Two human rights groups campaigning for a halt to French arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they are taking their case to France’s highest legal authority.
Legal non-governmental organization Droit Solidarite and Aser, which specializes in armament issues, had given Prime Minister Edouard Philippe a two-month ultimatum in March to suspend licenses for arms sales to the Persian Gulf states.
Having received no response, the groups said they would present a legal challenge on Monday to the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest legal authority, which advises the government on legislative matters and arbitrates on public policy issues.
“It will be up to (Council of State) to decide on the legality of the export license authorizations issued by the prime minister,” Aser et Droit Solidarite said in a statement.
The two rights bodies argue that France is breaking international law by providing weapons for the Saudi-led aggression against war-ravaged Yemen and subsequently committing war crimes there.
In March, Amnesty International and French human rights group ACAT published a legal report warning that Paris and its weapons suppliers faced potential legal risks over their dealings with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Norway has already suspended arms exports to the United Arab Emirates. The German government has also said it would “immediately” stop weapons exports to anyone participating in the war in Yemen.
France, the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, counts Saudi Arabia and the UAE among its major purchasers, and France’s biggest defense firms, including Dassault and Thales, have major contracts in the Persian Gulf.
The European country has sold Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen since 2015 and punishing it with a crippling blockade on Yemeni ports, airports and borders crossings, which has restricted food, aid and vital supplies from entering the impoverished country.
The UAE was the first country to join the Saudi war against Yemen but fissures have emerged in their alliance recently as each side has been trying to carve out a zone of influence in the territories they seize.
The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights announced in a statement in March that the Saudi-led war had left 600,000 civilians dead and injured since March 2015.
The United Nations says a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.