Canada flouts international law by continuing Saudi arms sales, report says

A variation of light armored vehicles, similar to those ordered by the Canadian Armed Forces, can be found inside the General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada plant in London, Ontario. August 16, 2019. Green colored LAVs are sold to the Canadian military, but sand colored LAVs are sold to Saudi Arabia.Geoff Robins / The Canadian Press

The Canadian government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is flouting international law by refusing to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from two watch groups.

Amnesty International and Project Plowshares, a disarmament group based in Waterloo, Ont., Say in a study titled “No Credible Evidence”: The Skewed Analysis of Canada’s Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia, the 2020 Review of federal government exports of military goods from Canada to the Desert Kingdom is “fundamentally flawed” because it misinterprets or ignores key pillars of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Saudi Arabia remains the largest customer of Canadian military goods outside of the United States, in large part due to a massive deal worth nearly $ 15 billion negotiated by the Canadian government to sell vehicles armored vehicles equipped with weapons in Riyadh.

Last year, then Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne lifted a moratorium on reviewing new requests for arms exports to Saudi Arabia after the Global Affairs Ministry published a report claiming that there was “no substantial risk” that such transfers of military assets would be “used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law or gender-based violence.”

For example, Canada exported more than $ 1.3 billion in military goods to Saudi Arabia in 2020, a country where, as Amnesty International reported, “the crackdown on freedom of expression rights, association and meeting has intensified ”last year. The rights watchdog notes that a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia has been charged with war crimes for its role in a long-standing war in neighboring Yemen, where both sides “commit violations of the law. international humanitarian law and human rights violations with impunity ”.

Canadian-made light armored vehicles operated by Saudi soldiers were filmed during skirmishes across the Saudi-Yemen border. And Canadian-made sniper rifles have been pictured in the possession of Yemeni government soldiers or their proxy forces – weapons which arms trade controllers say were supplied by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in a war in Yemen since 2015 as the leader of a coalition of countries in the Middle East and Africa supporting a Yemeni government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Human rights groups and Western political leaders – including the European Parliament – have called for a freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly a quarter of a million people have died in the war in Yemen. The conflict has claimed an estimated 233,000 deaths since 2014, including 131,000 from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure. It also led to what the United Nations body has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

In Global Affairs review of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Canadian government partially justifies legality of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia by citing 2019 expert panel report independents appointed by the United Nations to monitor the conflict in Yemen. He notes that the panel does not identify Canada as one of the countries contributing to the conflict through arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “The Panel of Eminent Experts has explicitly questioned the legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom and the United States,” Canada stressed. “Notably, however, the [experts’] report did not question the legality of Canadian arms transfers “to Saudi Arabia.

But months after the release of the Global Affairs report – and used to justify the green light to resume approval of arms export permits – the same panel on Yemen has explicitly named Canada as a helper. fuel the Yemeni conflict.

In a report for the period ending June 2020, the panel included Canada on a list of countries selling arms to those leading the conflict in Yemen: a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels backed by the ‘Iran. These countries “continued to support the parties to the conflict, in particular through arms transfers, thus helping to perpetuate the conflict,” the report said.

Amnesty and Plowshares note that Canada did not change its mind about the safety of arms exports to Saudi Arabia after this.

“What Canada wants to see before it stops exports is a video of a Canadian product killing a civilian,” said Kelsey Gallagher, researcher at Plowshares. “You will never make it.”

The Global Arms Trade Treaty states that signatory countries must assess the potential that exported military goods “would undermine peace and security”, or be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law or human rights. ‘man. If a country determines that there is a “major risk”, those negative consequences can occur, and that risk cannot be mitigated, it is legally obligated to prevent the export, the treaty says. Canada joined the treaty in 2019.

But Amnesty and Project Plowshares say the Canadian government has narrowly defined “dominant risk” as “direct, present and foreseeable risk” that a specific good or technology would cause negative consequences.

“Contrary to what the federal government has said, Canada continues to ignore its international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Plowshares. He said the 2020 Global Affairs review of Saudi arms sales “selects evidence to paint a picture of an arms deal fully in line with international law.”

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