Former Supreme Court judges join over 600 lawyers in urging the UK government to suspend weapons sales to Israel

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By Thomas Connelly on

Open letter

Four former Supreme Court justices are among the 600 lawyers and legal academics who have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, urging the UK to halt the export of weapons to Israel.

The 17-page letter sent to Rishi Sunak this week highlights “significant developments” concerning the ongoing situation in Gaza, and goes on to remind the government of its obligations under international law.

These developments include the January 26 provisional order of the International Court of Justice, which the signatories say supports their view that there is “a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza”. It also notes the the UN and international aid agencies’ warnings of “imminent famine”.

Notable signatories to the letter include former Supreme Court president Baroness Hale, along with Lords Wilson, Sumption, Carnwath, and several former Court of Appeal judges, nearly 70 KCs, and over 240 solicitors. A host of legal academics from various law schools across the country have also endorsed the letter.

It goes on to say that the UK government is obligated under international law to undertake five actions, including “suspend[ing] the provision of weapons” to Israel and “impos[ing] sanctions upon individuals and entities who have made statements inciting genocide against Palestinians”.

It further urges Sunak to effectively work towards securing a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and to take all available measures to ensure the safe delivery of aid

The signatories also call for the 2030 Road Map for UK-Israel bilateral relations to be suspended and to “initiate a review into the suspension of the UK’s bilateral trade agreement with Israel and consider the imposition of sanctions”.

There have been several open letters penned by lawyers in relation to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

A group of Jewish lawyers, including former Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger, called on Israel to be guided by international law in its response to the Hamas terror attacks. The group recognised that Israel has a right to self-defense, but it also stated that “just as international law provides the means for categorising and criminalising the barbaric acts of Hamas, so too does it provide a framework for governing how Israel must respond”.

Elsewhere, in another open letter back in November 2023, a group some 800 lawyers urged the government to urgently advocate for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

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