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UK High Court of Justice: Transparency Unnecessary in Arms-Related Licensing Agreements with Israel

Tuesday, 12 October 2010 13:17
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On 19 November 2007, the UK High Court of Justice denied the claim of Saleh Hasan, filed by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) in cooperation with Al-Haq, requesting the UK government to clarify its position on its arms-related licensing agreements with Israel. In particular the claim sought to require the UK government to reveal how it satisfies its own criteria that material sold under these agreements is not used in the commission of human rights abuses.

PIL sought a declaration from the High Court that in future dealings with Israel, the UK Government must be transparent about how it has satisfied itself that there is no risk of a breach of the UK Export Control Act of 2002, which incorporates the EU “consolidated criteria” governing the export of military equipment. This Act prohibits the UK government from selling arms related products where there is a risk that they will be used for repressive purposes.

Mr. Justice Collins found that while the UK government could provide the information requested, it would involve a “considerable amount of work” and that the UK Parliament, through the Quadripartite Committee already exercised a sufficient level of oversight over arms-export licensing, making the claim unnecessary. The Court therefore dismissed the claim.

Following the decision Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers commented:

“This result is disappointing. The judge draws comfort from the scrutiny of arms export licensing by the Quadripartite Committee and concludes there is no need for the courts to do so. However, that Committee had been calling for the very same information on transparency that my client has asked for. Further, the amount of extra work involved in providing this information is miniscule by comparison with the importance of the issues at stake. There is a very important test case principle of transparency in decision making by public bodies which we intend to pursue to the Court of Appeal.”

Al-Haq fully endorses Mr. Shiner’s comments and will continue to work with Public Interest Lawyers in further proceedings.