airport following a tip off, and he was allowed to return to Israel.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Hickman & Rose solicitors, who represent the victims of Mr. Almog’s actions, condemn the UK Government’s recent decision to grant Mr. Almog immunity in light of the above events of September 2005.

UK welcomes human rights abusers

While Almog continues to flee justice, the UK marked another sad milestone in its complicity with Israeli war crimes when Israeli Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz arrived in London today for the first such visit by the head of the Israeli army in a decade.

As the Times of Israel website notes, “Top generals have refrained from visiting the country in recent years due to the threat of arrest on charges of war crimes.”

Such visits are now possible as the British government changed the law, under Israeli pressure, in 2011 to remove the independence of the judiciary when dealing with war crimes cases and placed decisions on whether to pursue them in the hands of politicians.

Since then several top war crimes suspects including Tzipi Livni have been welcomed in the UK.

But Almog’s case indicates that despite the best efforts of British authorities to make London safe for Israeli war criminals, the law still threatens to puncture Israeli impunity.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.