[JURIST] Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday ordered the military to seek advice from legal advisers during battle, rather than just in the planning stages. Ashkenazi reportedly implemented the new regulations in spite of opposition [Haaretz report] from several commanders. The decision follows widespread criticism of last year's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security Backgrounder] in the Gaza Strip, during which legal advisers were rarely consulted after combat began. The Israeli government has been accused of committing war crimes [JURIST report] and is seeking to avoid such accusations in the future. Under international law, a state is not subject to war crimes prosecution if it can demonstrate "good faith" in reviewing its own behavior.
Wednesday's announcement comes one day after Israeli officials said that a military delegation recently canceled a trip to the UK over fears that they would be arrested on war crimes charges for their involvement in the Gaza offensive on the theory of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder], which allows a country to prosecute serious crimes against humanity no matter where the activity takes place. Last month, Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni [official website, in Hebrew] canceled a UK trip [JURIST report] after a British magistrate court issued, and later revoked, an arrest warrant for her on war crimes charges relating to Israel's Gaza offensive. In October, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon [official profile] called off [JURIST report] a scheduled trip to the UK after legal advisers from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] said that he may be arrested over his involvement in a 2002 airstrike that killed a Hamas leader and 14 civilians. Just one week earlier, Palestinian officials attempted [Jerusalem Post report] to have Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official profile, in Hebrew] arrested on charges of war crimes while he was in Britain for a meeting with UK government leaders, but the British court rejected the petition citing Barak's diplomatic immunity.