Amnesty International has condemned France’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s deadly war on Yemen, saying Paris cannot be trusted on claims that the weapons are not being used against civilians.
On Thursday, French human rights protesters sought to block the loading of weapons onto a Saudi vessel that was due to dock in northern France later in the day.
Weeks ago investigative website Disclose had published leaked documents that showed Saudi Arabia was using French weapons including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, against civilians in Yemen’s war.
Faced with Growing criticism, French President Emmanuel Macron admitted that the weapons were indeed being used in the war but only within Saudi Arabia’s border.
“I would like to say here that what we reiterated was the guarantee for them (the arms) not be used against civilian populations,” he said.
Aymeric Elluin, Amnesty’s advocacy officer for weapons and international justice, said Macron’s words were no longer trustworthy because France was constantly changing its discourse.
“We were told the arms were only used for defensives purposes, and all of a sudden we’re being told ‘we never said there weren’t any French weapons being used in Yemen, we said we didn’t have proof that French weapons were used to kill civilians’,” she said, “So, France’s word is a vast gibberish, we cannot trust what they say.”
“The world now knows that the weapons are used in violation of humanitarian law with civilian targets that are deliberately targeted,” she added.
One of the main arms suppliers of Saudi Arabia, Paris has faced increasing pressure to review its sales to the oil rich kingdom.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said Wednesday that the vessel would load French arms ordered years ago.
The website Disclose said this week that the shipment included as many as eight howitzer Caesar cannons, manufactured by Nexter.
“So today, when faced with information showing that France is delivering Caesar cannons, one can only contest this because it would be illegal, because it means France knows its weapons could be used to commit atrocities,” Elluin said.
This is while France has yet to even offer public guarantees and has never offered to say “‘French weapons will never be used to kill civilians.'”
Paris is a signatory of the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which oversees the international trade of conventional weapons.
Ship tracking data showed Saudi vessel the Bahri-Yanbu had been waiting off French coast since Wednesday evening and had yet to dock at Le Havre. The ship will leave with its cargo on Friday night.
Ever since its onset in March 2015, the Saudi-led war has killed tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians and plunged the country deep into what the UN calls worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.