UK court rejects calls for arresting Israel Defence Minister Barak

Jerusalem/London, Sep. 30 : A British court has rejected a petition urging an arrest warrant for Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the grounds that he committed "war crimes" during the IDF offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The rejection came after a tense day that included intensive consultations between the foreign ministries in Jerusalem and London, reports the Jerusalem Post.

The court accepted arguments submitted by the British Foreign Office, which said the defense minister was a state guest, and therefore, was not subject to such lawsuits.

Barak was in Britain for talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

"We do not intend to let terror win," Barak said in a statement issued by his office on Tuesday evening.

"We will not apologize in any way for our just struggle against terrorism. We will do everything possible so that the representatives of Israel, security officials and soldiers of the IDF will continue to freely travel the world. The theater of the absurd whereby those who defend their citizens need to be on the defensive has to end. Otherwise, the world is likely not only to give a prize to terrorism, but to encourage it," he added.

The Foreign Ministry, which throughout the day held consultations with the British Foreign Office, had no comment on the decision.

Among Israel''s arguments to the Foreign Office were that there was no precedent anywhere for the arrest of a sitting defense minister; that the petition was driven by political motivation, that the arrest would cause irreparable damage to Israeli-British ties; and that it would set a dangerous precedent for other countries - like Britain - that found themselves fighting terrorists.

The petition was brought by a Gaza-based human rights group, al-Mezan, on behalf of a group of 16 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Al-Mezan, in turn, instructed two London law firms - Irvine Thanvi and Natas (ITN) and Imran Khan and Partners - to represent the group.

During the proceedings, the two firms applied for an international arrest warrant, claiming that Barak had committed war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Convention during Operation Cast Lead.

A loophole in British law - in the International Criminal Court Act of 2001 and the Criminal Justice Act of 1988 - allows private individual complaints of "war crimes" to be lodged against military personnel, even if they are not British citizens and the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere.

Pro-Palestinian groups in Britain and other countries have been trying to exploit that loophole against IDF officers and Israeli leaders. Israel has been working with the British government for years to change the law. (ANI)