A Saudi vessel that had been due to load arms in France left the country’s Le Havre port without its cargo of weapons and is now sailing towards Santander in Spain, according to ship tracking data, a local official and a lawyer.
Two French human rights groups on Thursday sought to block the loading of weapons onto the ship through a legal filing, arguing the cargo contravened an international arms treaty.
A French judge threw out their complaint but the Bahri-Yanbu moved off the coast of Le Havre shortly after. It had been at anchor 25 kilometres off the Le Havre, northern France, since Wednesday evening.
“The boat has left and without its cargo,” Laurence Greig, a lawyer representing the ACAT rights group told Reuters. “It is extremely embarrassing for the executive because we thought that we could stop this only with a legal recourse.”
“But while we got a very terse decision against us, pressure from individuals and NGOs led to a positive result.”
Government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The legal move by the rights groups came weeks after an online investigative site published leaked French military intelligence that showed weapons sold to the kingdom, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems, were being used against civilians in Yemen’s war.
France is one of Saudi Arabia’s main arms’ suppliers. However, Paris has faced increasing pressure to review its sales because the four-year-old conflict has shattered Yemen’s economy and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
President Emmanuel Macron and his government say that as far as they are aware, French arms are not being directed against civilians in Yemen.