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European arms companies accused of being complicit in Yemen war crimes

Yemen's civil war has killed more than 100,000 people since 2015. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 December, 2019

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A group of human rights organisations have filed a complaint to the ICC, accusing European arms companies of being complicit in war crimes in Yemen.

A group of human rights organisations have filed a 300-page document to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing European arms companies - including British giant BAE Systems - of being linked to war crimes in Yemen's brutal war.

The human-rights groups, including Amnesty International and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, met prosecutors in The Hague on Wednesday to hand over the file.

"An ICC investigation would be an historic step towards holding arms company executives accountable for their business decisions," Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control Researcher at Amnesty International, said on Thursday.

Read more: UK election 2019: Where do political parties stand on the Middle East?

"The reality is that everybody involved in selling weapons to the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led Coalition bears some responsibility for how those weapons are used. This includes company executives as well as government officials".

The dossier compiled by the rights' groups alleges that missiles, aircraft and other arms made by 10 companies "contributed to the capacity" of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict.

The groups accused Saudi Arabia of bombing schools, hospitals and civilians in 26 strikes, which killed more than 135 civilians. Remnants of bombs made by companies in Europe were found at each of the sites.

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BAE Systems is cited in the document as the principal supplier of Eurofighter Tornado and Typhoon jet aircrafts to the Saudi air force.

The UK arm of Raytheon, which manufactures Paveway IV guided missiles used in the conflict, was also mentioned.

The dossier says that BAE Systems "purposely intended" to supply Riyadh with arms even after company bosses would have been aware of an "abundance of reporting on the violations being committed", according to The Guardian.

France's Dassault and Thales, Italy's Leonardo, and Airbus companies in Spain and Germany were also referenced in the report.

"Any company executive can read a newspaper and understand that the human rights risk assessments of some European governments have failed catastrophically," said Patrick Wilcken.

"Company executives have had ample time and access to plenty of reliable information to reassess their decisions to supply the Coalition in the light of the horrific events in Yemen. Hiding behind flawed government decision-making is not good enough - now they could face criminal charges before an international criminal court."

The UK government has since 2015 doubled the value of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been involved in a five-year bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen.

Government data showed that London licensed £5.3 million ($6.85 million) worth of arms sales to Riyadh from March 2015 until March 2019, amounting to almost a 50 percent increase on the value of arms licenses, which stood at £3.8 million ($4.8 million) prior to the Yemen conflict. 

A UK court ruled in June that it was illegal for the government to license weapons exports to Saudi Arabia without first assessing whether there was an "historic pattern of breaches of international humanitarian law" by the Saudi-led coalition that has fought Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015.

Yemen's civil war has killed more than 100,000 people since 2015.

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