Human rights groups file legal challenge to stop UK licenses for Israel weapons exports News
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Human rights groups file legal challenge to stop UK licenses for Israel weapons exports

Legal and human rights groups have filed a legal challenge with the UK’s High Court calling for the government to stop granting licenses for weapons exports to Israel, activists said on Thursday.

Al-Haq, a Palestinian independent NGO that works on protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, initiated the legal proceedings with the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). GLAN is a UK-based NGO that works on challenging states and other powerful actors involved in human rights violations. Together, the groups sued the UK over claims of “grave breaches of international law and UK rules repeatedly ignored” in order to suspend arms sales to Israel.

The NGOs based their submission on documented attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israel as reported by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians, destruction of infrastructure critical for their survival such as hospitals, bakeries and schools. Furthermore, the legal submission invokes the UK government’s Strategic Licensing Criteria, which prohibits arms exports when there is a risk the item will “undermine peace and security”.

The international Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) announced their support for Al-Haq in a statement on X (formerly Twitter), which reads:

We are not prepared to stand by while the UK government supplies weapons to a State that is engaged in the purposeful killing of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

We will work to protect British people and British tax payers money which should never be spent on weapons used to kill the innocent.

We will act to directly prevent a rogue UK government becoming complicit in war crimes.

The UK was criticized in an October statement from the Campaign Against Arms Trade for its arms supply to Israel during the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The Campaign stated that the UK is “complicit in these crimes not just by supplying these weapons for decades, but by repeatedly inciting Israel to commit war crimes against Palestinian civilians with impunity, in retaliation for Hamas’ horrific killings and abductions of Israelis including civilians” and called on the government to revokes the licenses for arms exports to the country.

The UK government has been a long-standing supporter of Israel and reaffirmed their support of Israel’s right to defend itself following the attacks of October 7 by Hamas. The UK voted against two Russian-led resolutions calling for a humanitarian pause in October. Additionally, the UK House of Commons rejected an amendment calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in November. More recently, it abstained in a vote on a draft resolution at the UN Security Council demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Since October 7, the Israel-Hamas war killed more than 17,000 Palestinians, including 7,112 children, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, and more than 1,300 Israelis, according to the IDF. The gravity of the situation prompted the UN Secretary-General António Guterres to invoke the rarely-used Article 99 of the UN Charter this week in an attempt to force an end to the fighting.