Israeli minister cancels UK trip in fear of arrest


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Israeli minister cancels UK trip in fear of arrest

· Avi Dichter wanted on war crimes charges
· Former Shin Bet head was to make speech at college

Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem
Friday December 7, 2007
The Guardian

An Israeli government minister has cancelled a trip to Britain next month after he was warned that he risked arrest on war crimes charges.
Avi Dichter, the public security minister and a former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, was to speak at a conference on security at King's College London. But he was advised by Israel's foreign and justice ministries not to risk the visit.

Dichter's concerns relate to an Israeli military attack in July 2002 on a house in Gaza that killed Hamas military commander Salah Shehadeh, his bodyguard and 13 civilians, including children. The strike drew strong international criticism, including from then UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who warned Israel to comply with international law. Dichter was head of Shin Bet at the time.

The law in Britain allows individuals to seek warrants for the arrest of those suspected of serious human rights abuses abroad. Dichter is not the first Israeli official to risk arrest under this law. In September 2005 detectives were waiting at Heathrow airport to arrest a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, on war crimes charges relating to house demolitions and "targeted killings" in Gaza. Almog's plane landed but he was tipped off by Israeli diplomats and stayed on board until the El -Al flight took off again for Israel.

A year later Moshe Ya'alon, a former military chief, cancelled a trip to London for fear of arrest and Israeli authorities warned the then chief of staff, Dan Halutz, that he should also avoid travelling to the UK. Both men were also involved in the decision to attack Shehadeh in 2002.

"Every time he has to consider these legal issues. We check it out every single time anew," said Matti Gill, a spokesman for Dichter. The minister would only be granted immunity if the visit was an official invitation from the British government, he said, adding that Dichter was frustrated. "He sees England as an ally of Israel," Gill said. "The field of cooperation is something we wanted to push forward. We hope in the future that the laws will change."

Dichter had been invited to take part in a conference in January to launch a new International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence. The conference will include Israeli and Jordanian academics, among others.

Dichter's spokesman defended the missile strike on Shehadeh, whom he described as "an arch-terrorist responsible for the killing of many innocent Israeli civilians". "Like in any war, mistakes can be made, but it is clearly not a case where civilians were targeted," Gill said.

Britain's Foreign Office said it did not give advice to Dichter. A spokeswoman said: "Questions of immunity are ultimately for the courts to decide.
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