Australian arms exports to Israel data sought in court

Palestinian human rights groups have launched legal action seeking records of Australian arms and weapons exports to Israel granted by Defence Minister Richard Marles.

The Federal Court action by Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights follows the surprise attack by the Islamist group Hamas on southern Israel on October 7.

ACIJ executive director Rawan Arraf, who is a solicitor for the Palestinian groups, said if Australia has been exporting arms to Israel it must be “exposed”.

“If Australian-made weapons are being used against Palestinian civilians, our clients and the public deserve to know,” she said in a statement on Monday.

“Australia must not be complicit in that violence,” she said adding this was the first legal challenge attempting to shed light on Australian arms exports permits.

Under the legislative regime regulating arms exports, before granting a permit the minister must consider the risk the goods or technology being exported may be used to commit or facilitate serious abuses of human rights.

Arms exports include both military-specific goods including components, and also dual-use goods, meaning items that can be used both for civilian and military applications.

The human rights groups are hoping to obtain documents and information in relation to that process under preliminary discovery.

Preliminary discovery involves obtaining a court order to compel the other party to provide certain documents or information.

A legal team, including Marion Isobel from the Victorian Bar, is representing the groups in the preliminary discovery process.

Australia has approved 322 defence exports to Israel over the past six years, according to figures revealed during a Senate hearing last month.

“We are seeing the makings of a genocide unfold in front of our eyes,” Al Mezan Centre director Issam Younis said of the events in Gaza.

“If Australia is selling Israel the means to commit that genocide, it would not only be an unspeakable horror committed against the Palestinian people, it would breach Australia’s obligations under international law and its own rules around arms exports.”