According to recent disclosures, Denmark’s largest defence company, Terma, has supplied aircraft parts for the F-35 fighter jets used during Israel’s two latest bombing operations in Gaza in May 2021 and August 2022.
Many attacks occurred where there was no evident military target, resulting in a high number of losses among civilians, particularly among children. The May 2021 Israeli military attack on the Gaza Strip killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly, according to field research conducted by Euro-Med Monitor. In the August 2022 attack, 31 Palestinian civilians were killed, including at least 17 children.
Those airstrikes compounded the impact of a 17-year ongoing, arbitrary, and draconian Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. Such amounts to illegal collective punishment and disproportionately deprives Palestinians of their most basic rights, freedoms, and essential services, leading Gaza’s healthcare system, economy, and infrastructure to the brink of collapse.
So far, Israel has received from the United States 36 of a total of 50 fighter jets, becoming the first country outside the United States to put the super advanced aircraft into use. Such use is mainly in the small, besieged Gaza area inhabited by over 2 million people, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, aptly described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
The Danish company developed and produced the underside of the wings of the planes, the area which holds and drops the bombs and missiles, as well as 80 other parts of the F-35 combat aircraft. The parts that Terma provides are described by military experts as essential for the aircraft’s use in military operations, meaning they are also essential in committing serious violations of human rights.
Despite detailed reports showing Israel’s institutionalised regime of oppression and domination against the Palestinian people, little or no risk of involvement in human rights violations was assessed by the Danish defence industry, for which fighter planes are a multibillion-dollar business. The military exports gave Terma a turnover last year of over one billion kroner, a company which currently has more than 800 employees working only on F-35 aircraft.
“To protect international law and peoples’ concrete lives, there must be scrutiny and accountability for states and corporations that profit from supplying arms to countries involved in apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Michela Pugliese, Legal Researcher at the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, “Since 2014, Denmark is bound to the UN Arms Treaty and, as such, it is obliged to refuse any export of weapons or weapons’ parts to a country like Israel, where it is well known that they will be used for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, including intentionally attacking civilians and civilian objects”.
Traditionally, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused military exports to the Israeli government, due to the risk that the equipment could be used for the serious violations of human rights perpetrated by Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
However, things have changed considering Denmark’s new foreign policy doctrine of “pragmatic realism.” The government has eased a value-based foreign policy approach allowing for multiple shortcuts and indicating that it will no longer control what the products are used for.
A week ago, Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen lifted the previous ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which were imposed in 2018 and 2019 after the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi and in the backdrop of the Yemeni war.
The assessment of the risk of involvement in human rights violations, usually a central parameter when deciding on the export of weapons and military equipment, is not made when it comes to “projects which take place in cooperation with EU and NATO countries”, according to the very written words of the Danish Foreign Minister himself.
Consequently, Terma’s exports were made possible as they were first sent to the USA as part of Denmark’s participation in the American-led defence cooperation on the F-35 aircraft, and then to Israel.
Similarly, Terma’s press manager expressed the “happiness and pride” in being part of the F-35 programme and making “a significant contribution to Denmark’s important alliance with the USA and other countries”.
Civilians are significantly impacted as a result of this “contribution”. When fighter jet parts are developed and engineered in Denmark, it allows for the launch of bombs and missiles over the besieged Gaza Strip, destroying hospitals, homes, and transport systems, as well as numerous, innocent, human lives.
Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor calls on Denmark to immediately put an end to both direct and indirect export of all kinds of military equipment to the Israeli government; to acknowledge that Terma’s deliveries to equip Israeli fighter jets contribute to committing war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and guarantee scrutiny and accountability; to ensure that Terma’s company undertake human rights due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for both its potential and actual human rights impacts, as enshrined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; and finally, to respect and fulfil European and international law, in particular the UN Arms Treaty and the EU’s Joint Declaration on the Arms Trade, which Denmark has been obliged to follow since 2008.
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