New report reveals: Arms exports by Spanish company Airbus to Saudi Arabia and UAE may have contributed to war crimes in Yemen

NGOs call on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation


Barcelona/Berlin/Madrid –The report "Spanish Arms Exports and Alleged War Crimes in Yemen" by Amnesty International, Centre Delàs for Peace Studies and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) reveals new evidence regarding arms exports by the Spanish company Airbus Defence and Space S.A. to Saudi Arabia (SA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as their use in alleged war crimes in Yemen committed between the start of the conflict in 2015 and June 2021. It documents arms exports to both countries, while highlighting Spain’s role in the production, export and maintenance of the combat aircraft Eurofighter Typhoon, as well as the aerial refueling tanker plane A330 MRTT.

The NGOs are requesting that the Spanish government:

  • establish an independent inquiry involving experts in international human rights law and international humanitarian law to investigate the use of the A330 MRTTs and the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft by the Saudi-led military coalition;
  • suspend any licenses for the provision of maintenance, training and other associated services related to the A330 MRTTs; and
  • suspend any export licenses for parts and components for the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Based on the report’s findings, official UN and civil society reports indicate that war crimes were committed by SA and the UAE in Yemen. Both Spanish government officials and the decision-making staff of Airbus Defence may have aided and abetted alleged war crimes. According to information from the Yemen Data Project (a non-profit organization that collects data on the war in Yemen), there have been over 25,000 airstrikes since the beginning of the air campaign, of which 8,121 were against military targets and more than 7,055 against non-military targets. In 9,878 cases it cannot be confirmed whether a military target was the object of the attack. "Spanish military equipment is essential for both aircraft and a number of other military goods used by the Saudi/Emirati-led Coalition that has committed atrocities in Yemen. This raises serious questions as to the potential complicity of the Spanish government in the commission of international crimes in Yemen," says Alberto Estévez, Amnesty International spokesperson.

“Airbus is benefiting from the continuous stream of arms licenses granted by the Spanish government for the Coalition, and it needs to be held accountable. Corporations are responsible under international standards to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations,” explained Jordi Calvo Rufanges, Centre Delàs for Peace Studies spokesperson. Under Article 6 of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), ratified by Spain in 2014, states are prohibited from authorizing any transfer of conventional arms, related ammunition, parts or components when they have knowledge that said arms could be used in war crimes or other human rights violations. Both Spanish and European Union law have similar provisions prohibiting such arms transfers.

"Military goods of European origin constitute a substantial part of the overall equipment available to Saudi Arabia and UAE air forces. It is time for both corporate and government actors to review their actions against the standards of international criminal law and for the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate their role in the atrocities committed in Yemen," says Christian Schliemann-Radbruch, Co-Director of Business and Human Rights at ECCHR.

Already in December 2019, Mwatana, ECCHR and a group of other NGOs submitted a Communication  to the International Criminal Court, detailing 26 separate airstrikes by the military coalition that can be classified as war crimes. In the Communication, ECCHR and its partners call on the ICC to investigate the legal responsibility of corporate and political actors from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Download the full report.

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