Should countries be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens?

It’s been nearly a year since the start of the 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip by Israel’s IDF force, in what was dubbed Operation Cast Iron Lead. But the repercussions of that war are still hitting the headlines.

Conflicting reports have emerged over the last 24 hours but this is what we know…

An arrest warrant for the former Israeli Foreign Minister is understood to have been issued by a London court by lawyers representing of a pro-Palestinian group at the weekend. This caused her to cancel meetings with the a Jewish group and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for Livni – who now heads Israel’s opposition Kadima party – denied she had cancelled a visit to the UK capital for fear of possible arrest.

According to the spokesperson, the meetings were declined two weeks ago because meetings with British officials could not be scheduled, and a conference back in Israel would not permit her from being abroad for a prolonged period of time.

But today, the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting ‘the cynical act taken in a British court against the head of [Israel’s] opposition’, adding: ‘Lack of immediate and decisive action to correct this distortion damages the relations between the two countries.’

It’s certainly a view shared by some bloggers, such as Israel Matzav who is unhappy about the British government’s role I this matter.

Truth is Contagious blog points out the other countries which some Israeli officials have been told to avoid travel to.

Is it right that third-party countries should be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens and have committed no crimes in their jurisdiction?

49 Responses to “Should countries be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens?”

  1. 1 Roberto
    December 15, 2009 at 12:39

    RE “” An arrest warrant for the former Israeli Foreign Minister is understood to have been issued by a London court by lawyers “”

    ————- Why is this information not vetted? Arrest warrants are supposed to be public documents.

    Of course governments all around the world use the courts to damage their opponents just as sure as they use their armed forces and public tax monies for nefarious purpose.

    These martinets are playing a dangerous game with democracy in spite of huge self inflicted setbacks in the past decade.

    • 2 Rodric
      December 16, 2009 at 17:29

      I understand the Israelis are a tad upset. I would have more sympathy when and if they compy with all outstanding UN resolutions.

  2. 3 Ronald Almeida
    December 15, 2009 at 12:55

    To be frank I’m not informed enough of the problem at hand. But I shall always be on the side of the Palestinins and in this case the British.

  3. 4 Harry Webb
    December 15, 2009 at 13:07

    Excellent news!

  4. 5 israeli
    December 15, 2009 at 13:22

    here’s what i say: britain is model to follow – the true chosen people.
    i mean its only suiting that a country that day and night attacks israel for occupation and possesion of nukes would be a country that never occupied another country (let alone currently occupies like 3 or 4 countries) AND does not posses nukes itself.
    i for one would feel the utmost disdain to people who would occupy a countries that never threatened them AND posses nukes while they have no real enemies, while being signatories of the NPT document which calls for disarming of nukes.
    is there a country in the world that have a bigger history of colonialism and opression and atrocities..?
    everybody gets what he deserve. israel get will what it deserves and britain and everybody. god doesnt miss anything.

  5. December 15, 2009 at 13:25

    Quite a move by the London court but you can be sure even if she were to travel to the UK, the UK authorities wouldn’t dare touch her. Justice in the West does not stretch to where relations with Israel are involved.

  6. 7 mat hendriks
    December 15, 2009 at 13:41

    Of course.

    Britain should first arrest Tony Blair.(incase Irak-war, not thousand but
    ten- thousands and even more innocent cilvilians-women-men-soldiers
    and most painfull of all the- children- who will never awake and see
    daylight coming.

    • 8 Prof. brian bevan
      December 15, 2009 at 17:07

      In a war if the civilian population supports its Gov’t then they are as guilty: therefore they have to face the fact that they are sacrficing the total people which does include children. You cannot fight a war with rules, unless of course you want to lose!

  7. 9 JanB
    December 15, 2009 at 13:53

    This sort of thing doesn’t surprise me at all.

    What would be nice if for once the real villains would be prosecuted. The Ahmadijenads, Mugabe’s, Meshaals and Kim Jong Il’s of this world, but that won’t happen because “activists” have always been blind on one eye…

  8. December 15, 2009 at 14:13

    A high court judge should first examine the grounds for the arrest. If he is convinced beyond doubt then the warrant should be issued. Of course getting the former Israeli Foreign Minister to stand trial is virtually impossible given the strong ties between Israel and the United Kingdom.

  9. December 15, 2009 at 14:15

    Is it right that third-party countries should be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens and have committed no crimes in their jurisdiction?

    Well, hasn’t that been going on for decades with warrants out for former Nazis? That is indeed a just action, yet Israel wasn’t even a country during the time of the evil crimes committed. What about arrest warrants from the Hague for African warlords for genocide which occurred in Africa? If the arrest warrant for Livni can be shown to be just, then it should stand, but I think the question is better phrased as “Does the English court system have the right to issue such a warrant, or should it have been done by an international body?”

    • 12 al
      December 16, 2009 at 17:09

      Yours is the most incisive of the comments submitted. I would add that ideally the International Criminal Court should be the venue for a hearing and the issuance of arrest warrants. However the ICC is not fully accepted by some of the largest countries and that fact would allow certain alleged war criminals to escape trial. Until the ICC is accepted by the largest nations the present methods for placing them under arrest or limiting their freedom are fully justified..

  10. December 15, 2009 at 14:24

    Hi JanB
    Well said.
    She had it coming!
    I dreamt of a corpse draped in white and dripping blood during the slaughter.

  11. 14 pattin in cape coral
    December 15, 2009 at 14:38

    I’m not very well informed on this, but I tentatively say yes, countries should be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens.

  12. 15 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 14:56

    England once again singling out Israel… They label products from the west bank, but dont’ label products from occupied Tibet. Could it be because the Chinese aren’t Jews? Oh, and Palestinian groups should watch out, they have committed lots of crimes and terrorism that they could themselves get arrested for. Remember, throwing wheelchair bound Leon Klinghoffer off the Achille Lauro because he was Jewish?

  13. 16 JanB
    December 15, 2009 at 14:59

    Of course this should be possible, otherwise ex-Nazi’s and Omar Bashir would get away. The real question is, should it be possible to prosecute foreign politicians whose policies you don’t like.
    Because whatever your feelings about Israel, deep down everyone here knows an impartial judge will never find Israel guilty of genocide.
    The same goes for Bush and Blair: yes, they caused the war in Iraq, but it wasn’t American and British troops who blew themselves up on the market squares, so they can’t be convicted for genocide, again making this a case of “we’re suing you” because we don’t agree with your policy.
    If this becomes the order of the day, it will become impossible for politicians to make the kind of hard life or death decisions that world leaders do face every day, of course the people suing wouldn’t know about that, they can sleep safely everyday because they live in the bubble that is the Western World, because somewhere out there rough men do the dirty jobs and politicians make the hard calls.

  14. 17 Nigel
    December 15, 2009 at 15:03

    For crimes committed within their jurisdiction yes! For crimes committed outside of their jurisdiction no! Surely the international courts are for that purpose and any of the signatories to such courts can petition the courts to indict a person who is outside of their jurisdiction and may have committed a crime outside of the petitioner’s jurisdiction.

  15. 18 John in Salem
    December 15, 2009 at 15:09

    Governments issuing arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens is International Relations 101.
    Any country should have the right to do so, and any other country should have the right to honor or deny that warrant if they feel it is unjustified.

    How that works is covered in International Diplomacy 101. Class starts on the hour. There will be a pop quiz.

  16. 19 Roy, Washington DC
    December 15, 2009 at 15:13

    They can issue all the warrants they want to, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to honor them. Issue enough bogus warrants, and watch your credibility plummet.

  17. 20 Dennis Junior
    December 15, 2009 at 15:22


    I think honestly, think that countries should have the right to issue arrest warrants against NON-CITIZENS but, what the United Kingdom Court did was not-acceptable and; I am glad that, the warrant was simiarly rejected by the authorities…

    =Dennis Junior=

  18. 21 Ibrahim in UK
    December 15, 2009 at 16:00

    The government forbids entry to this country of non-citizens who are not accused of any crimes, all in the interest of the public good. It seems logical that they would forbid entry or arrest non-citizens who are accused of crimes. In the absence of an ethical government (they were supportive and complicit in the Israeli crimes against Gaza), then the public interest can be said to be served by these arrest warrants if the courts find adequate cause to issue them.
    Now it’s one thing to question whether there is enough cause to issue a warrant, which implies a lack of trust in the British justice system, and it’s another thing to question a court’s jurisdiction, which I think should only apply locally. There would ideally be an international court system that could issue these warrants instead, and is dependent on law and fact, and not politics and vetos. Until that happens, people will seek justice wherever and however they can.

    • 22 EnglishJew
      December 16, 2009 at 18:35

      What crimes against gaza?
      The criminals in gaza are the islamofascist leadership that caused warcrimes against Israeli citizens, and their own palestinian electorate L by drawing Israeli defensive fire on them.

  19. 23 Ronald Almeida
    December 15, 2009 at 16:20

    Should countries be able to issue arrest warrants for people who arent their citizens?

    Yes, as long as the foreighners concerned are within their borders and have commited a crime that a citizen of that very country would be arrested for.

  20. 24 Tony from Singapura
    December 15, 2009 at 16:36

    We could arrest her, then send her to the Haig to be found guilty, they have a process for it over there.

  21. 25 Methusalem
    December 15, 2009 at 16:50

    This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Would you do the same with Tony Blair, G.W.Bush, Berlusconi?

  22. 26 Kevin PE
    December 15, 2009 at 17:02

    Is there a statute of limitation on war crimes? We need to know because the prison and justice budgets need to be adjusted accordingly.
    The entire German, British, Canadian, Australian, Soviet, Japanese and American cabinets during World War 2, if still alive, face charges.
    Also the current and last cabinets of Britain and America for the Gulf and Afghan conflicts. Then there are all the leaders of Hamas, His bola, Al –Qaeda, Israel and Lebanon. Add also Pakistani and Indian Parliaments for the Kashmir conflict, Oh, and also the entire Chinese Politburo for the subversion of Tibet. We’ll get to all the South American, African and various other war criminals after recess and after we have managed to divert funding from GW to pay all the legal costs. When war and all those of take part are declared criminal not matter what, then we can point fingers, otherwise it is like issuing individual speeding tickets at the F1 grand prix or Indy 500.

  23. 27 Prof. brian bevan
    December 15, 2009 at 17:10

    YES. when in a foreign country you have to accept their way of life. hence you are also subject to their laws and punishments applicable to any offense committed there!

  24. 28 piscator
    December 15, 2009 at 17:10

    Should countries be able to issue arrest warrants for people who aren’t their citizens?

    I suppose it’s better than kidnapping them and bombing them, killing lots of innocent people in the process.

    If the cap fits….

    • 29 Avi Nofech
      December 16, 2009 at 23:00

      In my book, if a high level official of one country on a peaceful visit to another country suddenly gets arrested there, it would be an act of war.

      Obviously the Palestinians in the UK would like to bring the British-Israeli relations to a conflict, the question is whether this is what the British voters want.

  25. 30 Gary Paudler
    December 15, 2009 at 17:20

    This version has a corrected typo.

    Certainly in this case. If Livni committed crimes against Palestinians then Israel sure isn’t going to respect the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction. Israel detains and holds without charge citizens of many countries and even carries out “extrajudicial executions” based on evidence known only to them. They flaunt international laws and treaties and make sport of defying UN resolutions. By contrast, an arrest warrant issued in a London court seems quaint and genteel. If third party countries do not involve themselves, then Israel could commit crimes and wreck lives with impunity and that would not be good.

  26. 31 T
    December 15, 2009 at 17:27

    Is the Intl. Court in the Hague a legitimate body to enforce intl. law? Or is it a joke (like the States treat it)?

  27. 32 Tom K in Mpls
    December 15, 2009 at 17:34

    To answer this, I need to point out the difference between the last question in the article ( a good one ) and the question in the title ( a poor and misleading one ). According to the title, yes, *if* there was a crime committed against the issuing country. But according to the story, no.

    It is clear that in this case, the issuing judge was a tool. Both literally and in slang usage. That being said, I am glad to see more people becoming aware of how unforgivably hostile Israel has been to its neighbors since the early 1960s. This needs to be realized by everyone. But bad action like this case is worse than no action.

  28. 33 username
    December 15, 2009 at 17:48

    “To be frank I’m not informed enough of the problem at hand. But I shall always be on the side of the Palestinins and in this case the British.”

    Statement A explains Statement B.

  29. 34 J.B. Konno
    December 15, 2009 at 19:21

    Using courts as a venue for making political stands isn’t proper when no crime has been committed in one’s own jurisdiction. The court dispenses justice, and should not be used as a venue for scoring points with the electorate.

    I must agree with Tom K– although I am a citizen of a country does not take the ICC seriously, the UK does. If the UK government believes a crime has been committed, then it should pursue a proper hearing at The Hague.

  30. 35 Franziska in Berlin
    December 15, 2009 at 20:33

    Absolutely. Universal Jurisdiction exists exactly for these type of situations. When government officials commit war crimes and crimes against humanity then it’s everyone’s responsibility on this planet to stop them and arrest them. It has nothing to do with someone’s nationality or the local laws. Not for nothing are these crimes called crimes against HUMANITY.

  31. 36 Pete Cook
    December 15, 2009 at 21:43

    If it is okay to arrest anyone I don’t like then no politician can travel anywhere. Gordon Brown could be arrested for crimes in Afghanistan, Tony Blair in Iraq, Margaret Thatcher for the muder of the crew of the Belgrano, sailing away from a war zone. Not one leader would be safe.
    If the difference here that we are talking about Jewish leaders, and anything goes as far as they are concerned. We call them occupiers, but let us remember that they didn’t take the west bank away from the Palestinians, they took it away from the Jordainians who had already occupied it.
    So lets be fair and say that all territory “occupied” in conflict is returned. The US becomes a minor country along the eastern Atlantic sea board. The UK gives back Gibraltar, the Falklands. France gives back all her overseas colonies.
    If we want to play by one set of rules ourselves and force Israel to play by another it is our motives and not theirs that we should be questioning.

  32. 37 Chintan in Houston
    December 15, 2009 at 22:10

    This is ridiculous, you can’t issue arrest warrants when there was no representation from the defendant and also where the court has no jurisdiction.
    This case needs to be heard on the docket of the international court in Hague to be legitimate.

  33. 38 Tom D Ford
    December 15, 2009 at 22:25

    If I understand correctly, if Israel does not indict and try her for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, then it is up to the ICC to do so.

    I don’t understand why Britain would do so unless there are treaties that require it.

  34. 39 T
    December 16, 2009 at 00:15

    if various govt. officials really believe in human rights and intl. law, then yes. They are responsible for their actions. Which means that other countries can issue warrants for other countries citizens if they break the law.

  35. 40 T
    December 16, 2009 at 00:18

    If I go overseas and break the law in another country, I can be arrested while I’m there. Or, a warrant (and extradition order) could be issued for me. I don’t have the luxury of being a govt. official, diplomat, etc. who can claim “immunity from prosecution”.

    So why should others be exempt from prosecution? If they’re not, then various intl. laws are meaningless.

  36. 41 wayne taylor
    December 16, 2009 at 00:53

    It would be another sad day in England if we chose not to prosecute someone due to their political stature. The other day in the news, I read that the British police were searching for robbers, rapists and murderers from foriegn countries due to their crimes abroad. Should a war criminal, whatever their nationality, not be tracked down and tried in court in the same way?

  37. 42 Abram
    December 16, 2009 at 03:56

    Arrest Warrants for being one of the few living democratic and emancipated women in the Middle East?

  38. 43 scmehta
    December 16, 2009 at 14:17

    Citizen or not, the conduct of every individual, present in any country, affects its social environ favourably or adversly, positively or negatively; therefore, it is for the country to decide upon the extent of permissiveness to be allowed.

  39. 44 Asher
    December 16, 2009 at 16:54

    In a Democracy the Legislature and the Administration must be kept separate. Therefore it beggars beliefs That Legislatures of one country assumes powers of a foreign Administration.
    Once again the ‘Silly Season’ has manifested itself in a British court.

  40. 45 Elias
    December 16, 2009 at 19:19

    Issuing an arrest warrant for former foreign minister of Israel by a British court who took Israel to war against the terrorist group Hamash in the Gaza strip who continually fired rockets across the border killing some Israeli civilians, is outrageous, rediculas and diabolical. War is war and accordingly there is collateral damage in the death of civillians caught up in a war. Britain, The United States. France, Afganistan, Pakistan and several other countries are hunting and fighting terrorists with the sole purpose to get rid of them, unfortunately civilians die in the process. the alternative is do nothing and let the terrorists thrive which would be stupid and idiotic. For the British government to allow the issuing of the warrant is to accept that it is also right for the British Prime Minister to have a warrant issued against him for sending troops to war against the terrorists in Iraq and Afganistan. ‘What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the Gander’. Perhaps it is also right to legalise terrorism and give them an invisible state so that they can take a seat in the United Nations as a full member representing their interests.
    The British lawyer issueing a warrant in this case is only doing a job which he is getting paid for by the Palestinians who will continue in their clandestined ways the result of which will more than likely cause them to never have a state of their own.

  41. 46 viola
    December 16, 2009 at 19:51

    No. If the International Court at the Hague is the appropriate venue, that is where these lawyers should have taken their case. If there is no appropriate venue, the world should create one. Harassing leaders of countries does not constitute justice. It may be good propaganda in the “chess game” between Israel and those who hate her but it is not good law.

  42. 47 Elias
    December 16, 2009 at 19:51

    The question ‘should countries be able to issue warrants for people who aren’t their citizens’, quite simply no!. It is like the Britsh Prime Minister issueing a warrant for the arrest of the Prime Minister of Afganistan for the corrupt election results recently.

  43. 48 Harry Webb
    December 16, 2009 at 20:42

    A commonly quoted phrase used to illustrate the “Supremacy” of the British parliament in British politics:

    Parliament can legislate that a Frenchman cannot whistle in Paris (a pre-EEC example, you understand!)
    If a judge were to issue a warrant for such a crime, a British court would be perfectly justified in trying the accused for the “crime”.

    Livni should be the subject of a warrant. As should be the kidnappers of Mordecai Vanunu.

  44. 49 Ronald
    December 17, 2009 at 06:57

    Of course countries should be able to arrest suspected criminals when they cross their borders, otherwise criminals will have backdoors all around the world.

    It is hard to believe a world in which UK politicians openly propose subversion of UK law. The British people should take a stand against those politicians who propose changing UK laws to please Israel.

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