Today, Tuesday November 23rd, the District Court of The Hague has delivered a ruling in a case concerning arms exports to Egypt. The Court found that the seriousness of the human rights situation in Egypt is “a given”, but yet maintains that this given does not imply that arms exports should no longer take place. The plaintiffs, a coalition of peace and human rights organisations PAX, Stop Wapenhandel (Stop Arms Trade) and the Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM), are now considering further legal action.
According to Anna Timmerman, Director of PAX, the judge’s conclusions are disappointing, because the judge should have made the State comply with the law more strictly. “The Dutch State is bound by international rules on arms trade. We continue to believe that exporting arms to the Egyptian regime must stop, because human lives are at stake.”
Lack of information
The judge believes that the organisations should have done a better job of proving that arms supply to Egypt poses a problem. According to the NGOs, the Dutch State should make reasonable case that there is no risk that these weapons will be used in human rights violations. General Al-Sisi’s armed forces hold a very poor reputation. The organisations remark that the State has access to information from intelligence services, which they do not have. Also, journalists are not allowed in areas where the worst human rights violations are committed. When the human rights situation is uncertain, arms exports should be rejected, the NGOs say. This is not what the State is currently doing.
Judgment is a step forward
Jelle Klaas (PILP-NJCM), lawyer of the organisations, explains: “It is a good step forward that the judge has looked at the contents of the case. Yet, it is unfortunate that the judge does not follow the peace and human rights organisations in their views. As far as we are concerned, it is evident that these arms exports are in violation of human rights.” He goes on to state that “it is unfortunate that the judge draws this conclusion from these facts.” Internationally, it is quite unique for a judge to issue such a ruling on the contents of an arms export license.
One Egyptian armed force
At the hearing, the NGOs showed a video of the Egyptian army itself, in which civilians are being shot and naval vessels can be seen. Wendela de Vries of Stop Wapenhandel: “The Netherlands acts as if the Egyptian navy is separate from the rest of the armed forces. Partly due to the deployment of Special Forces, the Egyptian ‘Navy Seals’, it is very likely that Dutch military systems can also be used in human rights violations by the Egyptian armed forces. Extremely disappointing that the judge did not want to put a stop to this.”
Read the verdict here (in Dutch).
Read more about arms export and human rights here.