‘Severe Violations’ – UN Experts Call for Immediate Cessation of Arms Transfers to Israel

The overwhelming majority of Israel’s weapons imports originate from two countries. (Photo: Israeli Air Forces, via Wikimedia Commons)

The transfer of weapons and ammunition to Israel could represent severe violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and potentially indicate state complicity in international crimes, including genocide, according to UN experts on Thursday.

In a statement issued in Geneva, a group of 30 experts, including several UN Special Rapporteurs, reiterated their demand for an immediate cessation of weapons and ammunition transfers to Israel.

“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,” the experts said.

The experts specifically mentioned companies such as BAE Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh, Rheinmetall AG, Rolls-Royce Power Systems, RTX, and ThyssenKrupp. 

They urged these firms to stop supplying weapons and ammunition to Israel, even 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 statement read.

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The risk is heightened by the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision ordering Israel to halt its military operations in Rafah, recognizing genocide as a plausible risk. 

Additionally, they noted that the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has also sought arrest warrants for Israeli leaders accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“In this context, continuing arms transfers to Israel may be seen as knowingly assisting with operations that contravene international human rights and international humanitarian laws and may result in profit from such assistance,” the experts said.

They stressed that stopping arms transfers should include indirect transfers through intermediary countries that could ultimately be used by Israeli forces, especially in ongoing attacks on Gaza.

According to the UN experts, arms companies must regularly conduct enhanced human rights due diligence to ensure their products are not used in ways that violate international laws.

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Financial Institutions

The experts also called on financial institutions investing in these arms companies to heed this demand. 

They named 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.

Failure to mitigate their business relationships with these arms manufacturers could implicate these financial institutions in human rights abuses, potentially contributing to 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,” they said.

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The UN experts described Israel’s ongoing military actions as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian populations and infrastructure.

These actions include the extensive use of explosive and incendiary weapons in densely populated areas, and the destruction of essential civilian infrastructure, such as housing, shelters, healthcare, education, and 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% are women and children,” the statement noted. 

The experts involved include Robert McCorquodale (chair), Fernanda Hopenhaym (vice-chair), Pichamon Yeophantong, Damilola Olawuyi, and Elzbieta Karska from the Working Groups on Business and Human Rights, George Katrougalos, Independent Expert on a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and others.

(PC, Anadolu)

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