UK government rejects call to arrest Binyamin Netanyahu

UK government rejects call to arrest Binyamin Netanyahu
3 min read
25 August, 2015
Analysis: Downing Street responds to petition calling for Israeli PM's arrest during next month's visit, saying heads of government have immunity under UK and international law.
Netanyahu visits the UK next month [Getty]
The British government has rejected a citizens' petition calling for the arrest for war crimes of the Israeli prime minister during his visit next month, saying heads of state have immunity from prosecution.

The petition, launched earlier this month, urges the British government to arrest Binyamin Netanyahu "under international law... for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014" during the last Gaza war.

It had gained 82,000 signatures by 3pm on Tuesday. At 100,000, the British parliament must consider it for debate.

However, the British government issued a response this week, stating that it had no plans to arrest Netanyahu, and to do so would be against the law.

"Under UK and international law, certain holders of high-ranking office in a state, including... heads of government... are entitled to immunity, which includes inviolability and complete immunity from criminal jurisdiction.
     The UK consistently urged Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties
- UK government statement 

It said the UK recognised "that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll", but that the British prime minister, David Cameron, "was clear on the UK's recognition of Israel's right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law".

The statement added that Hamas used "terrorist tactics" such as firing rockets into Israel, building tunnels and repeatedly refused to accept ceasefires.

"Israel, like any state, has the right to ensure its own security, as its citizens also have the right to live without fear of attack," it said.

The summer war in Gaza last year left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead, including 490 children, and thousands of others were injured. The vast majority of casualties were civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless by the 50 days of Israeli bombing of the strip.

Hamas' rocket fire killed six Israeli civilians, while 64 Israeli soldiers were killed during the invasion.

"The UK consistently urged Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint, and to help find ways to bring the situation to an end," the British statement continued.

"Our priority for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the achievement of a two-state solution, based on 1967 borders. The UK government will reinforce this message to Mr Netanyahu during his visit.

Meanwhile, a citizens' petition has been launched for the arrest of Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas' political wing, should he travel to the UK.

"We the undersigned insist that he be arrested for war crimes the minute his feet touch British soil. Even Amnesty International said Hamas commited war crimes," it says.

The petition had 180 signatures at 3pm on Tuesday.