Middle East, Europe

UK faces criticism for selling weapons to Israel, accused of being complicit in war crimes

'Approximately 15% of components used in Israel's bombing of Gaza with F-35 aircraft are supplied by UK,' says International Centre for Justice for Palestinians legal officer

Zuhal Demirci  | 22.12.2023 - Update : 22.12.2023
UK faces criticism for selling weapons to Israel, accused of being complicit in war crimes


Human rights groups and independent bodies in the UK have condemned London, asserting its complicity in Israel's alleged war crimes by continuing arms sales.

They argue that failure to cease weapon exports to Israel, deemed in violation of international humanitarian law, warrants scrutiny and criticism.

The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and the human rights organization, Al-Haq, in Ramallah, have initiated legal action against the UK.

They accuse the UK of disregarding demands to halt arms sales to Israel, citing violations of international law.

Al-Haq and GLAN have taken legal in the High Court, alleging persistent neglect of written requests to halt the arms sales.

The application provides details on Israel's policies, including attacks on civilians, infrastructure and facilities like hospitals and schools, as well as forced displacement and hunger-inducing measures.

The independent International Centre for Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) and civil society group, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have voiced support for the initiative.

The case accuses the UK of complicity in Israel's violations of international law and war crimes.

Complicity is aiding and abetting war crimes

ICJP's Legal Affairs Officer, Dania Abu Elhaj, told Anadolu that the UK has approved military export licenses to Israel totaling at least £474 million ($601 million) since 2015, covering items such as warplanes, missiles, tanks, small arms and ammunition components.

Elhaj pointed out that approximately 15% of components used in Israel's bombing of Gaza with F-35 aircraft are supplied by the UK.

"The F-35 aircraft is currently being used to bombard Gaza at the moment, helping kill thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians and bombards civilian infrastructure and houses," she said.

"This complicity entails the aiding and abetting of the war crimes that are being conducted right now before our very own eyes on the ground. So we believe politicians who are providing moral support and any material support provided to Israel may be held accountable for aiding and abetting the commission of these crimes.

"We believe the UK should not be granting any licensing agreements for its businesses to provide weapons to Israel or to any regimes actually that commit the scale of atrocities that we're witnessing today happening in Gaza. UK has a legal obligation to abide by its own strategic arms licensing criteria, which is what the submission submitted by ICJP, GLAN and Al Halq provides," she stressed.

Elhaj highlighted the UK's obligation to halt arms trade with countries posing a risk of serious violations of international law or using weapons to breach international legal standards.

Demanding UK refrain from providing any support to Israel

Elhaj said Al-Haq and GLAN, with ICJP's support, have commenced a legal examination of the Strategic Arms Licensing Criteria between the UK and Israel.

She urged a review of the UK's Strategic Arms Licensing Criteria related to Israel and urged London to refrain from supplying any material support or components used in warplanes or weapons that may facilitate crimes against the Palestinian people.

"When it comes to our expectations of judicial review, we have seen in 2009 the UK suspending arms trading with Israel in light of Operation Cast Lead. We have also seen the UK review its licensed arms exports to Israel in 2014 and within that review, there was a suspension of the arms export to Israel until the review was conducted," she said.

"We have also seen the UK admit in 2009 that their British-made arms had been used by Israel and they had misused the equipment and that this conclusion would inform future license applications," she added.

Elhaj emphasized the need for accountability, stating that those responsible for war crimes and mass atrocities must be held accountable for their actions.

She said if politicians disregard the need to uphold the rule of law, courts should intervene for justice.

'UK is materially and actually contributing to hell on earth that's happening in Gaza'

Katie Fallon, CAAT advocacy coordinator, told Anadolu that the UK provides military and political support to Israel

"UK is materially and actually contributing to the hell on earth that's happening in Gaza right now," she said.

"With the components that are being used in deaths that are dropping bombs, with the range of different other types of equipment, but the second kind of part of that is this military support is an indication of the political support that we've seen.”

Fallon stated that CAAT received confirmation from civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), about the violation of international humanitarian law and the commission of numerous war crimes.

"What the law says is that if there's a risk that they may facilitate or contribute to these violations, then we have to start so we believe we're well past that threshold and that the government needs to immediately stop issuing licenses, halt all new licenses, and particularly end any open licenses that are used to supply arms to Israel," she stressed.

Being complicit in international humanitarian law violations is participating in horror in Gaza

Fallon emphasized that CAAT's call is for an immediate cease-fire and halt arms exports.

"I think the other thing that we need they clearly is that by being complicit in violations of international humanitarian law, if a government is contributing, it's complicit in the specific horrors that we're seeing in Gaza," she said.

Fallon also emphasized that giving any country a free pass to commit violations against civilians weakens global adherence to international law.

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