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PSC to take UK to court over 'anti-BDS' measures

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) will be taking the British government to court for judicial review today over unlawful restrictions on divestment from Israel.

The trial is due to begin at 09:30 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The PSC will be going to court over the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) having "acted unlawfully" in September 2016 by attempting to restrict ethical divestment from companies, including those complicit in the occupation of Palestine.

Sajid Javid's department declared that "divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government."

This guidance came in despite a public consultation on the issue in which 98 per cent of respondents vehemently disagreed with the plans.

The PSC was granted a judicial review of the case in March by a judge who described the case as "of significant public importance". War on Want and Campaign Against Arms Trade have supported the legal challenge with witness statements.

Read: British government on trial for blocking BDS

In the groups' press release, Amy Franck explained:

Campaigners believe people should have the right to divest on an ethical basis, including in respect to Israel as a result of its consistent international law violations, including the illegal occupation that turned 50 years old this month. Instead, pension holders may be forced into investing in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses.

"Campaigners are concerned about threats to freedom of expression in the UK on Palestine with Westminster overreach in local democracy."

The government's new measures in the Local Government Pensions Scheme (LGPS) was seen as a "specific aim of curtailing divestment campaigns against UK defence and international or Israeli firms implicated in Israel's violation of international law."

The DCLG hads tried to stop the case being heard.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the PSC, said: "We have high hopes that Theresa May's government will have more egg on its face after this court case."

Everyone has a right to peacefully protest Israel's violation of Palestinian human rights. It is reprehensible to forbid people from making decisions about where their own money goes, and forcing them to profit from human rights abuses.

This, he added, was "yet another example of her government's obsessive need to trample on local democracy."

The court will consider whether the government's ban on certain ethical divestments is unlawful for contradicting EU Law, pension's legislation and/or on the basis that the guidance is "so badly drafted as to be unacceptable".

If successful, the ban could be struck down by the court, allowing LGPS to make investment decisions without government interference.

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