The Council of State has ordered the immediate suspension of 27 export licences granted by the Walloon government for the export of arms to Saudi Arabia.
The action is an interim interdict in a case brought before the Council by a group of human rights organisations. The licences were approved by Walloon minister-president Elio Di Rupo in December last year.
The Council of State ruled that the licences were not sufficiently supported by a government declaration on the state of Saudi Arabia’s respect for human rights, as required by a regional law introduced in 2012.
Last month the Walloon government decided not to approve exports to Saudi Arabia of arms intended for the Saudi air force, but did allow exports to the Royal guard and the national guard.
Opponents of the exports argue that Saudi Arabia forwards the arms exported by Belgium to the forces the kingdom is backing in the civil war in Yemen. Last year the then foreign minister Didier Reynders called on Wallonia to suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia, but his advice went unheard.
The Council of State has now clearly stated that there is a clear risk that the military equipment and technology covered by the licences will be used in what it described as “the serious breach of international humanitarian law in Yemen”.
The embargo on the licences is an interim measure which could be reversed later, but the court considered it necessary since the exports could take place at any moment, before the Council has had a chance to consider the case in full.
The ruling has been communicated to the companies concerned by the licences: Mecar, FN Herstal en CMI Defence. And the federal customs authority, which controls the actual physical matter of exports, has also been informed of the suspension of the licences.