BRUSSELS – Arms exports ban

Three Belgian NGO’s Human Rights League, the anti-war action group Vredesactie and the peace and democracy defence union CNAPD have taken the federal government, and its federal finance minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), to court in Brussels in a bid to freeze and prevent any Belgian arms sales to Saudi Arabia for six months.

The hearing is meant to take place this Monday (27 January) in Brussels.

The matter has gained urgency as the container ship Yanbu, owned by Saudi shipping company Bahri, which is known to be the Saudi government’s official arms transporter, is due to arrive at Antwerp port on 30 January from Bremen in Germany, before moving on to France and Italy.

The three NGOs fear the ship could load material intended for the war in Yemen.

Last September, two NGOs took the Walloon government to court in Namur after the regional government approved an export licence for the shipping of arms to Saudi Arabia, which according to them had an uncertain shipping destination and could end up supplying the war in Yemen.

Arms sales in Belgium are the responsibility of the regional authorities. However, the control of the exports themselves is a matter for the customs authorities, which are under responsibility of the federal government, and in particular, the finance ministry.

The three NGOs are also asking for the matter to be communicated to other customs authorities in the EU, so that there would effectively be an EU-wide ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia, with a potential fine of €75,000 for every breach of the ban. (Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)

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