Netherlands votes to ban weapons exports to Saudi Arabia

The Dutch parliament cited Saudi mass executions and the bombing campaign in Yemen

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 16 March 2016 11:49 GMT
Saudi officers take photos of a joint military exercise between 21 Muslim nations in the Saudi desert
Saudi officers take photos of a joint military exercise between 21 Muslim nations in the Saudi desert (Getty Images)

The Dutch parliament has voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia in protest against the kingdom's humanitarian and rights violations.

It sees the Netherlands become the first EU country to put in practice a motion by the European Parliament in February urging a bloc-wide Saudi arms embargo.

The bill, voted through by Dutch MPs on Tuesday, quoted UN figures which suggest almost 6,000 people - half of them civilians - have been killed since Saudi-led troops entered the conflict in Yemen.

It also cited the mass execution of 47 people, largely political dissidents, ordered by the Saudi judiciary on 2 January this year.

According to Reuters, the Dutch bill asks the government to implement a strict weapons embargo that includes dual-use exports which could potentially be used to violate human rights.

The vote adds to the growing pressure on Britain, one of the main arms suppliers to Riyadh, to reconsider its stance.

Cameron on arms trading with Saudi Arabia.mp4

Andrew Smith, a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade, told The Independent: "The Dutch parliament has set an important precedent and it's time for other arms dealing governments to do the same. The decision can't just be temporary though, it must be permanent.

"Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record and governments like the UK must stop supporting it. The bombardment of Yemen has lasted almost a year now and the humanitarian situation is desperate."

According to updated Campaign Against Arms Trade figures, the UK has now sold more than £6.7 billion worth of weapons to the Saudi government under David Cameron - £2.8 billion in deals since the bombing in Yemen began.

France is the other major European supplier of arms to the Saudi kingdom. Germany's exports amounted to almost £140 million in the first six months of 2015, while figures for the Netherlands itself were not available.

Additional reporting by agencies

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