Pro-Palestinian students protest outside the Department for Education

Pro-Palestinian students protest outside the U.K. Department for Education on March 22, 2024 in London.

(Photo: Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Dozens of UK Universities Warned of Criminal Liability Over Israeli Weapons Investments

"Aiding, abetting and in any other way assisting in the commission of a war crime including 'providing the means for its commission' is a war crime," said the director of a legal group.

As U.S. campus protests and the aggressive police response galvanized a growing number of British students to set up their own encampments at universities across the country on Wednesday, a legal group informed dozens of higher education institutions in the U.K. that their investments in weapons manufacturers could leave them open to criminal liability stemming from human rights violations by Israel.

The International Center of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) warned officers at 82 universities that if they have profited from investments in companies including Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, and BAE Systems, their financial holdings may be linked to weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces in its current escalation against Gaza.

"Aiding, abetting and in any other way assisting in the commission of a war crime including 'providing the means for its commission' is a war crime," said ICJP director Tayab Ali, citing Article 25 of the Rome Statute.

The companies in question also "have a track record of providing equipment that has been used in home demolitions, the illegal Israeli separation wall in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, and other tools of apartheid," said the ICJP, making the universities potentially complicit in Israel's policies in the occupied West Bank.

Dania Abul Haj, senior legal officer for ICJP, said in a statement that "the massive crackdown on civil liberties we are seeing in the U.S. is a huge catalyst" for the group's letter to the universities.

"This money is paid to the universities by the students, and yet their voice is being totally disregarded in how it is being immorally invested," said Abul Haj.

Solidarity encampments were set up at schools including University of Warwick, University of Bristol, and Newcastle University this week.

Students in the U.S., U.K., and other countries have demanded that universities divest from companies in tech, weapons manufacturing, and other industries that contract with Israel.

Student organizers at the University of York celebrated last week as administrators announced it had divested from companies that "primarily make or sell weapons," following mass protests, marches, and rallies held at the school.

"Investment in these companies was already morally bankrupt," Abul Haj toldMiddle East Eye. "In the current circumstances, it is beyond belief that universities, which are educational institutions, paving the way for future generations of leaders and politicians, would continue to invest in them."

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