The UK government's bill is aimed at preventing boycotts of Israel by public bodies and has been criticised by many human rights organisations [Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency/Getty-file photo]
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London has sent letters calling on MPs to vote against the ‘The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill’ being presented to Parliament for its third reading on January 10th, 2024.
PRC warned that if passed, the bill would outlaw local councils, universities and other public bodies from boycotting foreign countries.
“The proposed law singles out Israel as the only state explicitly mentioned by name and seeks to protect all its entities across the Occupied Territories”, said the letter dated January 09, 2024. “This new UK government anti-boycott bill is designed to put a stop to the solidarity actions advanced by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).”
The letter referred to a 2020 case, wherein the Palestine Solidarity Campaign had defeated, at the Supreme Court level, a UK government regulation to prevent local government pension funds divesting from companies complicit in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
“Defeated in court, the British government is now trying to push this anti-BDS measure through Parliament. Several civil society groups in Britain have formed a broad coalition mobilizing specifically to challenge the anti-boycott bill, and what they call an attack on wider democratic rights and freedom of expression”, the letter further read.
PRC added that the bill would threaten free speech and quoted Lawyer Richard Hermer who raised the issue of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). He stated: “This very poorly drafted bill is likely to have a detrimental impact on the United Kingdom's ability to protect and promote human rights overseas, is in certain respects inconsistent with our obligations under international law, will stifle free speech at home (in a manner incompatible with Article 10 of the ECHR), will take powers long exercised by local authorities into the hands of the Secretary of State and will likely lead to an array of illogical outcomes”.
“At a time when Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza with complete impunity, it is therefore paramount to protect the right to boycott by voting against this repressive bill on Wednesday January 10 and protect a peaceful form of accountability under international law”, the letter concluded.
The letter comes at a time when Israel faces charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. Serious violations of both international humanitarian law and human rights by Israel in Gaza have been documented in numerous reports by organizations affiliated with the UN as well as independent human rights groups.