ACAT, a Christian organization against torture, confirmed Thursday that for the second time this month rights campaigners were able to block a Saudi vessel in France as the government of President Emmanuel Macron comes under growing pressure to stop its arms sales to the kingdom.
The Saudi freighter, Bahri Tabuk, returned to sea on Wednesday night with its holds empty, the French NGO said.
“Once again, faced with citizen mobilization and our legal action, a Saudi freighter had to give up loading French weapons, this time in Fos-sur-Mer,” Nathalie Seff of ACAT-France said in a statement.
According to shipping data by Refinitiv Eikon, the Saudi-flagged ship left French waters and was sailing towards Alexandria in Egypt. Labeled as a vehicle carrier, Bahri Tabuk had also transported soybean meal in the past.
The first Saudi ship tried to dock at the Le Havre port in France’s northern coast two weeks ago but left without its cargo after dockers threatened to block its arrival in the port.
The confrontation by activists came weeks after an online investigative site published leaked French military intelligence that showed Macron’s government was selling a wide range of weapons to Riyadh, including tanks and laser-guided missile systems.
France blasts ‘dirty’ Saudi-led war, but keeps arms flowFrance urges Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to stop their roles in the “dirty war” afflicting Yemen, but simultaneously preserves its arms sales to the Persian Gulf states.
The documents also revealed that the weapons had been used against civilians over the course of the Saudi-led war against Yemen, which has killed thousands of Yemeni people and caused a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country since its onset in March 2015.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has claimed that the arms were related to an order dating back several years.
ACAT said it had filed an appeal last week with the Paris Administrative Court to block weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia, arguing that the sales contravened a UN treaty as the weapons were used against civilians. The appeal was rejected.
On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to stop the “dirty war” on Yemen.
However, he said Paris would continue its controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia as well as the Arab regimes of the Persian Gulf region.