Amnesty U-turn over Gaza weapons

By Marcus Dysch, March 11, 2009

Amnesty International has admitted it has no proof that British weapons were used by the Israeli army during the Gaza conflict.

The human rights organisation had last month accused the UK government of “aiding Israeli war crimes”, and called for a UN arms embargo.

But on Wednesday, Oliver Sprague, the charity’s arms programme director, appeared in front of a parliamentary select committee session on arms export controls.

When asked to cite cases of UK-provided offensive weapons being used by another country in conflict, he said it was only possible to point to the “risk” of such provision.

Specifically discussing Israeli actions in Gaza, he said: “We have never said we have categorical proof that UK weapons or parts are in unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the IDF.

“We looked at components that were in wreckage from indiscriminate attacks [in Gaza]. They did not show a UK link but do show the international involvement. The possibility does exist that the UK could have been involved.”

The hearing was also told that a UK arms embargo on Israel would hamper British military operations around the world.

David Hayes, chairman of the Export Group for Aerospace & Defence, said sanctions would stop the Ministry of Defence obtaining Israeli weaponry and technology for use by British troops.

“Because of Israel’s prominent position in the market, we have to reach the conclusion that a total arms embargo would have a detrimental effect on the operational capability of British armed forces and put British forces at risk,” he said.

Last updated: 7:05pm, March 11 2009