The Rights Forum, together with Oxfam Novib and PAX, demanded in summary proceedings that the Netherlands cease supplying parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel. The court ruled that the state can continue the delivery. The organizations will appeal.
In their court case, Oxfam Novib, PAX, and The Rights Forum, represented by lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, argued on 4 December that Israel is using the equipment for the F-35s supplied from the Netherlands to bomb Gaza. According to the organizations, it is indisputable that large numbers of civilian casualties are thereby inflicted and Israel is violating international humanitarian law.
By nevertheless supplying the parts to Israel, the Dutch state is also violating the law, the organizations say. The U.S. confirmed this week that Israel is rapidly being supplied with parts for its F-35s and that the aircraft are being deployed in Gaza.
In his ruling, the judge takes the position that the state granted a general license in 2016 to transport F-35 parts to Israel and other countries. In his opinion, Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot ‘reasonably’ decided to ‘maintain the permit’ after the start of the Israeli offensive in Gaza:
In doing so, the judge must exercise restraint. The considerations made by the minister are to a large extent of a political and (other) policy nature and the court must allow the minister a large degree of freedom in this.
The judge concludes that the minister has weighed the relevant interests and could reasonably arrive at her considerations and course of action. The provisions claimed by Oxfam Novib et al. regarding the export and transit of F-35 components to Israel are rejected.
The three organizations call the ruling extremely disappointing. While on the one hand the judge affirms that Israel is violating international humanitarian law in Gaza and that the F-35s play a role in this, on the other hand he goes along with a ‘legal loophole’ invoked by the state, argues director Gerard Jonkman of the Rights Forum:
On the one hand, we see our main substantive points confirmed. As a result, we feel strengthened. But on the other hand, the state evades a new test of human rights and international law. It thereby implicitly admits that arms exports had never passed that test, and that political and economic interests take precedence. The judge notes that he does not have the space to force the state to retest the license.
Besides, according to the judge, a review for a general permit took place in 2016. In her plea on 4 December, Liesbeth Zegveld refuted that, and no evidence was provided by the state for that review either. Moreover, sufficing with such a general review entails great risks, as we now see in Gaza. The Netherlands is now shirking its responsibility, and the people of Gaza are paying the price.
Bypassing international treaties erodes the core of both our arms export policy and those treaties. We cannot accept that. Therefore, we will raise this point of principle on appeal. The Netherlands must stand firm for international law, everywhere in the world and thus also in Gaza, and not hide behind legal excuses.
Following the ‘unacceptable verdict’ the organizations decided to appeal.