Protests expected as Tzipi Livni granted immunity to visit London

Tzipi Livni

Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has been granted diplomatic immunity for her visit to London, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Ms Livni’s trip has been awarded “special mission status”, offering protection against the threat of arrest or prosecution.

Anti-Israel groups had again threatened to apply for an arrest warrant for Ms Livni, claiming she should be prosecuted for war crimes for her role in Israel’s 2009 Cast Lead operation in Gaza.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Since the visit meets all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the FCO has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission.”

Ms Livni is due to speak at a Jewish National Fund event at the Jumeirah Hotel on Thursday evening in London and is also expected to meet Foreign Office ministers.

London lawyers Hickman and Rose had attempted to secure an arrest warrant on behalf of relatives of a Palestinian killed during Cast Lead.

Last month the Crown Prosecution Service received an application for a warrant, but a spokesman said the Director of Public Prosecutions would not now consider the application due to the special mission status.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also applied the same status when Ms Livni visited London in 2011.

Protest

Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, called on people to join the protest outside the Jumeirah Hotel.

She said: “Tzipi Livni’s visit to London has been cloaked in secrecy due to the serious war crimes she is accused of. Her sponsors won’t even reveal where and when she will be speaking, such is her notoriety.

“It appears that the British Government have even shamefully given her immunity from prosecution. It was after Livni’s near-arrest in December 2009 that the law was changed to try to make it easier for the government to block arrest warrants for war crimes.

Operation Cast Lead wreaked massive destruction on Gaza
Operation Cast Lead wreaked massive destruction on Gaza

“However, even these changes haven’t been enough to protect Livni, who has been forced to hide behind ‘special mission status’, just as she did in 2011. Why is the British government trying to protect Tzipi Livni from justice?”

She added: “Livni can try to run and hide from justice. But there is no expiry date for war crimes. Tzipi Livni can’t rely on getting ‘get out of jail free’ cards every time she travels overseas. We will never let the world forget her role as a chief architect of Operation Cast Lead – Israel’s horrific military assault on Gaza which resulted in more than one thousand Palestinians losing their lives.”

“The timing of this event is particularly shocking as 15th May is the anniversary when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba – their catastrophe. On this day Palestinians mourn their losses of loved ones, land, homes and country.”

British authorities issued an arrest warrant in 2005 against Israel’s former commander of the southern front, Doron Almog but he escaped the arrest when he refused to depart from the airplane and returned on the same flight back to Israel.

In 2009, Israel’s Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon cancelled a scheduled visit to London fearing his arrest on charges of committing war crimes during the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, who was killed along with 14 civilians; including nine children.

NGOs sought in recent years to issue an arrest warrant for Israel’s former Defence Minister, Ehud Barak for his role in the war on Gaza in 2008 but the court rejected their request on the ground he enjoyed immunity.

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