British law, permission to arrest foreign citizens for war
crimes is limited.
The former commander of the Israeli navy, Rear-Admiral
(ret) Eliezer Marom was detained for questioning
Monday morning at London's Heathrow Airport
immediately after landing in the United Kingdom.
After brief questioning, Marom was released and
allowed to continue his visit. A spokesman for Israel's
embassy in London confirmed the details and said "we
are looking into the issue right now."
Following initial inquiries, none of the relevant British
authorities, the Home Office, which is responsible for
border controls, the London Metropolitan Police and
the Foreign Office, are aware of Marom having been
detained or questioned.
Israel's Foreign Ministry is continuing to look into the
incident but at this stage, it seems that Marom was
under the mistaken impression that the routine
questions he was asked at passport control at Heathrow
Airport and the slight delay he experienced were
actually an attempt to detain him over war crimes
Marom hastened to call the Justice Ministry in
Jerusalem where a special team of lawyers was on call
to deal with cases of senior Israeli officials who are
charged or questioned abroad. A few minutes later it
transpired there was no intention to detain him, and
that Marom had nothing to be worried about. By that
time, however, the story had already been leaked from
the Justice Ministry to the Ynet website.
In September 2011, after continuing Israeli pressure, the
British parliament amended the Universal Jurisdiction
law which allows the arrest of foreign citizens accused
of carrying out war crimes. According to the amended
law, an arrest can only be carried out with the
authorization of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Israel's concerns were raised following the 2005
incident in which Major-General (ret) Doron Almog was
forced to remain on an El-Al plane in Heathrow for fear
of being arrested once he stepped off the plane.
Pro-Palestinian activists had issued an arrest warrant
against Almog for his involvement in the "targeted
killing" of Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh in 2002.
Seven years later, Almog canceled an appearance at a
fundraising dinner in London scheduled for April at the
advice of the Israeli government, which once again
feared Israeli state officials and military officers were at
risk of being arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes,
despite the amendment of the Universal Jurisdiction
Nonetheless, since the amendment, a number of senior
Israel Defense Forces officers have visited London
including Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz.