Britain to Alter Arrest Warrants Law

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JERUSALEM, Israel - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said his government will alter the law that allows judges to issue international arrest warrants against foreign officials visiting the country.

"Britain will continue to take action to prosecute or extradite suspected war criminals, regardless of their status or power," Brown wrote in an editorial posted in the Daily Telegraph.

"But the process by which we take action must guarantee the best results. The only question for me is whether our purpose is best served by a process where an arrest warrant for the gravest crimes can be issued on the slightest evidence."

Under the existing system, judges may issue an arrest warrant based on a petition submitted by any politically motivated person.

Brown wants the government's Crown Prosecution Service to be the sole agency to determine if war crimes or other violations of international law have been committed.

"The Crown Prosecution Service will take over responsibility for prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international law, ending the current system in which magistrates are obliged to consider a case for an arrest warrant presented by an individual," Brown said.

The decision follows an incident last December when a pro-Palestinian group convinced a judge to issue an warrant for Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who served as foreign minister in the Olmert administration.

The warrant accused her of war crimes during Israel's three-week military incursion in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009. Livni cancelled a speaking engagement in London over concern that she would be arrested.

After British Ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips spoke with Livni about the government's efforts, her office issued a statement.

"The British legal system has been abused by cynical elements in the United Kingdom that have done an injustice to the whole country," the statement read.

"This is important news for every country in the free world that is fighting terror, and it sends out a vital message that when something correct must be done, the entire political establishment gets on board, even if this means going through the absurd situation of an arrest warrant being issued for me," Livni said.

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