Prominent lawyers call on UK government to demand Gaza ceasefire
More than 250 senior lawyers, legal academics and former judges have called on the UK government to press for a ceasefire in Gaza and end arms exports to Israel.
The open letter, signed by legal figures from across the UK including prominent Scottish solicitor Aamer Anwar, says the government must “act urgently to fulfil its international legal obligations in relation to the ever-escalating conflict in the Middle East”.
It highlights the UK government’s obligation under the 1951 Genocide Convention “to act to prevent genocide where there is a risk of genocide happening”.
While condemning Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians as war crimes, the letter warns: “The commission by one party to a conflict – including an armed group – of serious violations of international humanitarian law does not, however, justify their commission by another party.”
The signatories call on the government to “exert its influence to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank, and to ensure the urgent and adequate provision of food, fuel, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and the unconditional restoration of water and electricity; the protection of medical facilities; and the facilitation of safe passage for the critically ill and those requiring treatment abroad”.
They also call on the government to “use its best endeavours to secure the urgent return of the hostages” held by Hamas.
The letter goes on to call for an immediate halt to the export of weapons from the UK to Israel, “given the clear risk that they might be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law”.
It concludes by urging the UK government to work with the international community “towards a just, lasting and sustainable peaceful settlement for all those in the region, including those in the now devastated Gaza Strip”.
The UK government does not support calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak told MPs on Wednesday: “We have to remember that Israel has suffered a shockingly brutal terrorist attack. Hamas are responsible for this conflict, and Israel has the right to protect itself in line with international law, as the UN charter makes clear.
“We will continue to urge the Israelis to follow international law, but we also have to remember that Hamas cruelly embed themselves in civilian populations.”