UK rights groups urge government to suspend trade with Israel over Gaza

UK rights groups urge government to suspend trade with Israel over Gaza
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and ActionAid UK are pressuring the UK to consider suspending its trade agreements with Israel.
2 min read
Activists from Amnesty International hold placards with statements made by civilians living in Rafah, in Gaza, during a silent vigil outside the gates of Downing Steet in central London, on February 14 [Getty]

Eight rights groups have called on the British government to reconsider its trade agreements with Israel, saying the ties may breach humanitarian law, The Guardian reported on Wednesday. 

For the first time, organisations such as Amnesty International UK, ActionAid UK and Global Justice Now have raised concerns over British-Israeli trade relations

The Trade Justice Movement, War on Want, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and Action for Humanity are also involved. 

Last month, Britain and Israel strengthened their trade partnership in a fourth set of talks on the latest free trade agreement that boasted a lifting of barriers for innovation and digital trade.  

The group of NGOs has since contested the UK’s position, following the International Court of Justice (ICJ) interim rulings that deemed Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

The groups say that the signatories of the genocide convention have an obligation to help enforce rulings made against the accused states — something the ICJ has emphasised in previous rulings on genocide.

In a statement quoted by The Guardian, the NGOs called for the suspension of "trade privileges, agreements and negotiations with Israel, particularly as these agreements are premised on upholding human rights and international law, and they involve trade, investment and cooperation with sectors of the Israeli economy involved in human rights and international humanitarian law violations". 

The statement added: "These are important points of leverage that the UK could and should utilise to try to bring an end to the ongoing serious violations of international law." 

The rights groups have questioned whether any assessments have been made by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) since the ICJ’s provisional findings and the Israeli offensive since 7 October. 

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive told The New Arab: "Given widespread evidence of Israel’s breaches of international humanitarian law and a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza, the UK should urgently review all trade relations with Israel - including immediately suspending arms transfers. 

"In any future UK-Israel trade agreement, the UK must ensure the removal of all economic incentives for Israel’s illegal settlements, its military occupation of Palestinian land and its wider apparatus of apartheid against the Palestinian people."   

The United Kingdom has maintained its stance in support of Israel in its war on the besieged territory, claiming that it has a right to defend itself and has not committed acts of genocide.