France could face lawsuits over Saudi, UAE arms deals

France could face lawsuits over Saudi, UAE arms deals
French arms manufacturers who have the consent of the government in Paris to sell weapons to Riyadh could face lawsuits over the use of their equipment in the Yemen war.
3 min read
20 March, 2018
French armour are among the equipment Paris has sold to the Gulf states [Getty]
French arms manufacturers who have been authorised to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE by the Paris government could face lawsuits over their use in Yemen's war, a legal report has found.

The report was commissioned by human rights groups including Amnesty International and was released on Monday.

In September, Orient XXI revealed the extent of French arms sales to the two Gulf nations that are playing lead roles in the devastating war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

According to data supplied by the French board at the time, l'Observatoire des Armements, France and Saudi Arabia have also made covert use of a contract meant for Lebanon to prepare for war in Yemen.

Read more: 

Exposed: France's arms dealers making a killing in Yemen

Among the French hardware used in Yemen are Leclerc tanks, as well as Mirage 2000s, along with various other naval, ground and infantry assets.

The new study, Reuters reported on Monday, "shows a legally high risk that France's arms transfers are contrary to its international commitments", concluded Joseph Breham and Laurence Greig, authors of Ancile Avocats' 92-page report commissioned by Amnesty International and the French human rights group ACAT.

"The French government has authorised 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."

In April, French President Macron will meet with Saudi crown prince and Yemen war architect Mohammed bin Salman, amid strained French-Saudi relations over differences on Iran and Lebanon.

Although Reuters said France has defended the government arms export process as "robust and transparent", French officials said they are already telling weapons suppliers that they should refrain from seeking any new export licenses for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"I don't think you'll see a clear pushback from us. What's more likely is an informal message to companies to not bother asking for licenses," a French diplomat was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"It will be a de facto restriction but without saying it publicly, so as not to annoy the Saudis," he added. 

France, UK and US are among the biggest weapons exporters to the Gulf region, a fact that has caused widespread criticism, protests and legal action over the devastating toll of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Yemen has been engulfed in a civil war since 2015, with the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis to restore the internationally recognised government to power.

The UN has labelled Yemen the world's worst humanitarian disaster, tallying more than 9,200 fatalities since the Saudi-led coalition intervened.

Malnutrition, cholera, and other diseases have spread, and millions have come to depend on humanitarian assistance for survival.