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Rights groups threaten legal action against France over arms exports to Saudi, UAE

Two human rights groups have given the government of French President Emmanuel Macron two months to end its arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which are involved in a devastating three-year-old conflict in Yemen, or face legal proceedings.

Legal non-governmental organization Droit Solidarite and Aser, which specializes in armament issues, argue that France is breaking international law by providing weapons for the Saudi-led aggression against war-ravaged Yemen and subsequently committing war crimes there.

“France is not respecting its international commitments,” Aser’s president, Benoit Muracciole, told Reuters.

Lawyers acting for the two NGOs have already posted a letter to the office of Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe demanding the export licenses to be suspended.

Aser and Droit Solidarite will take their case to France’s highest legal authority, known as the Conseil d’Etat, in case the Paris government fails to meet their deadline.

“We will go to the Council of State from May 1 if there is an explicit or implicit refusal of the government to respond,” Muracciole pointed out.

The action comes as Norway has suspended arms exports to the United Arab Emirates.

The German government has also said that it would “immediately” stop weapons exports to anyone participating in the war in Yemen.

France, which is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter, has sold Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

About 14,000 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in March 2015. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The United Nations says a record 22.2 million people are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

A high-ranking UN aid official recently warned against the “catastrophic” living conditions in Yemen, stating that there is a growing risk of famine and cholera there.

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