Met Police Chief reveals force has 'legal duty' to investigate claims of Israeli war crimes in Gaza

17 January 2024, 09:42

Sir Mark Rowley defends the Met Police's War Crimes Team

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Met Police Commissioner explains why his detectives are investigating war crimes in Gaza.

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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast during a regular Call the Commissioner slot, the Met's top cop Sir Mark Rowley

Nick asked Sir Mark: "Why is the Met worrying about crimes in Gaza?"

In response, the Commissioner said he was "really glad" the question had been raised as he explained just how little funding the war crimes team received.

The top police officer said: "Our counter-terrorism resources, for every £100 we get £99.70 is spent dealing with terrorism and hostile state threats. 30p is spent on war crimes."

"Let's keep this in proportion. the main activity they're doing, there are some cases in advanced stages linking to the Rwandan genocide from the 1990s, is to make sure people involved in genocide, who've ended up in this country, don't have safe harbour here and are prosecuted.

The Commissioner explained the UK has a "legal duty to have a war crimes team because of the treaty of Rome."

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The question comes after detectives were asking arrivals at airports to pass on any information they may have about crimes against humanity there relating to either Hamas's October 7 massacre or Israel's attack on Gaza.

But it has been criticised for launching such a probe amid surging violent crime in London.

Speaking about the war crimes probe, Sir Keir - a former head of the Crown Prosecution Service - told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "I was surprised at the decision.

"It is in the end a decision for the Metropolitan Police, for which they will have to be held to account.

Read more: Boris Johnson slams Met's support on investigation into 'war crimes' committed in Israel-Hamas conflict

Sir Keir's criticism followed an attack on the Met by Boris Johnson, who said he made it clear during his eight years as mayor of London that "we would not import foreign wars or disputes onto the streets of London".

It emerged today that the Met's war crimes unit has met a pro-Palestinian group to hear its allegations of war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza
It emerged today that the Met's war crimes unit has met a pro-Palestinian group to hear its allegations of war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. Picture: Getty

He said "the Met would be better off fighting knife crime in the capital" and added that he was worried about the "politicisation" of the police.

The Met has said it is investigating the October 7 attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in Israel, to help "coronial investigations" into the deaths of British nationals in the massacre.

Its War Crimes Team forms part of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.

The force said: "Following the 7 October attacks, and the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas since, we began to see higher volumes of people returning to the UK from the region.

"In late November, posters signposting how people could contact CTP were displayed at certain airports to inform those who may have been witness to, or victim of, terrorism, war crimes or crimes against humanity of how they can get in touch.

"The poster deliberately referred to those in Israel and Gaza in order to provide a reporting route for all parties.

"It is important to note however, that contrary to some recent reports and commentary in the media and elsewhere, we have not opened or conducted our own UK-based War Crimes investigation into this matter.

"Any information provided to CTP that could be linked to potential war crimes assessed by the WCT and where relevant and appropriate, will be passed to the [International Criminal Court]."

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