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16 Apr, 2019 20:01

It may turn out France was complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen – Member of investigative group

It may turn out France was complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen – Member of investigative group

While Paris is pointedly secretive about its role in the campaign waged by Riyadh in Yemen, the scale of its involvement might make France complicit in the Saudi war crimes, a co-founder of a French investigative group told RT.

Recent revelations made by the French investigative news organization Disclose have lifted the curtain on the true scale of French assistance to Saudi Arabia in its brutal war against the Yemeni Houthi rebels, widely seen as one of the worst humanitarian crises unfolding in today’s world. 

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Paris argues that the weapons it actively sells to the Saudis are used for defensive purposes only and are intended to help Riyadh fight terrorists. However, that might not exactly be the case, Geoffrey Rivolsi, the co-founder of Disclose, believes.


While pointing out France’s secrecy about the nature of its arms contracts with Riyadh, the investigative journalist warned that a full disclosure of the French role in the Saudi-led coalition’s war efforts might potentially put Paris in a bind.

The contracts that France signed with Saudi Arabia and the UAE usually include commitments on the part of France to keep the supplied weapon systems operational, Rivolsi explained. That means that, after the weapons sales, France continues to provide maintenance for arms systems used in Yemen, he told RT.

Paris says that all the assistance it renders to Riyadh is aimed solely at boosting Saudi Arabia’s defensive capabilities and helping it to fight extremists. “However, nowadays, French weapons are used in Yemen not against Al Qaeda but against the Yemenis in the areas controlled by the Houthis,” the Disclose co-founder said.

That clearly goes beyond the issue of countering terrorism.

Documents obtained by the investigative group show that France is clearly aware of potential risks of its weapons being used against civilians in Yemen. One map, entitled “Population that can suffer as a result of shelling” shows how many people live within range of the French-made 155mm self-propelled howitzers CEASAR currently deployed to the Saudi border areas near Yemen. The map puts the number of potentially affected civilians at 430,000.

“CEASAR howitzers are a source of concern for the government because these artillery systems are used to shell Yemen,” Rivolsi said.

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The UN earlier blamed both the Saudis and the Houthis for the human suffering in Yemen, particularly saying that some of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes there might amount to war crimes. “Taking into account its role in assisting the coalition in the field of arms supplies, France might emerge as an accomplice in these war crimes,” the investigative journalist warned, adding, however, that there has been “no direct evidence” of civilians being killed with French weapons and bombs.

These facts partially explain why Paris has been increasingly secretive about its dealings with Riyadh recently. The recent revelations “primarily demonstrate that France is not transparent enough in the field of its arms exports,” the Disclose co-founder believes.

“Today, even the [French] parliament has no access to the information presented in the report we made public. It does not have the exact list of weapons sold to Saudi Arabia. It has no such data.”

So why does France continue to get itself involved in the arms trade with Riyadh, even though the stakes are high, at least in terms of its international reputation? According to Rivolsi, the answer is money.

It is definitely linked to the economic interests, to these contracts that bring incredible profits to France. 

However, it cannot simply continue like this, Rivolsi believes. France has some international obligations it has to fulfill. “It must take responsibility and … conduct an investigation into the use of its weapons in Yemen,” he said, adding that French MPs are likely to demand a special parliamentary commission be created to look into the matter.

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