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Europe and Palestine human rights groups sue Germany over arms exports to Israel

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), along with Palestinian human rights organizations Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan Center and Al-Haq, filed a lawsuit on Friday at the Administrative Court of Berlin to block German arms exports to Israel amid its war in Gaza.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of five Palestinians who had family members killed during Israeli rocket attacks in Gaza, calls on the court to order the suspension of exports of weapons of war licenses issued by the German government to Israel. In the lawsuit, the organizations argue that by sending weapons to Israel, the European country violates its obligations under international law, as well as the EU Common Position on Arms Exports Control, the Arms Trade Treaty, the Genocide Convention, the Geneva Conventions and human rights law, as the arms are being used to “to kill and displace civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure in Gaza, as well as control and limit the transfer and distribution of humanitarian aid.”

Arms exports in Germany are governed by the German Weapons of War Control Law (Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz), which controls the production, issue, sale, trade, acquisition and transportation of goods, resources and organisms intended for war. Section 6 (3.2) of the Act provides that the approval of a permit must be refused if there is ground to believe that it would violate the Federal Republic of Germany’s obligations under international law or jeopardize the fulfillment of those obligations.

ECCHR added that Germany is the second biggest arm exporter to Israel after the US and that Germany issued a license for arms export of 3,000 anti-tank weapons in 2023. Germany has also approved licenses for other objects and exported them, while a request concerning 10,000 rounds of 120mm precision ammunition for Israeli tanks is being considered.

ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck stated that:

International law and human rights are fundamental. A basic prerequisite for a rules-based and human rights-oriented German foreign policy is respect for the law in its own decision-making. Germany cannot remain true to its values if it exports weapons to a war where serious violations of international humanitarian law are apparent.

Other proceedings were initiated against Germany by Nicaragua at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March regarding its arms sales to Israel, in which Nicaragua presented claims that Germany has been complicit in the genocide of Palestinians, in breach of the Geneva Conventions, and applied for provisional measures. Germany then requested during the public hearings held this week that the court reject the indication of provisional measures and dismiss the case. It argued during its submission that the German framework governing exports of military equipment is “a robust framework” and that “[a]ll German exports of military technology and equipment to Israel are subject to strict licensing requirements.”

Al-Mezan announced on X (formerly Twitter) that German authorities refused entry to Palestinian Surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta on the same day the lawsuit was deposited after he was invited to speak at a conference in Berlin on his work during the war in Gaza. Abu Sitta stated in light of the incident, “Silencing a witness to genocide before the ICJ adds to Germany’s complicity in the ongoing massacre.”

In addition to the lawsuit against Germany, other countries have been subjected to similar criticism. Oxfam warned the UK government’s refusal to suspend arms sales to Israel may put the country at risk of being complicit in war crimes. The organization emphasized that, while the UK suspended some arms export licenses to Israel in past violence escalations in Gaza, it has yet to show a real commitment to permanently suspend all arms exports. It has urged the UK to suspend its arms exports to Israel and “use every diplomatic and economic lever at its disposal to help secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire.”

Moreover, 40 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives urged President Joe Biden to cease arms transfers to Israel in a signed letter after an Israeli airstrike killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza.

Article: Europe and Palestine human rights groups sue Germany over arms exports to Israel

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