French rights groups attempt to block transfer of Saudi arms

French rights groups attempt to block transfer of Saudi arms
Two French rights groups have attempted to block the transfer of arms to Saudi Arabia.
2 min read
10 May, 2019
France is one of Saudi Arabia's biggest arms providers [Getty]

French human rights groups are attempting to halt the an arms shipment to Saudi Arabia, saying the sale contravenes international law.

Activists from two rights groups are taking legal action in a bid to prevent the French weapons from being loaded on to a Saudi vessel at a northern port in France.

It comes after a website published a report alleging that the guided missiles and tanks were being used against civilians in Yemen.

Joseph Brehem, lawyer for the ACAT rights group, told Reuters that the case was being filed to prevent the French arms from being loaded onto the Bahri-Yanbu, a vessel owned by the Saudi defence and interior ministries.

"The article says that one country cannot authorise the transfer of weapons if at the time of the authorisation, the country knew that weapons could be used to commit war crimes," Brehem said.

The case will be decided on Friday - hours before the vessel is due to depart Le Havre.

French rights group ASER is also filing a case against the arms deal.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Wednesday that the Saudi ship is due to receive the arms this week, which were ordered several years ago

France has signed up to the Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits the sale of weapons to conflicts were war crimes are taking place.

President Emmanuel Macron has previously insisted that French weapons are only being used by Saudi Arabia for defensive purposes and within the kingdom's borders.

"Most of the weapons that have been sold are used inside (Saudi) territory or at the border, but they are used in the conflict," he said, according to Reuters.

The Yemen war has cost at least 13,000 lives since it broke out in 2014, with human rights groups claiming the real figure is up to five times higher than this estimate.

The war has led to one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, with widespread hunger and disease reported.