UN Experts to Businesses: Stop Arms Sales to Israel

Photo: UN Human Rights Office
Photo: UN Human Rights Office

UN Experts to Businesses: Stop Arms Sales to Israel

Today, children in Gaza are the largest group of amputee children in the world due to grave injuries sustained in the war.

The transfer of weapons and ammunition to Israel may constitute serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws and risk State complicity in international crimes, possibly including genocide, UN experts said on June 20, reiterating their demand to stop transfers immediately.

In line with recent calls from the Human Rights Council and the independent UN experts to States to cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel, arms manufacturers supplying Israel – including BAE Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh, Rheinmetall AG, Rolls-Royce Power Systems, RTX, and ThyssenKrupp – should also end transfers, even if they are executed under existing export licenses.

“These companies, by sending weapons, parts, components, and ammunition to Israeli forces, risk being complicit in serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws,” the experts said. 

This risk is heightened by the recent decision from the International Court of Justice ordering Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah, having recognised genocide as a plausible risk, as well as the request filed by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders on allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

“In this context, continuing arms transfers to Israel may be seen as knowingly providing assistance for operations that contravene international human rights and international humanitarian laws and may result in profit from such assistance,” the experts added in their statement

An end to transfers must include indirect transfers through intermediary countries that could ultimately be used by Israeli forces, particularly in the ongoing attacks on Gaza. 

The UN experts said that arms companies must systematically and periodically conduct enhanced human rights due diligence to ensure that their products are not used in ways that violate international human rights and international humanitarian laws.

Financial institutions investing in these arms companies are also called to account. Investors such as Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung, Amundi Asset Management, Bank of America, BlackRock, Capital Group, Causeway Capital Management, Citigroup, Fidelity Management & Research, INVESCO Ltd, JP Morgan Chase, Harris Associates, Morgan Stanley, Norges Bank Investment Management, Newport Group, Raven’swing Asset Management, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, State Street Corporation, Union Investment Privatfonds, The Vanguard Group, Wellington and Wells Fargo & Company, are urged to take action.

Failure to prevent or mitigate their business relationships with these arms manufacturers transferring arms to Israel could move from being directly linked to human rights abuses to contributing to them, with repercussions for complicity in potential atrocity crimes, the experts said.

“Arms initiate, sustain, exacerbate, and prolong armed conflicts, as well as other forms of oppression, hence the availability of arms is an essential precondition for the commission of war crimes and violations of human rights, including by private armament companies,” said the experts.

They added that the ongoing Israeli military assault is characterized by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the civilian population and infrastructure, including through extensive use of explosive and incendiary weapons in densely populated areas, as well as in the destruction and damage of essential and life-sustaining essential civilian infrastructure, including housing and shelters, health, education, water and sanitation facilities. 

These attacks have resulted in more than 37,000 deaths in Gaza and 84,000 injured. Of these deaths and injuries, an estimated 70 percent are women and children. Today, children in Gaza are the largest group of amputee children in the world due to grave injuries sustained in the war. These operations have also resulted in severe environmental and climate damages.

“The imperative for an arms embargo on Israel and for investors to take decisive action is more urgent than ever, particularly in light of states’ obligations and companies’ responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions, the Genocide Convention, the international human rights treaties, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” the UN experts said.

The experts paid tribute to the sustained work of journalists who have been documenting and reporting on the devastating impact of these weapons systems on civilians in Gaza, and human rights defenders and lawyers, among other stakeholders, who are dedicated to holding States and companies accountable for the transfer of weapons to Israel.

They have also engaged with States, as well as the involved businesses and investors on these issues.

Courtesy: UN Human Rights Office

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