UK sued over arms sales to Israel

Israel Materials 25 February 2009 03:38 (UTC +04:00)

A Palestinian human rights group has filed a lawsuit at the High Court in London over the United Kingdom's continuation of trade with Israel following that country's offensive in Gaza.

Al-Haq, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, said that in trading with Israel, including supplying arms, Britain is breaking international law.

The organisation said that Israel had violated international law during its assault on Gaza and that Britain should therefore suspend all financial, military or ministerial assistance to Tel Aviv.

It also said that that the UK should "insist that the European Union suspend [its] preferential trading agreement with Israel until it demonstrates full respect for its human rights obligations".

The lawsuit names three UK ministers, David Miliband, foreign minister, John Hutton, defence minister and Peter Mandelson, business minister.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Phil Shiner, a UK lawyer who represents Al-Haq in Britain, said: "International law is very clear on this issue.

"All states are under an obligation not to render assistance and not to recognise the illegal situation [in Gaza] and to co-operate together by all lawful means to end that particular situation ... and to ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions.

"The UK government has gone completely in the wrong direction. It has increased its arms exports [to Israel]. It continues to import Israeli arms, it continues to invite Israeli arms manufacturers to arms fairs here".

In pursuing the lawsuit, Shiner said "all that's in our way is that obviously it's a controversial topic. Judges might be frightened of entering this territory but once they do the law is very clear".

Last month, Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights organisation, called on the British government to suspend all military exports to Israel until there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of human rights.