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MARCH 2021

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Yemen continues, countless civilians are killed and essential facilities destroyed. Germany and Europe must finally stop fueling these crimes by exporting arms to warring parties. To make that happen, ECCHR launched a petition in November 2020. Learn more about it and ECCHR’s ongoing work on arms exports in this special edition newsletter.

Using the law.
To work together for
global justice.
Arms exports and human rights
Breaking new ground through legal interventions
Through their economic activity, corporate executives can fuel armed conflicts and even aid and abet war crimes. Those affected who want to challenge these companies face major obstacles. They have hardly any clear, predetermined legal channels to claim their rights. With criminal complaints against corporations, campaigning and advocacy, we continue to break new ground in corporate human rights accountability.
Sharepic Radhya al-Mutawakel
Six years ago, the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition launched its military intervention in Yemen. Since then, the population has suffered from indiscriminate airstrikes on people and civilian infrastructure. The result is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. European states that sold weapons to the coalition contributed to this – and made more than 15 billion euros in doing so. In addition to legal action, we need public pressure. That is why we launched a petition calling on France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain to ban weapons exports to the Yemen war.
Legal interventions
Heckler & Koch: Germany’s highest criminal court hears case on illegal arms exports to Mexico
On 11 February, the German Federal Court of Justice heard the appeal in the case of illegal Heckler & Koch arms exports to Mexico. The case shows that end-user certificates are insufficient to regulate arms exports. Also, those affected were not heard in the previous proceedings in Stuttgart nor at the federal court. ECCHR supported the brother of a student who was shot with Heckler & Koch weapons, and tried to help him access the proceedings.
ICC on the Yemen war: Will it begin to investigate European arms companies and governments?
Destroyed buildings in Sana’a
Shortly before the end of the year, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced that in 2021, it will decide whether to open a preliminary investigation into European arms companies and the German, Italian, French, British and Spanish governments. This followed a criminal complaint ECCHR, Yemeni and European partner organizations filed in 2019. We argued that arms company executives and government officials who authorized arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE share legal responsibility for war crimes in Yemen.

Residential area in Sana’a after an airstrike © Mwatana
Interventions at the UN
Arms exports always impact particularly vulnerable groups
In 2020, we supported two UN committees by contributing our expertise to official questionnaires on arms exports to Germany and Italy. In response, the two governments had to take a position on their arms export policies.
Influence on corporations
RWM Italia supension lug
Room for critical questions? ECCHR at Airbus and Rheinmetall shareholder meetings
In addition to our legal work and advocacy, we use other means to hold defense companies accountable for unlawful exports. In 2020, we intervened as critical stockholders in Airbus and Rheinmetall Annual Shareholder Meetings. Our aim was to increase pressure on German arms manufacturer executives and persuade important shareholders to stop investing in these companies.

Suspension lug by RWM Italia, a Rheinmetall subsidiary, found in Yemen © Mwatana
Cooperation with universities
Training for human rights activists
We also share our practical casework experience with students to motivate them to become advocates and activists for the enforcement of human rights. In 2020, we organized summer and winter schools and guest lectured at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg.
ECCHR’s work would not be possible without the help of our friends and supporters.
Human rights due diligence laws: Also for arms exports
States must ensure that arms exports are legally analyzed and restricted. We argue that this could happen, for example, through human rights due diligence laws. We aim to intervene not only in legal practice, but also in theory as legal discourse ultimately influences how the law is implemented.
Linde Bryk/Maria Aksenova
Extraterritorial obligations of arms exporting corporations: New communication to the ICC, OpinioJuris, 14 January 2020
Linde Bryk/Miriam Saage-Maaß
Individual criminal liability for arms exports under the ICC statute: A case study of arms exports from Europe to Saudi-led coalition members used in the war in Yemen, Journal of International Criminal Justice 2019
Linde Bryk/Christian Schliemann
Arms trade and corporate responsibility, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2019
Chantal Meloni/Laura Duarte-Reyes
Un passo storico: accertare le responsabilità italiane per le bombe in Yemen, Domani, 25 January 2021