THE UK Government must stop the export of weapons or weapon parts to Israel “immediately” or its officials could face individual legal prosecution, United Nations (UN) experts have said.

A host of special rapporteurs, working groups, and independent experts with the UN have warned that, under international law, all states must cease sending arms to Israel as they may be used in war crimes.

In a joint statement, the experts said states such as the UK must “refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition – or parts for them – if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law.

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting state does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law – or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way – as long as there is a clear risk.”

They added: “State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide.

“All states under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and the International Criminal Court, may be able to investigate and prosecute such crimes.”

The UN experts said that Israel has “repeatedly failed to comply with international law”, pointing to the fact that more than 29,313 Palestinians have been killed and 69,333 injured in Gaza since the Hamas attack on October 7, with the majority being women and children.

Earlier this month, the Netherlands stopped exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel after its appeals court ruled there was a “clear risk” that the parts would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law, as “there are many indications that Israel has violated the humanitarian law of war in a not insignificant number of cases”.

Speaking on Friday, the UN expert group singled out the UK, US, Germany, Canada, and Australia as states which are exporting arms to Israel.

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The UK Government has so far ignored calls to block exports of arms to Israel. It is estimated that the UK has licenced arms worth over £442 million to Israel between May 2015 and August 2022, according to a data analysis by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Numerous MPs have raised concerns about these arms exports in recent months, but UK ministers have responded by referencing the UK’s strategic export licencing system. This is where applications for licences to export weapons and other related items are assessed against criteria including obligations under international law and the potential for the goods to be used in the violation of human rights.

The UN experts further pointed to the International Court of Justice ruling that the argument a genocide is taking place in Gaza is “plausible”.

They said: “The 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 experts said.

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The Genocide Convention of 1948 requires states to employ all means reasonably available to them to prevent genocide in another state as far as possible. The UN expert group said: “This necessitates halting arms exports in the present circumstances.”

“International law does not enforce itself,” they added. “All States must not be complicit in international crimes through arms transfers. They must do their part to urgently end the unrelenting humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

The UN expert group also said that the export of any arms to Hamas is “also prohibited under international law given their grave violations of international humanitarian law on 7 October 2023, including hostage-taking and subsequent indiscriminate rocket fire”.

The extensive list of experts to have put their names or endorsements to the statement includes chair-rapporteur of the UN Aua Baldé, occupied Palestine territories special rapporteur Francesca Albanese, and international legal expert Robert McCorquodale. You can find the full list on the UN website.

The UK Government has been asked for comment.