Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations are urging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband to refrain from amending its laws just to prevent the persecution of Israeli officials on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"Universal jurisdiction is an essential legal device, symbolizing the responsibility of the global community to prevent crimes against humanity wherever they occur, to bring justice to the victims and to protect the citizens of the world from tyranny, persecution and institutionalized violence," they wrote in a letter cited by the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, December 23.
"The United Kingdom played an instrumental role in establishing these principles in the aftermath of the Second World War, and should commit itself to protecting and maintaining them," added the signatories.
"The British government’s intent to undermine universal jurisdiction sets a dangerous precedent in defending criminal government officials, rather than the victims of their crimes."
The British universal jurisdiction law allows private individuals to ask British courts to issue detention orders against suspected war criminals and to try them as such.
But Miliband announced last week that his government plans to change that to prevent the possible persecution of Israeli officials.
Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a scheduled visit to Britain last week after Westminster Magistrates Court issued an arrest warrant for her over war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.
The arrest warrant had triggered fierce criticism from Israel which threatened to exclude Britain from any involvement in the Middle East peace process.
It also threatened that its officials would stop visiting Britain unless London guarantees such a situation would not happen again.
Britain’s sizable Muslim minority, estimated at more than two millions, also urged the Brown government not to side with Israel.
The umbrella has expressed "deep disappointment" and "grave concern" at the government’s stance.
"As you must surely know the cornerstone of our much cherished legal system is respect for the rule of law," MCB Secretary General Muhammad Abdul Bari wrote in a letter to Miliband published on the group’s website.
"It seems to us that you are allowing political exigency to undermine and erode fundamental legal traditions and conventions which are centuries old and have served our society well."
The Muslim leader warned that changing the law would be seen as a double-standard.
"Your proposed step will treat ‘political friends’ differently and indeed more favorably than those who may face same allegations but for whom a different process will apply.
"This cannot be right and will give rise to well founded perception of double standards in law enforcement."
(IslamOnline.net and Newspapers)