In a report from April 2018, the UN describes the war in Yemen as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” one that has left over ten million people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. Since 2015, thousands of civilians have been killed in the armed conflict; many more have died from famine and disease.
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, which launched its military intervention in Yemen in March 2015. Along with Saudi Arabia, the coalition also includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait and Sudan. 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.
Despite all of the reports, warnings and evidence that the airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition breach international humanitarian law, European companies are among those selling arms to the coalition states – with authorization from their respective European government authorities.
Furthermore, since 2002, the US has been using targeted drone attacks in the name of “counter-terrorism” to kill people in Yemen suspected of being involved in terrorism. These strikes are not as “surgical” as the US claims, and often result in the deaths of civilians. So far, nobody has been able to legally put an end to the US drone strikes or the killings of the Yemeni civilian population.
This is why ECCHR and its partner organizations from Yemen and in Europe are using the law to ensure that companies (complaint against Italian arms producer RWM Italia, a subsidiary of German firm Rheinmetall AG), and state authorities (administrative complaint against the German government for the involvement of US air base Ramstein) are held accountable for their role in aiding and abetting to civilian deaths in Yemen.
Despite countless attacks on civilian homes, markets, hospitals and schools – conducted by the Saudi/UAE-led military coalition – transnational companies based in Europe continued and continue to supply Saudi Arabia and the UAE with weapons, ammunition and logistical support. European government officials authorized the exports by granting licenses.
In the summer of 2012, two members of the bin Ali Jaber family were killed and many survivors traumatized in a drone attack in the Yemeni village of Khashamir. The US Ramstein Air Base in Germany played an important role in the attack. The German government’s response has been to deny any knowledge of or responsibility for the death of these and other civilians from US drone attacks.
Attacks on residential buildings, markets and hospitals 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. ECCHR, together with Mwatana for Human Rights and Sherpa, therefore submitted a criminal complaint with the Paris Court in June 2022.