BAE Systems accused of being party to alleged war crimes

The Guardian
2019-12-22 | Since 3 Month

A group of human rights organisations have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing BAE Systems and other arms manufacturers based in Europe of being party to alleged war crimes in the conflict in Yemen.

Their 350-page dossier argues that aircraft, missiles and other arms made by 10 companies “contributed to the capacity” of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict, which is accused of bombing schools, hospitals and civilians in 26 airstrikes.

Radhya Almutawakel, the chair of a Yemeni organisation Mwatana for Human Rights, said: “Saudi/UAE-led coalition airstrikes have caused terrible destruction in Yemen. Weapons produced and exported by the US and Europe have enabled this destruction.

“Five years into this war, the countless Yemeni victims deserve credible investigations into all perpetrators of crimes against them, including those potentially complicit.”

Over 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed since war in Yemen broke out in 2015, including 12,000 civilians in directly targeted attacks. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels with a pattern of airstrikes that has brought repeated humanitarian criticism.

The 26 strikes specifically cited, where 135 people were killed and 181 injured, include what are described as indiscriminate attacks on hospitals and schools by bombers from Saudi Arabia or its ally the United Arab Emirates, and where remnants of bombs made by companies based in Europe were discovered.
The human-rights groups, who also include Amnesty International and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, met with members of the prosecutors’ office on Wednesday afternoon in The Hague, where the ICC is located, to hand over the file.

Linde Bryk, a lawyer representing the human rights groups said: “By seeking an investigation into corporate executives and government officials the communication seeks to hold to account those selling arms to countries known to have committed war crimes.”

BAE Systems is cited in the complaint because the British arms giant is the principal supplier of Eurofighter Tornado and Typhoon jet aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has conducted a string of deadly strikes Yemen, as is the UK arm of Raytheon, which manufactures Paveway IV guided missiles used in the conflict.

In the case of BAE Systems, it argues that the company “purposely intended” to supply the Saudis with arms, and after the conflict began company bosses would have become aware of “the abundance of reporting on the violations being committed”.

It argues: “The use of Eurofighter and Tornado jets by the coalition in Yemen – that the realisation of the war crimes, for example the intentionally targeting of civilians, attacks on schools, hospitals and cultural heritage, was a consequence of the assistance in the ordinary course of events.”

It also references Airbus companies in Spain and Germany, France’s Dassault and Thales, Italian group Leonardo, the Italian arm of Germany’s Rheinmetall and units of European missile manufacturer MBDA in France and Britain. Dassault supplies fighter aircraft to the UAE.

Companies based in the UK are the largest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2019, accounting for €5.8bn worth, according to publicly available data in the complaint. Firms based in France were recorded as doing €2.5bn worth of business, and their German equivalents €1.5bn.

BAE Systems has previously defended its sales to Saudi Arabia, saying it is a defence company which complies with UK arms export regulations. New arms sales to Saudi Arabia which could be used in Yemen have been on hold since June when the British court of appeal said that ministers had not properly assessed the risk they would be used in breach of international humanitarian law.

Raytheon’s chief executive of international operations has previously said the company’s role is to comply with existing arms export policies.

 



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