German lawyers urge government to cease arms to Israel

German lawyers urge government to cease arms to Israel
A team of rights lawyers have filed legal action against German arms exports to Israel, believing Israeli forces are using them to commit genocide.
3 min read
06 April, 2024
Protest in Germany against Israeli attacks on Palestinians [GETTY]

A team of lawyers has initiated an urgent legal action against the German government to halt arms sales to Israel on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza.

The case, brought by organisations including the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), Law for Palestine and The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD), aims to halt arms sales, based on the belief that Israeli forces are using them to commit genocide in Gaza.

"Germany has an international obligation to fulfil, following the International Court of Justice's findings and the forensic report, to stop its arms export to Israel now more than ever. A demand Palestinians have been calling for in the past six months of the genocide," PIPD said.

In a statement, the lawyers said the arms deliveries and support Germany has provided to Israel violated the country's obligations under the War Weapons Control Act.

They cited a January order from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, which has been subjected to siege and invasion since 7 October. Israel denies genocide allegations.

"Just the assumption that the weapons are used to commit acts that violate international law is sufficient to revoke arms exports under the Act," lawyer Ahmed Abed told a press conference on Friday in Berlin.

He said he expected a ruling within two to three weeks.

'Political Pressure'

German government spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann said she could not comment on the Berlin court case and whether Germany would suspend arms exports to Israel pending a ruling.


"The federal government generally examines each arms export individually and takes several factors into account, including human rights and humanitarian law," she said when reporters asked about the matter.

International law experts said the litigation was unlikely to force a halt to such arms exports under administrative law but could push Berlin to review its stance if evidence were provided.

"It could build up political pressure on the German government ... to be more transparent and declare which arms it is planning to transfer or which arms it actually has transferred to Israel," said Max Mutschler, a senior researcher at the Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies.

Rights groups would have a better chance of success if they took the case to the ICJ in The Hague, said lawyer Holger Rothbauer, who successfully sued arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch over arms deliveries to Mexico in 2010.

"It seems to me that a (German) law to cover the case is missing", Rothbauer told Reuters, adding that only a party directly affected by an administrative decision could sue to stop it. The rights lawyers said they were acting on behalf of Gazans.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed and 75,750 injured in Israel's military offensive on Gaza since 7 October, the Gaza health ministry said in an update on Friday.

With Gaza in ruins and most of its 2.3 million population forced from their homes and relying on aid for survival, Israel faces rising calls from allies to halt the war and allow unfettered aid into the enclave. Critics argue that governments should threaten to withhold military aid if it does not do so.

Germany has been one of Israel's staunchest allies alongside the United States before and after Israel launched its war on Gaza.

Last year, Germany approved arms exports to Israel worth 326.5 million euros ($353.70 million), including military equipment and war weapons, a 10-fold increase compared with 2022, according to Economy Ministry data.

Reuters contributed to this report