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Belgian court suspends licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia

The FN Herstal arms factory in Belgium, whose export licences have bene suspended [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 July, 2018

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A Belgian court revoked a number of licenses for arms exports to Saudi Arabia, citing human rights concerns amid a controversial war on Yemen.

The Belgian Supreme Administrative Court on Saturday suspended eight licences for arms exports to Saudi Arabia,  citing human rights concerns, making good on a pledge it made in January to stop granting the licences.

The ruling affects Belgian weapons manufacturer FN Herstal, which last year sold €153 million ($179 million) worth of arms to the kingdom.

The court said authorities in Wallonia, Belgium’s French-speaking region in which FN Herstal is based, "did not fully and correctly examine human rights situation in Saudi Arabia," before issuing the permits.

Belgium joins Norway and Germany in banning arms exports to the ultra-conservative kingom. In 2016, the European Parliament called on the European Union to impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, citing the fact that Saudi Arabia uses European-made weapons to target civilians in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has spearheaded a bombing campaign under the auspice of fighting Houthi insurgents in Yemen, however its airstrikes routinely hit civilian and residential targets, killing thousands, including children.

Torture and enforced disappearences are also common in the kingdom, used to suppress dissidents such as human rights activists and the Shia minority.

Meanwhile, major arms-exporting countries and close Saudi allies the UK, US and France have not abated their weapons deals with the kingdom, despite coming under increasing pressure from rights groups and their own citizens.

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