Court case against Dutch State over arms export to Egypt

On Tuesday, 9 November 2021, the Dutch State will appear in court in emergency proceedings concerning arms exports to Egypt. The case was initiated by the peace and human rights organizations PAX, Stop Wapenhandel and the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM). The NGOs have started an emergency procedure to immediately halt arms exports to Egypt. Despite alarming reports about the situation in Egypt, the Netherlands has issued several arms export licenses to Egypt in the past year. In doing so, the State is acting in violation of national and European law and the Arms Trade Treaty. With this lawsuit, the plaintiffs address the seriousness of the situation.

Egypt violates human rights on a large scale
The aim of the case is to stop the export of weapons to Egypt. “Egypt is ruled by a general with a very bad track record when it comes to human rights,” says Wendela de Vries, coordinator at Stop Wapenhandel. “That’s not something the Netherlands should want to supply weapons to.” The government recognizes the seriousness of the situation in Egypt, but believes that the Egyptian Navy “is not involved in human rights violations.” Supplying weapons to the Navy can therefore continue as usual for the Netherlands.

De Vries dismisses this reasoning as “nonsense.” The Navy is in fact an integral part of the Egyptian armed forces, and thus of the military dictatorship responsible for human rights violations. “Moreover, these naval weapons can also be used for human rights violations and repression of the Egyptian population.” The repression and disappearance of human rights activists, journalists and political opponents of the government has been the norm in Egypt for years.

A case in the general interest of Dutch and Egyptian citizens
Arms exports that violate human rights and (inter)national law affect the general interests of peace and security. Compliance with human rights and international rules is not only in the interest of all Dutch citizens, but also of the victims of the Egyptian regime. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, mr. Jelle Klaas of the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP-NJCM) explains: “Of course it is always important that the rules are followed, but here an extra dimension is added. This case is about weapons, not about flower bulbs or bicycle parts. That makes it extra important that the government checks whether human rights are respected in Egypt and, if necessary, ensures that no export takes place. That is not the case now.”

Claimants ask Court to stop arms exports
PAX, Stop Wapenhandel and the NJCM have repeatedly expressed their concerns to the government about the export of Dutch arms to Egypt. The concerns about the human rights situation were acknowledged by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Although he said in a recent debate with the Houseof Representatives, “If there is any doubt about human rights, don’t do it,” the government continues to issue arms export licenses to Egypt. Anna Timmerman, director of peace organization PAX finds this incomprehensible. “We think it’s important that the Court looks into arms exports now because the government does not properly comply with relevant European and international rules. The judiciary is there to enforce international law when necessary and to guarantee fundamental rights.” With this lawsuit, the organizations are asking the Court to prohibit the Dutch State from issuing arms export licenses to all parts of the Egyptian armed forces, including the Navy.

Read more about arms export and human rights here.