PILP-NJCM goes to court over rejection of FOI request about arms trade

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands has decided not to disclose any source of information on a license for arms export to Egypt. As a result, it is not possible to assess how this license was obtained, and whether sufficient weight was given to human rights in the process. The Public Interest Litigation Project of the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists for Human Rights (PILP-NJCM) therefore appealed to the court.

The PILP-NJCM submitted a request under the Dutch Freedom of Information act (Wob) last August, to request information about a license for arms export to Egypt. This request was rejected, because the requested information was supposed to be covered by the professional confidentiality of the Dutch customs authorities. The PILP-NJCM was not given access to any of the documents.

The PILP-NJCM objected to the rejection, see this news item. In the objection it was explained (among other things) why the requested information was not covered by the professional confidentiality of the Dutch customs authorities. Subsequently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a decision on the objection. This again stated that none of the documents would be made public.

The public accessibility of government information is of great importance to the proper functioning of our democratic rule of law. On a controversial topic such as arms exports, where human rights are at stake, transparency is all the more important. NGOs, such as the PILP-NJCM and our allies, fulfil the role of public watchdog according to the European Court of Human Rights. When the minister refuses to give any insight in the decision making process on arms export, NGO’s cannot properly fulfill this monitoring role.

According to PILP-NJCM, the decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is incorrect, was taken carelessly and is not (sufficiently) motivated on several points. Therefore we have filed an appeal with the court. Read our appeal here (in Dutch).

For more information on arms export and human rights, click here.