Germany faces domestic lawsuit over its arms sales to Israel

World 15:27 12.04.2024

Germany will face a fresh call to revoke all arms sales to Israel on Thursday in a lawsuit that puts more pressure on Berlin amid a rising outcry about the scale of deaths and destruction in the war on Gaza, Ednews reports via The Guardian.

A lawsuit in the German domestic courts will ask judges to urgently direct the government to revoke all arms licences to Israel issued since 7 October, when Hamas launched its attack on Israel.


Germany is widely seen as the second largest arms exporter to Israel behind the US, and is certainly a more significant provider of arms than the UK.

The lawsuit has been issued by four human rights groups on behalf of five named Palestinians who say they are in fear of their lives in Gaza, and are suffering a form of collective punishment by Israel.

The legal action is directed against the Green party-led federal ministry for economic affairs and climate action, the department responsible for export licences under the weapons of war control act.

“It is reasonable to believe that the German government is in violation of the arms trade treaty, the Geneva conventions and its obligations under the genocide convention – agreements that have been ratified by Germany,” said a statement from one of the lead litigants, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

The lawsuit, likely to be handled through written proceedings, would have the most practical impact on the German sale of 3,000 anti-tank weapons.

The five Palestinians include those who have lost relatives in the war, as well as their homes and jobs and are considered internally displaced persons, states the lawsuit.

“All five of my children were killed when Israel fired on the refugee camp where we were staying after fleeing from the north,” one of the plaintiffs said. “Germany must stop sending weapons that fuel this war. No other mother should suffer such a terrible loss.”

The ECCHR general secretary, Wolfgang Kaleck, said that international law and human rights were “fundamental” . “A basic prerequisite for a rules-based and human rights-oriented German foreign policy is respect for the law in its own decision making. Germany cannot remain true to its values if it exports weapons to a war where serious violations of international humanitarian law are apparent.”

The Green foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has become increasingly critical of Israel, describing Gaza as a hell, but for historical reasons Germany says preservation of Israel’s security is at the heart of its foreign policy.

The case is separate from that brought by Nicaragua, which this week pleaded in front of the international court of justice in The Hague that Germany was in defiance of the Geneva conventions by continuing to supply arms to Israel.

The German government told the court that it had received Israeli assurances that it had taken precautions and it currently had no reason to doubt this.

While Germany exported defence equipment worth €203m (£174m) to Israel in October 2023, the volume in March amounted to only €1m, the government lawyers said.

At the same time, the Global Legal Action Network has now been given a date of 23 April for an oral hearing for its request for judicial review of the UK statement that arms exports can continue on the basis of legal advice that Israel is not acting unlawfully.

It is expected UK ministers will set out further next week in parliament how the legal advice shows Israel is not in breach of international humanitarian law, a judgment that has been the subject of intenseargument. The government has refused to publish the legal advice or a summary of it, but ministers are expected to explain the policy position.

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