NGOs file suit against French arms firms over Yemen sales

Jun 1, 2022, 9:36 PM | Updated: Jun 2, 2022, 9:39 am

PARIS (AP) — A group of NGOs filed a lawsuit on Thursday against three French arms manufacturers for what they claim was their complicity in alleged war crimes in Yemen.

They accuse Dassault Aviation, Thales Group and MBDA France of selling weapons and equipment to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since 2015, despite widespread evidence that civilians were deliberately targeted.

The legal action came as the United Nations announced on Thursday that Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to renew a nationwide truce for another two months, offering a window of hope for peace.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, or ECCHR, Sherpa and the local Yemeni human rights group Mwatana, supported by Amnesty International, announced the criminal complaint with the Paris Judiciary Tribunal during a news conference in the French capital.

The Berlin-based ECCHR said the French companies could not plead ignorance.

“Since 2015, there has been an abundance of international reports from the U.N. but also civil society documenting systematic attacks on civilians … that cannot be reasonably ignored by any company doing business with the coalition,” ECCHR co-director Cannelle Lavite told The Associated Press.

The fighting in Yemen erupted in 2014 when the Houthi rebels descended from their northern enclave and took over the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power. The conflict eventually descended into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Dassault Aviation makes and maintains Mirage 2000 warplanes, used by Saudi Arabia. MBDA France and Thales produce fighter jets, missiles and guidance systems largely used in the Yemen conflict. Contacted by AP, the three companies did not comment.

Yemen’s war has killed over 150,000 people, including over 14,500 civilians, resulting in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

The representative of the Yemeni association involved in the legal action against French companies claimed Europe has a double standard regarding weapons destined for conflict zones. He cited the war in Ukraine and the European Union’s swift response to alleged war crimes there.

“Europe, NATO and their allies condemn the use of Russian weapons, but do they condemn the use of the weapons deployed in Yemen?” asked Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, executive director of Mwatana.

He said that those condemning Russia continue to sell weapons and equipment “to those who are behind war crimes” in Yemen.

“I was sad to see there isn’t the same consideration for the victims in Yemen,” he said.

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NGOs file suit against French arms firms over Yemen sales