‘The government faces being dragged into the high court over the sale of military hardware to Israel in an unprecedented legal move that puts the UK’s controversial export policy on a potential collision course with the EU.
Law firm Leigh Day, representing the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), has written to the business secretary, Vince Cable, claiming that the failure by the British government to suspend existing licences for the export of military components to Israel is unlawful as there is a risk that they may have been used in Gaza. It says that it has been instructed to seek a judicial review of the government’s reluctance to suspend licences unless it agrees to stop the export of the components.
The move puts the UK’s multimillion-pound military export programme in the spotlight when Israel’s actions in Gaza have caused international concern and there is mounting disquiet about the role foreign states are playing in facilitating the conflict, which is now the subject of an uneasy ceasefire.
The government has come under sustained pressure to justify its continued sale of military equipment since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. To date, more than 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, according to Palestinian and UN officials. On the Israeli side, 67 have died, all but three of them soldiers.
Following a review initiated by the prime minister this month, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced it would suspend 12 export licences for arms and other military equipment to Israel only if the current ceasefire was broken.
However, in its letter to Cable, shared with the Observer, Leigh Day says the definition of what constitutes a “broken” ceasefire leading to a resumption of hostilities is not defined or explained. It says the campaign group is concerned that arms manufactured in Britain may have been – and could continue to be – used in Gaza in breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.’
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