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UN rights experts warn against arms exports to Israel

statement released Feb. 23 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of United Nations rights experts warns countries against the transfer of war material to Israel, as such transfers could constitute violations international humanitarian law if weapons are used contrary to the Geneva Conventions. The statement asserts that "states must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition—or parts for them—if it is expected, given the facts and past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law."

The statement charges that Israel has repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions and international law, concluding that there is a "clear risk" that Israel may use any arms imported to violate the convention. The statement points out the need for a potential arms embargo, and invokes the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) rulings in January and February, which found that there is a "plausible risk of genocide" in Gaza.

Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 sets out a negative and positive obligation on states to "neither encourage, nor aid or assist in violations of the Conventions by Parties to a conflict… [T]hey must do everything reasonably in their power to prevent and bring such violations to an end."

The statement also references European Union treaties and law that may prohibit arms export to Israel, such as the Arms Trade TreatyEU arms export control law states: "Member States are determined to prevent the export of military technology and equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression or contribute to regional instability."

The death toll in Gaza since the start of Israel's offensive currently stands at an estimated 29,000 people, with growing concern about a potential ground invasion of Rafah, where two-thirds of the Strip's population is currently taking refuge.

From Jurist, Feb. 24. Used with permission.