A Legal Challenge Over The Uk's Role In Arms Sales To Israel Will Go Ahead

LONDON (AP) — A legal challenge over the British government's role in allowing weapons to be sent to Israel can be heard at the High Court later this year, a judge said Tuesday.

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq and the U.K.-based Global Legal Action Network filed the challenge in December, calling for the U.K. to stop granting licenses for arms exports to Israel. They said they acted after Britain’s government ignored their written requests to suspend arms sales to Israel following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered the Israeli-Hamas war.

The case had been dismissed in February, but a High Court judge on Tuesday granted a judicial review hearing for it in October.

Lawyers for the human rights groups argued there was a “clear risk” that the weapons "might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

But lawyer James Eadie, representing the U.K. Department for Business and Trade, said the issue is considered “with conspicuous care and thoroughness.”

“The secretary of state’s position is that those decisions have at all times been lawful and, in particular, rational," he said in a written submission.

Rights groups have long opposed British arms exports to Israel, but such calls have gained ground since an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers from the aid charity World Central Kitchen on April 1. Three of the aid workers were British.

Earlier this month more than 600 British lawyers and judges, including three retired judges from the U.K. Supreme Court, joined calls for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel.

They said the U.K. could be complicit in “grave breaches of international law” if it continues to ship weapons, and that it is legally obliged to heed the International Court of Justice’s conclusion that there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade nonprofit group says British industry, namely BAE Systems, provides about 15% of the components in the F-35 stealth combat aircraft used by Israel. The group alleges that the jets were used in recent bombardment of Gaza.

“The U.K. government has stretched legal reasoning to the point of absurdity in order to arm a country that is committing grave violations of international humanitarian law," said Dearbhla Minogue, a senior lawyer at the Global Legal Action Network.

“The government seems to be making this process as painstakingly slow as possible,” Minogue added. "Given the urgency of the situation in Gaza, the government should listen to the international legal consensus and halt weapons sales now.”