French arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, face legal challenge

French arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE, face legal challenge
Two rights groups have demanded the French government withdraw export licenses to Saudi Arabia and the UAE over their involvement in Yemen's conflict.
2 min read
French President Emmanuel Macron faces pressure to halt arms sales to Gulf states [Getty]
A campaign urging the French government to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is being taken to France's highest legal authority.

Rights groups Droit Solidarite, a legal NGO, and Aser, which specialises in armament issues, demanded in March that export licenses to Saudi Arabia and the UAE be withdrawn and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was given a two-month ultimatum. 

With no response, the groups said they would present a legal challenge on Monday to the Conseil d'Etat, which advises the government on legislative matters and arbitrates on public policy issues.

"It will be up to (Council of State) to decide on the legality of the export licence authorisations issued by the prime minister," ASER et Droit Solidarite said in a statement.

The groups argue that France is violating national and international law by selling arms that are being used in the conflict in Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have died since a Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, intervened in March 2015. The UN says it is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are major buyers of French arms, and the country's top defence firms, such as Dassault and Thales have big contracts in the Gulf.

The world's third-biggest arms exporter, France's export licensing procedures have no parliamentary checks and are approved through a committee headed by the prime minister.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron faced calls from several international rights groups to to pressure Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over his country's deadly bombing campaign in Yemen, during his visit to Paris.

Some of France's European allies, including Germany, have curtailed links with the Saudi-led military coalition, though France, Britain and the United States have not followed suit, despite pressure from rights groups.