The High Court of Justice on Monday heard oral arguments about whether the state must halt arms sales to Myanmar in light of incontrovertible evidence of the regime’s war crimes against its own Muslim minority population.
“I cannot imagine… when it comes to crimes against humanity, that the court will not intervene,” petitioner’s lawyer Eitay Mack said to the High Court.
According to human rights groups, more than 400,000 people from the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh since late August due to a campaign of mass arson, rape, massacres and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar security forces.
The country has also been accused of war crimes in its states of Kachin and Shan and reports of war crimes have continued to flood the media.
In response, a group of activists, including Mack, petitioned the High Court earlier this year to order Israel to cease arms sales to Myanmar.
The debate centered on whether the court had the authority to intervene in the area of arms sales – usually regarded as a national security and foreign affairs issue where the government is given heavy deference.
Mack said that the state had no other alternative defense to maintain the arms sales besides the idea that the court lacked jurisdiction because, unlike some other cases, the factual evidence proving the war crimes have taken place has become so public and compelling.
The petition details how Sr.-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander- in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, which acts independently of the civilian government, along with other senior officers of the military junta, visited Israel in September 2015 and met with President Reuven Rivlin, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the heads of Israel’s security services and senior officials in Israel’s arms industry.
Hlaing himself published on his Facebook page that he and his colleagues had visited Israel Aerospace Industries in Tel Aviv, ELTA Systems Ltd. in Ashdod, the Ashdod Naval Base, Southern Command headquarters, Palmahim Airbase, and Elbit Systems Ltd. in Rehovot among other stops.
The petition notes that Hlaing published on his Facebook page that he and his delegation rode in and examined a Super Dvora Mk III patrol boat at the Ashdod Naval Base accompanied by Israel Aerospace Industries vice president Nitzan Shaked, and that he said the Myanmar Navy had placed an order for these vessels.
In addition, the petition points out that the head the defense exports branch of the Defense Ministry, Brig.-Gen. Mishel Ben Baruch visited Myanmar in June 2016 and met with heads of military regime there.
In August 2016, the Israeli global defense contracting company Tar Ideal Concept Ltd. published pictures on their website of Burmese forces training with the Israeli manufactured CornerShot rifle, seemingly with Israeli trainers.
A document it published with the pictures was titled “Israeli Corner- Shot now in service in Myanmar’s Special Operations Task Force,” although the pictures on its webpage now say “Asia” instead of “Myanmar.”
In addition, Mack made reference to UN officials’ reports of ongoing and horrific war crimes occurring even this week.
Further, he noted that the US and Europe have arms embargoes against Myanmar and that England has even halted funding a democracy education program in order to cut all ties with the regime.
The court promised that it would hand down a decision in the near future.