The Bar Human Rights Committee notes that MPs are due to debate the situation in Gaza, including voting in relation to a ceasefire.
BHRC notes that a lawyers’ letter, signed by over 1,000 legal practitioners and academics, and originally sent to the Prime Minister on 26 October 2023, has now been sent to all Members of Parliament in advance of the debate. The original letter, which is still open for signatories, and the letter to MPs can be found here.
BHRC recognises and agrees with the powerful legal analysis in the letter in relation to the human rights situation in Gaza and Israel.
Mindful of the calls by the United Nations Secretary General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and on the basis of the legal arguments in the letter of 26 October 2023, including the duty of the UK to ‘respect and ensure respect’ for international humanitarian law as set out in the Four Geneva Conventions in all circumstances (1949 Geneva Conventions, Common Art 1), BHRC joins the calls on the UK Government as set out in the letter urgently to exert its influence to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
BHRC trusts that all MPs and relevant decision-makers will consider the international humanitarian law framework carefully before the debate on this issue.
BHRC also echoes the other calls made in the letter for the Government to use its influence:
- to ensure the urgent and adequate provision humanitarian assistance to Gaza, the unconditional restoration of water and electricity; the protection of medical facilities; and the facilitation of safe passage for the critically ill and those requiring treatment abroad;
- to use its best endeavours to secure the urgent return of the hostages;
- to halt the export of weapons from the UK to Israel, given the clear risk that they might be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law in breach of the UK’s domestic Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, including its obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty; and
- to act urgently pursuant to the UN Charter, Art 1, to ensure that the fundamental rights – including the human rights – of both Israelis and Palestinians are upheld, and to work towards a just, lasting and sustainable peaceful settlement for all those in the region, including those in the now devastated Gaza Strip.