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.