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“French weapons could have been used to commit war crimes”

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The cross : What is TCA?

Aymeric Elluin: Entering into force in 2014, the Arms Trade Treaty is a legally binding UN convention. It is the result of a mobilization of civil society to submit the arms sector to controls. The aim was to reduce the possibility of arms trafficking and to prohibit their use to violate human rights.

How can we be sure that this treaty is respected by France?

EA: There is no assurance that the legal rules of the ATT are respected by our country. To receive an export license, the French company that sells arms must obtain a derogatory authorization from the Prime Minister. However, this process is opaque, the criteria and data made public are incomplete and partial. It is a real democratic problem.

→ READ. United Arab Emirates: the “made in France” in war crimes in Yemen

In the context of the war in Yemen, French weapons are used by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. To what extent can France be held responsible for the war crimes attributed to this coalition?

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EA: To speak only of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, we know that they use American, British and French armaments. These two states are responsible for most of the aerial attacks on Yemen. We have a whole range of clues to be certain that French weapons could have been used to commit atrocities against civilians. Amnesty International has appealed to the International Criminal Court to investigate this case.

What is the responsibility of industrial actors in these war crimes?

EA: The companies say their sales are legal because they have state permission. Today, international law is beginning to change to say that manufacturers are also responsible for the use that their customers make of the weapons they have sold them. They must indicate the measures put in place to ensure that their weapons are not implicated in war crimes. If this is the case, criminal liability may be invoked against them.

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How to achieve more transparency on the arms trade?

EA: The Lafarge Affair (the French cement manufacturer is being prosecuted for “complicity in crimes against humanity” in Syria, editor’s note) created a good basis for case law. It is now enough for a company to be aware that its action could be used to commit crimes to be prosecuted. A door is now open to discuss the criminal liability and complicity of manufacturers in the crimes committed by their customers.

Is the delivery of arms to Ukraine by France legitimate?

EA: At Amnesty International, we have not commented on this. Our concern is that states that sell arms do not violate the international law that governs this trade.

→ EDITORIAL. War in Ukraine: war crimes

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