The Canadian Government is sued: violation of international law or legitimate export? Canada believes vehicles will not be used to abuse human rights.
Ottawa (AsiaNews) – The Canadian government has admitted for the first that the armoured vehicles it plans to sell to Saudi Arabia might be used in the fighting in Yemen.
Canada’s CA$ 15 billion military export deal to the Mideast country includes Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs), which are mechanised infantry combat vehicle.
Université de Montreal professor Daniel Turp is suing the Trudeau government, alleging that it is breaking Canadian regulations and international law by selling heavily-armed vehicles to the autocratic state.
Canada’s legal defence contends that Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has the authority to decide what does and does not constitute a legal weapons sale — not the court.
The main issue is that vehicles could be used in a conflict that the Canadian government has repeatedly condemned.
At the same time, government lawyers told the court that “Saudi Arabia is a key partner for Canada and an important ally in the region, plagued with instability, terrorism, and conflict”.
The kingdom is “a key military ally who backs efforts of the international community to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”.
Canada also remains certain that the LAVs, which can come outfitted with machine guns and anti-tank weaponry, will not be used to abuse human rights.
Still, the legal defence also accepts that Riyadh is free to use the military vehicles as it sees fit.
In October, Dion condemned bombings in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its military partners.
Earlier this month, he said that Canada “does not export the same kind of weapons to Saudi Arabia as the United States did,” referring to American-made air-to-ground bombs that have been responsible for numerous civilian deaths.
“These violations of international law and humanitarian law are tragic and unacceptable,” he concluded.
Ultimately, Turp’s lawsuit stands little chance of succeeding, since, as the government argues, the guidelines relating to military exports “are not matters of law.”
The federal court is set to rule on the case in the new year.