Belgian organisations take court action to stop arms sales to Saudi

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A large CMI Defence Cockerill CPWS turret on top of an armoured
A large CMI Defence Cockerill CPWS turret on top of an armoured vehicle. Image: CMI Defence
Translated by
Natalia García (ES)

On Monday 14th September a number of peace and human rights organisations in Belgium launched a new procedure at the Council of State, pushing for the suspension of all permits allowing companies to export weapons to Saudi Arabia. The organisations - the Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie (CNAPD), de Ligue des Droits Humains (LDH) and the WRI affiliated peace organisation Vredesactie - are supported by the Belgian office of Amnesty International.

In August the coalition of organisations obtained a temporary suspension of some arms sales to specific Saudi Arabian units (such as Saudi Arabia's National Guard). However a number of export licenses (for arms sold by FN Herstal and CMI Defence, including armoured vehicles and gun turrets) were permitted to go ahead because the Council of State agreed that the weapons were destined for the Saudi Royal Guard and would not be used as part of the war in Yemen.

However, research by Vredesactie showed a different story, and in the most recent court action are pushing for these export licenses to also be suspended. They argue that the Saudi Royal Guard has been involved in various extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and torture, both in Saudi Arabia and abroad and were involved in the gruesome murder of the journalist Khashoggi. So there is no guarantee that this Royal Guard will respect human rights. 

Vredesactie have also argued that the the order contains too many armoured vehicles for the Royal Guard alone, so it is likely that the Royal Guard is merely the official recipient and will passe the vehicles to other units, which may be involved in the war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is Wallonia's single biggest arms customer, importing 225 million worth of arms in 2018.

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