A model country with double standards

rnw.nl, 18 January 2011- By Johan van der Tol. The Netherlands loves playing the part of a model country where human rights and peaceful resolutions to conflicts are concerned.


The Netherlands produces and exports a variety of weaponry including naval vessels and advanced military electronics. And the country usually closely checks the destination of its exports to ensure they do not fall in the wrong hands. However, Dutch government oversight is much less strict - if not completely absent - where it concerns transshipments of arms passing through the port of Rotterdam or Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Frank Slijper of the NGO Campagne tegen Wapenhandel (Campaign against the Arms Trade) says many of these exporting countries do not adhere strictly to international rules.

Sri Lanka
'Research that we conducted shows that countries such as the Czech Republic and Bulgaria do not apply the rules as strictly as the Netherlands does. As a result, 20,000 Czech machine guns were shipped to Sri Lanka via Rotterdam.'

The shipment Mr Slijper is referring to was sent to Sri Lanka shortly before a 2009 government offensive in which the Tamil rebels were definitively defeated. The United Nations says at least 7,000 people were killed and government forces reportedly committed human rights violations.


In addition to Sri Lanka, a report by Campagne tegen Wapenhandel (CtW) lists a number of controversial destinations including Algeria, Kenya, Colombia and Honduras. However, even when the destination is less controversial, such as the United States, CtW argues that a careful evaluation of whether the arms could fall in the wrong hands would still be in order.

Many of the arms shipped to the United States are intended for private users. Neighbouring Mexico has been complaining for years about the large numbers of weapons finding their way to the drug cartels via the United States. CtW argues that the Netherlands plays a part in this, albeit indirectly.