Leaked documents implicate the French government in war crimes committed in Yemen

Disclose, an independent investigative website, published a devastating article on 15 April revealing France’s role in the war crimes perpetrated by the Saudi coalition in Yemen. The latter massacred thousands of civilians in operations using weapons supplied by France, Great Britain, the United States and other countries.

But French officials continued to deny it in public, lying blatantly even though they were contradicted by the briefings given by the intelligence.

On Wednesday, Disclose and its partners, including Radio France, Mediapart, Arte Info and Konbini, revealed that the State was preparing to prosecute those who helped to reveal these crimes. The police summoned two journalists from Disclose and one journalist from Radio France to interview them about these revelations.

Disclose’s article cites a 15-page classified report from the French Military Intelligence (DRM), dated 25 September 2018. This report provides overwhelming evidence of what has been used against French-made artillery, tanks and laser-guided missile systems against civilians in a war that has produced the worst humanitarian disaster area in the world.

The DRM report, entitled “Yemen: Security Situation”, was submitted to President Emmanuel Macron for a Defence Council meeting in the Elysée on 3 October 2018. It deals with French weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), both involved in the Yemen war, and shows how French-made weapons are positioned on the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Macron Armies, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, were both present at the Elysée briefing.

The DRM report states that the Saudis and the UAE have deployed Caesar howitzers, one of the most powerful weapons manufactured by the French state-owned company Nexter Systems, along the border with Yemen. This howitzer can fire six shells per minute up to 42 kilometres. The DRM report includes a map entitled “Population at Bomb Threat”. According to Disclose, it shows where “48 Saudi Caesar cannons point their mouths to three areas of Yemen dotted with villages, farms, towns and peasant hamlets.

The DRM report also indicates that the CAESARs are probably used to “support the Loyalist troops and Saudi armed forces in their progression through Yemeni territory”. In other words, French-made guns were used to bombard Yemeni territory in preparation for a Saudi invasion.

Caesar heavy artillery bombards areas of Yemen inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people, according to the DRM. The report states that the “population affected by possible artillery strikes[is] 436,370 people”.

Based on data from the NGO Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) Disclose writes: “Between March 2016 and December 2018, 35 civilians died during 52 bombings located within the scope of these guns. On 14 June 2018, Saudi artillery fire killed two children and injured several adults in northern Yemen. »

Fully aware of the increasing number of victims of indiscriminate attacks by the Saudi-led coalition, Paris continued to sell Caesar in Riyadh. The article states: “No less than 129 caesar guns should be shipped to the Saudi kingdom by 2023”. Using satellite images and open source information, Disclose traced the route of one of these deliveries from Le Havre to the Saudi port of Jeddah in September 2018.

Disclose further writes that satellite images, videos and civilian photographs show that the coalition used French Leclerc tanks in its offensives, which included the November 2018 battle for the rebel-held port of Hodeïda. According to ACLED, they are responsible for 55 civilian deaths. French-made Mirages 2000-9, Cougar transport helicopters, the A330 MRTT in-flight refuelling aircraft and two French-built warships also participated in the offensive.

The DRM report also indicates that Paris concluded a new arms deal with Riyadh, called ARTIS, at the end of last year. It makes official denials that such an agreement was under discussion, so many lies.

On 30 October 2018, Parly told the BFM-TV news channel: “We have no ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia”.

The content of the DRM report reveals that this statement was a lie. Disclose points out: “At that time, however, the government was discussing the final details with Saudi Arabia of this contract, which runs until 2023”. Under the ARTIS contract, France will deliver from 2019 to 2024 equipment such as Titus armoured personnel carriers, one of Nexter’s latest products, and 105LG towed guns.

The signature of the ARTIS contract requires the approval of the Macron government. “Before signing a contract like ARTIS, Nexter had to obtain an export licence issued by the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), a department of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Then, the agreement of a special commission attached to Matignon, the CIEEMG,” writes Disclose.

In its decision, the CIEEMG is supposed to have taken into account the “internal situation of the country of final destination[of the weapons] and its practices in terms of respect for human rights”.

The propaganda of the French bourgeoisie in favour of human rights is a false political cover for a policy of war and the enrichment of French defence companies through massacres and terror.

Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the civil war in Yemen in 2015 to fight the Shia rebels, the Houthis, whom the Saudis accuse of having links with Iran, Saudi Arabia has imposed sanctions and a blockade on Yemen, which has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Nearly 14 million people are on the brink of starvation, with the Red Sea blockade stopping supplies of food, fuel and medicines for more than 20 million Yemenis.

Since the beginning of the war, the coalition has been unrelenting in launching air attacks against Yemen. According to the DRM, it has conducted 24,000 air strikes since 2015, including 6,000 in 2018. These attacks have caused the deaths of at least 8,000 civilians.

France has denied any role in these bombings. On 13 February, before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, insisted again: “We do not provide anything to the Saudi Air Force”.

The DRM report states that Saudi fighter-bombers are equipped with the Damocles laser guidance system of the French defence company Thales and turns its commentary into a lie.

Parly has publicly claimed that the French government wants to end the blockade of the Red Sea. On 30 October 2018, she told BFM-TV: “It is France’s priority that humanitarian aid can get through”.

This was another lie, because Parly had received proof that French-made warships were participating in the naval blockade that starved millions of Yemenis and the bombardment of the Yemeni coast.

In addition to serving its geostrategic interests, the arms sales of French imperialism are primarily directed against the working class. Even as it clandestinely arms the Saudi kingdom, Paris openly provides billions of euros worth of weapons to the bloody Egyptian military dictatorship that seized power in 2013 with a coup d’état targeting the revolutionary struggles of the working class and killing thousands of people in the streets. Macron himself personally visited Egyptian President al-Sissi last month.


This involves the Macron regime in the repression of Egyptian workers through the murder and torture of tens of thousands of political prisoners. In a recent report, Amnesty International said that Egyptian security forces had used “armoured personnel carriers provided by France… with deadly consequences… during several violent operations to disperse demonstrations and crush the opposition”.

As it makes massive and unprecedented arrests of yellow vest demonstrators in France itself, the Macron government is desperately trying to hide its political criminality from the public. He continues to lie to the population about his own involvement in war crimes in Yemen.

“To my knowledge, these weapons are not being used offensively in this war in Yemen,” Parly told Radio Classique last week in response to Disclose’s revelations. She shamelessly claimed that she had “no evidence to say that French weapons are the cause of civilian casualties in Yemen”.

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