Two South African groups have launched a move to get an arrest warrant issued against Tzipi Livni, the chairperson of Israel’s Kadima party, during a visit to the country next week, Israeli media have said.
Haaretz.com, quoting Channel 10, said the Media Review Network (MRN) and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) allege Livni committed war crimes in her role in Israel’s three-week war on Gaza in late 2008-2009.
Livni was then foreign minister in the government of Ehud Olmert.
Channel 10 was citing South African media on reporting the move.
"We have now been informed that Livni has been invited to this country and have therefore instructed our legal team to take all necessary measures to secure an arrest warrant," Iqbal Jassat, the head of the MRN was quoted as saying.
"Our decision is based on the fact that South Africa is a signatory to the Rome statutes which obligates all member states to honour their responsibility in the prosecution of war criminals."
Livni was invited to South Africa by the local Jewish community to give a number of speeches and hold meetings in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Iqbal Jassat, the chairperson of the MRN, told Al Jazeera that the application for the arrest warrant filed on Friday was in pursuant of an earlier submission filed with South African prosecutors in August 2009.
Jassat said the submission was an "extensive compilation of complaints in excess of 3,000 pages containing a wide variety of substantial documentation including evidential material and affidavits from victims" that alleged Livni was one of the architects of the Gaza massacre.
"We had also asked for an investigation involving members of the South African Jewish community suspected of violating the country’s Foreign Mercenary Act," he said, adding that investigations are ongoing.
"We are deeply disappointed with Livni’s hosts – the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation – for displaying gross insensitivity and arrogance by inviting a known violator of human rights to the country.
"Livni’s track record as a perpetrator of war crimes stems from her official leadership roles in various capacities," he added.
Jassat said the move has received overwhelming support from civil society groups including the leadership of the Cape Town-based Muslim Judicial Council, whom he said have expressed fear that emotions may run over if Livni was to visit Cape Town as scheduled.
Zev Krengel, the South African Jewish leader, said he was disappointed with the decision of the MRN and the PSA to pursue Livni.
"First of all we are very sad that they would even want to do such a thing," Krengel was quoted as saying.
"Tzipi Livni has been an enthusiastic supporter of the peace process."
Krengel added that Livni’s trip would go ahead as planned.
"It is a pure intimidation tactic by people who are not interested in finding a solution to the situation in the Middle East," he was quoted as saying.
In December 2009 a British court reportedly issued an arrest warrant for Livni on similar charges, but later withdrew it after discovering she was not in the country.
Livni was initially scheduled to travel to London for an event organise by the Jewish National Fund, followed by meetings with British government officials.
She cancelled the trip two weeks before the event, and Israeli media said she called off the visit for fear of being arrested.
(Al Jazeera and Agencies)