Middle East, Europe

NGOs file case against French arms firms for Yemen war crimes

Rights groups accuse Dassault Aviation, Thales Group, MBDA France of supplying weapons used in Saudi-led Yemen offensive

Shweta Desai  | 03.06.2022 - Update : 03.06.2022
NGOs file case against French arms firms for Yemen war crimes


A group of NGOs filed a criminal complaint against three major French weapons manufacturers for “possible complicity in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen.”

Independent Yemeni group Mwatana for Human Rights, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and French organization Sherpa, supported by Amnesty International, have filed a case with the Paris Judiciary Tribunal.

They contend that fighter jets, missiles and guidance systems made by Dassault Aviation, Thales Group and MBDA France are used in the conflict in Yemen, where there is “overwhelming evidence of indiscriminate attacks on Yemeni civilians.”

From 2015 to 2020, France delivered over €8 billion ($8.6 billion) worth of defense equipment, ammunition and maintenance services to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the two countries heading a military coalition against Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels for the past seven years.

The coalition’s offensive has caused massive destruction in Yemen, with countless attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, leading to what the United Nations has described as the “greatest humanitarian catastrophe,” the NGOs said in a statement.

Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, executive director of Mwatana, held France and other European countries responsible for the crimes against Yemeni people as they produce and supply the weapons being used in the conflict.

“We’re hoping that French courts can play a role in starting to fill the current cavernous accountability gap in Yemen,” he said.

In 2019, Mwatana, ECCHR and other rights groups approached the International Criminal Court with a list of 26 airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition which they claimed were possible war crimes.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the largest importers of French weapons.

The NGOs said it was necessary to establish if these exports could entail criminal responsibility on the part of companies that contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law.

“Arms trade is not a neutral activity: companies are responsible for the human rights aspects of their exports and could be held criminally liable as accomplices if they persist in exporting arms while knowing that they could be used to commit crimes,” ECCHR official Cannelle Lavite said.

The groups hoped that like in Ukraine, where the international community has been swift in investigating potential war crimes by Russian forces, “similar focus and urgency should be applied to ensure accountability for war crimes committed in all conflicts, wherever they take place.”

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