Judges, intel experts call for halt to Israeli arms sales

The Foreign Office said on Thursday it kept advice on Israel’s adherence to the law under review but that the content of government advice was confidential…reports Asian Lite News

Three former Supreme Court justices have joined more than 600 members of the British legal profession in calling for the government to halt arms sales to Israel, saying it could make Britain complicit in genocide in Gaza.

Their call was also backed by two of the country’s leading intelligence experts, who argued that Britain needed to use any leverage it could to persuade Israel, and its biggest backer the United States, to change course in the conflict.

The British government has been a staunch ally of Israel since the eruption of hostilities on Oct. 7 but Foreign Secretary David Cameron has hardened his language in recent months over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Cameron said on March 8 that Israel had to be compliant with international humanitarian law in order for Britain to grant export licenses allowing arms sales to Israel, and that a judgment on that was underway and due in the “coming days.”

The Foreign Office said on Thursday it kept advice on Israel’s adherence to the law under review but that the content of government advice was confidential.

Senior members of Britain’s legal profession said the government needed to halt sales now to avoid “aiding and assisting an international wrongful act.”

“The provision of military assistance and material to Israel may render the UK complicit in genocide as well as serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law,” the judges, barristers and legal academics said in a 17-page letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

One of the former justices, Jonathan Sumption, told BBC Radio he was concerned the British government had lost sight of its own obligations under international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called any suggestion of genocide as “outrageous,” and has said Israel has an “unwavering commitment to international law.”

Sunak has resisted calls to immediately halt weapons sales to Israel, saying the government adheres to a “very careful licensing regime.”

But the killing of seven aid workers, including three British nationals, in Israeli airstrikes this week has ratcheted up the pressure. Israel said they were mistakenly killed.

Britain licenses the sale of British-made explosive devices, assault rifles and components for military aircraft to Israel but it is a relatively small supplier, with Israeli exports making up about 0.4 percent of Britain’s total global defense sales in 2022, the last full-year data was available.

Two senior figures in Britain’s intelligence community — former national security adviser Peter Ricketts and Alex Younger, the former head of the MI6 foreign spy service — have said those sales should be used as leverage.

Ricketts said there was “now abundant evidence” that Israel was not compliant with international humanitarian law and that a ban would send a message that could stir debate in Washington.

Younger told the BBC that Britain needed to “achieve leverage, and create incentives for more focus to be put on the issue of what is technically called collateral damage but what we would call as killing innocent civilians.”

Earlier this week, Alicia Kearns, the Conservative chair of parliament’s foreign affairs select committee, said ministers had been told by their lawyers that Israel had violated international law in its war in Gaza.

The government has in the past blocked sales to Israel, such as in 2009 when it revoked some licenses and in 1982 when there was a formal restriction on weapon sales after the invasion of Lebanon.

Soames joins calls for UK to stop arming Israel

The Conservative peer Nicholas Soames has joined calls for the UK to stop arming Israel after an airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza.

Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, said the UK should send a “message” about Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Hundreds of senior lawyers and judges, including three former supreme court justices, have said in a letter that the government is breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel.

Asked whether the UK should stop doing so, Soames said: “It’s probably time that that happened now, yes, I think if we’re determined to show that we are not prepared to countenance these ongoing disasters.”

He added: “Israel have every right to go after Hamas, there’s no shadow of doubt about that.”

The UK’s contribution to Israel’s arsenal “would be tiny and it’s probably parts more than anything else”, Soames said, but stopping the exports would send a message.

“I say this with real sadness because, I mean, first of all, what happened was an absolute tragedy, and secondly, it was absolutely inexcusable,” Soames said of the strike that killed the aid workers, including three Britons, on Monday.

“This is not a fog of war issue with these [aid workers]. They were quite clearly – the whole thing had been deconflicted, organised, everything, and something has gone very, very wrong, and the Israelis need to really get a grip of all this. And secondly, these people were doing the most wonderful work to provide aid to starving Palestinians … I think it is the message that matters.”

Soames joins his fellow Conservative peer Hugo Swire and three Tory MPs – David Jones, Paul Bristow and Flick Drummond – in calling for arms sales to be suspended.

A fourth Tory MP, Mark Logan, called on Thursday for the UK’s arms exports to Israel to be reviewed. “We need to seriously reassess any weapon materials/arms exports to Israel in light of what has happened,” he said in a post on X.

David Cameron, the foreign secretary, refused to answer any questions about Israel and Gaza when he was interviewed by the BBC’s Ukrainecast on Thursday morning. Cameron is in Brussels for a meeting of Nato foreign ministers.

The Liberal Democrats have written to the prime minister’s ethics adviser, Laurie Magnus, urging an investigation into whether continued UK arms sales to Israel could be a breach of the ministerial code.

ALSO READ-UK govt under Tory pressure to stop arming Israel

[soliloquy id="31272"]
[soliloquy id="31269"]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *