Saudi Arabia: MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) issued a parliamentary question on the French arms exports to Saudi Arabia

On October 15 2018, MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) addressed the issue of the French arms exports to Saudi Arabia, in a parliamentary question to HR/VP Federica Mogherini.

On October 15 2018, MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) issued a Parliamentary Question to HR/VP Federica Mogherini on the French arms exports to Saudi Arabia regarding recent NGO-commissioned legal studies on this matter. In fact, the studies demonstrate clear signs of French military equipment used by the Saudi-led coalition in the war in Yemen. Furthermore, France remains one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms suppliers. Therefore, France, because of this relation, risks being complicit of grave human rights violations, as this action contradictions with its international obligations, including the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP and the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

This question was issued a few days after the new European Parliament (EP) Resolution on the situation in Yemen. The resolution asked all parties to the conflict to cease hostilities, to lift the ongoing blockade and to contribute in finding a solution to end immediately political, military and financial support to military actors involved in the conflict. The text highlights notably the EU Member States’ involvement in the arms trade with Saudi Arabia and urges EU MS to stop this practice.

Hence, in light of these events MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) asked the following questions:

  1. Does the VP/HR agree that, in light of the numerous violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition, France must stop selling and delivering arms to Saudi Arabia?
  2. Is the VP/HR aware that the use of French weapons in Yemen could make France complicit in these violations, and is she considering increasing the pressure on France, with a view to the imposition of an arms embargo, as recommended by the European Parliament on two occasions?
  3. Will the VP/HR launch a process in the context of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) which would lead to an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia and members of the coalition?

In a reply, to Mr. Durand, Mr. Jadot and Mr. Urtasun’s question, HR/VP Federica Mogherini stressed that Yemen is regularly on the agenda of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. However, she points out that, for a complete embargo on arms trade with Saudi Arabia by the EU Member States, it would require a Council decision which would have to be adopted by unanimity. This therefore implies that the decision of imposing an arms trade embargo on Saudi Arabia relies exclusively on the EU Member States that would have to adopt in unanimity a decision at the European Council; hence, the responsibility relies on the EU Member States and not on the European Commission.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the Parliamentary Questions issued by MEPs Pascal Durand, Yannick Jadot, Ernest Urtasun the key matters related to human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. It shares concerns on the increase number of arms exports to countries that consistently violate human rights as well as international public and humanitarian law conventions. We therefore call on all EU MS, such as France, involved in arms exporting, to put a halt to this practice since they become complicit in this humanitarian crisis. ECDHR urges the EU Council to adopt a unanimous decision on arms trade embargo on Saudi Arabia and calls on the EU to closely monitor the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s lack of commitment and compliance to its obligations under the UN Conventions and international human rights standards.

 

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Please find below a full copy of the question of MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) and the response of HR/VP Federica Mogherini.

Question for written answer to the Commission (Vice-President/High Representative), submitted by MEPs Pascal Durand (Verts/ALE), Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Ernest Urtasun (Verts/ALE) on October 15 2018.

While the Saudi-led coalition has committed numerous, extensively documented violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, France remains one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest arms suppliers — in clear contradiction with its international obligations, including Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP and the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

Two recent NGO-commissioned legal studies demonstrate signs of the presence of French military equipment currently in use by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and assert that France risks being complicit in grave violations, including war crimes.

Does the VP/HR agree that, in light of the numerous violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition, France must stop selling and delivering arms to Saudi Arabia?

Is the VP/HR aware that the use of French weapons in Yemen could make France complicit in these violations, and is she considering increasing the pressure on France, with a view to the imposition of an arms embargo, as recommended by the European Parliament on two occasions?

Will the VP/HR launch a process in the context of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) which would lead to an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia and members of the coalition?

Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini, on December 10 2018.

Under the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on the control of arms exports, the assessment of licence applications for the export of military technology and equipment is in the first place a responsibility of EU Member States. It is also their responsibility to assess the risks prior to authorising an arms transaction.

Common Position 2008/944/CFSP lays down eight risk assessment criteria against which EU Member States have to assess arms export applications. These criteria include assessing the risk that the arms might be used for internal repression or international aggression, for violations of human rights or international humanitarian law. Attached to the Common Position there is a User’s Guide that suggests ways to make operational the criteria in the Common Position.

The Common Position also provides for transparency among EU Member States on the exports of military equipment and technology: the EU Council reports every year on the implementation of the Common Position and provides detailed information on the destination and volume of arms exports authorised by EU Member States. The EU’s reports also give information on the number of authorisations denied per destination. Such denials demonstrate that the risk assessment regarding the destination in question can be negative and that not all arms exports are necessarily authorised. For instance in 2016, there were 18 denials concerning export licence applications to Saudi Arabia. The Council Working Party on Arms Exports (COARM) regularly addresses the policies of Member States on arms transfers to Saudi Arabia.

Yemen is regularly on the agenda of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. It should be recalled however that a complete embargo on arms trade with Saudi Arabia would require a Council decision to be adopted by unanimity.

 

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