LONDON (JTA) – Lawyers representing more than 30 Palestinian families are challenging Britain’s foreign secretary in a London court for failing to suspend arms exports to Israel.
The lawyers, acting on behalf of the Palestinian charity Al-Haq, have accused David Miliband, along with the ministers for defense and business, of acting illegally by failing to suspend arms trading and government assistance in response to alleged human rights violations by the Israeli government.
The lawyers say they plan further court cases against Israel.
“The U.K. has urgent international obligations that it must fulfill immediately," said Phil Shiner, the lawyer representing Al-Haq.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in response that “The U.K. 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.”
Arms trade between Israel and Britain has reached about $120 million in the past five years. Last month reports claimed that Israeli combat and targeting drones had been fitted with engines made in the United Kingdom.
In addition to a suspension of arms-related exports, the case also calls for a suspension of the European Union’s preferential trade agreement with Israel, and for all evidence of war crimes to be placed before law enforcement, facilitating action against Israeli agents entering Britain.
Attempts to use British courts to pursue political issues are not new. British lawyers have tried to have senior Israeli military personnel arrested upon arrival in the country, and threat of legal action has made some Israeli officers avoid visiting.
Spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, Lior Ben Dor said: “For those who are not familiar with Arabic, ‘al-Haq’ means ‘the right.’ The State of Israel equally has the right and obligation to protect its citizens from the constant bombardment of thousands of missiles launched by a terrorist organization. The missile attacks have been continuing unabated despite Israel’s disengagement from their territory more than 3 years ago.
"If Al-Haq insists that they have the right to support a terrorist organization then we will spare no means to defend our right to protect ourselves against terrorism.”