A new report by the OrientXXI revealed that France was involved in supplying weapons to the Saudi-led coalition, leading to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
In seven years, the Yemeni conflict has killed 110,000 people. Among them nearly 13,000 civilians according to figures provided by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).
Ever since March 2015, when the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, stepped in to fight against the Houthist rebels, the French government has never ceased to deny its involvement in the conflict.
“We have not recently sold any weapons that might be used in the Yemeni conflict” or so Florence Parly, Armed Forces Minister claimed in January 2019 on the public radio station France Inter.
A few months later, on 15 April 2019, an inquiry conducted by the website Disclose proved the contrary, basing its revelations on a report from the Direction of Military Intelligence (DRM). Not only have French planes, helicopters, tanks, and canons taken part in the Coalition’s offensives, but these weapons may well have been used against civilian populated areas.
In 2019 alone, the French government authorised 47 munitions export contracts for torpedoes, rockets, missiles and other explosive material, totalling one billion euros for Saudi Arabia and another 3.5 billion euros worth for the United Arab Emirates. The following year, in 2020, these authorisations leapt by 40% for Saudi Arabia and 25% for the Emirates.
France: The second arms supplier
After the United States, France is the second arms supplier to the Saudi-Emirati coalition involved in the Yemeni civil war since 2015.
Until now, the French government refuses to reveal the detailed list of weapons supplied to each foreign country. But its public reports, presented to parliament each year, do nonetheless provide some indication of the volume of trade with the two most interventionist countries in the Near-East, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates, respectively the third and fifth-best clients of the French armaments industry.
Criminal complaint against French arms manufacturers
Since the beginning of its intervention, the Coalition has carried out dozens of disproportionate and indiscriminate airstrikes that have injured and killed civilians and destroyed or damaged homes, hospitals, schools, markets, and other civilian infrastructure.
Numerous reports (UN GEE on Yemen, NGOs, etc.) point to serious violations of international law, as well as potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed by means of airstrikes by the Coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in many cases using military equipment provided by other states.
Yet, despite this damning evidence, several countries, including France, have continued to supply arms to the Coalition, thereby flouting their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), European law, as well as their own national legislation.
Since 2014, France has been among the top arms suppliers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to annual data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Since the conflict began in 2015, French companies have continued to supply war materials as well as associated services.
The complaint seeks to expose the potential complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity of companies that have continued to transfer weapons or provide maintenance services to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite their knowledge of the crimes committed by the Coalition.
The complaint documents numerous Coalition airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, including 26 airstrikes that unlawfully killed or injured civilians, and destroyed or damaged schools, hospitals, and other protected property, which may constitute potential war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The complaint was submitted by Mwatana for Human Rights, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and Sherpa, with the support of Amnesty International France.
Mwatana for Human Rights is an independent Yemeni organization whose mission is to promote the protection of human rights through research on the ground and documentation of violations committed by all parties to the conflict. It also provides support and legal assistance to victims of detention-related abuses, advocating for stricter adherence to the principles of international law, as well as for increased access to accountability and redress in the context of the Yemen conflict.
ECCHR, based in Germany, supports those affected by serious crimes such as torture and other crimes against international law. In its Business and Human Rights department, ECCHR has worked for many years on the arms trade, also focusing on the accountability of economic actors with respect to the conflict in Yemen. ECCHR is also involved in several criminal complaints submitted against companies based in various European states for their possible complicity in international crimes committed in the context of armed conflicts, including a communication submitted with the International Criminal Court in December 2019.