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Netherlands appeals court orders stop to the export of fighter jet parts to Israel

The Appeals Court in The Hague ruled on Monday that the Dutch government has to stop the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns that Israel is using the aircraft in violation of international law.

The court agreed with several human rights groups and overturned a lower court’s ruling. It concluded that there is a clear risk that F-35 fighter jets might be used to commit serious violations of international law as Israel “does not take sufficient account of the consequences of its attacks for the civilian populations.” The court also added that the minister, by not revoking the license to export spare parts to Israel, “failed to comply with Netherlands’ international obligations.”

Oxfam Novib lead lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, said she was “extremely relieved” after the court’s verdict.

Aid Minister Geoffrey van Leeuwen declared that the government will appeal to the ruling because the Netherlands has agreements to deliver spare aircraft parts to other countries and has to remain a “reliable partner.” Dutch authorities added that it is unclear if the government has the power to intervene in the delivery, which is an operation run by the US to all its F-35 partners, not just Israel. Government lawyers questioned the efficiency of the ruling, stating that even if the Netherlands stops supplying spare parts, Israel can procure them elsewhere.

The case started in December 2023 when a group of three NGOs, Oxfam Novib, Peace Movement PAX Netherlands and the Rights Forum, sued the Netherlands, claiming that the latter, by supplying Israel with F-35 parts, violates international law and, therefore, the combat equipment supply must stop. However, the lower court rejected these claims and ruled that the transfer of military equipment from the Netherlands to Israel should continue. The court pointed out that the export of military equipment was the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation’s decision and that judges must restrain themselves from interfering in political decisions by “leaving a wide degree of freedom” to government officials in this regard.

F-35 is an American family of fighter aircraft whose parts are manufactured and owned by the US but are stored in a warehouse in a town in the southern Netherlands called Woensdrecht. They are later exported from the Netherlands to US Partners worldwide, including Israel. The transfer of military equipment from the Netherlands to other countries requires a permit, which was granted to Israel in 2016.

The NGOs that started the claim assert that Israeli attacks on Gaza violate international humanitarian law because of the large number of civilian casualties among Palestinians, including women and children, in addition to the targeting and destruction of vital infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. Therefore, the three organizations demand that the court order the state to cease the export of fighter jet spare parts to Israel as it is part of the Netherlands’ obligations according to the EU Global Strategy (EUGS), the Arms Trade Treaty of 2014, and the Geneva Conventions. These international regulations stipulate that in case of a clear risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law, the Netherlands has the obligation to prevent the export of military equipment.

Article: Netherlands appeals court orders stop to the export of fighter jet parts to Israel

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