French government criticised for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

An airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, in 2015. A cloud of smoke rises from behind buildings. The sun is rising to the left of the picture.
An airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, in 2015. Credit: Ibrahem Qasim CC BY-SA 4.0
Andrew Metheven

A new report from French human rights group says the French government may have breached international law in it's sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that could be used in their war on Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are some of the biggest buyers of French military equipment, receiving tanks, artillery, munitions, and fighter jets from French companies.

The report, which was written by the law firm Ancile Avocat for Amnesty International and ACAT, says “The French government has authorized exports of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in circumstances where these weapons can be used in the conflict in Yemen and could be used to carry out war crimes” and that these sales may violate France's commitments under the Arms Trade Treaty and the Common Position 2008/944 / CFSP of the Council of the European Union, which sets out how EU member states must manage arms exports. As a signatory of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty, the French government is obligated to prevent arms sales which will be used to break international law.

The Saudi-led coalition has been embroiled in a conflict with Houthi rebels since 2015. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and millions displaced. A cholera epidemic was described by the UN as the worst in the world, and a blockade of ports has led to severe food shortages. In 2017, the European Parliament voted in favour of a resolution to suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.


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