A year ago, ECCHR, Mwatana for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Centre Delàs, and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court.
We asked the court to investigate the criminal liability of weapons exporters and the European states that have licensed arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both states are committing war crimes in Yemen, where the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time is unfolding. They are not the only parties committing war crimes in Yemen, but European arms exporters supply them with the means to do so.
Arms exporters, state officials and governments act as if this is just business as usual, as if it has nothing to do with them.
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That European weapons are used to fuel the war in Yemen is outrageous and we can no longer accept it. We have the power to stop it.
Back ECCHR’s call for an investigation and demand that your government immediately ban these murderous exports. Sign the petition now.
Selling arms is not a neutral business. Weapons enable wars. Wars cause death, hunger, displacement, misery and despair. In Yemen, about 24 million people are currently dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. That corresponds to 80 percent of the population. 17 million people face food shortages, 2 million of whom are children suffering from severe malnutrition. And more than 3.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. As long as European companies continue selling weapons around the world, we cannot shy away from our collective responsibility for their abuse. European weapons must not be used to commit war crimes. Not here, not in Yemen, not anywhere.
Corporate executives like to portray their actions as politically and legally neutral. However, we believe they are not only morally but also legally responsible for supplying weapons, ammunition and logistical support to a military coalition accused of committing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations. It is about time that their criminal responsibility is also investigated.
Export licenses do not exempt companies from the responsibility to respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty, which is the first legally binding international instrument to regulate the transfer of conventional arms. The treaty expressly states that respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is a precondition for international arms trade. States must prohibit arms exports when they have knowledge that the arms will be used to commit war crimes.
In Yemen and other countries, however, we see that European states often fail to live up to these standards. In Germany, for example, the government declined to answer journalists’ questions on who is “participating” in the Yemen war, because the government had decided in its coalition agreement that it would not allow arms exports to countries directly involved in the armed conflict.
In July 2020, the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) found in a study that “Germany licenses and exports weapons of war and armaments to countries affected by war and crisis, to countries with human rights violations and to regions of tension.” In 2019, ECCHR conducted a study on the corporate liability of arms manufacturers for the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which you can read here if you want to get into the legal arguments.
But all of these studies and reports show one thing – just because an arms company has obtained an export license doesn’t mean its weapons can’t or won’t be used for war crimes. Because European governments have so-far failed to stop such weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we must stop them now!
Yes, we think that when making the wrong decisions on arms exports, they may also be criminally liable for their actions. Hence, as part of our work seeking accountability for ongoing crimes in Yemen, we, together with the Yemen-based human rights organization Mwatana and our partners from Spain, Italy, France and the UK, submitted a communication to the International Criminal Court in December 2019 asking the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate the responsibility not only of corporate actors, but also European state officials, for war crimes committed in Yemen with European weapons.
Because public pressure keeps officials on their toes and shows them that we, the public, won’t forget about their involvement in the crimes committed in Yemen. Since we filed the communication, the addressed European governments (Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK) haven’t made much progress in stopping their arms exports from fueling the war in Yemen. European weapons are still being exported to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Companies selling them fighter jets continue to have their staff placed in both countries to maintain the aircraft used by the military coalition to fly air raids in Yemen.
We need to show European governments and company officials that we care about where our weapons are exported. We must get their attention and we must make them act!
Company executives in the arms industry must be made to think about the criminal liability of their business practices. If they want to avoid facing criminal charges, they will have to change their business practices.
Likewise, state officials must become aware that they can be held criminally accountable for the export licenses they hand out. They must take responsibility for seriously assessing and limiting export licenses to war-torn countries.
This is why it’s so important that as many people as possible sign the petition. Please sign now and share it with your friends to show governments and arms company executives that we are taking a stand against illegal and morally corrupt arms exports.
Your signature is not the only help you can give. At ECCHR, we have more than 10 years of experience in fighting legal battles against governments and corporations that commit human rights violations. To continue our work, we need to stay politically and financially independent. If you want to support our work in this case or our fight for human rights more broadly, please donate.
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