Published On: 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.”

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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.