S. Africa denies arrest warrant request for Livni


(JTA) — A request to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni was turned down by a South African investigation board.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, found late last week that "there are insufficient grounds for us to obtain a warrant of arrest."

The Hawks also found that Livni must be in South Africa for the country to begin an investigation into the allegations of war crimes against her.

Livni last week said she canceled her trip to South Africa due to the Israeli Foreign Ministry workers’ strike, which ended Monday. She was scheduled to give several speeches and hold meetings in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Jewish Board of Deputies, which was sponsoring Livni’s trip, told the South African Press Association that it will be rescheduled.

Earlier this month the Media Review Network, a South African organization dedicated to dispelling stereotypes about Muslims, said it had instructed its attorneys to secure the arrest warrant in accordance with the Rome statutes, to which South Africa is a signatory, "which obligates all member states to honor their responsibility in the prosecution of war criminals."

A 3,000-page report on the war compiled by the Media Review Network and the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance calls Livni one of the "key architects" of the Gaza war, known as Operation Cast Lead, which lasted for a month beginning in late December 2008. Livni was serving as Israel’s foreign minister at the time. The report was provided to the Hawks as evidence of Livni’s war crimes.

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League wrote to South Africa’s ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool, expressing concern about the request for an arrest warrant and asked that the South African government "clearly state that it is opposed to unwarranted legal activism of this type." 

"This decision clearly shows South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law and willingness to act responsibly to prevent an obvious injustice," said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, in a statement released Monday. "Such efforts to arrest and demonize Israeli officials are counterproductive and preclude constructive relationships between countries,"

It is not the first time that foreign organizations have tried to secure warrants for Livni’s arrest for her actions during the Gaza war. A British court issued an arrest warrant for Livni in December 2009, forcing the Israeli lawmaker to cancel her visit.

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