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Former top court judges call for halting arms sales to Israel

Sunak government is under pressure after seven aid workers, including three British nationals, were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza this week

A Palestinian inspects near a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (Photo by YASSER QUDIHE/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

Three former Supreme Court justices have joined more than 600 members of the British legal profession in calling for the government to halt arms sales to Israel, saying it could make Britain complicit in genocide in Gaza.

Echoing the growing number of opposition politicians who have called for a halt to British arms sales, the three justices joined other barristers, former judges and legal academics in urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to change policy.

Sunak has faced growing political pressure after seven aid workers, including three British nationals, were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the besieged enclave this week.

“The provision of military assistance and material to Israel may render the UK complicit in genocide as well as serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law,” the judges and barristers said in a 17-page letter.

“Customary international law recognises the concept of ‘aiding and assisting’ an international wrongful act.”

Prominent signatories include the former supreme court justices Lord Sumption and Lord Wilson, the former Lord Justices of Appeal Sir Stephen Sedley, Sir Alan Moses, Sir Anthony Hooper, and Sir Richard Aikens, and the former chair of the Bar of England and Wales, Matthias Kelly KC, reports The Guardian.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the allegations of genocide “outrageous”, and said Israel has an “unwavering commitment to international law”.

Sumption told BBC Radio he was concerned the British government had lost sight of its need to prevent genocide.

Britain sells explosive devices, assault rifles and military aircraft to Israel, but it is a relatively small supplier, with Israeli exports making up about 0.4% of Britain’s total global defence sales in 2022, the last full-year data was available.

The lawyers cited the fact that the International Court of Justice had in January ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the Genocide Convention, plus the growing fears about famine.

Sunak has resisted calls to immediately halt weapons sales, saying the country has a “very careful licensing regime” which it will continue to adhere to.

But the killing of aid workers has ratcheted up international pressure on Israel nearly six months into its siege and invasion of the Palestinian enclave that was triggered by Hamas’ October 7 assault on southern Israel.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel’s military has voiced its “sincere sorrow” over the airstrikes and pledged an independent investigation. (Agencies)

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