Saudi Arabia: a Saudi cargo ship stopped again in France at Marseille-Fos harbour

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Amnesty International declared on 28 May 2019 that a ship – the Bahri Tabuk – which presumably carries Canadian armed vehicles to Saudi Arabia stopped in Marseille-Fos, France, the same day. Many NGOs call on French authorities to block the shipment.

This event occurred two weeks after another Saudi cargo ship was supposed to stop and load French weapons at Le Havre harbor on 9 and 10 May 2019. After the investigation media outlet Disclose revealed that French arms were used in the Yemeni conflict against civilians, legal and mediatic action undertaken by French NGOs finally prevented the shipment.

Indeed, the shipment of French arms in this context would be a violation of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)and the European Union Common Position on the control of arms brokering, which France adhered to.

According to Aymeric Elluin, Arms Advocacy Officer at Amnesty International France, “We have grounds to fear that the shipment of arms which was blocked from being loaded on to the Bahri Yanbu will instead be loaded onto the Bahri Tabuk”.

However, Disclose later reported that CGT, the Trade Union of Marseille-Fos Dockers declared in a public statement that “Faithful to their history and their values of peace (…) they will not charge any weapon, no ammunition for what war whatsoever.” Only civil material will be loaded on the Bahri Tabuk.

If this constitutes good news, this is not enough. The Canadian armed vehicles will still be exported to Saudi Arabia, likely to commit human rights violation. Moreover, the French government is not backing down regarding its arms exports to Saudi Arabia. On 29 May 2019, the French Minister of Army declared to the Assemblée Nationale (Lower Chamber of Parliament) that “these shipments of arms were made in the frame of a partnership with Saudi Arabia.” This statement raises the question of when and how France will deliver their weapons to Saudi Arabia, to avoid international and civil society pressure.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) firmly condemns Canada and France for their arms export to Saudi Arabia and welcomes the decision of CGT not to load French ammunitions on the Bahri Tabuk. ECHDR calls on French authorities to respect their international obligations and to stop any kind of arms deal with Saudi Arabia.