Palestinian NGO sues British government in wake of Cast Lead

Al-Haq says UK must suspend arms exports to Israel.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 25, 2009 23:26
2 minute read.
Palestinian NGO sues British government in wake of Cast Lead

Miliband speaks to AP 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq has commenced legal proceedings against the British government in an attempt to force it to take sanctions against Israel. The Ramallah-based group is seeking a ruling from the British High Court that Foreign Minister David Miliband is "in flagrant and continuing breach of international law" in failing to suspend arms exports to Israel. In an application for a judicial review filed in London on Tuesday, Al-Haq's lawyers named Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Defence Secretary John Hutton as defendants. As well as calling for the suspension of arms exports to Israel, the case also calls for the European Union to suspend its preferential trading agreement with Israel and for evidence of alleged war crimes to be provided to law enforcement officials in order to facilitate investigations against Israeli officials visiting the UK. In response to the case, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said: "The UK takes its domestic and international legal obligations very seriously, and will vigorously defend proceedings if they are commenced by Public Interest Lawyers (on behalf of their client, the NGO Al-Haq) against the relevant Secretaries of State. The series of claims made by PIL are wholly inapt for resolution in domestic legal proceedings. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this at this stage. The Foreign Office spokesperson said the government continues to work hard in an effort to secure peace in the Middle East. "From the outset of the recent conflict the government worked around the clock to achieve an immediate ceasefire," the spokesperson said. "The Foreign Minister took the initiative in breaking the deadlock at the UN Security Council with a British-sponsored draft that secured UN Security Council Resolution 1860, producing a framework for ending the fighting." The spokesperson said that the Foreign Office has been pushing hard for urgent action to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the re-opening of crossings into Gaza. "We have made clear that credible allegations of war crimes and serious violations of international obligations by either side in the conflict should be investigated," the spokesperson said. The statement added: "Britain has some of the tightest regulations in the world for arms sales. The government monitors the situation in Israel with care in considering applications for arms export licenses. Each application is considered on its merits carefully considering and applying the Consolidated European Union and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. When there is a clear risk that proposed exports might be used for internal repression, or would be used aggressively against another country, a license will be refused. Any evidence of the IDF methods or tactics during Operation Cast Lead will be taken into account in assessing such risks in considering relevant license applications. "We do not accept that the increase in the figures for exports to Israel in the first quarter of 2008 is "highly significant". It is in the public domain that the increase in figures was due to a single approval, in January 2008, of one license for high value naval communications equipment."


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