Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Dutch powerless to stop dog exports to Israeli army

  • Dogs are not considered as having a possible military purpose under EU's dual-use regulation. (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

The Netherlands would like to limit the export of Dutch-bred dogs to Israel, where the army uses them in occupied Palestinian territories, but is not allowed to do that under current EU rules.

The Dutch minister for foreign trade, Lilianne Ploumen, told members of the Dutch parliament in a letter on Tuesday (9 February) that she saw no legal possibilities for curbing the export of service dogs.

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EU member states can only limit national exports under certain conditions – export bans are usually decided on at the European level.

Ploumen had asked the European Commission's legal service if the export of dogs could be limited under the so-called dual-use regulation, which allows unilateral national bans under some circumstances. The regulation sets out common European rules about goods, software, and technology which can be used for a military as well as a civilian purpose.

But in her letter, she said that the commission considered service dogs as having a civilian purpose, even when they are accompanied by soldiers.

The Dutch wish to have more control over dog exports came after the national newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported in October 2015 that Dutch dogs were being used by the Israeli army on patrols in Palestinian territories, and that they had bitten Palestinian civilians, including minors.

The paper quoted humanitarian lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, who said Israel “uses the dogs as weapons” and that the exports should stop.

But that is unlikely to happen.

Ploumen said the Netherlands had also raised the issue in a forum with other member states called the Working Party on Conventional Arms Export. But it could not find a majority to support its wish to consider service dogs as potentially having a military use.

She noted that civil servants had spoken to a Dutch company identified as Israel's major supplier of service dogs.

They told the company it had a responsibility when conducting business in conflict areas. According to Ploumen, the firm promised to develop a corporate social responsibility policy. It also promised to engage with its buyers about how the dogs are deployed.

Ploumen also called on Israel to use force only when it is allowed to do so under international law.

But on the whole, her hands are tied.

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