ICJP supports legal and human rights groups taking UK government to High Court over arms exports to Israel 

Legal submission comes as Israel policies explicitly call for collective punishment and forced displacement of Gaza’s trapped population; enacts ever more aggressive settlement activity in the West Bank  

London- On Tuesday, 5th December, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians supported action by Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq and U.K. based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) who have announced the commencement of legal proceedings against the UK. This comes after written requests to suspend arms sales to Israel due to grave breaches of international law and UK rules were repeatedly ignored. The filed papers detailed indiscriminate attacks on civilians, destruction of infrastructure critical for their survival, starvation, forced displacement and the risk of genocide. 

The UK government has granted licences for the sale of British weapons to Israel under a wide range of categories in recent years. For example, since 2015 there has been £472 million in limited value ‘standard’ licence grants, and 58 unlimited value ‘open’ licences. The categories of weapons include military communications equipment, components for military aircraft displays, body armour and much more. According to Campaigns Against Armed Trade (CAAT), British companies provide 15% of the components for the F35 stealth combat aircraft, which Israel are using to bomb Gaza right now. This could only be possible through the millions of licenses granted for the sale of British weapons to Israel. 

Given that these aircraft are being used in Israel’s actions against Palestinians, many of which are criminal acts under international criminal law, there is plainly a ‘clear risk’ under the Strategic Licensing Criteria meaning the government should not be issuing these licences. 

Since 7 October, over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, around half of whom were children. Under the UK government’s Strategic Licensing Criteria, weapons may not be exported where there is a clear risk they might be used in serious violations of international law. Israel’s policies and actions have resulted in widespread indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians, killing thousands and levelling entire neighbourhoods to the ground. Protected sites such as hospitals, schools, and food sources have been repeatedly and deliberately targeted by airstrikes. Israel has also ordered the forced displacement of over 1 million Gazans from north to south Gaza; the UN stated this transfer would have ‘devastating humanitarian consequences’. 

ICJP Senior Legal Counsel Ilora Choudhury called the UK licenses of weapons sales to Israel an “outrageous and reprehensible policy”, particularly in the wake of “clear evidence of almost every possible war crime being committed right now” against the civilian population in Gaza. 

Dearbhla Minogue, GLAN Senior Lawyer, said: ‘No self-respecting State should allow its weapons anywhere near the atrocities that Israel is currently committing against the entire population of Gaza. These licenses are outrageous, and I am curious to see how the UK government will defend itself before the High Court.”  


Notes to Editors:

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law. 
  2. For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected].