The UK government's Department for Communities and Local Government acted unlawfully when it curtailed divestment campaigns against Israeli and international firms implicated in Israel's violations of international law, a British court ruled today.
The Administrative Court today held that the government had acted for an improper purpose by seeking to use pension law to pursue its own foreign and defence policy. Accordingly the relevant parts of the Guidance were held to be unlawful and no longer restrict Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) in their pension decisions.
The case, brought forward by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has been seen as a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the UK government.
In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law. It is modelled on the successful South African anti-apartheid boycott of the 1980s. Various local councils responded to the Palestinian call by passing motions to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements. Campaigners have been calling for councils to consider divesting from companies complicit in human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, such as Hewlett Packard (HP).
Hugh Lanning, chair of the PSC said: "Today 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. This ruling upholds the right of local councils and their pension funds to invest ethically without political interference from the government of the day."
Jamie Potter, partner in the Public Law and Human Rights team at Bindmans LLP which represented PSC, said:
This outcome is a reminder to the Government that it cannot improperly interfere in the exercise of freedom of conscience and protest in order to pursue its own agenda.