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Cambridge University college issued legal notice over potential 'complicity' in war crimes

The rights group issued a notice to Cambridge's Trinity College following a Middle East Eye report on its investments
The fountain of the Great Court of Cambridge University's Trinity College. (AFP)
The fountain of the Great Court of Cambridge University's Trinity College. (AFP)

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians has issued a legal notice to the University of Cambridge's wealthiest college, warning that its investments could make it potentially complicit in Israeli war crimes and "plausible genocide".

The development comes after Middle East Eye revealed last week that Trinity College, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, currently has millions of dollars invested in companies arming, supporting and profiting from Israel's war on Gaza.

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), a UK-based rights group, indicated in its legal notice to Trinity that "officers, directors and shareholders at the college may be individually criminally liable if they maintain their investments in arms companies that are potentially complicit in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity."

The notice "set out the legal case regarding potential complicity in war crimes and the crime of genocide, drawing attention to the Rome Statute, the Genocide Convention and the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures on plausible genocide in Gaza."

The ICJP called on Trinity to confirm, "as a matter of urgency" and with a deadline of 12 March, whether the college intends to suspend its investments in the companies involved in Israel's war on Gaza to remove any potential criminal liability.

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Middle East Eye contacted Trinity College Cambridge and ICJP  for comment but did not receive anything by the time of publication.

MEE reported last week, based on information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that Trinity has £61,735 ($78,089.84) invested in Israel's largest arms company, Elbit Systems, which produces 85 percent of the drones and land-based equipment used by the Israeli army.

Japanese trading giant Itochu cut ties with Elbit earlier this month in response to an ICJ ruling that Israel may be committing genocide in Gaza.

Trinity also has investments worth approximately $3.2m (£2.5m) in Caterpillar, a US-based heavy equipment company that has long been the target of boycott campaigns for its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli army, and multiple other companies involved in Israel's war - including General Electric, Toyota Corporation, Rolls-Royce, Barclays Bank, and L3Harris Industries.

In 2021, following a student campaign, Trinity College pledged to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry by 2031.

ICJP senior public affairs and communications officer Jonathan Purcell said:

"It seems that Trinity College has a bit of a pick-n-mix approach to investment ethics. If they are committed to fossil fuel divestment, it shouldn’t exactly be a major leap to also divest from arms companies and other companies that are potentially complicit in Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

"Elbit Systems, Caterpillar and other companies that Trinity has a stake in are not only potentially complicit in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, but they have also contributed to home demolitions, West Bank barrier construction and other tools of apartheid. Investment in these companies was already morally bankrupt, but in the current circumstances, it is beyond belief that Trinity would choose to continue investing in them."

Last week, several current and former students at the college told MEE they had serious concerns about the college's investments and hoped the college would change course.

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