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Netherlands: Ban on Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia

(Apr. 1, 2016) On March 15, 2016, the Dutch Parliament adopted a motion urging the government to ban weapons exports to Saudi Arabia. The motion was based in part on Saudi Arabia’s violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including those described in the January 22, 2016, report of the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen.  The measure also noted the ongoing poor human rights situation in Saudi Arabia itself, with the recent sharp rise in the number of executions and the “extremely worrying” situation of human rights defenders.  (Anthony Deutsch, Dutch Parliament Votes To Ban Weapon Exports To Saudi Arabia, REUTERS (Mar. 15, 2016); for the Mar. 8, 2016, text of the motion, see 22 054: Wapenexportbeleid, Nr. 273, Motie van het Lid Servaes (Mar. 8, 2016), OVERHEID.NL;  United Nations Security Council Letter Dated 22 January 2016 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2140 (2014) Addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2016/73 (Jan. 26, 2016) (the Panel of Experts report follows the letter).)

Taking note of the February 25, 2016, resolution of the European Parliament calling upon EU Member States to establish an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, the Dutch parliament motion urged the government not only to halt approval of licenses to export military and dual use goods to Saudi Arabia, but also, in line with the concept of a harmonized European arms export policy, called upon the other Member States to adopt a similar stance against arms exports to Saudi Arabia. (Wapenexportbeleid, Nr. 273, supra; Deutsch, supra; European Parliament Resolution of 25 February 2016 on the Humanitarian Situation in Yemen (2016/2515(RSP)), European Parliament website.) The Netherlands is apparently the first EU Member State to formally ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the issuance of the European Parliament resolution.  (Bradley McAllister, Dutch Parliament Approves Ban on Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia, PAPER CHASE (Mar. 16, 2016).)

Britain and France are reportedly “the main European suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia.” (Deutsch, supra.) In the first half of 2015, Germany permitted the issuance of 66 arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia, valued at US$191million, but the government also prevented some arms exports that year and in January 2016 made statements indicating that it was re-evaluating its arms export policy vis a vis Saudi Arabia. (Dealing in Double Standards: How Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Are Causing Human Suffering in Yemen, ATT MONITOR 3 (2016).)   As for the Netherlands, “[b]etween 26 March 2015 and 15 January 2016, the Netherlands issued four licences for Saudi Arabia: two for export and two for transit,” with a total value of US$2.98 million in value, “covering components for military training aircraft.” (Id.)