A Dutch court has ordered the government to stop exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel, ruling that there is a clear risk of the parts being used in serious violations of international law in the Gaza Strip. The court’s decision came after a lawsuit filed by human rights groups, who claimed that the Dutch government was complicit in possible war crimes committed by Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
The lawsuit was filed in December 2023 by three human rights groups: Oxfam Novib, the Dutch branch of Oxfam International; Pax, a peace organisation; and The Rights Forum, a foundation that advocates for a just and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The groups argued that the Dutch government had failed to comply with its own export policy and international obligations, which require it to assess the risk of exported military equipment being used in human rights violations or armed conflicts.
The groups pointed out that Israel had used F-35 jets in its military operations in the Gaza Strip, which had resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and widespread destruction of infrastructure. They also cited reports by the United Nations and other organisations, which had accused Israel of violating the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution in its attacks on Gaza. The groups demanded that the Dutch government suspend the export license for F-35 parts to Israel, pending a thorough and transparent risk assessment.
The Ruling: What It Said and How It Was Reached
The ruling was issued on Monday by the Appeals Court in The Hague, which overturned a previous verdict by a lower court that had sided with the government. The lower court had ruled in January 2024 that the export license for F-35 parts to Israel could continue, despite acknowledging that it was likely that F-35 jets had contributed to violations of the laws of war. The lower court had argued that the export license was mainly a political decision, and that judges should not interfere with it.
The Appeals Court, however, disagreed with the lower court, and found that the government had not sufficiently taken into account the risk of F-35 parts being used in serious violations of international law. The Appeals Court said that it was undeniable that such a risk existed, given the evidence and reports on Israel’s conduct in Gaza. The Appeals Court also said that Israel had not shown enough respect for the consequences of its attacks on the civilian population, and that the Dutch government had not adequately verified Israel’s compliance with the end-use certificates, which stipulate how the exported parts can be used.
The Appeals Court ordered the government to stop the export of F-35 parts to Israel within seven days, unless it could demonstrate that the risk of violations had been eliminated or sufficiently reduced. The government can appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, but it is not clear whether it will do so.
The Implications: What They Mean and What They Coincide With
The ruling has several implications and coincidences, such as:
- It is the first time that a Dutch court has ordered the government to halt the export of military equipment to Israel, and it sets a precedent for future cases involving other countries or weapons systems.
- It is a victory for the human rights groups, who have been campaigning for years to stop the Dutch government from supplying arms and equipment to Israel, and who have welcomed the ruling as a breakthrough for international law and justice.
- It is a blow for the Dutch government, which has been a staunch supporter and ally of Israel, and which has argued that the export of F-35 parts to Israel is in line with its foreign policy and security interests.
- It is a challenge for the Dutch defence industry, which has been involved in the production and supply of F-35 parts to Israel and other countries, and which has benefited from the lucrative contracts and jobs generated by the F-35 programme.
- It coincides with the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both Israel and Hamas in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip. The ICC probe, which was launched in March 2023, has been strongly opposed by Israel and the United States, but supported by the Palestinian Authority and many human rights organisations.