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AL-HAQ: UK High Court to hear legal challenge to UK arms sales to Israel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UK High Court of Justice to Hear Legal Challenge on UK Sale of Arms-Related Equipment to Israel

19 September 2007

A full public hearing will be held before the UK High Court of Justice in London on 10 -11 October 2007 in the case of R (Saleh Hasan) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Following the blanket refusal by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to respond to the claimant’s request for a justification of UK policy on arms-related sales to Israel, the High Court will hear arguments in a claim filed on 15 November 2006 by UK Solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), in cooperation with Al-Haq.

PIL will argue that the UK’s sale of arms-related equipment to Israel is in breach of UK obligations under international law as well as UK statutory law, specifically, the UK Export Control Act of 2002, which incorporates the “consolidated criteria” governing the export of military equipment. According to these criteria, the UK government may not issue export licenses to countries where there is a clear risk that the export might be used for “[i]nternal repression…in violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms as set out in relevant international human rights instruments” or where export would be “inconsistent with…the UK’s international obligations”. The “consolidated criteria” also makes clear that “special caution and vigilance” should be exercised in the case of prospective arms-related sales to countries where serious human rights violations have been established by competent bodies.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest judicial authority in the United Nations, in its 2004 advisory opinion on the legality of the Israeli Annexation Wall definitively established that Israel’s human rights record is severely compromised. The Court declared the illegality of the construction of the Wall and its associated regime in the West Bank under both international human rights and humanitarian law. The ICJ called for its dismantling and found that all States have a legal obligation to neither recognise the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall nor render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation.

The claimant, Saleh Hasan, a 60-year old resident of Bethlehem, is one of tens of thousands of Palestinians who until now have found no effective remedy for Israel’s unlawful acts. In 2005, Israel used military equipment to bulldoze agricultural assets and permanently confiscate his land in order to make way for the Wall. That same year, one year after the ICJ advisory opinion on the Wall, the UK’s arms-related exports to Israel saw a two-fold increase.

PIL will argue that the UK government had and continues to have clear evidence from authoritative international bodies that Israel might use equipment imported from the UK for purposes prohibited under the “consolidated criteria.” As such PIL will seek a declaration from the High Court that in future the UK Government must be transparent about how it has satisfied itself that there is no risk of a breach of these criteria and to make publicly available information that establishes there is no risk of any arms related products from the UK being used for repressive purposes. In the absence of any legal justification for continuing its current policy, Al-Haq, PIL and Palestinians like Saleh Hasan call on the UK government to suspend all arms-related exports to Israel until such time as Israel complies in full with its obligations under international law.

This hearing is of great significance, and any support you can offer is most welcome. Aside from actually attending the hearing, it would be greatly appreciated if you could forward this letter to any other parties you think may be interested. Al-Haq is in the process of organising various public meetings prior to the hearing. Please do not hesitate to contact [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or require further information pertaining to the case.