Dutch lawmakers and the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq are calling on the Netherlands to halt the export of dozens of police and military dogs to Israel.
Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin wrote to Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders and trade minister Lilianne Ploumen earlier this month saying that these dogs “are intentionally used by Israeli occupying forces to terrorize and bite Palestinian civilians, especially during protests and night house raids”
After images of an attack on 20-year-old Ahmad Shteiwi as he took part in an anti-occupation protest in the West Bank emerged in 2012, the Israeli army announced it would stop using dogs at demonstrations.
But they did not stop. In March, a video emerged showing Israeli soldiers setting dogs on a Palestinian child in Beit Ommar in December 2014: Warning Disturbing Footage
The footage shows 16-year old Hamzeh Abu Hashem crying out as a dog repeatedly attacks him, while Israeli soldiers hold him down.
Military Court Watch, an organization that monitors the treatment of children in Israeli military detention have collected further evidence of Israel’s use of dogs against Palestinians.
B’Tselem an Israeli human rights group have also documented at least eight cases of army dogs being used to attack and injure Palestinian civilians throughput 2011-2012.
The Electronic Intifada reports:
Trained to terrorize
Police dogs trained in the Netherlands to bite civilians have been exported to Israel for more than two decades.
Tonny Boeijen, owner of Four Winds K9, boasts that 90 percent of the dogs used by the Israeli military are trained by his company, based near the eastern city of Nijmegen.
He told the newspaper NRC that he has delivered dozens of dogs to Israel every year for 23 years.
Another 15-30 dogs are provided to Israel annually by Engelbert Uphues, a trainer in the German city of Ramsdorf, NRC states.
The Dutch government requires firms to obtain licenses to export so-called “strategic goods.” But a license will be denied if a correlation can be established between the export and human rights violations.
Military and police dogs are not considered strategic goods, but the Dutch police and defense ministry classify them as “means to violence,” just like pepper spray and handguns.
The Netherlands considers Israel to be a sensitive country for exports – along with Iran, Eritrea, South Sudan and others accused of human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law.
“The dogs are absolutely used by Israel as weapons against Palestinians and their export must be banned,” human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told NRC.
“It is common sense that service dogs fall under the rules on strategic goods,” Wassila Hachchi, a member of parliament for the center-left D66 party, has said. She is among a group of lawmakers from several parties urging the government to stop the exports to Israel.
The Dutch customs service has already halted the export of strategic goods to Israel including handguns, camouflage paint and infrared cameras.
Trade minister Lilian Ploumen told parliament last month that she is willing to stop the export of military dogs as well.
She said that although the dogs do not fall under European rules governing strategic goods, she would look into establishing a national system to regulate their export. She added that she would also discuss a common approach with European counterparts.
But given the ongoing and widespread complicity of EU governments in Israeli abuses, it is likely that sustained pressure will be needed to translate words into action.
Risk of legal action
Israel’s use of dogs to intimidate and terrorize civilians is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Al-Haq states in its letter to the Dutch government.
Individual executives from complicit companies such as Four Winds K9, and even Dutch customs or other officials, could therefore be held accountable for aiding and abetting war crimes, Al-Haq warns.
Dutch human rights attorney Liesbeth Zegveld says she’s already looking into whether she can sue Four Winds K9 and the Dutch state on behalf of Palestinian victims.