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Denmark: NGOs sue authorities over arms exports to Israel

Amnesty Denmark, Oxfam Denmark, Action Aid Denmark and Al-Haq bring case against Government for supplying parts for F-35 fighter jets 

US-made F-35s have been used in Israeli bombing raids in Gaza 

‘Denmark must not supply weapons to bomb civilians’ - Lars Koch

Amnesty International Denmark, Oxfam Denmark, Action Aid Denmark and the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq are suing the Danish National Police and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop Danish arms being exported to Israel.

The groups say there is a clear risk that weapons and military equipment that Denmark directly and indirectly exports to Israel will be used to commit serious crimes against civilians in Gaza, violating international arms trade rules and risking complicity in violations of international humanitarian law - including war crimes - and a plausible genocide in Gaza.   

Denmark has joined both the UN Arms Trade Treaty and the EU Common Rules for Arms Exports, which obliges Denmark to ensure that the export of weapons and military equipment from Danish companies do not risk contributing to violations of international law.  

In January, the UN International Court of Justice ruled that it was plausible that Israel was committing potential genocide in Gaza. Recently, a court of appeal in the Netherlands - following a petition from Oxfam in the Netherlands - ordered the Dutch government to stop the export of F35 parts to Israel. Amnesty’s documentation was used in these cases. UN experts have also recently warned that any sale and supply of weapons to Israel that risk being used in Gaza would violate international humanitarian law and must be stopped immediately. 

The Danish case is being conducted on behalf of the four organisations by the Danish law firm Kontra Advokater.  

Vibe Klarup, Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark, said:

“We have documented Israeli bombing in Gaza that does not distinguish between civilian and military targets, and has wiped out entire families. The attacks are disproportionate and in violation of the rules of war. Denmark must in no way contribute to making these illegal attacks on civilians possible. We now want the court to assess whether Denmark fulfils its obligations.”

Lars Koch, Secretary General of Oxfam Denmark, said:

“The people of Gaza are starving, hundreds of thousands of people cannot find water, food, medicine or shelter, and 70% of all infrastructure has been destroyed. Denmark must not supply weapons to bomb civilians. With the trial, we will test whether Denmark respects international law and the values we profess. We cannot ignore clear violations of humanitarian law, war crimes and the warning of a potential genocide.”

Tim Whyte, Secretary General of Action Aid Denmark, said: 

“For five months we’ve been talking about a potential genocide in Gaza, but we have not seen politicians take action. Denmark should not be sending weapons to Israel when there is a reasonable suspicion that it is committing war crimes in Gaza.”

Maha Abdallah, a spokesperson for Al-Haq, said:

“These are very serious and intensive attacks taking place in Gaza, where over 30,000 have been killed and 70,000 injured. Israel refuses to allow the population access to basic needs such as food, water, fuel and medical supplies. We see indescribable suffering for civilians and children, amputations without anesthesia, and mass evacuations to horrific locations. Therefore, Al-Haq urges Denmark to stop arming the atrocities that are taking place and to stop a genocide of the Palestinian people.”

Denmark’s supply of F-35 components

For several years, the Danish authorities have allowed Danish companies to export components for F-35 fighter jets through a US-led defence agreement without conducting specific assessments of the risk of contributing to war crimes. The US sells the finished jets to Israel, with Israel the first country - besides the US - to deploy the jets. Israeli F35 fighter jets have been used in Israeli bombing raids in Gaza.  

On 16 January, during a Danish Parliament foreign affairs committee session, the foreign minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said a total of 15 Danish companies were supplying components for the F-35 fighter jets. 

On 12 February, an appeals court in the Netherlands ruled that the Dutch government should halt arms exports to Israel within the F-35 programme based on a lawsuit from Oxfam in the Netherlands and others. The court found that continued exports were in violation of the EU Common Rules for Arms Exports and the UN Arms Trade Treaty, to which both the Netherlands and Denmark are signatories.  

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