Disrupting illegal sales of UK arms

by Global Legal Action Network

Disrupting illegal sales of UK arms

by Global Legal Action Network
Global Legal Action Network
Case Owner
GLAN pursues innovative legal actions across borders to challenge powerful actors involved in systemic human rights violations.
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Latest: April 24, 2024

Case revived and expedited in the High Court!

You’ll remember that on the 19th of February, our claim, filed with Palestinian partners Al-Haq, challenging the UK government’s failure to halt weapons exports to Israel, was initia…

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The UK is profiting from war

As the bombardment intensifies in Gaza, so do the flow of Western weapons to Israel.  UK arms sales reached a record high last year with £8.5 billion in export licenses.  

The UK have consistently approved sale of lethal weapons to the Israeli Defence Force and have promised major support for Israel’s decimation of Gaza in recent days.

Israel is unleashing the heaviest and most indiscriminate aerial bombardment Gaza has ever seen, killing civilians at a rate of hundreds per day. Israel has also ordered the forced displacement of over 1 million civilians from northern Gaza; the UN stated this transfer will have “devastating humanitarian consequences” and could amount to the crime against humanity of forcible transfer.

This needs to end.  

We are urgently raising funds to challenge the government decisions that allow these British arms to be sold to the Israeli Defence Force and other major war aggressors.

UK Government licensing laws allow British weapons to be sold to groups actively engaging in warfare.  These weapons are being sold to launch indiscriminate attacks on residential buildings, to bomb weddings and funerals and to violently oppress basic human rights. 

In our latest challenge against UK arms sales, we are calling on the government to halt all UK arms sales to Israel over illegal attacks on civilians, forced displacement, and policies in Palestine.

In the UK, all arms sales are made under licenses issued by the Secretary of State for International Trade who, according to the law, must not allow arms sales if there if there is a risk those weapons would be used to unlawfully harm civilians.  We have uncovered a catalogue of damning evidence of evidence proving British supplied weapons are being used to kill and harass civilians.   

We are working on a coordinated legal strategy challenging the UK through cases where arms have been sold to brutal militaries who flagrantly violate international law with impunity. We have already shown the court that British weapons are being used by Saudi Arabia to commit war crimes in Yemen. We are appealing the court’s declaration that, despite this evidence, UK weapons can continue to be sold to Saudi Arabia. 

Stand with us to show the UK government that we will not stand by and continue to watch them profit from war.  

About Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) 

GLAN pursues innovative legal actions across borders to challenge powerful actors involved in systemic human rights violations. We use the law to challenge powerful actors who use violate human rights during war for economic gains. 

GLAN's lawyers have been consistently using litigation for accountability for the worst atrocity crimes. We have done this through pioneering the use of open source evidence in Ukraine, pressurising the U.K. authorities to stop cotton imports linked to the Uyghur genocide, and challenging the U.K.'s involvement in war crimes in Yemen and Palestine through weapons sales.

Thank you so much for helping us disrupt the illegal sale of UK arms.

Update 13

Global Legal Action Network

April 24, 2024

Case revived and expedited in the High Court!

You’ll remember that on the 19th of February, our claim, filed with Palestinian partners Al-Haq, challenging the UK government’s failure to halt weapons exports to Israel, was initially dismissed in the High Court.  

We are happy to update you that our claim was revived and expedited during yesterday’s oral hearing in the UK High Court. With your support we were able to ensure that a representative from Al Haq was able to attend and participate. A full hearing is now expected in October.  

While it’s a significant win that this case has been revived and expedited, yesterday was also the latest in a series of government actions that have sought to delay this case being heard.  Yesterday, the government’s lawyers shifted strategy and requested that some of their evidence only be shared in closed, secret proceedings due to national security. Our team won’t have access to that evidence and the process slows things down. Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza gets more and more dire with every day that passes.  

Important new information also came to light. Court documents revealed that on the 8th of April, a week after three Israeli airstrikes on the World Central Kitchen aid workers, a decision by the UK to continue arms exports to Israel. Remarkably this decision was based on out-of-date information and only considered events between 2 December 2023 to 28 January 2024. 

Court documents also revealed that the UK government can make additional urgent assessments on Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law “where circumstances require”. It would appear however that such an assessment was not conducted, even after Israel’s attack on WCK aid workers. According to the UN at least 357 humanitarian-run sites and convoys in Gaza whose coordinates had been shared in advance were hit before the WCK attack. 

Dearbhla Minogue, Senior Lawyer at GLAN, says:  

"The UK 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. The Government seems to be making this process as painstakingly slow as possible. Given the urgency of the situation in Gaza the Government should listen to the international legal consensus and halt weapons sales now." 

Ahead of the hearing in October, GLAN’s team will be working tirelessly to ensure that our case is ironclad, and the government is held accountable for these weapons exports. Every effort needs to be made to end complicity in the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.  

We’re now in the most important period for this case as our team prepares for the full hearing and we need a huge injection of capacity. We can’t do this work without you. Would you consider chipping in and sharing this crowdfund? 

Update 12

Global Legal Action Network

April 12, 2024

Oral permission hearing: date confirmed

You might remember that a judge initially decided not to grant our case permission to be heard, and that we were working to get that decision reconsidered.

We now have a date confirmed for the hearing. On 23rd April we’ll be asking a judge to green light our case through an oral permission hearing in the High Court.

The hearing comes as the UK government refuse to confirm if they have taken recent legal advice from government lawyers on the legality of arms sales. Last week ex-Supreme Court justices, including the court’s former president Lady Hale, are among 600+ lawyers, academics, and retired senior judges who warned the government that they are breaking international law. They say that not only should the Government suspend licenses (the subject of our case), but it should also be doing much more to prevent the unfolding genocide.

Since January, we have submitted six factual updates to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, for the purposes of her ongoing assessment with respect to arms sales to Israel. We have sent these updates via the Government Legal Department, in the context of ongoing litigation. This means that the Government cannot deny knowledge of the role that these weapons are playing in the unfolding genocide.

We want to bring our Palestinian partners to the UK to stand with us in court.  We’re working tirelessly to progress this case and hold Government accountable, but our legal costs are mounting as we do so.  Will you consider sharing news about this crowdfund to ensure that this work continues?  

Update 11

Global Legal Action Network

April 5, 2024

Confirmation of oral permission hearing and an update on the evidence.

A few weeks ago, we let you know that we were appealing the Court’s decision not to hear this legal challenge. We have been tirelessly working behind the scenes and we can confirm that this week the UK courts have said that an oral permission hearing in our case MUST occur before April 26th 

In addition, this week a recording of Alicia Kearns MP claiming that “the Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law” was leaked. This is potentially very significant for our case, and we have written to the government with Al-Haq seeking confirmation that this statement is true.  

The ‘duty of candour’ in judicial review proceedings, like this case, requires that the government disclose all relevant information and facts, even where it undermines their case. If the government’s legal assessment has found that Israel is breaking International Humanitarian Law, Al-Haq has the right to know. Concealing this legal advice is likely in breach of their obligations to court.  

As part of this legal challenge, we have, since January, submitted 6 factual updates on the situation in Gaza to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade to inform the ongoing assessments of arms sales to Israel. This means that the government cannot legally claim not to have knowledge of the incidents detailed within our updates. We will be publishing these updates next week, so watch this space!  

We are also working to launch a platform which brings together online open-source evidence in a format that can be used to aid war crime investigations. Yesterday, we submitted the first round of this evidence to the government. The Gaza genocide is playing out on social media, and it is the government’s obligation to scrutinise that in real time.  

We are working hard to ensure that they do, but we can’t continue this work without your support.  

Update 10

Global Legal Action Network

March 13, 2024

GLAN and Al-Haq have given a briefing in the Houses of Parliament

GLAN and Al-Haq were invited to the Houses of Parliament by Richard Burgon MP and Imran Hussain MP to brief parliamentarians about this legal challenge, arms exports rules, and violations of international law, as part of a series of sessions with expert speakers sharing information with MPs on the situation in Gaza and Israel's conduct.  

This session looked at UK arms sales to Israel and why these should be suspended to meet the UK’s legal responsibilities, not least in light of the International Court of Justice ruling, given the clear risk these may be used in serious violations of international law. 

More than 20 MPs and Lords attended to hear from GLAN’s legal team, the UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, and speakers from our Palestinian partners Al-Haq and Campaign Against Arms Trade.  Dearbhla Minogue, GLAN Senior Lawyer, told the room:  

“What would be enough? The answer appears to be that there is no red line – the criteria are absolutely meaningless when the people applying them are prepared to engage in abuses of language to maintain the flow of weapons. The government’s system is robust at one thing only – ensuring continued flow of weapons. 

Language can be stretched to justify absolutely anything, but in the end, there are objective facts which will be judged by history, just as they have been by international criminal courts from Nuremberg to the ad hoc tribunals and the ICC.” 

MPs were keen to learn more about our case and the situation in Gaza, asking for more information on our case which had not been shared openly with MPs from the government’s legal team.  We heard about multiple instances of war crimes, and of Gazans breaking their Ramdan fast with contaminated water, and of countless people starving.  

We will not stop this work until the UK government is held accountable for their role in the continued arming of Israel, but we can’t continue to do this work without your support.  

Update 9

Global Legal Action Network

Feb. 29, 2024

We've filed our appeal with Al-Haq.

In our last update, we told you that we would be appealing the High Court’s dismissal of our case with Palestinian partners Al-Haq challenging UK weapons exports to Israel. On 23rd February GLAN lawyers filed that appeal and asked that a hearing be expedited.  

There is international legal consensus that arms exports to Israel must stop. On the same day we filed our appeal, over 40 UN experts released a statement confirming that ‘any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately.’ 

The urgent need for an arms embargo on Israel is heightened by the International Court of Justice’s ruling on 26 January 2024 that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then. The Court made it clear that states should do everything to prevent genocide – the UK is choosing to do the opposite.  

Recently a decision has been taken by government that the RAF will no longer help Israel with technical difficulties in its F-35 jets until the war in Gaza ceases. This raises more questions than answers. Why is technical support being halted but not the supply of weaponry? This clearly shows that the government accepts that there is a risk that Israel’s military is breaching international law, which we argue should result in Britain stopping weapons exports to Israel.  

Pressure to halt these exports is mounting, and we are headed back to Court to ensure that government is held accountable. Will you help us spread the word and build support for these efforts? 

Update 8

Global Legal Action Network

Feb. 21, 2024

High Court dismisses our case. We need your help.

High Court judge hajust ordered that our case against weapons sales to Israel should not proceed to full hearing.   

The decision comes as Israel continues its brutal assault on trapped civilians in Rafah, plans for further forced displacement of Gaza’s population and restricts humanitarian aid resulting in mass starvation. 

Under the UK government’s Strategic Licensing Criteria, weapons may not be exported where there is a ‘clear risk’ they might be used in serious violations of international lawThe International Court of Justice has found the situation for civilians is so dire there is now a real and imminent risk of genocide occurring, declaring states should do everything they can to prevent this.  The UK has done the opposite - they are sending more weapons to the Israel military.  

Several other states have done the right thing.  Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands have already stopped weapons exports to Israel.  Yet the UK still refuse to accept that their weapons are also being used to harm innocent civilians unlawfully.  

The Court decided it is not even arguable that the government acted unlawfully in finding that there is no clear risk that British weapons are being used in violation of international humanitarian law.  Since 7th October 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli offensive, including 12,300 children, and tens of thousands injured and denied basic medical care; a further 8,000 people are missing under the rubble. We have submitted extensive evidence showing that British weapons could have contributed to these deaths. 

In addition to dismissing the case the court has ordered our Palestinian partners to pay £29,000 to cover the government’s legal costs.  This cannot hold us back.   

This is no time to back downWe will not stop pressuring the court to suspend all weapons sales to Israel.  We now have 7 DAYS to respond to the court and ask for an “oral permission hearing to review this outrageous decision.  If we succeed this case will get the hearing it deserves.  

With each step, our legal costs are mounting.  We need support to maintain momentum. Please continue to support our plight to protect the people of Palestine from further harm. 

Update 7

Global Legal Action Network

Jan. 19, 2024

We've put arms companies on notice.

Did you know that UK industry provides 15% by value of the US-made F35 stealth combat aircraft currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza? In the next phase of our challenge against the arms trade, we’ve written to the heads of arms companies responsible for building the weapons being used in Gaza.  We have put them on notice highlighting their criminal liability. This means that down the line, should there be criminal proceedings later, they cannot claim ignorance. These letters could have a really significant impact – they mean that before of a jury of their peers, these companies will not be able to hide behind sham licenses or carefully drafted corporate statements. 


We’ve also published previously unseen documents from the case. The documents reveal that despite overwhelming evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and though there were major concerns internally in the Foreign Office about Israel’s behaviour, government made the active decision to continue arms exports to Israel.  

Update 6

Global Legal Action Network

Jan. 17, 2024

Government's response to our case was shocking and unacceptable

The last time we updated you, we were awaiting the government’s full response to our case demonstrating a clear risk that British weapons are being used in the commission of atrocities against civilians in Gaza. We just received that response, and it’s unacceptable.   

What did the govt say? 

The UK govt confirmed they did four 'risk assessments’, including writing to Israel in November regarding a limited number of issues. Israel's response claims it is committed to complying with international law, however they declined to respond to specific incidents in the government's letter and gave no meaningful justification for restricting food, water & medical supplies to Gaza. The UK government has shockingly accepted this inadequate response despite evidence of extensive violations of international law. The government's response does not address the core issues of the case or provide evidence that Israel is, in fact, complying with international law. They also shockingly claim that this is not a case of ‘general public importance.’   

This is unacceptable.  

What's next? 

There is a clear risk that British weapons might be involved in the atrocities against civilians in Gaza. We are preparing for our High Court challenge to end UK arms exports to Israel now. The govt must comply with UK rules and international law.  

Update 5

Global Legal Action Network

Jan. 5, 2024

UK government provide initial response to our case

The UK government has provided an initial response to our case filed with the High Court on 6th December. Our case demonstrates a clear risk that British weapons are being used in the commission of atrocities against civilians in Gaza.

The government confirmed to us they ‘reviewed’ export licences to Israel on 18 December. However, despite evidence of blatant violations of international law and the acute risk of genocide, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, decided to continue permitting weapons exports to the Israeli military. This shocking decision comes as South Africa launched a case at the International Court of Justice alleging that Israel has committed genocide in Gaza.

We are now awaiting their full response, before the papers will be put before a judge to decide whether the case can go ahead on a fast-tracked timeline given the urgency of the situation.

In the meantime, we are preparing.

Thank you for your on-going support as we continue the fight to ensure the UK government complies the law, and ends its complicity in Israel's war crimes.

Update 4

Global Legal Action Network

Dec. 13, 2023

Parliament question government in debate on weapons exports to Israel

Holding the government accountable 

This week we briefed MPs attending yesterday's debate on UK arms export licences for sales to Israel, to help ensure they could properly scrutinise the government.

MP for Birmingham Hall Green, Tahir Ali, raised our case with Al-Haq, and reiterated the legal obligation that the government has to ensure weapons sales are stopped saying, "it is abundantly clear...that there is more than 'clear risk' Israel is using these weapons provided by the UK to commit atrocious crimes against Palestinian people... shame on us all...that our government has been complicit"

Government lack of action exposed

MPs were particularly scathing of the government's lack of compliance with international law; John McDonald MP said "we become complicit in those war crimes and that's the reality of where we are at the moment".

There were strong calls for government transparency on what exactly is being sent to Israel, and what, if any, evidence does the government have to demonstrate that Israel is complying with international law. 

Continued refusal to comply with international law

The government continued to claim that the exports licensing process is 'one of the most rigorous in the world' but still will not confirm it has made the 'proper assessment' on whether British made weapons have been used in attacks on innocent men, women and children in Gaza.

If the government doesn't conduct assessments due to the changing situation and comply with its own licensing laws, how rigorous they are on paper is irrelevant.

What's next?

As we prepare for court your support is crucial. We will also continue to engage with MPs to hold the government accountable; your help makes all the difference.

Watch the debate and share our Twitter / X thread on the debate. Please continue supporting and sharing our crowdfund far and wide, we could not do this work without you - our strength lies in your solidarity!

Update 3

Global Legal Action Network

Dec. 7, 2023

Our case has been elevated to the High Court

UK Secretary of State, responsible for approving arms licenses, has ignored our repeated demands to stop all arms sales to Israel.  We have been forced to go directly to the High Court, calling on them to intervene and ensure all arms sales to Israel are suspended. 

The claim we filed yesterday contains evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, starvation, forced displacement, and the serious risk of genocide.  Our joint filing with Palestinian partners, Al-Haq asks the court to review the legality of the governments’ export licenses.  We have no doubt these weapons have been sold with a clear risk of intent to cause harm – a violation of international humanitarian law.  

Given the urgency of the situation in Gaza, we have asked the court to respond in 6 weeks and are preparing for a hearing in the coming months. 

Israel’s continued onslaught on Gaza has killed more than 16,000 people so far, most of whom are civilians.  This should have been enough for the government to stop selling arms, but it was not.   

Stand with us as we prepare to stop this in court.  Please continue to support and share our crowdfund. 

Update 2

Global Legal Action Network

Nov. 9, 2023

Government on final warning to suspend weapons sales to Israel

Photo source: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street. Licensed under the Open Government Licence.

The UK’s Department for Business and Trade still hasn’t complied with our request to halt weapons exports to Israel. They’ve commented publicly that they have no plans to halt those arms licences.

More than 10,000 Gazans have been killed, almost half of those are children. Yet, the UK still thinks it is acceptable to continue selling arms and fuelling the relentless assault on civilians.

We have just submitted a final warning, demanding that weapons sales are immediately halted. This letter gives the British government one last chance to assess their own contributions to the war crimes taking place and suspend arms licenses.

If they continue to ignore our request, we will be elevating our complaint to the High Court who have the power to officially declare the weapon sales unlawful.

Continue supporting us and help bring the arms trade to a halt.

There is no time to lose.

Thank you,

The GLAN team

Update 1

Global Legal Action Network

Oct. 24, 2023

Experts now say there is risk of genocide in Gaza

Experts now say there is risk of genocide in Gaza - in addition to the war crimes and crimes against humanity already committed.

Yet the UK and other countries continue to export weapons to the Israeli military.

GLAN and Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq are submitting fresh information to the UK’s Department for Business and Trade to halt weapons exports to Israel. UK rules require that weapons may not be exported where there is a clear risk they might be used in violations of international law, as we are seeing right now in Gaza and the West Bank.

Crucially, an 18th October briefing by Center for Constitutional Rights found there is a credible case, based on significant evidence, that Israel is attempting to commit, if not actively committing, genocide against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

On 19th October UN experts released an urgent statement: “We are sounding the alarm: There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity…there is also a risk of genocide"

A growing global community are calling for countries to uphold international law and prevent further atrocities against civilians in Gaza.

GLAN and our Palestinian partners need your help to continue our legal fight; please keep sharing this crowdfund, and our case page, to help ensure that UK law and basic humanitarian principles are upheld. 

Your support is invaluable. Thank you.

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