Over 700 Australian lawyers call for the Australian government to take immediate action to ensure a lasting peace in the Middle East and uphold international law

May 16, 2024
Australia laws, justice and legal system concept with a gavel and the Australian flag on background 3D

In another significant show of solidarity by the Australian legal profession, more than 700 Australian lawyers (including practising barristers and solicitors, legal academics and law students) have signed a further letter to the Australian Government calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

This follows a similar initiative six months ago. Link to the further letter here:

This further letter reflects urgent concerns about the failure by Israel to respect international humanitarian law in its actions since the attacks committed by Hamas on October 7, especially in light of the rulings of the International Court of Justice. The letter reiterates that international law must be consistently applied and Australia, as a nation committed to the rule of law, has a responsibility to ensure that all nations, without exception, abide by it.

In order to immediately fulfil its international legal obligations, the further letter calls on the AustralianGovernment to:

• promote a ceasefire and ensure safe access of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza
• Impose sanctions against those inciting genocide (just as Australia has imposed sanctions on Russian citizens that are aiding and abetting that nation’s invasion of Ukraine)
• ban the funding by Australians of illegal settlements
• suspend military exports to Israel
• investigate Australian citizens who are, or have served, in the IDF since 7 October 2023 for possible war crimes.

(The full list of ten actions is set out below.)

This further letter comes in wake of a ground invasion last week of Rafah by the Israeli military that has been met with global condemnation.

A coordinator of the further letter, Greg Barns SC, a former National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance said, “it is increasingly clear that Israel is isolated globally, and its actions in Gaza are undermining the international legal system. States like Australia, that are parties to conventions such as the Genocide convention, are required to act to prevent this.”

Another coordinator, lawyer and author Lizzie O’Shea said “the people of Palestine have suffered immeasurably over the last seven months. The international legal system claims to protect their rights, the Australian Government has a critical role to play in making this a reality.”

Signatory Dr Melanie O’Brien, Associate Professor of International Law at the UWA Law School and President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars said “All countries have been put on notice by the International Court of Justice that there are obligations under the laws of war and the Genocide Convention to ensure they and other countries comply with their obligations under those laws. Australia should cease military dealings with Israel and pressure Israel and Hamas to stop any violations of the laws of war. Australia should also push Israel to comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, which would in turn ensure Australia complies with its own obligation to prevent genocide.”

This most recent letter from lawyers comes in the wake of similar letters from eminent lawyers around the world, who have joined global movement of the profession seeking to stop the commission of war crimes and atrocities. In the UK, over 1,100 lawyers including more than 100 King’s Counsel have sent a further letter to government representatives in April: UK lawyers’ open letter concerning Gaza (lawyersletter.uk)

Full text and signatories of Australian letter:

Ten calls for urgent action

1. continue to work actively and effectively to promote and secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and to
secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza;

2. take all available measures to ensure safe access to and delivery of the essentials of existence and
medical assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, including confirmation that Australian funding to UNRWA
will continue and increase with need;

3. impose sanctions upon individuals and entities who have made statements inciting genocide against

4. impose bans upon Australians and any Australian-based organisations from funding illegal Israeli
settlements in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law;

5. ensure a comprehensive, independent, Australian investigation into the death of humanitarian aid
workers from World Central Kitchen including Australian Zomi Frankcom; and that actions are taken in
response to the findings, including referring the incident and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory to the International Criminal Court;

6. suspend all military exports, including dual purpose supplies and services and aid exports to Israel
while the risk of genocide in Gaza continues;

7. suspend intelligence sharing with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) via Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility;

8. cancel all defence contracts with any Israeli defence contractors involved in Gaza such as Elbit Systems
and cancellation of any arms purchases/imports from Israel while the risk of genocide in Gaza

9. significantly increase the categories of humanitarian visas for Palestinians in Gaza for permanent
resettlement in Australia;

10.commit to investigating the conduct of any Australian citizens or residents who have travelled to Israel
to serve in the IDF since 7 October 2023 for possible atrocity crimes pursuant to Chapter 8, Division
268 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (the Code).

Prominent signatories of Australian letter:


Greg Barns, SC
Dr Felicity Gerry, KC
Catherine Gleeson, SC
Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM – CEO of the ASRC
John Karkar, KC
Stephen Keim, SC
Melissa Parke, Human rights lawyer former ALP member for Fremantle
Diana Sayed, Human rights lawyer

Law professors

Thalia Anthony, Professor
Stacey Henderson, Associate Professor
Jessie, Hohmann, Associate Professor
Sarah Joseph, Professor
Mary Anne Kenny, Associate Professor
Amy Maguire, Associate Professor
Melanie O’Brien, Associate Professor
Dianne Otto, Professor
Michael D Pendleton, Emeritus Professor

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