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UK arms exporters warned of criminal liability over sales to Israel

Campaign groups wrote to the directors of 20 UK arms companies that supply F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel
Palestinians inspect the destruction in the Tal Al-Hawa neighbourhood in southern Gaza City on 5 June 2024 (AFP)
Palestinians inspect the destruction in Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood in southern Gaza City on 5 June 2024 (AFP)

Campaigners have written to the directors of 20 UK arms companies, warning them of potential criminal liability for failing to prevent war crimes if they continue arms sales to Israel.

Four campaign groups, including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), addressed the directors of British arms companies supplying F-35 fighter jet parts used by Israel’s air force in its ongoing war on Gaza.

The letter cautioned that they could face “potential criminal liability for atrocity crimes currently taking place in Gaza”.

The F-35 stealth fighter jets, heavily deployed in Israel’s war on Gaza, are manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the US with the help of international partners, including British factories supplying essential components to build the warplanes. 

In addition to the British arm of Lockheed Martin, the targeted companies include the British arms firm BAE Systems, which manufactures 13 to 15 percent of each jet, and the US company Northrop Grumman.

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Citing a section in the 2001 International Criminal Court Act, the letter explains that it is illegal under British law “to engage in ‘conduct ancillary’ to a war crime or a crime against humanity” in foreign jurisdictions.  

Other signatories of the letter include War on Want and Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which is already pursuing legal action against the UK government over its continued arms sales to Israel. 

“Individuals transferring weapons to Israel are exposed to criminal liability, plain and simple,” Dearbhla Minogue, a GLAN senior lawyer, said in a statement.

“The fact that they are hiding behind a licencing system which is unfit for purpose will not protect them if and when they face a jury of their peers because ordinary people can see through politicians' obfuscation."

Neil Sammonds, senior campaigner at War on Want, emphasised: “There is nowhere to hide for a company director choosing to provide weaponry to a state whose leaders have made clear their intent not to comply with international law and whose armed forces commit atrocity after atrocity."

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