Brussels (Brussels Morning) France’s moral conduct has been criticized by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed an agreement on Friday December 3 to acquire 80 Rafale fighter jets, built by the French group Dassault Aviation. The deal was sealed as French President Emmanuel Macron is off to visit the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, looking at closing military contracts with leaders from the Gulf.
The Rafale fighter jets planes will be delivered from 2027 to the F4 standard, a program in development of nearly two billion euros to be delivered in 2024 and presented as a “technological, industrial and strategic leap”, expressed the French Libération.
“In the UAE, he will apparently be finalizing a weapons deal, when in all three countries he should be speaking out against human rights abuses”, observed the HRW.
Partners in crime
“France’s arms sales to and protection of dubious military partnerships in the name of counterterrorism and at the cost of human rights will remain a stain on Macron’s diplomatic record”, denounced HRW in a statement.
The French military deal with the Gulf leaders has sparked controversy with activists calling on Macron to address human rights violations against migrant workers in Qatar, in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, to take place there. Dealings with Saudi Arabia were equally blasted over the country’s “disastrous human rights records domestically” as well as the brutal assassination of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In France, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, hailed the “signing of a historic contract” describing the occasion “a strategic partnership that is stronger than ever.”
“In addition to the presence of three French military bases on UAE territory, this mutual trust (between France and the Emirates) is reflected in the acquisition of 80 Rafale planes, 12 Caracal helicopters, and associated elements. This is a major achievement of the strategic partnership between the two countries”, the French presidency welcomed in a statement.
The UAE are currently the fifth most important customer of the French defense industry over the decade 2011-2020, with 4.7 billion euros in orders, according to the report to the French Parliament on arms exports from France.
European Peace Facility
In a sort of Orwellian way, EU Foreign Affairs Ministers have set up the European Peace Facility, in March 2021, enabling the EU — as a bloc —to export lethal weapons around the globe, including to conflict regions, for the first time.
When commenting the establishment of the new Facility, MEP Hannah Neumann (Greens) described it as a “paradigm shift”.
“Arms exports can add fuel to the fire of military conflicts, lethal weapons and ammunition can quickly fall into the wrong hands. Once delivered, arms cannot be taken back”, said Neumann.
Despite the Council’s pledging this new Facility as a way to enhance the EU’s ability to prevent conflict, preserve peace and strengthen international stability and security, monitoring the flow of weapons trade has proven to be an arduous task.
“Although a strict control regime is mentioned, we have already seen in the past that rules are interpreted in a very lax way – one example are the common rules for exports of individual member states. That is why we need transparency and comprehensive control rights for the European Parliament”, highlighted Neumann.