UN human rights experts warn that exporting arms to Israel could violate international law News
IDF Spokesperson's Unit, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN human rights experts warn that exporting arms to Israel could violate international law

A statement released Friday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of UN rights experts warns countries against the “transfer of [any] weapons or ammunition to Israel” as this could violate international humanitarian law if these weapons are used contrary to the Geneva Conventions, referring to Israel’s alleged failure to adhere to international law in Gaza.

The statement states that “states must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition – or parts for them – if it is expected, given the facts and past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law.” The statement goes on to state that this applies regardless of if a state knows “with certainty” if the arms will be used in violation of the law. The principle applies once there is a “clear risk.”

The statement alleges that Israel has repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions and international law, concluding that there is a “clear risk” that Israel can use any arms imported to violate the convention. The statement mentions the need for a potential arms embargo. It references the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings in January and February in the case between South Africa and Israel, which allege there is a “plausible risk of genocide” to civilians in Gaza.

Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions 1949 sets out a positive and negative obligation on states to “neither encourage, nor aid or assist in violations of the Conventions by Parties to a conflict…they must do everything reasonably in their power to prevent and bring such violations to an end.”

The statement also references EU treaties and laws that may prohibit arms export to Israel. The Arms Trade Treaty prevents countries in the EU from exporting any weapons if they “know” that the weapons can be used contrary to international law. Additionally, the statement referenced the EU arms export control law. The EU arms export control law states, “Member States are determined to prevent the export of military technology and equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability.”

The ICJ has urged Israel to implement provisional measures to prevent the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Many human rights groups, countries and leaders have expressed concern and criticism of the ground invasion of Gaza, with many calling for an immediate ceasefire. The death toll at the time of writing is an estimated 29,000 people, with growing concern about a potential ground invasion of Rafah, where two-thirds of Gaza’s population is currently taking refuge.