On 10 July 2019, 19 human rights NGOs including Amnesty International France and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have written a letter asking the French Parliament to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), citing ongoing human rights abuses in the war in Yemen.
The United Nations (UN) and various non-governmental organisations have documented human rights violations committed by all parties in the conflict since 2014, including war crimes. Among other violations, the letter points out that Houthi rebels have been responsible for indiscriminate attacks, recruiting child soldiers, enforced disappearances, and torture. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has been found to have carried out repeated airstrikes targeting hospitals, schools, markets, funerals, and in one instance a school bus full of children. These abuses of human rights have exacerbated the already-dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
France is one of the largest arms exporters in Europe and members of the Saudi-led coalition are among its top clients. Indeed, a 2018 parliamentary report found that Saudi Arabia was the largest client of French arms in that year, having purchased €9.1 billion worth of weapons. This represents a 50% from the previous year despite the ongoing “dirty war.” At the same time, the UAE was the fifth largest client of French arms in 2018 and has been the fourth largest over the previous decade. Though these figures are known, further details about what exactly is being sold for what purpose remain obscured.
The NGOs stated that based on these sales, France is complicit in human rights abuses and war crimes. Therefore, they called on the French parliament to immediately cease selling arms to these countries. Furthermore, the NGOs called for increased transparency related to arms sales in general, specifically by establishing a parliamentary control on exports, which the vast majority of French citizens have been found to favour.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes this letter and joins other human rights NGOs in calling on France to end its arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition. We further call on all sides involved in the conflict in Yemen to end human rights abuses and war crimes and to reach a peaceful settlement.