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Israeli court issues gag order over Myanmar arms sales petition

Israeli court refuses to confirm if it will continue to sell weapons to Myanmar amid ongoing violence against Rohingya
Thousands of Rohingya Refugees continue to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh as violent crackdown against the persecuted minority continues (Reuters)

A court in Israel has issued a gag order on a ruling expected on Wednesday to determine whether it will allow Israeli defence companies to continue selling weapons to Myanmar. 

The order comes as thousands of Rohingya Muslims continue to flee an ongoing violent crackdown by Myanmar's army which has been described by the UN as an act of "ethnic cleansing".

Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who submitted the original petition, told Middle East Eye that this move shows how "Israel is becoming more similar to the states to which it sells arms.

In a manner which suits dictatorial regimes, the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs and the State Attorney have clandestinely filed an urgent ex-parte request, to retroactively classify the entire case as to Israeli sales of arms and training to Burma

- Eitay Mack, Israeli lawyer

"In a manner which suits dictatorial regimes, the ministries of defence and foreign affairs and the state attorney have clandestinely filed an urgent ex-parte request, to retroactively classify the entire case as to Israeli sales of arms and training to Burma," said Mack. 

"This reminds me of my visit to a Moscow museum a few years ago, which featured an exhibition showing how Stalin had deleted his eliminated rivals from old photos."

The gag order means that documents relating to the petition will be completely blocked. This includes documents related to the current procedures and minutes from the open Supreme Court hearing that took place on Monday. 

Shom Shmueli, who represented the Israeli state, told the court during an open session on Monday that it had no right to interfere in Israel's foreign relations, Haaretz reported. 

Rohingya refugees have fled afar afield as Thailand as Myanmar's crackdown continues (AFP)

The petition was submitted in January, following visits by Israeli officials to Myanmar to discuss arms deals, and vice versa.

The weapons sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats used to police the country's border, according to human rights groups and Burmese officials. 

Israeli arms companies such as TAR Ideal Concepts have also been involved in training Burmese special forces who are currently in the Rakhine state where most of the violence has taken place.

Images previously posted on the arms company's website showed its staff instructing members of the Burmese special forces on combat tactics and how to use specific weapons. 

After the petition was submitted, the Israeli defence ministry in March said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue and claimed that arms sales to Myanmar were "clearly diplomatic".

The United Nations refugee chief called on Wednesday for the plight of up to 800,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to be resolved, saying the “big question” was whether they would be allowed to return to their homeland.

Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees, speaking on return from a visit to Bangladesh, said that he hoped to discuss the issue of statelessness of Rohingya with Myanmar authorities at a meeting in Geneva next week.

“It is very clear the cause of this crisis is in Myanmar but that the solution is also in Myanmar,” he told a news conference in Geneva. He warned that “the risk of spread of terrorist violence in this particular region is very, very high” unless the issue is resolved.

- WIth Reuters

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