Monday, September 12, 2005

Dodging a Bullet

The left-wing British newspaper The Guardian reports today (hat tip, Little Green Footballs) that Scotland Yard yesterday attempted to arrest an Israeli general on board an El Al flight from Israel which arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. Fortunately, someone tipped-off the general, who remained on the aircraft and departed with it back to Israel, thus avoiding arrest.

The officer in question, Major-General Doron Almog, was commander of the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Southern Command from 2000-2003, which included Israeli occupation troops in Gaza. The warrant for General Almog’s arrest was on the application of lawyers for Palestinians whose houses were allegedly blown-up by IDF troops under his command. The Israeli government, until earlier this year, routinely demolished the houses of Palestinian suicide bombers, gunmen, and their sympathizers in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Guardian story says that the warrant was issued under unspecified “war crimes law” and that the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court issued warrants after finding (among other things) that it -- sitting in London -- had jurisdiction; and that diplomatic immunity did not apply. General Almog, safely back home, has made no comment. The Israeli Foreign Ministry notes that various Palestinian organizations have tried to manipulate European legal processes “for their own cynical ends” but that Israel has, “…a lot of faith in the British legal system.”

General Almog was in charge of administering a military occupation, which is never easy, or pretty, and there is both customary and statutory international law governing such things. In the context of an occupation, it is extremely debatable that home-demolition of the residences of troublemakers amounts to a war crime. But that is beside the point. The more important issue here is the trend of European courts and lawyers to make a madhouse of relations between sovereign states.

It is ludicrous for a magistrate’s court in London to concern itself with matters involving no British subjects, taking place a continent away, involving government officials acting according to regularly established policies of legally constituted and democratically elected governments. If the actions of General Almog or other persons are cause for concern as to British law – then that ought to be a matter for the British Foreign Office and for Her Majesty’s Government, and not something treated as a plaything or propaganda tool of self-interested lawyers, self-aggrandizing judges, and self-promoting litigants carrying forward their international quarrels through channels other than the Foreign Office.

Foreign policy cannot be reasonably conducted if non-governmental actors can make such end-runs around customary diplomatic channels. Ambassadors, diplomatic immunity, and restrictions on the jurisdictions of local courts exist so that governments can do business and negotiate, which presumably benefits everyone.

I wish I shared the faith of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the British legal system, but the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, sadly, joins other courts in Germany, Spain, Italy and France in adopting an extremely expansive view of its powers, and of the reach of international human rights law. General Almog had a narrow escape, but governments, including our own, are going to have to work out policies for dealing with the new breed of overreaching judges, and international lawyers, who are deliberately seeking to weaken the sovereignty of nations in favor of non-governmental organizations accountable to no electorate, and which are administered by an international economic and legal overclass reflexively hostile to the concept of the nation-state.

Eventually, some judge someplace is going to arrest an American general, a former US administration official, or a diplomat on similarly specious “war crimes” or “human rights” charges. The U.S. government needs to plan for this, and be prepared to aggressively challenge this power-grab by the so-called human rights lawyers.

Europe seems well and truly headed down the road towards allowing do-gooders and the politically correct to use their courts as hostage-taking devices to enforce compliance with right-thinking foreign and military policy preferences. Such do-it-yourself foreign policy is the road to international chaos. Have the governments concerned thought this through ? Arrest warrants can be issued by others, too. I don’t know what Israel would have done had Scotland Yard succeeded in laying hands on General Almog. Arresting every British subject the Israeli authorities could grab and holding them until the general was released might have been a good place to start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has this ghastly idea of judges making law as opposed to interpreting law become a phenomenon of the Milky Way?

Most of us stateside thought this was a U.S. issue of providing rights under the "vapors" of the Constitution, I mean umbrella or penumbra or whatever it is those of whom chose to accept in opposition to the bases upon which our country was founded.

Does having the principles of our Forefathers thrwn to hell in a handbasket offend you? Apparently. me too.