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Netanyahu's Military Aide, Yohanan Locker, Off London Trip for Fear of Arrest on War Crimes Charges

War crimes charges scare Netanyahu aide off London trip

Published today (updated) 05/05/2011 17:16


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to London on Wednesday without his military attache, who fears arrest there for war crimes.

A senior Israeli political source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu raised the issue at his Wednesday evening meeting with British premier David Cameron at his Downing Street headquarters.

Yohanan Locker chose to stay behind in Israel rather than expose himself to the risk of possible prosecution because of his role in "Operation Cast Lead", the devastating military offensive on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, which saw more than 1,400 Palestinians killed and another 5,000 injured. Most were non-combatants.

British law allows a judge, if a case is brought by a plaintiff, to issue an arrest warrant against a foreigner entering the country if the judge has grounds to believe that person may have been involved in crimes against humanity, even if they were not committed on British territory.

The judge is not required to submit his decision to the attorney general for approval.

Palestinian groups have used this legislation to accuse Israeli political and military leaders of war crimes in British courts, as investigations into allegations made against Israel for war crimes remain internal Israeli matters while progress on the UN-mandated Goldstone report staggers.

Such legal threats have prompted various Israelis to cancel trips to London, notably Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in 2009, and now leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni.

The British government has since submitted to parliament an amendment to the legislation requiring such warrants to be approved by the director of public prosecution. The amendment is yet to be passed into law.

The Israeli source, speaking in London to journalists traveling with Netanyahu, said that Cameron told his visitor that the change was at an advanced stage and should be completed shortly.

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