Parliament demands tightening up of arms exports policy

24 March 2011

Parliament demands tightening up of arms exports policy

The SP can take part of the credit for the government’s decision to tighten up the rules concerning the export of weapons. Within eight weeks, proposals will be presented concerning the criteria for arms export and transit, and the provision of information to Parliament, the government promised today. The commitment was made during a parliamentary debate in which almost every party expressed strong criticisms of the current situation. SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk sees this as an extremely promising step. ‘The government could do nothing else but admit that mistakes have been made in relation to the sale of armaments to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Bahrain. In the SP’s view human rights must henceforward be given more importance than the commercial interests of the arms trade.’

Jasper van DijkThe SP has long argued in favour of a tightening up of arms export policy. The Netherlands is per capita the world’s third biggest arms exporter. That’s nothing to be proud of. Given the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, other parties have today joined this call for stricter rules. “You feel deeply ashamed when you see that Dutch armoured vehicles are being deployed against the people in Egypt and Bahrain,” says Van Dijk. “Libya too was supplied with battle helicopters with Dutch parts, and these helicopters have been put to use.”

This is not the first time that the SP has put parliamentary questions regarding arms sales to the region. On this occasion, the government stated in its reply that the export of weapons to Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia and Egypt would be suspended. “That’s a step forward,” Van Dijk conceded, “but we must make sure that in eight weeks time we have simply been fobbed off. On three points I expect a real tightening up of the policy: no arms exports to undemocratic countries, a strict review and control of the transit of weaponry through the Netherlands, and a full role for Parliament in relation to any new arms sales.”

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