French arms sales: ‘indicators of presence’ in Yemen and the necessary reform of control mechanisms

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Our study reveals fifteen ‘indicators of presence’ that French armament may be involved in the war in Yemen. Along with the Armaments Observatory, FIDH calls for the establishment of a permanent parliamentary committee for the control of arms exports.

The Armaments Observatory, the FIDH, the LDH and SAF reveal "indicators of presence" of French military equipment used by the Saudi coalition in Yemen and underline inconsistencies in the French arms sales system.

The report points to both massive arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before and during the conflict; an adaptation of some of the material delivered to the realities of the Yemeni terrain (notably through the Donas contract); and indications of the presence of French military equipment in Yemen.

It concerns in particular the possible use in Yemen of:
 Caesar guns sold during the conflict by Nexter and allegedly used in December 2015 to pound Yemen from the Saudi city of Najran.
 Leclerc tanks sold in the 1980s and 1990s to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allegedly used during the Battle of Aden in 2015.
 SDTI surveillance drones and mini Airbus DRAC drones.
 Airbus Cougar helicopters dedicated to troop transport.
 Armored SUVs delivered in 2016 and possibly used in 2018.
 French frigates used (and sometimes attacked) off Yemen as part of the blockade imposed by the coalition, which is illegal under international law.

These "indicators of presence" were obtained through the consultation of official reports; the SIPRI database; the specialized press on defense issues; Twitter accounts specialized in military intelligence; and confidential testimony. If these indicators are not considered to be evidence, they raise serious suspicions about the presence and widespread use of French military equipment in Yemen, in addition to recent revelations by Amnesty International and ACAT.

Following the filing of a request for the creation of a commission of inquiry by Sébastien Nadot and fifteen deputies on 6 April 2018, it is urgent that a parliamentary commission of inquiry is set up to shed light on the sale and the use of French military equipment to the Saudi coalition.

In France, the decision to export arms lies on the responsibility of the Prime Minister, the advice of a commission chaired by the Secretary General of National Defense and National Security, and is composed of the ministries in charge of Foreign Affairs, National Defense and Economy. It is imperative that this decision is shared with the Parliament, as is the practice in other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. Our organizations propose the establishment of a permanent commission of control of the sales of arms in charge of controlling the decisions of export.

France’s international legal obligations and European commitments prohibit sales, transfers or deliveries of weapons that may contribute to the human rights and international humanitarian law violations. It is essential that the French authorities undertake structural reforms to prevent the export of military equipment from rendering them complicit in war crimes.


Three years after the beginning of the intervention of Saudi Arabia’s regional coalition, Yemen is now considered by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and is subject to a devastating and illegal blockade. More than 22 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid, and 8.4 million are on the verge of starvation. 130 children under the age of five die each day from preventable causes.
Since 2015, more than 16,000 coalition strikes have been identified, targeting civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, which could constitute war crimes. According to the Armed Conflict Rental & Event Data (ACLED) Project, the battles of the last fifteen months has affected almost 22,000 victims.

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