Netherlands to face lawsuit on arms trade with Israel

3 May 2002

On May 16, 2002, a Dutch court in The Hague will hear a summary proceedings filed by twenty one civil society organizations to ban all export and transit of military goods to Israel. The Dutch government has so far refused to comply with the demands as stated in a letter sent to the Ministry of Economic Affairs on April 23, 2002.

According to the organizations, the Netherlands is not allowed to aid and support an army that violates substantially fundamental norms. The organizations, including the Dutch organizations Pax Christi, Cordaid, IKV, ICCO, Campagne tegen Wapenhandel, Novib and LAW are represented by Van den Biesen Advocaten. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, decides whether or not licenses should be given for the export of military goods. According to the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Export, export licenses cannot be given if the end-user does not comply with one or several criteria of this code. The criteria include, respect for human rights, international treaties and obligations. According to the organizations it is evident that Israel does not comply with these criteria.

Export of military goods from the Netherlands includes wheels for armored military vehicles, components for F-16 fighter jets and millions of ammunition stripper clips [cartridge links]. It is assumed that a significant part of this export still takes place according to earlier approved licenses. In addition, transit of military goods still commences on a large scale. The port of Rotterdam and the airport Schiphol, as stopover for El-Al flights arriving from the United States, are an important aspect.

The Dutch government can impose a provision to obtain licenses, in relation to transit of strategic goods to Israel, when important interests are at stake. The plaintiffs state that this is the case.

Israel's military operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, include killings of Palestinian men, women and children, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention and deportation of prisoners, collective punishment, torture, the continuation of settlement policy, attacks on hospitals and ambulances and destruction of homes. These are violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, i.e. war crimes. This has been recently documented by inter alia Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Commission.

The civil society organizations aim to make the Netherlands comply with existing rules on the trade of arms and to stop aiding and abetting Israeli violations of human rights and laws of war.

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