A woman protests the German government's arms exports to Israel

A woman protests the German government's arms exports to Israel during a December 28, 2023 protest in Berlin.

(Photo: Maryam Majd/Getty Images)

Lawyers Sue Germany in Bid to Block Arms Exports to Israel

"There is reason to believe that these weapons are being used to commit grave violations of international law, such as the crime of genocide and war crimes."

The Berlin-based Lawyers' Collective on Friday sued the German government in an effort to stop weapons transfers to Israel, whose government and military are waging a genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Germany is the second-largest arms exporter to Israel, providing 30% of its imported weaponry from 2019-23. The top exporter, the United States, provided 69% of Israel's imported armaments during that same period.

"As there is reason to believe that these weapons are being used to commit grave violations of international law, such as the crime of genocide and war crimes, the applicants are hereby demanding that the German government protect their right to life," groups supporting the lawsuit—including the European Legal Support Center, Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, Law for Palestine, and Forensis—said in a statement.

Ahmed Abed, an attorney in the case who is representing Palestinian families, said during a Friday press conference in Berlin that "Germany has a constitutional responsibility to protect human life."

"The German government must stop its arms exports to Israel, as they are in violation of international law," he added. "The government cannot claim that it is not aware of this."

According to the Lawyers' Collective:

In 2023, the German government issued arms exports licenses to Israel worth €326.5 million, the majority of which were approved after October 7, 2023, a tenfold increase compared to 2022. The German government is currently supporting the Israeli army by approving the supply of 3,000 portable anti-tank weapons, 500,000 rounds of ammunition for machine guns, submachine guns, or other fully or semi-automatic firearms, as well as other military equipment, while in early 2024 Germany was preparing the authorization of 10,000 rounds of 120mm tank ammunition...

The arms deliveries and support provided by the Federal Government to Israel violate the Federal Republic's obligations under the War Weapons Control Act. The criteria for the approval of arms exports include, among other things, that the weapons are not used against Germany's obligations to international law.

The groups said that since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found in January that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza, they believe that "the delivery of weapons is contrary to these obligations."

In February, lawyers from some of the same groups involved in the new lawsuit sued senior German officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for "aiding and abetting" Israel's genocide in Gaza.

Last month, Nicaragua filed an ICJ lawsuit against Germany accusing its government of helping Israel commit genocide against Palestinians.

In addition to exporting hundreds of millions of euros worth of arms to Israel, Germany also suspended contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in response to unsubstantiated Israeli accusations that 12 of the agency's 13,000 workers in Gaza were involved in the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on Israel. This, as Palestinians starve to death.

The German government has been intensely criticized for its nearly unconditional support for Israel and for violently cracking down on pro-Palestinian protests. Numerous observers contend that Germany's actions are driven by historical guilt over the Holocaust, with some critics claiming the German government is weaponizing that guilt in order to demonize Palestinians and their defenders.

The new lawsuit came as the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday voted 28-6 with 13 abstentions in favor of a resolution demanding that Israel be held accountable for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. The United States and Germany were the two biggest countries to vote against the measure.

Palestinian and international human rights officials say at least 33,173 Palestinians—most of them women and children—have been killed by Israel's bombing, invasion, and siege of Gaza since October 7. More than 75,800 others have been wounded, while over 7,000 Gazans are missing and believed dead and buried beneath the rubble of the hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks.

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