Cambridge’s Trinity College receives legal warning for investment in arms companies

ICJP has given the college until 12th March to reply

Cambridge University’s Trinity College has received a legal warning from International Centre of Justice for Palestinians over its investment in arms companies supporting Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

It was recently revealed that Trinity College, Cambridge’s wealthiest college, has invested millions into arms companies supporting Israel’s war in Gaza.

The revelation has triggered the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) to issue a legal notice suggesting that Trinity’s officers, directors and shareholders may be criminally liable should the college continue their investments in arms companies potentially complicit in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity, Middle East Eye reports.

The notice, issued on Wednesday 28th February, came in response to a Freedom of Information request that uncovered Trinity’s substantial investment in companies such as Elbit Systems, Caterpillar, General Electric, Toyota Corporation, Rolls-Royce, Barclays Bank and L3Harris Technologies. According to ICJP, these entities are “directly involved in Israel’s current military campaign in Gaza.”

ICJP is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.

Elbit systems, Israel’s largest arms company, produces 85 per cent of the drones and land-based equipment used by the Israeli army.

The college has also invested more than £3.6 million in Toyota Corporation, which provides vehicles to the Israeli military and ministry of military affairs, as reported by Press TV.

General Electric, which manufactures engines, mechanical systems, and components often used by the Israeli army in Gaza, has received investments of around £3 million from Trinity, according to Press TV.

Trinity has also invested nearly £458,000 in Rolls-Royce, which helps produce F-35 aircraft used in Gaza by Israel, according to Press TV.

Additionally, Trinity has holdings of more than £500,000 in Barclays Bank, which holds more than £1 billion in shares in firms arming Israel, as reported by Press TV.

In 2018, it was reported that Trinity held £2.5m in investments in arms companies, including Caterpillar, while Emmanuel College held £2.9m in arms companies at the time, as reported by Varsity.

In a press release, ICJP said that “the letter [to Trinity] sets out the legal case regarding potential complicity in war crimes and the crime of genocide, drawing attention to the Rome Statute, the Genocide Convention and the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures on plausible genocide in Gaza.

“ICJP also offered to provide Trinity College with an evidence dossier already provided to Scotland Yard and the International Criminal Court, including eyewitness testimony, should the College require it.”

ICJP asked Trinity to confirm by 12th March 2024, whether it intends to suspend its investment in the aforementioned listed companies “to remove any criminal liability”.

A move away from investing in the arms industry by a Cambridge college would not be unprecedented. Selwyn College sold its investment of £532,000 in General Electric in line with its ban on direct investments in the arms sector, as reported by Varsity.

Jonathan Purcell, ICJP’s Senior Public Affairs and Communications Officer, criticised Trinity for having “a bit of a pick-n-mix approach to investment ethics,” pointing out that the college pledged in 2021 to divest from fossil fuels after a student campaign.

Jonathan Purcell via LinkedIn

Demilitarise Cambridge, a student group, has criticised Cambridge University’s involvement in the arms industry. In 2022, the group stormed the university’s talks with Rolls-Royce’s chief executive to protest the company’s involvement in the global arms trade, as reported by the Morning Star. Rolls-Royce is currently listed as a “strategic partner” by the university.

CU Palestinian Solidarity Society (PalSoc), another student group, has actively protested Cambridge’s links to the situation in Israel and Gaza, staging protests, walk-outs, fundraisers and educational events. A protest held on 14th February at Sidgwick Site called on the university to divest from Israel, as reported by Varsity.

PalSoc also penned an open letter to the university in October 2023, which received approximately 1,500 signatures, urging the university to “retain its academic and ethical integrity” by “assessing and severing all financial ties to the Israeli Government, as it did to the Russian Federation during the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.”

Sit-in at Maxwell Centre on 28th February 2024

On 20th January, 26 students and local campaigners occupied a Barclays branch in Cambridge, partly for the bank’s “investment” in Israeli operations in Gaza, as reported by Varsity. The occupation was supported by a number of student groups, including Cambridge Climate Justice, PalSoc and Cambridge Stop the War.

On Wednesday 28th February, a sit-in and picket took place at Cambridge University’s Maxwell Centre to, in part, protest the university’s Laboratory for Scientific Computing’s partnerships with arms companies that produce arms used by the Israeli military in its campaign in Gaza.

The Tab contacted Trinity College, Barclays Bank, Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, General Electric, L3Harris Technologies, Toyota Corporation and Rolls-Royce for comment. 

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