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Government acted unlawfully by restricting boycotts of Israel, High Court rules

28th Jul 2017
Government acted unlawfully by restricting boycotts of Israel, High Court rules

(Photo: Wiki Creative Commons/Takver)

Harun Nasrullah

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) acted unlawfully last year when it sought to restrict the ethical boycotts of Israel, the High Court ruled last month.

Judge Sir Ross Cranston accepted a judicial review and asserted that Secretary of State for DCLG, Sajid Javid, did not have the right to issue guidance to restrict councils from pursuing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel through their pension schemes.

Sir Cranston ruled the Government’s guidance fell outside its statutory powers because it was issued for non-pensions purposes. The ruling on June 22 upholds the right of councils to invest ethically without political interference from the Government.

The case, brought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), concerned DCLG guidance affecting the Local Government Pension Scheme and how its funds should be invested.

The PSC asked the judge, Sir Ross Cranston, to rule that the guidance is legally flawed as one section prevents pension funds set up under the scheme from engaging in BDSs and the “ethical divestment” of companies accused of being complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Government lawyers argued that all the grounds of challenge lacked substance.

The judge said that the PSC objected to the limiting effect of the guidance on their ability to campaign around the investment of local government pension funds affecting the Palestinian people and the Occupied Territories.

PSC Chair, Hugh Lanning, said the ruling “is a victory for Palestine, for local democracy, and for the rule of law. Absolutely everyone has a right to peacefully protest Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights.”

Speaking to The Muslim News last year a spokesman for the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The Government’s decision to ban councils and other public bodies from divesting from trade or investments they regard as unethical is an attack on local democracy.

“People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control. That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds. This Government’s ban would have outlawed Council action against apartheid South Africa. Ministers talk about devolution, but in practice, they’re imposing Conservative Party policies on elected local councils across the board.”

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