Public Interest Law Centre

public law | human rights | legal action

24Apr 2024

Time To End The Lease: Pressure Mounts to Evict Elbit From its Council-Owned Headquarters

24th April 2024|

PILC supply Somerset Council with legal routes to evict Israel’s largest supplier of weapons after successful pressure from Palestine Action campaigners

After an heroic three-month campaign by Palestine Action, yesterday, Somerset Council voted to explore the routes to legally remove Elbit from its Bristol premises. 

The council property is listed as the UK headquarters of Israel’s largest weapons firm: Elbit Systems. It manufactures a wide range of military equipment, including drones, missiles and bombs. It provides 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet, describing its drones as ‘the backbone’ of the Israeli Defence Force’s unmanned aircraft system.

Local residents have disrupted three prior Somerset Council meetings, demanding the council’s action, and the council has been subject to three incidents of red paint action over the past month, symbolising the complicity in Palestinian suffering that Somerset Council have played.

The council now have a democratic mandate to ensure they take the appropriate route to evict the Israeli weapons maker from Aztec West 600. The motion was proposed by Brian Smedley, Labour councillor of Bridgwater South and seconded by Shane Collins, green party councillor of Frome East.

A matter of law: Somerset Council have a duty to end the lease

PILC has been acting on behalf of Palestine Action and have corresponded with Somerset Council’s legal department. Assisted by counsel Franck Magennis and Liz Davies KC (both from Garden Court Chambers), we’ve argued that the Council must serve a notice on Elbit Systems (UK) and end the lease, that international law is being broken and that Somerset Council has a duty to act against their tenants. 

A duty to act

PILC have argued that as a matter of domestic and international law they have a duty to evict Elbit from the premise, and that to dispose of the property with Elbit Systems (UK) still as tenants is a dereliction of their legal duties.

We’ve highlighted that as part of the state, Somerset Coucil is not excused from the Genocide Convention, European Convention on Human Rights and International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. It therefore has a legal duty to act and end the lease.

A spokesperson from Palestine Action said “Not only is Somerset Council aware of residents’ demands to evict Elbit, but they now have a democratic mandate to pursue legal options and the route to end the lease. Now it’s time for them to get the job done and kick Elbit out. We will continue our campaign until Elbit is evicted from their HQ in Bristol. ”

Paul Heron, Legal Director at PILC said: “At a time of genocide there is no way Elbit Systems should remain in council-owned property. Somerset Council has a legal duty to end the lease and to kick Elbit out. Disposing the property and selling the building for profit is just passing the buck. We hope that Councillors do the right thing.”

Keep up to date. Follow Palestine Action on twitter


PILC is committed to ensuring domestic and international law is upheld. We’re working tirelessly to defend human rights.

We support campaigns to explore the legal routes available to help them achieve their aims. If you would like to speak to us about how we might support your campaign, get in touch with Paul on Paul.Heron@pilc.org.uk.

19Jan 2024

The UK government’s ban on an organisation that doesn’t exist has devastating impact on Tamil refugees

19th January 2024|

Background

On May 19th, 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) announced that it had silenced its guns. Since then, it has ceased its armed activities. Yet the UK government has refused to take this now non-existent organisation off the proscribed terrorism list not once but twice – and it’s having devastating consequences for Tamil people worldwide.

Impact on the Tamil community

Tamil people in the UK have been severely affected by the proscription of the LTTE simply because they share the ethnicity or the non-violent political aspiration of the right to self-determination of the Tamil people.

Keeping the LTTE on the proscribed list of organisations in the western world contributes to the subjugation of the Tamils in the form of torture, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention – all under the guise of “countering terrorism”. Tamils struggle to even fly their flags without being named terrorists.

The legal case

Now, PILC is bringing a case on behalf of members of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) to appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision to keep LTTE on the list of proscribed organisations. They’ve been prevented from displaying national symbols (e.g. flags) as they’re are often mistaken for LTTE symbols. This leads to questioning by the police and wrongful arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

Disproportionate interference by the Police has been raised in Parliament for over a decade and they have produced a wider chilling effect on community organising amongst Tamil people. We cannot let minority groups such as the TGTE be silenced.

PILC is bringing the case on the following grounds:

  1. The decision is unlawful as the LTTE is no longer an ‘organisation’ capable of being subject to proscription
  2. The decision is unlawful as there is insufficient evidence to form a reasonable belief that the LTTE is concerned in terrorism
  3. The Home Secretary’s exercise of her discretion to maintain proscription was irrational
  4. The decision is unlawful as it constitutes a disproportionate interference with our clients’ rights of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly (under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

How to support this case

Protecting the Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly is a core part of PILC’s work. This fundamental pillar of a just and democratic society must be protected at all costs.

To ensure that our legal team has the funds it requires to put the best case forward to the Commission and overturn this unjust ban, we need to raise £10,000 by March. Find out more details of this case and how to support it here.

12Oct 2021

Activists occupy Liverpool arms fair

12th October 2021|

The ACC Arena in Liverpool, the site of a major arms fair that was set to open today, has been occupied by activists from the campaign group Palestine Action.

Arms companies including Elbit Systems, ELTA, Raytheon, L3 Harris and BAE Systems are due to exhibit at the AOC Europe 2021 event between 11-13 October.

A Palestine Action spokesperson said: ‘This event cannot be allowed to go ahead. Liverpool’s residents don’t want arms dealers and war criminals gathering in their city, and its presence is an insult to our Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan citizens, and all others whose homelands have been devastated by the products of Raytheon, Elbit, ELTA, and the other despicable firms meeting in the ACC.’

PILC is representing a social justice campaigner who has been fighting to prevent the venue playing host to the event. Our legal action is ongoing.

We would like to express our solidarity with Palestine Action and all the other groups opposing the arms fair.

2Sep 2021

Stop the AOC Europe arms fair!

2nd September 2021|

Campaigners in Liverpool have launched a legal challenge in an attempt to stop the city playing host to a major weapons fair next month.

The event, AOC Europe 2021, is due to take place at the ACC Exhibition Centre on 11-13 October 2021.

However, anti arms-trade activists have called on the Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, and the city council to use their powers to cancel the arms fair.

PILC, instructed by Mark Jackson, a social justice campaigner, have sent a pre-action protocol letter to Joanne Anderson. This is the first step before launching a judicial-review challenge

The basis for the potential challenge is that the city council, which owns the exhibition centre, should have cancelled the event on ethical grounds, and that its failure to do so may be unlawful.

The legal action is being supported by the Merseyside Pensioners Association, who had previously called for a national demonstration.

That demonstration will now take place at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday 11 September 2021 at 12.30pm. It is being organised by Liverpool Against the Arms Fair and supported by the wider labour and trade-union movement.

Separately, the human-rights charity War on Want has launched a campaign against the AOC Europe arms fair.

For more details see the full press release.