Dutch court clears shipments of F-35 jet parts to Israel

Judges says supplying parts is a political decision after legal challenge by human rights groups

A soldier inside a F-35 fighter jet after landing at Nevatim airbase in Israel. Reuters
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A Dutch court has dismissed a bid by human rights groups to block the national government from exporting parts for F-35 jets to Israel.

The district court in The Hague said supplying such parts was a political decision that judges should not interfere with, after the groups claimed the jets were being used to enable “war crimes” in Gaza.

The organisations, including the local branch of Amnesty International, had argued that supplying the parts contributed to alleged breaches of international law by Israel in its war in Gaza with Hamas.

The US-owned F-35 parts are stored at a warehouse in the Netherlands, then shipped to several partners, including Israel, via existing export agreements.

These parts "make it possible for real bombs to be dropped on real houses and on real families", said Michiel Servaes, director of Oxfam Novib, one of the complainants.

Dutch authorities said it was not clear whether they even had the power to intervene in the deliveries, part of a US-run operation that supplies parts to all F-35 partners.

"On the basis of current information on the deployment of Israeli F-35s, it cannot be established that the F-35s are involved in serious violations of humanitarian law of war," the government said in a letter to parliament.

But Liesbeth Zegveld, a human rights lawyer for the plaintiffs, dismissed that as "nonsense".

She said the Dutch government was clearly familiar with what she called "the enormous destruction of infrastructure and civilian centres in Gaza".

Government lawyers also argued that if the Dutch did not supply the parts from the warehouse based in the Netherlands, Israel could easily procure them from elsewhere.

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The judge also ruled the government "was not obliged to reassess the permit granted in 2016 for the transport of F-35 parts" in light of the current war.

The complainants "have not made it sufficiently clear what exactly the state is accused of and in what respect the state is acting unlawfully", the court added.

Now in its third month, the war broke out in response to the attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7 that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, the war has killed more than 18,700 people, mostly women and children.

International law experts said human rights violations are likely being carried out by both parties.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 11:33 AM