Arms exports: Germany momentarily lifts the ban on exports for Saudi government

On 11 April 2019, Germany’s secret Security Council, consisting of chancellor Angela Merkel and chief ministers, allowed the shipment of weapons to members of the war coalition in Yemen, including Saudi Arabia.

Contrarily to the initial ban on arms exports on late November and extended till March, Germany apparently has re-established belligerent economic ties with Ryad’s authorities. The revolutionary stand was one of a kind among other EU states. Notably, France and Britain were excluded as the ban was extended.

Germany’s recent decision to extend its arms embargo on Saudi Arabia by six months was indeed a turning point on international strategic policy, especially within the European forum of multiple actors. The stand was so high and so strong that the combined pressure from France and the United Kingdom could not affect Germany’s intentions to end its embargo. The issue raised contrast and awareness among Germany’s governing coalition. Nevertheless, in the end Germany chose to maintain EU regulations and help spare bloodshed of Yemeni civilians in what is defined by the United Nations as the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe.

All along the conflict, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition has conducted several, unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes, killing thousands of unarmed civilians and destroying to the ground civilian property. The arms and munitions used are generally supplied and sold by the United States, United Kingdom, France and others. In response to these coalition violations, Angela Merkel’s governing coalition announced on March 2018 that it would suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, excluding contracts already in place, a firm strategy that immediately after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi Germany has totally implemented. This decision attracted the ire of the government of London and Paris.

However, as far as the decision may be defined as revolutionary, Germany’s arms trade lacks general transparency. The annual reports on arms exports published by the Federal Government are only suitable for a retrospective analysis. Furthermore, crucial information such as the companies involved and details about the traded arms are kept from the public, especially in relation to special weapon components. As a matter of fact, the transfer of technical know-how, the outsourcing of production lines to subsidiaries in other countries make the traceability even more difficult.

Germany still holds the fourth position on being the largest arms exporter in the world, according to a report released by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute on Monday.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) strongly holds the ground against the international trade of arms as a way to conduct and profit through international politics. Given the case of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, there is no human and political profit on collateral damages on civilians and innocent people that can be shared and accepted.

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