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Activists occupy gov department over arms export licences

Activists occupy gov department over arms export licences

Activists bring the fight against the arms trade, enabling genocide, to the people who enable it the most, the Department of Business and Trade.

This morning, activists with London for a Free Palestine occupied the lobby of the Department of Business and Trade, calling on the UK government to stop arming Israel. This action was organised under the banner of the Free Palestine Coalition’s month of action. Cynthia Allett from London for a Free Palestine said:

“This department arms genocide. Polling shows the British public wants a ceasefire, but instead of using its influence to bring an end to the violence, the British government is aiding and abetting the massacre of Palestinians… As Israel prepares a ground invasion in Rafah, we won’t allow the weapons used to slaughter more Palestinian people to be supplied in our names and funded by our taxes.”

The action took place in the Old Admiralty Building. The activists inside chanted, ‘British government, you can’t hide; we charge you with genocide’. Outside, other activists held a 25 metre banner that read ‘Stop Arming Israel’.

The UK is one of the largest exporters of arms in the world. Any company that wants to export military or dual-use goods to other countries must apply for a license from the government. The Export Control Joint Unit, which sits within the Department for Business and Trade, handles these applications.

According to the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq and the UK-based Global Legal Action Network, ‘since 2015 there have been £472m in limited value ‘standard’ licence grants and 58 unlimited value ‘open’ licences to Israel.’ Current UK arms export criteria highlight that ‘if there is a ‘clear risk” a weapon might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law, then an arms export should not be licensed.’

The British government’s refusal to halt arms exports to Israel makes it complicit in the continuing genocide in Gaza, in contravention of international law and its own weapons export licensing protocols. Activists called on the Department of Business and Trade and, by extension, the British government to abide by British and international law by ending arms sales to Israel and calling for a permanent and immediate ceasefire.

Images: Guy Smallman

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