German court rejects Palestinian groups’ request to block arms exports to Israel

A Berlin court has rejected an urgent request by a number of Palestinian residents of Gaza to stop the government from approving permits for the export of German weapons to Israel on grounds that they might be used in violation of humanitarian law.

The Palestinians were supported by several organizations including the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), Law for Palestine and the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, who allege that there are reasons to believe such violations are happening in Gaza.

Israel declared war after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists murder some 1,200 people and seize 251 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale campaign in Gaza aimed at destroying the terror group’s military and governance capabilities and returning the hostages. It denies violating international law and says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

Illustrative – An IDF tank takes position in an area of Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on June 2, 2024 (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The Berlin administrative court says the plaintiffs did not show that decisions on arms exports to Israel were actually pending, as Germany has abstained from issuing any this year, or that Germany is likely to permit exports in violation of its obligations under international humanitarian law.

Germany is a major arms supplier to Israel, accounting for 30 percent of all Israeli arms purchases in 2023, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual report for that year, behind only the United States, which provided 69% of Israeli arms purchases in 2023.

The court also notes that the German government has the power to refuse arms export permits, attach additional conditions, or secure commitments from the recipient country to restrict the use of the weapons.

Reacting to the ruling, the lawyers’ groups say the ruling was incomprehensible, charging that the government kept pending arms export applications secret, making it impossible to know of them in advance.

Ahmed Abed, a lawyer from a Berlin legal collective, says the government’s suppression of information about weapons and war crimes “puts the lives of our clients at risk.”

Last year, Germany approved arms exports to Israel worth 326 million euros ($354 million), 10 times more than in 2022. But the volume of approvals fell to around 10 million euros in the first quarter of this year, according to Economy Ministry data.

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