By Ayhan Simsek
A German human rights group on Wednesday criticized the country’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of Riyadh’s notorious rights record and its involvement in the conflict in Yemen.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Beate Rudolf, head of the German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR), stressed that Berlin has committed to pursue a pro-human rights foreign policy, but its arms exports are an exception to this.
“We have observed that in government authorization of arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the human rights situations in these countries, and their compliance with international humanitarian law, did not play any role,” she said.
In its annual report released on Wednesday, the group underlined that Germany’s most controversial arms exports last year were made to Saudi Arabia and its regional ally the UAE, which have been directly involved in the military intervention in Yemen.
“Both countries systematically violate human rights, both have been involved in armed conflict since 2015, and neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law, such as the avoidance and/or investigation of military strikes to which civilians fall victim," the report said.
"Nevertheless, the federal government at the time continued to grant authorizations for arms exports.”
Germany exported €254 million worth of arms to Saudi Arabia last year and €214 million to the UAE.
Until this October, Berlin approved weapons exports worth €416.4 million to Saudi Arabia.
The group criticized the government for not being transparent about its arms exports authorizations and urged stricter standards.
“The federal government should also have to justify its decisions to parliament in order to facilitate a more informed discussion about the authorization procedures,” it said.
Following the Oct. 2 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government halted all arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
After weeks of denials and shifting stories, Saudi authorities admitted Khashoggi died there, but blamed a team of “rogue” agents.
Despite Merkel’s move, local media reported this week that a leading German defense firm used its subsidiaries in Italy and South Africa to bypass the export control system and continued its exports to Saudi Arabia.