Presumption of denial for countries engaged in the Yemen conflict

In July 2019 the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag decided, on the basis of new information, to remove previously imposed restrictions on Egypt. For the other countries in question (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) the restrictions will remain in place.

Since 27 November 2018 a presumption of denial was instituted on arms exports to the UAE and Egypt. This presumption of denial had previously been introduced for Saudi Arabia. The more restrictive policy was prompted by a report by the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen which posited a link between the navies of the coalition countries and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

In this context, ‘presumption of denial’ means that an export licence for military goods will not be issued for these end users unless it has been incontrovertibly demonstrated that the goods will not be used in the conflict in Yemen. In contrast with normal policy on assessing the risk of arms exports, the burden of proof under the new policy is thus reversed.

The government is closely monitoring the situation in Yemen. New information about the involvement of the Egyptian navy in the operation in Yemen suggests that the navy is being deployed mainly to secure the waterways around the Suez Canal. There is no reason to assume that Egypt is involved in the maritime blockade of Yemen. This is why the presumption-of-denial policy was lifted for Egypt.

Impact on the commercial sector

Licence applications for Egypt will continue to be scrupulously assessed against the eight criteria of the EU’s Common Position on Arms Exports. The risk that such goods could be used in the conflict in Yemen will thus remain a factor in the decision-making process on export licences. However, there is no longer a reverse burden of proof, whereby the applicant would have to demonstrate conclusively that the military goods in question will not be used in the conflict in Yemen (presumption of denial).  

The presumption-of-denial policy will remain in effect for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The chance that an application for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates will be denied is significantly greater than for other final destinations. This policy does not constitute an arms embargo, however. In other words, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to assess each application on a case-by-case basis. If it can be established with certainty that the military goods to be exported will not be used in the conflict in Yemen – and if the eight criteria of the EU Common Position on Arms Exports (944/2008) are met – an export licence will still be issued.


If you have any questions about Dutch arms export policy, please email the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: at