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Palestinian Human Rights Organizations and ECCHR Sue to Stop German Weapons Exports to Israel

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12 April 2024

Date: 12 April 2024

Today, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), supported by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza and the human rights organization Al Haq in Ramallah, filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend export licenses issued by the German government for arms shipments to Israel.

The suit is on behalf of five Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip whose family members have been killed during Israeli rocket attacks.

“I have lost most of my relatives. I have also lost my home, and I am without shelter. Inhabited areas and public facilities are being bombed indiscriminately and intensively everywhere. There is no safe place in Gaza, and I feel that my life is in constant danger because of the Israeli military operations“, declared one of our claimants in an affidavit.

“International law and human rights are fundamental,” says ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck. “A basic prerequisite for a rules-based and human rights-oriented German foreign policy is respect for the law in its own decision-making. Germany cannot remain true to its values if it exports weapons to a war where serious violations of international humanitarian law are apparent.”

In our lawsuit, we call on the court, as part of provisional measures, to suspend export licenses issued by the German government for arms shipments to Israel. The lawsuit alleges that there are grounds to believe that Germany is not fulfilling and is violating its obligations under international law in accordance with the German Weapons of War Control Law (Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz). In particular, the claimants allege violations under the EU Common Position on Arms Exports Control, the Arms Trade Treaty, the Genocide Convention, the Geneva Conventions and human rights law by issuing export licenses for weapons of war requested by Israel. In these rights violations, weapons of war, in the same category for which Germany is granting licenses, are being used to kill and displace civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure in Gaza, as well as control and limit the transfer and distribution of humanitarian aid.

In 2023, Germany issued a license for the export to Israel of 3,000 anti-tank weapons; a request regarding 10,000 rounds of 120mm precision ammunition for Israeli tanks is still pending. A large number of other components, such as engines for tanks, have been licensed and exported as well, making Germany the second biggest arms provider to Israel after the U.S.

Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza:

"Germany must finally call on Israel to end the aggression in Gaza. Israel must stop attacking civilians. Stopping the arms shipments would send an important political signal to help make this happen. International law, international humanitarian law and human rights law are there to protect civilian populations in times of war. Instead, we are witnessing dogs eating the bodies of our children in the ruins of Gaza. No one living in Gaza knows whether they will still be alive in an hour’s time. Germany should stop the shipment of every last ammunition cartridge that is used to kill us in Gaza and demand an immediate ceasefire."

Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza:

"In the wake of Israel's genocidal military campaign against Gaza, continuing arms trade with Israel not only stands as a moral affront to, but also a flagrant violation of, international law. The recent UN Human Rights Council resolution, urging all states to cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel, underscores the urgency of this matter. Germany’s dissenting vote against the resolution highlights a concerning disregard for its international obligations. In pursuing this case, we call upon Germany to uphold its legal responsibilities or face the specter of complicity in the grave violations unfolding in Gaza."

Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al Haq in Ramallah:

“We remind Germany of its erga omnes obligations to protect the Palestinian people. Germany’s arming of Israel, stands in flagrant disregard of the International Court of Justice’s finding of a plausible case of genocide. Acting with knowledge of Israel’s acts, Germany has continued to arm Israel with weapons to destroy the Palestinian people - killing innocent newborn babies, children, women, men, the elderly, journalists, medical doctors and more, – in the commission of the most heinous international crimes witnessed this 21st century. Germany's acts are not only destroying the Palestinian people, they are destroying the rules based international order wherein the most basic precepts of humanity are enshrined.”

For more information on the case, please visit ECCHR's website