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Legal Professionals Call on British Government to Halt Arms Exports to Israel

Legal experts urge British government to suspend arms sales to Israel

A coalition of over 600 British lawyers, academics, and judicial members, including former high court judges, have petitioned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to halt arms exports to Israel.

Their plea is rooted in concerns over potential complicity in serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law, particularly in light of the International Court of Justice’s provisional finding of a “plausible risk of genocide” by Israel in Gaza on January 26. As a signatory of the 1948 Genocide Convention, the UK is urged to cease weapons sales to fulfill its legal obligations in preventing genocide.

The letter emphasizes the UK’s duty under the Genocide Convention to utilize all available means to prevent genocide in other states. It highlights the ICJ’s ruling as a warning that weapons provided by the UK could potentially be used in the commission of genocide.

Alongside the call for a weapons embargo, the coalition presents additional demands, including efforts to secure a permanent cease-fire, ensure essential humanitarian aid access, resume funding for Palestinian refugees, and sanction individuals and entities inciting genocide against Palestinians.

Legal Professionals Call on British Government to Halt Arms Exports to Israel

Legal Professionals Call on British Government to Halt Arms Exports to Israel (Credits: Wisconsin Public Radio)

Moreover, the group raises concerns about the legality of ongoing arms exports to Israel, citing potential violations of the 2013 UN Arms Trade Treaty and Britain’s export control regime. They argue that the UK’s export licensing criteria prohibit the supply of military equipment if there is a clear risk of it being used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law or genocide.

The coalition urges Sunak to reconsider Britain’s stance on arms exports to Israel, particularly in light of recent events, such as the killing of three British aid workers in Gaza.

Despite mounting pressure, Sunak has thus far resisted calls to reconsider the UK’s support for Israel. He emphasizes the adherence to a careful export licensing regime and reiterates the need for Israel to act in accordance with international humanitarian law.

However, senior political figures within Sunak’s Conservative Party, including former national security adviser Lord Ricketts and former Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, advocate for a policy shift. They assert the need for the UK to send a strong message to Israel by halting arms exports, given concerns about their potential offensive use in Gaza.

Various Members of Parliament echo these sentiments, expressing deep concern over the possibility of British-made weapons being used in actions resulting in civilian casualties in Gaza. Calls for an urgent reassessment of arms supply to Israel and a stern warning about its conduct are made, reflecting growing discontent within political circles regarding the UK’s arms exports policy.

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