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July 2020 - Ongoing

Third Administrative Challenge at the Council of State against the Walloon Government

Jurisdiction

Belgium

Locale

Armed Conflict in Yemen

Recipient State

Saudi Arabia

Case Type

Administrative Challenge

Status

Ongoing

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Overview

This claim challenged the decision by the Walloon government to grant two new sets of licences for exports to Saudi Arabia through an ‘extreme urgency procedure’. The first contested licences were issued to FN Herstal for the export of ML1 category smooth bore weapons, and the second to CMI Defence for ML6 category land vehicles and components both with an end destination of Saudi Arabia.

The court ruled partly in the claimant’s favour, calling for the suspension of the ML1 category licences. However, under a contrasting line of reasoning, they ruled that the ML6 category licence could be maintained.

Case Details

Key Arguments

In a similar manner to the previous challenge, the claimants argued that the Walloon government had failed to justify its licensing decision, constituting a violation of international law (ATT; Article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions) and of governing domestic law (Walloon Decree, Criterion 2, 4 and 6.)

Court Decision

The Council of State ruled partly in the claimants’ favour.

ML1 Licences Suspended

In one judgement, they ruled that several licences for the export of ML1 goods must be suspended due to the involvement of the Saudi National Guard in Yemen and the risk of arms ending up in the hands of other parties to the conflict.

ML6 Licences Maintained

In a second decision, the administrative court maintained licences for the export of ML6 goods accepting the government’s argument that the goods were destined for the Saudi Royal Guard and there was no evidence of their misconduct in the Yemen conflict.

Following the court’s decision, the claimant’s initiated two separate procedures before Belgian courts seeking to annul the two sets of contested licences.

While the procedure for the ML1 licences has since been declared formally closed, the annulment procedure that concerns licences to CMI Defence for the export of turrets (ML6) that were not suspended by the court, is still pending.

These turrets have now been exported, so the decision will provide a final legal assessment on the lawfulness of this licencing decision, without consequence on the export, or precedential value for preventing the issuance of new licences.

Since a decision in this matter will take time, as long as the case remains formally open the government is obliged to communicate any changes, such as the granting of new licences to the applicants.

Timeline

29 Apr 2020

Less than one month after the withdrawal of the previously contested licences, the Walloon Government issues two new licences for the export of ML6 category arms to Saudi Arabia.

08 Jul 2020

The Walloon Government issues four further licences for the export of arms (ML1 category) to Saudi Arabia.

15 Jul 2020

Case enters the courts. Claim filed at the Council of State against the Walloon Government, seeking to have the recently issued licences suspended, under the 'extreme urgency' procedure.

Read the request to the Council of State here

07 Aug 2020

Two judgements issued by the Council of State. Licences for export of ML1 category arms suspended. Licences for export of ML6 category arms maintained.

Read the judgements here

14 Sep 2020

Claimants file two separate annulment procedures for both sets of contested licences (ML1 and ML6 category).

Read the request to the Council of State regarding the ML1 licences here

24 Nov 2020

Licence for the export of ML1 category arms, which the Council of State previously ordered to be suspended, is cancelled and withdrawn by the Walloon Government.

27 Apr 2021

The Council of State declares the proceedings on the ML1 category licences closed as these licences had already been withdrawn.

Read the judgement here

Case Documents

14/09/2020

Request for Annulment of Licences for the Export of ML1 Category Arms to Saudi Arabia

Read the document in full

15/07/2020

Claim filed against the Walloon Government concerning licences for the export of ML6 arms to Saudi Arabia

Read the document in full

15/07/2020

Claim filed against the Walloon Government concerning licences for the export of ML1 arms to Saudi Arabia

Read the document in full

15/07/2020

Claims filed against the Walloon Government under the ‘Extreme Urgency’ Procedure

Read the document in full

27/04/2021

Judgement by the Council of State on the Claim filed 14.09.2020 Requesting the Annulment of ML1 licences

Read the document in full

07/08/2020

Judgement by the Council of State on ML6 licences

Read the document in full

07/08/2020

Judgement by the Council of State on ML1 licences

Read the document in full

07/08/2020

Judgements by the Council of State on the Claims filed 15.07.2020 against the Walloon Government

Read the document in full

Analysis

05 November 2020

Are Courts Going to Set a Higher Standard for Human Rights Due Diligence in Arms Exports?

Hans Lammerant (Vredesactie) | First published in IPIS

This article provides a critical overview of the trends in Belgian jurisprudence regarding arms export risk assessment decisions by the government.

16 April 2020

Belgian Arms Exports Halved Due to Court Decision

Vredesactie

This article closely analyses Belgian arms exports statistics from 2017 – 2020 to highlight the potential impact and significance of the 9 March 2020 judgement on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Contact the Claimants

This case was brought by three NGO claimants, Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), Forum Voor Vredesactie (FVV), and Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Democratie (CNAPD).

If you would like to know more about this case, please get in touch with our primary contacts Hans Lammerant (Forum Voor Vredesactie) here and Manuel Lambert (LDH) here.