A Palestinian teen is suing the Dutch company that supplied Israeli forces with the attack dogs that severely injured him three years ago, according to the Electronic Intifada.
Hamzeh Abu Hashem, from the occupied West Bank village of Beit Omar, filed a civil lawsuit against Four Winds K9 and its directors in the Netherlands in December; the firm has annually provided the Israeli military with dogs trained to attack civilians.
Abu Hashem was at a protest against the seizure of Palestinian land for the nearby illegal settlement of Karmei Tzur in late 2014 when Israeli forces arrived and released the attack dogs. He was bitten multiple times on his legs, arms and shoulders before the dogs were finally pulled off him and he was arrested by the soldiers.
The incident was filmed by one of the soldiers and published by the human rights group B’Tselem; the video shows the teen crying out in pain while the soldiers can be heard shouting, “Give it to him, son of a bitch” and “Who’s afraid?”
“These camera images show that Israeli soldiers initially stood by taunting Hamzeh while watching the dogs bite him and hearing him scream in agony,” a brief by Abu Hashem’s lawyers states.
According to Liesbeth Zegveld and Lisa Komp, attorneys with human rights law firm Prakken d’Oliveira who are representing Abu Hashem, Four Winds K9 are susceptible for legal action as they should know that the dogs are regularly used against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories.
The lawsuit demands damages for Abu Hashem and that the Dutch firm be prohibited from supplying dogs to the Israeli army.
Whilst Four Winds K9 claims that only the Israeli army is responsible for the use of the dogs, Abu Hashem’s lawyers have said that the company has an “independent duty of care” to ensure that it does not contribute to maintaining “a situation in breach of international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights”.
In 2015, lawmakers called on then Dutch Trade Minister Lillian Ploumen to halt the export of the dogs, after Four Winds K9 co-owner Tonny Boeijen boasted that 90 per cent of the hounds used by the Israeli military were provided by his company.
Whilst the Dutch government saw no legal basis for a ban, the company was urged to respect the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in conflict zones. The company subsequently announced in June 2016 that it was no longer providing Israel with “biting dogs” but only tracking hounds, with co-owner Linda Boeijen stating: “We had no intention to violate human rights.”
According to the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, military dogs “are intentionally used by Israeli occupying forces to terrorize and bite Palestinian civilians, especially during protests and night house raids.”