Thursday, December 6, 2007

Israeli official cancels trip to UK for fear of being arrested for war crimes

"Avi Dichter, the Israeli Public Security Minister, has cancelled a trip to Great Britain after the Israeli Foreign Ministry recommended that he do so. Dichter was head of the Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, during some of the bloodiest years of the intifada, leading to the potential that he would be arrested for war crimes.

Israeli authorities have not found any evidence of war crimes by Dichter, but most murders of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces are not investigated by the Israeli authorities. Some of the crimes attributed to Dichter include involvement in the Jenin massacre of 2002, in which over 300 Palestinians were killed, many of them buried alive; and a missile strike on a crowded apartment building in Gaza, also in 2002, in which fifteen civilians, mainly women and children, were torn to shreds.

According to British law, any British citizen may file a charge against a foreign official suspected of war crimes, and the police may investigate and possibly issue a warrant if there is evidence to support the charge.

Other Israeli officials who served as military leaders during the second intifada have faced such charges in England. One, former Southern Command chief Doron Almog, found a British police officer waiting for him with an arrest warrant at the London airport, when he arrived there for a visit in 2005. He re-boarded the plane back to Israel to avoid being arrested.

Since that time, the Israeli government has kept a top British law firm on retainer just in case any Israeli official is arrested in Britain. Avi Dichter and others have been cautioned against traveling to the U.K. by the Israeli government due to that country's propensity to prosecute war criminals."

More on This From Haaretz:

"Public Security Minister Avi Dichter canceled a trip to Britain over concerns he would be arrested due to his involvement in the decision to assassinate the head of Hamas' military wing in July 2002.

Fifteen people were killed in the bombing of Salah Shehade's house in Gaza, among them his wife and three children, when Dichter was head of the Shin Bet security service. He is the first minister to have to deal with a possible arrest.....

Dichter contacted the Foreign Ministry and sought an opinion on the matter, among other reasons because of previous cases in which complaints were filed in Britain and arrest warrants were issued on suspicion of war crimes by senior officers who served during the second intifada.

The Foreign Ministry wrote Dichter that it did not recommend he visit Britain because of a high probability that an extreme leftist organization there would file a complaint, which might lead to an arrest warrant. The ministry also wrote that because Dichter was not an official guest of the British government, he did not have immunity from arrest......"

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