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Sunday, 19 September. 2021
 
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A Palestinian man today launched a High Court challenge to the legality of the Government’s grant of export licences for arms sales to Israel.

Saleh Hasan, who claims Israel uses military equipment bought in Britain to repress Palestinians in violation of their human rights, has travelled to London for the case before Mr Justice Collins, expected to last two days.

His counsel, Michael Fordham, QC, told the judge that the issue raised was one of significant and “wide public interest”.

The question for the court was whether it was lawful for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry “to publish quarterly determinations for export licences for military equipment to Israel without providing adequate reasons to explain how the licence applications were assessed as satisfying relevant decision-making criteria on human rights”.

Mr Fordham said the “highest standards of transparency” were required “in the interests of public accountability and public confidence”.

The judicial review proceedings, which are being contested by the Secretary of State, are backed by Al-Haq, a Palestinian rights organisation.

Mr Fordham emphasised he was not seeking “blanket disclosure of data or licensing information”, adding: “We do not require everything, but we do require intelligible reasons in a context as anxious as this one.”

He told the judge: “It can be done. The only question is whether Your Lordship says it should be done.”

Decisions on export licences were required to be made by reference to published criteria, which included “important human rights standards to be applied to the situation in the receiving state”.

The criteria provided a clear duty that “the Government will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression”.

Mr Hasan is being funded by the Legal Services Commission.

Mr Fordham said Mr Hasan, 60: “As a Palestinian living in the Occupied Territories, whose land was expropriated by Israeli soldiers, he has suffered at the very hands of the relevant regime.

“The public interest in ensuring the UK is not complicit in such conduct in the future could not be clearer.”

Mr Justice Collins has indicated that he will not give a ruling at the completion of the hearing, but will later hand down a “fully reasoned judgment”.

 
 
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