Livni granted immunity during London visit

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Britain granted Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni diplomatic immunity from war crimes prosecution during a visit to London.

The British government gave Livni the temporary immunity amid attempts by lawyers representing pro-Palestinian groups seeking her arrest for alleged breaches of international law, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

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Livni, who also heads the Israeli team in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, landed in London Thursday for meetings, including with U.S. State Secretary John Kerry.

Livni’s special status of immunity was conferred amid efforts to secure a warrant for Livni’s arrest by London lawyers acting on behalf of a relative of a Palestinian killed in the bombing of a police compound on the first day of Israel’s military assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which began in December 2008. Livni was foreign minister at the time.

“Since the visit [of Livni] meets all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson was quoted as telling The Guardian.

The special status was the second time Livni obtained diplomatic immunity while visiting Britain. In October 2011 she was granted special mission status after police received an application for an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

Britain has promised Israel it would change the law to make it harder to secure arrest warrants for Israeli public figures.

In an address to the Israeli parliament last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “When I was in opposition, I spoke out when, because of the law on universal jurisdiction, senior Israelis could not safely come to my country without fear of ideologically motivated court cases and legal stunts; when I became prime minister, I legislated to change it. My country is open to you and you are welcome to visit any time.”

During Livni’s visit, she was greeted at several locations by protesters carrying signs reading “war criminal” and “wanted,” the news site Ynet reported.

Peace talks with the Palestinians collapsed last month. Kerry hopes to revive them and also met this week in London with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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