► What are the conclusions of the parliamentary report?
Almost two years of work, 180 hearings, visits to four countries (Germany, Belgium, United States, Egypt). The fact-finding mission on the control of arms exports was created at the National Assembly in December 2018, after the controversy against French arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are likely to be used unlawfully against civilians in Yemen.
Presenting their report, Wednesday, November 18, the deputies Jacques Maire (LREM) and Michèle Tabarot (LR), were clear: “Parliamentary control in France falls far short of what is happening elsewhere”, and the system for examining applications for export licenses has “A blind spot: it is completely opaque because the State is judge and party”.
The decision to export or not is taken by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Interministerial Commission for the Study of Exports of War Materials (CIEEMG), according to a confidential procedure.
“Making Parliament play its role is necessary to ensure that France complies with its international obligations and to strengthen the legitimacy of this public policy in the eyes of public opinion”, consider the two rapporteurs. According to them, the only annual information report to Parliament, “Very felted or filtered”, is not ” not enough “.
Jacques Maire and Michèle Tabarot therefore recommend setting up a working group common to the National Assembly and the Senate to ensure, from 2021, a first follow-up, then in the longer term, a parliamentary delegation to arms control, on the model of that dedicated to intelligence. This body would be limited to a few deputies and senators, from both the majority and the opposition. It would have access to the opinions of the CIEEMG, could conduct hearings, issue recommendations and publish an annual activity report.
→ READ. France on the podium of arms exporters
His control ” in the aftermath “ would also cover exports of “Dual-use goods”, such as drones or surveillance systems that can be used for civilian, military or law enforcement purposes. MEPs propose to create a list of customers, to whom it would be impossible to sell such technologies.
► What are the fourteen NGOs asking for?
Fourteen humanitarian and human rights NGOs have decided to support the report by also launching a call for “End of French opacity on arms sales” and the establishment of“A real control of Parliament”. Among them, large organizations such as Amnesty, Handicap International, the Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture (Acat) or Human Rights Watch. And more local ones such as Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies or Salam for Yemen (Peace for Yemen).
“France constitutes an exception among the great Western democracies, while countries like the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany have implemented such control for a long time”, they assure in a joint statement. The United Kingdom has chosen to set up a permanent commission, recalls Tony Fortin, researcher at the Armaments Observatory. “The Netherlands, on the other hand, publishes monthly reports on exported materials, including dual-use ones. This allows civil society and parliamentarians to be informed and to challenge the government ”.
Conversely, this specialist observes in France a “Regression” in the quality of the information transmitted by the executive to Parliament. However, NGOs are campaigning, and through their questions to the government, some deputies show their interest in the issue. “We have the foundations for a public debate. The challenge is to make it happen ”, says Aymeric Elluin, advocacy officer at Amnesty International.
► What responsibility for France in Yemen?
For NGOs, this control is all the more urgent as the French government continues to deliver weapons to several countries. “Responsible for serious violations against civilian populations”, especially in the Middle East.
→ EXPLICATION. War in Yemen: France, the United Kingdom and the United States singled out by the UN
The collective is particularly worried about Yemen, torn for five years by a civil war supported by several regional actors, including Saudi Arabia, one of France’s biggest customers. “We have fairly strong indicators on the commission of war crimes in Yemen”, testifies Elias Geoffroy, head of the Middle East at Acat. “Through its arms sales, France risks becoming an accomplice.”