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Dutch Arms and Palestine

Jurisdiction

The Netherlands

Locale

Armed Conflict in Palestine

Recipient State

Israel

Status

Ongoing

Legal proceedings in the Netherlands in relation to the situation in Palestine since 7 October 2023 have sought to halt the supply of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, due to the use of these aircraft in the bombing of Gaza. The transfer of these parts is permitted by a general licence created in 2016 for all F-35 transfers. The plaintiffs sought an injunction banning the transfer of F-35 parts. In this case, the European Regional Warehouse, based at Woensdrecht Air Base in the Netherlands, plays a key role as it serves as the logistical hub for the transfer of F-35 components to users in Europe and Israel.

On 15 December 2023, the judge ruled against the plaintiffs. The court held that the obligation to reassess the 2016 licence is on the basis of a special article in the general licence, which allows the government to take into consideration other interests as well, such as, in this case, its relations with the US and Israel, besides the actions of Israel in Gaza. The judge also ruled that the decision to grant a licence constitutes a political act that comprises a government’s foreign policy decision, over which the court has very limited purview.

The plaintiffs filed an appeal against this decision. On 12 February 2024, the appeals court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, stating that there is a “clear risk that serious violations of international law are committed with the F-35s”. Given the Netherlands’s commitment to various international regulations, it is obligated to cease all (actual) export and transit of F-35 parts to Israel. The Dutch government has stated its intention to appeal the Supreme Court judgement, though an official request to appeal this decision has yet to be submitted. 

Latest developments

Arms export controls in the Netherlands are regulated at the national level by the Strategic Goods Decree and the General Customs Act, both of 2008, which govern the conditions under which export licences can be issued, which also seeks to fulfil Dutch international obligations arising from the EU Common Position. They view the current legal framework to be compatible with the ATT, to which they have been a State Party since 2014. The Customs Central Import and Export Office (CDIU) issues export licences acting under the guidance and authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for arms export control policy in the Netherlands. A licence is granted by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation following an assessment made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Three Dutch NGOs – Oxfam Novib, PAX Netherlands, and The Rights Forum – have brought this legal challenge against the State of the Netherlands, with Liesbeth Zegveld and Thomas van der Sommen from Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers acting as legal representatives.

To get in touch with the claimants, please see here

Themes

i

The court has previously recognised the ability of NGOs to bring civil proceedings. In this case, Oxfam Novib was recognised of representing the interests of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and therefore “can stand up for the general interest that is served by compliance with international humanitarian law, human rights, and the prevention of genocide. 

Read more about standing across all cases

The judge in the first court ruled that licensing decisions are political acts that form a part of the government’s foreign policy. However, the appeals court ruled that the Minister’s decision to not intervene in the export licence was a violation of the Netherlands’s international obligations, thereby overruling that the licensing decision comprised a “political act”.

Read more about the issue of justiciability in other jurisdictions

The judge in the first court ruled that licensing decisions are political acts that form a part of the government’s foreign policy. However, the appeals court ruled that the Minister’s decision to not intervene in the export licence was a violation of the Netherlands’s international obligations, thereby overruling that the licensing decision comprised a “political act”.

Read more about the applicability of international and legal instruments across the challenges

The appeals court ruled that the Netherlands must stop the export of F-35 parts to Israel.

Read more about whether claimants have been granted remedy in other jurisdictions

This matter has not arisen in proceedings.

Read more about the issue of transparency in other jurisdictions

Cases

One case has been brought in the Dutch courts against the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the context of Palestine. Click ‘explore case’ to find out about the case in more detail and access all case documents.

Case status

Ongoing

Civil suit against the State of the Netherlands for transfer of F-35 parts to Israel

Explore case

This case called for a halt of the transfer of F-35 fighter jet parts from the Netherlands to Israel that could be used in attacks on Gaza. At first instance, the court dismissed the claim on the basis of a special article in the 2016 general licence, which allows it to take into consideration other interests as well, such as its relations with the US and Israel, besides the actions of Israel in Gaza. The judge also ruled that the decision to grant a licence constitutes a political act....

Key Case Documents

View all case documents

12.02.2024

Appeals Court judgement on civil suit against the State of the Netherlands for transfer of F-35 parts to Israel

Read in full

22.01.2024

Plaintiffs’ Appeal against District Court Ruling

Read in full

13.12.2023

District Court judgement on export of F-35 components to Israel

Read in full

Timeline

FILTERS

12 Feb 2024

Challenge 1

Appeals Court rules in favour of plaintiffs.

Read the judgement here

22 Jan 2024

Challenge 1

The plaintiffs submit an appeal against the District Court’s judgement.

Read the appeal here

13 Dec 2023

Challenge 1

The District Court rules against the plaintiffs.

Read the judgement here

04 Dec 2023

Challenge 1

Oxfam Novib, PAX, and The Rights Forum launch civil suit in The Hague, The Netherlands in on 4 December 2023, to call for a halt of the transfer of F-35 fighter jet parts from the Netherlands to Israel that could be used in attacks on Gaza.

Read the claimants' submission here

Analysis

16 February 2024

Appeals Judgment in Case concerning the Shipment from the Netherlands of Parts for F-35 Fighter Aircraft to Israel

Marten Zwanenburg and Joop Voetelink | EJIL:Talk!

This blog post highlights some key issues and implications of the Court of Appeal's judgement on the civil suit against the State of the Netherlands for the transfer of F-35 parts to Israel.

15 February 2024

Dutch Appeals Court Blocks Deliveries of F-35 Parts to Israel: Overview, Analysis and Initial Reflections

Johanna Trittenbach, Jessica Dorsey, Otto Spijkers | Opinio Juris

This article provides an analysis of the Court of Appeal's ruling on the civil suit against the State of the Netherlands for the transfer of F-35 parts to Israel in favour of the plaintiffs.

14 February 2024

Dutch Court Halts F-35 Aircraft Deliveries for Israel

León Castellanos-Jankiewicz | Verfassungsblog

This blog post highlights the Court of Appeal's interpretation of the risk assessment obligations contained in the ATT and the EU Common Position, in its ruling on the civil suit against the State of the Netherlands for the transfer of F-35 parts to Israel in favour of the plaintiffs.

10 February 2024

Challenging Weapons Transfers to Israel

Jack McGrath | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

On 16 January 2024, the Forum on the Arms Trade and the Arms Trade Litigation Monitor co-organised a virtual panel focusing on legal efforts in the Netherlands and the US to block international weapons transfers to Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

02 February 2024

Nicaragua calls on UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada to immediately halt the supply of arms, ammunition, technology and/or components to Israel

Kawsachun News

Nicaragua calls on UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada to immediately halt the supply of arms, ammunition, technology and/or components to Israel as they may have been used to facilitate or commit acts of genocide in Gaza.

16 January 2024

Arming the War in Israel-Palestine: Legal Considerations

Co-organised by the Arms Trade Litigation Monitor and the Forum on the Arms Trade

This event provides an opportunity to learn about and discuss some of the legal challenges asking for transparency in or a stop to the provision of weapons to Israel in the context of the current Israel-Gaza conflict, amid the broader context of increased litigation around arms transfers.

05 January 2024

Summary Proceedings About the Delivery from the Netherlands of Parts for F-35 Fighter Planes to Israel (Part II)

Otto Spijkers (Amsterdam and Leiden University College) | Opinio Juris

This legal opinion discusses the Netherlands's obligations under international law to refrain from supplying weapons parts to Israel, regardless of other interests.

05 January 2024

Summary Proceedings About the Delivery from the Netherlands of Parts for F-35 Fighter Planes to Israel (Part I)

Otto Spijkers (Amsterdam and Leiden University College) | Opinio Juris

This legal opinion discusses the Netherlands's obligations under international law to refrain from supplying weapons parts to Israel, regardless of other interests.

04 December 2023

Organizations ask court to block Netherlands from exporting F-35 parts to Israel

NL Times

Oxfam Novib, PAX, and The Rights Forum launch civil suit in The Hague, The Netherlands on 4 December 2023, to call for a halt of the transfer of F-35 fighter jet parts from the Netherlands to Israel that could be used in attacks on Gaza.

Contact & More Information

If you would like to know more about this case, please get in touch with our primary contact Frank Slijper (PAX) via email.

You can find out more about the work of the claimants at their website:

Oxfam Novib

PAX Netherlands

The Rights Forum