Thank you for contacting me about military courts in Israel and the report by War on Want.
I note the points you have raised. The UK Government is also concerned about the challenges facing human rights defenders (HRDs) and organisations operating in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Ministers and British officials feel it necessary to continuously urge the Israeli Government to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of HRDs, of which the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is a fervent champion everywhere. The UK has also raised concerns with the Palestinian Authority (PA) about the treatment of HRDs in the West Bank.
I note your concerns about HRDs and Palestinians detained and prosecuted in military courts in Israel. The UK Government has raised concerns about alleged ill-treatment of those in Israeli military detention. In terms of prosecution, it is also crucial that in circumstances such as these that there is adequate legal due process. I am assured the UK Government considers it necessary to continue to raise these points with the Israeli authorities.
The UK Government believes there are reasons to remain concerned about Israel’s extensive use of administrative detention which, according to international law, should be used only when security makes this absolutely necessary rather than as routine practice and as a preventive rather than a punitive measure. Detainees should either be charged or released. UK officials have also made clear their concern over the continued transfer of Palestinian detainees to prisons inside Israel which they believe is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The UK Government feels justified in continuing to call on the Israeli authorities to comply with their obligations under international law.
The UK also funds projects providing legal aid to those, especially minors, detained and prosecuted in this manner and increasing capacity for local lawyers.
Reasons such as the above are advanced by the FCDO to justify Israel and the OPTs remaining a human rights priority, as documented in the most recent Human Rights and Democracy Report last year. The UK FCDO will continue to monitor these issues closely and raise them with the relevant authorities.
UK Arms Sales to Israel: The UK's friendship with Israel does not prohibit our criticism of some Israeli policies, nor our recognition of Israel as a thriving democracy. The UK supports Israel’s right to defend itself and will work alongside anyone in the Middle East who seeks to establish better stability and security for their people.
I know the Government takes its export control responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available.
Licence decisions take account of prevailing circumstances at the time of application and include human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. I understand the Government will not issue export licences where there is a clear risk that the arms might be used for internal repression or in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
The UK Government’s support for Israel’s right to self-defence does not extend to support for what are termed the 'annexation' plans for part of the West Bank. It is a sign of a growing willingness of many in the Arab world to recognise Israel's right to security that the shelving of these plans formed part of the normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP