uk Weapons sales to israel
We are taking the UK government to the High Court over weapons exports to Israel, with Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq
19.02.24: High Court dismisses case challenging export of British weapons to Israel - GLAN has launched a challenge to overturn the decision
The decision comes as Israel continues its brutal assault on trapped civilians in Rafah, plans for further forced displacement of Gaza’s population and restricts humanitarian aid.
Astonishingly, the Court decided it is not even arguable that the government acted unlawfully in finding that there is no clear risk that British weapons are being used in violation of international humanitarian law. Since 7th October almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli offensive, including 12,300 children, and tens of thousands injured and denied basic medical care; a further 8,000 people are missing under the rubble. We have submitted extensive evidence showing that British weapons could have contributed to these deaths.
In addition to dismissing the case the court has ordered our Palestinian partners to pay £29,000 to cover the government’s legal costs. This cannot hold us back.
This is no time to back down. We will not stop pressuring the court to suspend all weapons sales to Israel. We now have 7 DAYS to respond to the court and ask for an “oral permission hearing” to review this outrageous decision. If we succeed this case will get the hearing it deserves.
Support this important legal fight now as we prepare for an oral hearing in the High Court.
12.01.24: Documents from our case reveal the government had 'serious concerns' over Israel which it did not share with parliament or the public. The UK government has responded to our case with Al-Haq confirming they did four 'risk assessments' from 7 October - 18 December which included writing to the government of Israel in November regarding a limited number of issues. Israel's response claims it is committed to complying with international law, however they declined to respond to specific incidents in the government's letter and gave no meaningful justification for restricting food, water & medical supplies to Gaza. The UK government has shockingly accepted this inadequate response despite evidence of extensive violations of international law and Foreign Office's own advice stating “the volume of strikes, total death toll, as well as proportion of those who are children raise serious concerns”.
Clearly this is unacceptable. The government's response does not address the core issues of the case and provide evidence that Israel is, in fact, complying with international law. We maintain that there is a clear risk British weapons might be involved in the atrocities against civilians in Gaza & are preparing for our High Court challenge to end UK arms exports to Israel now in compliance with UK rules and international law.
Statement from our Palestinian partners, Al-Haq:
Al-Haq reiterates that the Palestinian people in Gaza are facing an ongoing genocide. Every facet of life has faced utter destruction. The local healthcare system has crumbled as Israel has declared an "unrelenting war" on the health system in Gaza, rendering it incapable of delivering essential care to the injured, sick individuals, and everyday patients. Israeli airstrikes destroyed 145 mosques, while another 243 were partially damaged. Three churches have been destroyed by Israeli attacks, along with numerous archaeological and historical sites, as well as significant cultural landmarks, contributing to the erasure of Palestinian history and life throughout Gaza. Nothing and nowhere is safe for the people of Gaza.
Documents from this case have made headlines - read more in the Guardian
06.12.23: GLAN and Al-Haq filed a legal action to halt UK weapons sales to Israel over illegal attacks on civilians who are trapped and under siege in Gaza, after requests for the government to suspend exports were refused. As the situation on the ground deteriorates the evidence is clear. The law requires all arms exports to stop.
Our submission details allegations of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, starvation, forced displacement, and the serious risk of genocide, including genocidal statements from members of the Knesset and military leaders.
Al Haq is represented by GLAN lawyers Dearbhla Minogue, Siobhán Allen and Charlotte Andrews-Briscoe, and Alice Hardy of Bindmans LLP. Their counsel are Victoria Wakefield KC and Jagoda Klimowicz of Brick Court Chambers, and Luke Tattersall of Essex Court Chambers.
16.10.23: Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq wrote to the Secretary of State for International Trade, Kemi Badenoch, asking her to suspend all weapons export licences to Israel.
On 16th October 2023 we wrote to the Secretary of State for International Trade asking for weapons sales to Israel be halted, as required by international law. Under the government’s Strategic Licensing Criteria, weapons may not be exported where there is a clear risk they might be used in violations of international law. The Israeli regime violates most of the fundamental human rights of Palestinians. Its policies and actions in Gaza have consistently resulted in indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the imposition of a system of apartheid in occupied Palestinian territory. New Israeli policies explicitly call for collective punishment, with incriminating statements direct from the Israeli military characterising their attacks as reprisals against civilians.
Indiscriminate Bombardment of Gaza
Israel is currently unleashing the heaviest and most indiscriminate aerial bombardment Gaza has ever seen, killing civilians at a rate of hundreds per day. Israel has also ordered the forced displacement of over 1 million civilians from northern Gaza; the UN stated this transfer will have “devastating humanitarian consequences” and could amount to a crime against humanity of forcible transfer.
The UK has consistently approved sale of lethal weapons to the Israeli Defence Force and in recent days has promised major support for Israel’s decimation of Gaza. In addition to the £560 million in limited-value “standard” licences the UK has granted since 2015 alone, it has also granted 88 “open” licences which allow for unlimited quantities and value of exports. The kinds of items exported include components for the F35 stealth combat aircraft currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza, as well as body armour, military communications equipment, military electronic equipment, components for military radars and targeting equipment, naval vessel components, and much more.
Given that these items are all capable of being used in Israel’s actions against Palestinians, many of which are criminal acts under international law, there is plainly a “clear risk” under the Strategic Licensing Criteria, so the government should not be issuing these licences.
On 25th October GLAN and Al-Haq submitted further information of the risk of genocide in Gaza to the Secretary of State for International Trade. See more on X (Twitter) here.
“Colonialism and corporations have historically been intertwined. The situation in Palestine is no different. It is not surprising that Israeli and British interests converge in the ongoing devastation of Gaza. If the UK is ever going to break from its legacy of colonialism it cannot continue to support the ongoing colonization of Palestine. Halting arms sales now is the least it can do as a first step in this regard.”
- Wesam Ahmad, Head of Center for Applied International Law, Al-Haq
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is the result of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed over time. Recent statements by Israeli military leaders now obligates states to review their transfer of arms. There should be no doubt that these weapons are at acute risk of being used to commit further criminal acts and, possibly genocide.”
- Dr Gearóid Ó Cuinn, Director of the Global Legal Action Network
We are determined to hold the UK government to its legal obligation to halt these weapons export licences. We have made clear that if they fail to do so, we will take them to the High Court in judicial review proceedings.