İrem UZUN -TDO- The Council of State, Belgium's top legal authority, has suspended arms export licenses for shipments to Saudi Arabia's National Guard after a complaint from human rights groups. The Council stated on Friday that the contracts did not meet the standard for "human rights in the end-user country and its respect for international law". Nevertheless, the council decided not to block shipments to the Saudi Royal Guard, a separate unit.
The decision followed an urgent appeal filed by four humanitarian an anti-war NGOs mid-July to have all six licenses suspended in the light of the Saudi-led military onslaught in Yemen. The League of Human Rights, Vredesactie, the Francophone division of Amnesty International Belgium and the Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie (CNAPD) appealed the arms exports licenses before the Council on 16 July. “The resumption of arms exports towards a country which is suspected of committing war crimes in Yemen, therefore done in total violation of international humanitarian law (…) is all the more shocking since it comes barely two months after the Council of State already suspended the licenses authorizing these exports,” the NGOs wrote in an online statement.
International observers and humanitarian groups have accused Saudi Arabia of committing war crimes in Yemen as part of its military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi forces in the country. Saudi Arabia is one of the world's biggest arms purchasers, spending billions with the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular. Riyadh depends less on Belgian arms, but is nevertheless the number one customer of Wallonia, the southern Belgian region, accounting for 225 million euros in a 950-million-euro industry in 2018.