War crimes in Yemen: Complaint against French arms companies

Yemen – Arms exports – France

Attacks on residential buildings, markets and hospitals – which are enabled by weapons exports to the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – make French arms companies potentially complicit in war crimes against civilians in Yemen.

Therefore, ECCHR, together with Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa, submitted a criminal complaint with the Paris Court in June 2022. The complaint is against the arms companies Dassault Aviation, Thalès, and MBDA France.


In our complaint, we make it clear that, when French companies supply weapons to warring parties and national  authorities sanction these exports, the respective decision-makers could be aiding and abetting crimes against international law, and that they must be held accountable for this.

Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are two of the most important export markets for French weapons. During the seven years that the war in Yemen has been underway, thousands of attacks by the Saudi- and UAE-led military coalition on civilians and civilian targets have been documented. In spite of this, the companies listed in the complaint continued or continue to supply weapons, ammunition and technical support to states party to the military coalition. For instance, there is evidence that French Mirage fighter planes, as well as tracking systems from Thales and missiles from MBDA France, have been used by the military coalition in Yemen. Even though all warring parties must be held accountable, arms manufacturers play a special role in the conflict, considering that their continued weapons exports enable the illegal attacks on Yemeni civilians.


Already in April 2018, ECCHR and its partners submitted a similar criminal complaint regarding Italian arms shipments with the Rome Prosecutor's Office. This was followed in December 2019 by a communication submitted, together with Mwatana for Human Rights (Yemen), Amnesty International (France), the Campaign Against Arms Trade (UK), Centre Delàs (Spain) and Rete Disarmo (Italy), to the International Criminal Court in The Hague requesting investigations into several European arms manufacturers, such as Leonardo and Rheinmetall, as well as into the authorities that officially sanction their shipments. The aforementioned French companies were already named in the submission to the International Criminal Court because of their potential complicity.


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Q&A: Criminal complaint against French arms manufacturers for the export of war materials in the context of the Yemen conflict

In 2011, popular uprising broke out in Yemen, forcing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 
33 years in power, through a political agreement initiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council. 

Ali Abdullah Saleh was replaced by his vice president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Following two years of 
transitional period, including ten months of consultations as part of the “National Dialogue Conference”, the 
war started in September 2014 when the Ansar Allah armed group (also known as the Houthis) took control 
by force over the capital Sana’a, after aligning themselves with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who 
they subsequently assassinated three years later. 

In early 2015, the Houthi-Saleh forces placed the government of President Hadi under house arrest, 
announced a “constitutional declaration,” and dissolved the parliament. President Hadi fled to Aden, which 
he declared the country’s temporary capital. Houthi-Saleh forces took over large swathes of territory, 
eventually entering Aden, leading President Hadi to flee to Riyadh. 

On 26 March 2015, at the request of the Yemeni president, a coalition of nine states led by Saudi Arabia and 
the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (hereafter "the Coalition") intervened in support of the internationally 
recognized government of President Hadi against the Houthi-Saleh forces. In the years that followed, the 
conflict spread throughout the country, and the warring parties proliferated. Despite numerous UN efforts to 
broker peace, including ceasefires and peace talks, Yemen has been in conflict since.

Documents (4)

Press (1)


Glossary (1)


War crimes

War crimes are serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed in armed conflict.

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Topics (2)



While human rights violations are committed by all conflict parties in Yemen, one of the main causes of civilian casualties are airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition. Numerous reports by the UN and NGOs in Yemen and abroad document repeated and deadly attacks on civilian targets like hospitals, markets, schools and residential buildings.

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