Law move over UK exports of arms to Israel

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Campaigners have threatened the Government with legal action over its failure to suspend exports of military equipment to Israel.

A law firm acting on behalf of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable warning the present policy appears to be illegal.

Leigh Day said that it had been instructed to consider applying to the High Court for a Judicial Review unless sales of equipment that could be used in action against Gaza were halted.

A review of existing export licences ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron amid pressure from the Liberal Democrats and others over the violence in 
Gaza found 12 were for components which could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in its offensive against Hamas.

With both sides presently observing a ceasefire, Mr Cable 
signalled that they will be suspended in the event of the “resumption of significant hostilities”.

But CAAT says no proper definition has been given of that threshold or of whether any of the materials which have already been exported may have been used in illegal acts.

“The concept of a ‘resumption of significant hostilities’ is not defined or explained nor, indeed, is the rationale for such a threshold given that conduct occurring outside significant hostilities (such as a single air strike) could equally violate international humanitarian law or human rights law,” the lawyers’ letter to Mr Cable said.

Neither was there sufficient clarity over when the issuing of new licences – which has been suspended as a precaution –would be resumed, it said.

CAAT says 131 such licences have been granted, with £41.5 million worth of UK components being sent to Israel that can be used in drones, radar, targeting systems and other military hardware.