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UK Conservative politician presses government to reveal legal advice on Israeli actions in Gaza

LONDON: A Conservative politician has urged the British government to heed advice from its own lawyers on the legality of Israel’s actions in Gaza, the Observer newspaper reported on Saturday.

Former Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense official Alica Kearns said at a party fundraising event on March 13 that the UK government had not made public legal advice it had received that Israel has breached international humanitarian law in Gaza, according to a leaked recording from the event.

On the recording, Kearns said: “The Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law but the government has not announced it.”

She continued: “They have not said it, they haven’t stopped arms exports. They have done a few very small sanctions on Israeli settlers and everyone internationally is agreed that settlers are illegal, that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and the ways in which they have continued and the money that’s been put in.”

Echoing comments she made in December last year, when she said Israel had “gone too far” in Gaza, Kearns was also heard to say that Israel’s right to self-defense following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks was “not limitless.”

Kearns, who is currently the Conservative chair of the House of Commons select committee on foreign affairs, on Saturday stood by her comments and said she has consistently urged ministers, including foreign secretary David Cameron, to divulge the advice.

“I remain convinced the government has completed its updated assessment on whether Israel is demonstrating a commitment to international humanitarian law, and that it has concluded that Israel is not demonstrating this commitment, which is the legal determination it has to make,” she said.

“Transparency at this point is paramount, not least to uphold the international rules-based order,” she said.

If made public, the advice would put pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government to halt all arms sales to Israel, which stood at £42 million ($53 million) in 2022, or fall foul of international humanitarian law itself, the Observer report said.

British judge Sir Geoffrey Nice agreed with Kearns about the need for the information to be made public, adding: “Countries supplying arms to Israel may now be complicit in criminal warfare. The public should be told what the advice says.”

Foreign secretary Cameron has previously evaded answering questions on potential legal advice on Israeli actions in Gaza, most notably during a session of the foreign affairs select committee in January when he said he could not “recall every single bit of paper that has been put in front of me.”

He also said: “If you are asking me whether I am worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law, yes, of course I am worried about that. That is why I consult the Foreign Office lawyers when giving this advice on arms exports.”




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