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21 June 2024

High Court sets date for hearing of Israel weapons judicial review and grants permission for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam to intervene

5 mins

The High Court has set a date for the hearing of Al-Haq’s challenge to the Government’s refusal to stop granting licences to export weapons to Israel. It will take place from 8 to 10 October 2024.

The Court also granted permission to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam to intervene, despite the Government’s efforts to prevent them from doing so. Campaign Against the Arms Trade have also indicated their intention to intervene.

Al-Haq’s case

Al-Haq’s case is that it is unlawful for the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, to grant licences to export weapons to Israel because it is a breach of the Government’s own policy, the Export Licensing Criteria, which requires that licences won’t be granted if there a clear risk that weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious breaches of international humanitarian law; or if it is inconsistent with the Arms Trade Treaty.

UK’s position

The Secretary of State concedes that it is possible that Israel has violated its obligations under international humanitarian law. Nevertheless she has made three formal decisions to continue granting licences to sell weapons to Israel since 7 October 2023; on 18 December 2023, on 8 April 2024 and around 31 May 2024.

In that time she has approved more than 100 export licences to Israel, including 42 military licences, five of which were open licences, which allow unlimited deliveries of specified items and are usually valid for five years. A further 182 licences, including 27 open licences, are in progress.[1]

The bombing and the death toll

It has been reported[2] that since 7 October 2023 Israel has dropped more than an estimated 70,000 tons of bombs on Gaza, which exceeds the bombs dropped on Dresden, Hamburg and London during World War II, combined.

As a result, more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and about 85,000 others injured, according to data provided by the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings

In the meantime the ICJ has issued three highly relevant rulings in South Africa v Israel, finding that there was a risk of irreparable harm to the Palestinian right to be protected from genocide and ordering Israel to (1) prevent its military from committing acts which might be considered genocidal, (2) enable the unhindered flow of aid into Gaza, and (3) immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah insofar as it may endanger the rights of Palestinians to be protected from genocide.

International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants

On 20 May 2024 the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan applied for arrest warrants for the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant,[3] for war crimes and crimes against humanity including extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, the denial of humanitarian relief supplies and deliberately targeting civilians. Netanyahu responded to the announcement by calling Mr Khan an anti-semite.

UN Commission of Inquiry

On 12 June 2024 the UN Commission of Inquiry published the UN’s first in-depth investigation since 7 October 2024. Its report finds that Israel has committed crimes against humanity, including forced starvation, murder or willful killing, collective punishment and intentional attacks on civilians, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and inhuman and cruel treatment.

Other countries’ responses

The UN Security Council, the ICRC, the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have all expressed condemnation of Israel’s conduct. Belgium, Canada, Italy, Spain and the US have paused or ceased granting export licences to Israel. The Dutch appeal court ordered on 12 February 2024 that the Dutch Government halt sales of fighter jet parts. On 31 May 2024 France banned Israeli companies from participating in its annual Eurosatory arms and defence industry exhibition.

Israel’s public statements

Netanyahu has indicated publicly that Israel does not intend to comply with the ICJ or ICC rulings.

In addition, numerous senior Israeli ministers, including the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, have made comments dehumanising the Palestinian people, conflating Palestinian civilians with Hamas military wing, denying that there is such a thing as an uninvolved citizen and calling for the starvation, siege, expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.

What next

The Government was due to serve its Detailed Grounds of Defence last week but did not do so. There will shortly be a closed material procedure in which the Government discloses sensitive information which cannot be heard in open court. There will be a further open hearing in the week of 22 July, and the final hearing will be from 8 to 10 October 2024.

Alice Hardy, partner in the public law team, said: “Al-Haq considers it to be unfathomable that the Government maintains its position and continues to grant licences to sell weapons to Israel despite the death toll in Gaza and the vast body of evidence indicating war crimes, breaches of international humanitarian law, crimes against humanity and genocide. Al-Haq hopes that if the UN Commission of Inquiry report does not persuade the Secretary of State to reconsider, these proceedings will do so.

Al-Haq is represented by the Dearbhla Minogue and Charlotte Andrews-Briscoe of Global Legal Action Network and supervised by Alice Hardy at Bindmans. They have instructed a team of barristers comprising: Phillippa Kaufman KC, Blinne Ni Grahlaigh KC, Luke Tattersall, Jagoda Klimovicz, Rayan Fakhoury, Zac Sammour and Aislinn Kelly-Lyth.

The legal action is funded by donations, including a crowdfunder.


[2] 200 days of military attack on Gaza: A horrific death toll amid intl. failure to stop Israel’s genocide of Palestinians (

[3] The ICC also applied for arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders at the same time.

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