UK To Change War Crimes Law

The UK Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has announced that the Crown Prosecution Service will be able to block private prosecutions for war crimes, dramatically reducing the possibility that suspected war criminals such as Henry Kissinger, Ehud Barak and The Pope could be arrested and taken to court in Britain.

The Justice secretary, or Home Secretary as it is known in the UK, has proposed changes to the rules on universal jurisdiction, a law that allows individuals to be prosecuted in the UK for serious offences such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture even if they were carried out abroad.

The plans would mean the Director of Public Prosecutions would need to give his consent to any arrest warrant issued under universal jurisdiction. This would effectively mean taking that power out of the hands of the courts.

The most recent attempt to obtain an arrest warrant for a foreign dignitary was ahead of the visit by former Israeli defence minister Tzipi Livni who cancelled her trip at the last minute to avoid embarrassment.

The question is, will this strengthen or weaken the hand of international law?

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