A district court in the Netherlands is hearing a lawsuit filed by Extinction Rebellion against the use of foreign water cannons. These are alleged to have targeted the heads of demonstrators.
It is not only in Germany that police are using excessive force against climate demonstrations. For more than three weeks, the Federal Police have been using water cannons at the request of the Dutch police to spray people off the streets in The Hague. Hundreds and sometimes even thousands of demonstrators block the highway to the government quarter there every day after calls from the Dutch section of Extinction Rebellion; 7000 people are said to have been arrested so far. The Last Generation from Germany has also joined the protests.
In addition to the German police, the Belgian police also provide the neighbouring country with water cannons and crews on some days against the climate protest. Several people have already been injured during the deployments. That is why the legal team of Extinction Rebellion filed an emergency lawsuit on 25 September for “completely unnecessary and disproportionate force”, which was heard on Tuesday at the District Court in The Hague.
The Dutch police currently do not have their own water cannons, their fleet has been decommissioned due to technical problems. However, they have ordered six new vehicles. For the time being, the police rely on borrowing water cannons from neighbouring countries, especially Germany. For 20 years, the German police have been supporting their neighbouring countries against left-wing protest, especially Switzerland and France. Since 2010, the new high-pressure water cannon “Wawe 10 000” has also been used for this purpose.
Extinction Rebellion argues in the lawsuit that the use of the water cannon violates national and international law, referring among others to cases in Germany. During the violent crackdown on demonstrators in Stuttgart’s Schlossgarten in September 2010, one protester lost his eyesight. In South Korea, a person was even killed by the use of a water cannon. In The Hague, activists suffered minor injuries or even very serious bruises.
According to Extinction Rebellion, the water cannon crew in The Hague also targeted protesters’ heads, as evidenced by video footage. In addition, the police had increasingly adjusted the water jet in recent weeks and finally also acted with a hard jet. However, this high pressure with up to 20 bar is only allowed at a minimum distance of 15 metres.
In court, Willem Jebbink, the lawyer of Extinction Rebellion, complains that unlike tear gas, there are no guidelines for the use of water cannons in the Netherlands. These are also not independently checked, which leads to arbitrary police action. In three cases, the German and Belgian water cannons were also used against people who were surrounded – according to the lawyer, this was a humiliation that served as a deterrent. Finally, the use of the water cannons had not led to the successful clearing of the street in any of the cases.
After the oral hearing on Tuesday, the district court will announce its verdict on the summary action on 13 October.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: German water cannon sprays on heads of demonstrators from short distance (Francisco van Jole/ Twitter).