Letter to the Secretary of State about L3Harris arms exports

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

Secretary of State - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


26th February 2024


Dear Grant,

We are writing to you as Brighton MPs to urge you to immediately revoke all extant strategic export control licences issued to L3 Harris to Israel, or to the US or any other third country for ultimate end use by Israel, including after incorporation into larger systems in the third country. L3 Harris is based in our city, and we share well founded concerns that the licences they hold are enabling attacks on civilians, in breach of international law. We are also asking you to suspend the processing of any new export licence applications to the company, and to ensure they halt deliveries to Israel, the US or any other third country for end-use by Israel. 

With a wholesale attack on Rafah looking imminent, when 1.4 million people are sheltering there, this is of the utmost urgency.

We urge you to follow the example set by Spain[1], the Netherlands[2], and the Walloon regional government in Belgium[3], which have all taken steps to prevent arms exports to Israel in light of the International Court of Justice order of 26th January  on the application of the Genocide Convention in the Gaza Strip. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes at least 27,947 Palestinians have been reported killed to date, as well as 1.7 million displaced (as of 12/2/24).

L3Harris Release & Integrated Solutions Ltd, based at Home Farm Business Park in Brighton, manufactures bomb release equipment and components for the F-16s and F-35s used by the Israeli Air Force under subcontracts with Lockheed Martin in the US. It also holds a current Open General Export Licence (OGEL) granted by the UK government to supply the Lockheed Martin F-35 production line in the US. [4]

The ICJ has confirmed there is prima facie evidence of a case of genocide that has to be investigated further. It has issued provisional measures in recognition of the urgency of the “real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice” to Palestinian lives. The UK state has signed up to the Genocide Convention and is thus subject to its provisions, including the duty to prevent genocide. The UK Government is required, according to both domestic and international law, to refuse licences for the export of military equipment and technology, including components, where doing so would be inconsistent with its international obligations, including the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT),  and where there is a clear risk that such equipment and technology might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. As you will know, these binding obligations are contained within criteria one and two of the UK’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria (SELC).[5]

On January 9th the Foreign Secretary expressed that he is “worried” Israel has “taken action that might be in breach of international law”. MPs across both Houses have made the case, again and again, for arms sales to stop and for the ICJ’s ruling to trigger the implications of the SELC criteria and the articles within the ATT.

Over 1.4 million people are currently sheltering in tents in Rafah, a previously designated safe zone, whilst the UK Government continues to license the sale of arms that could be used to enact further acts of collective punishment on these civilians. On February 12th both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary expressed ‘deep concern’ about Israel’s military operation in Rafah, with no acknowledgement of the UK’s part in what we fear is to come. Continuing to condone the arming of Israel under these circumstances would be a serious breach of the UK’s moral and legal responsibilities.

Brighton and Hove is a proud ‘City of Sanctuary’. Our residents have been horrified to discover the arms factory in our community is making components for weapons that are killing people in Gaza in their tens of thousands. We urge you to act with conscience, and immediately suspend all arms licenses and deliveries to Israel by L3 Harris and any other British companies implicated in a similar way.

(co signed by Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP and a copy also sent to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary)

Yours sincerely,

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