Middle East, Europe

UK government lawyers allegedly said Israel is breaking international law

Legal advice would mean government has to stop all arms sales to Israel, says chair of Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Burak Bir  | 31.03.2024 - Update : 02.04.2024
UK government lawyers allegedly said Israel is breaking international law


The British government allegedly received legal advice from its lawyers that Israel is breaking international law, according to a leaked recording Saturday.

Government's lawyers said that Israel has breached international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip but the government has failed to make it public, according to a recording obtained by the Observer newspaper, sister paper to the Guardian.

The Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee Alicia Kearns said at a Conservative Party fundraiser on March 13 that legal advice would mean the government has to suspend all arms sales to Israel.

Kearns later defended her comments and called for transparency. She told the Guardian that she believes the government has concluded Israel is not demonstrating a commitment to international humanitarian law, "which is the legal determination it has to make."

The advice will put more pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary David Cameron as such legal advice would mean the UK must suspend all arms sales to Israel without delay.

On the revelations, the British barrister and judge Geoffrey Nice said he would not be surprised if such advice had been given by government lawyers and called for it to be made public.

He went on to say that a warring party "becomes unlawful" if it cannot show that its actions have been proportionate.

"Countries supplying arms to Israel may now be complicit in criminal warfare. The public should be told what the advice says," said Nice, who was the lead prosecutor at former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s trial from 2002 to 2006.

During a foreign affairs committee in January, Cameron was pressed on whether he had seen legal advice suggesting Israel had breached international law. Cameron said: "I don't want to answer that question."

"If you're asking me am I worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law ... Yes, of course I'm worried about that, and that's why I consult the Foreign Office lawyers when giving this advice on arms exports," he said.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack led by Hamas in which less than 1,200 Israelis were killed.

More than 32,700 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have since been killed in Gaza, in addition to mass destruction, displacement and famine conditions.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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