Palestinian NGO's legal case over UK arms to Israel to be heard in October

FILE PHOTO: PMQs at the House of Commons in London

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - A Palestinian rights group's legal challenge to try to stop British arms exports to Israel over allegations of breaches of international law in the war in Gaza will be heard in October at London's High Court, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

West Bank-based Al-Haq, which documents alleged rights violations by Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, is taking legal action against Britain over export licences for weapons and military equipment.

Al-Haq – which is involved in similar cases in Canada and Denmark – says there is a clear risk that arms being exported from Britain will be used in violation of international humanitarian law, which makes their continued export unlawful.

Britain is defending Al-Haq's case and its lawyers said in court filings for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday that the government's processes for evaluating potential violations are "robust and detailed".

The Department for Business and Trade's lawyer James Eadie said the process had been "honed and refined" following separate cases brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade over arms exports to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government has come under heavy pressure to revoke arms export licenses, as Israel's air and ground campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in Israel, has killed tens of thousands.

Al-Haq's lawyer Victoria Wakefield urged the High Court to hear its case as soon as possible given the "truly desperate situation on the ground in Gaza".

However, the group also accepted that a hearing could not take place before October after Britain said it needed more time to examine potentially sensitive information.

Foreign Minister David Cameron said earlier this month that Britain would not halt arms sales, having reviewed the latest legal advice on the matter.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Bernadette Baum)