In an open letter to Macron, the president of Amnesty International warns of the urgency of suspending all arms sales to Israel in the face of the risk of genocide.

In an open letter to Macron, the president of Amnesty International warns of the urgency of suspending all arms sales to Israel in the face of the risk of genocide.

In an open letter addressed to Emmanuel Macron, the president of Amnesty International France Jean-Claude Samouiller warns of the urgency of suspending all arms sales to Israel in the face of the risk of genocide.

Mister President,

Since October 7, 2023, the day Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups committed abominable crimes, to which the Israeli authorities responded disproportionately, the question of stopping deliveries of weapons, spare parts and ammunition to Israel – but also to Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups – is regularly raised. And as the human toll rises, it takes on more and more importance and an urgency.

Questioned by Mediapart, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, specified on January 24, 2024, that France exported “military equipment to Israel in order to enable it to ensure its defense, as Article 51 of the United Nations Charter gives it the right to do », without specifying the nature of these transfers, nor if they were still in progress after October 7. Even so, this logic of the right to self-defense must be expressed in respect of the fundamental rules of the laws of war, which is clearly not the case today.

Two days later, on January 26, a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) raised by extension and in an even more heightened manner this question of transfers of weapons and war materials to Israel by all States, including France. The ICJ in fact ordered Israel, as a precautionary measure, to refrain from committing acts falling within the scope of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

By this decision, and in view of the humanitarian disaster currently prevailing in the Gaza Strip, all States, including those which criticized or opposed South Africa’s genocide complaint, have clearly the obligation to ensure the application of these measures. This involves a call for a lasting ceasefire, which Amnesty International has been reiterating for months, but also a halt to deliveries of weapons and war materials to Israel. As a State party to the Genocide Convention, France must respect a duty to prevent genocide. This implies in particular not providing Israel with the means enabling it to commit acts that constitute a risk of genocide.

Several states or regional administrations (Spain, Italy, Wallonia in Belgium) have already taken measures aimed at restricting or temporarily suspending the granting of export licenses and the continuation of deliveries. In the private sector, the Japanese group Itochu also declared that it wanted to cease its cooperation with the Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, following the ICJ ruling.

If you think too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide fewer guns. Isn’t that logical?”, declared Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, on February 13, referring to the ambiguous position of the President of the United States, and while the risks of genocide are increasing in the Gaza Strip. Mr. President, the next day, you indicated to the Israeli Prime Minister that “ the human toll and the humanitarian situation were intolerable and (that) Israeli operations must cease » ? Shortly before, French diplomacy recalled that “ France is deeply committed to respect for international law and reaffirms its confidence and support in the International Court of Justice “.

Mr. President, in order to act consistently, France must respect its international commitments, whether it be the Genocide Convention (1948) or the Arms Trade Treaty (2014). And it doesn’t matter that French arms exports to Israel are ” very residual », as stated on February 14, the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, during his hearing in Parliament, without providing the slightest clarification, thus contributing to French opacity in matters of sales of weapons repeatedly denounced.

French transparency is so lacking that it will not be until June 2024 that national representation and civil society will be informed of potential deliveries from France to Israel. However, under the terms of the Arms Trade Treaty to which France is a party, no State can sell weapons to another State if it has ” awareness (…) that these weapons or these goods could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, (…) or other war crimes”. In this regard, in the Netherlands, justice has just ordered that the government cease transfers of parts and components for Israeli F-35 fighter jets due to the clear risk that they will be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law, again basing its argument in part on the ICJ judgment.

In these terrible circumstances, France cannot both adhere to the decisions of the ICJ while continuing to arm those whom the Court ordered to do everything to prevent genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. We therefore ask your government to act immediately by putting an end to the export of weapons and war materials as well as the issuance or renewal of export licenses for the latter to Israel.

In the recent past, France has taken restrictive measures against Russia (2014) and Turkey (2019). France must be consistent, there is no reason why a similar policy cannot or should not be implemented with regard to Israel. This is to ensure that no war material of any kind can be used to commit or facilitate crimes under international law.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, France’s voice counts. A decision of this nature taken at the highest level could allow ultimately to avoid a further escalation in violence and avoid the irreparable.

Amnesty International