A French human rights group on Thursday sought to block the loading of weapons onto a Saudi Arabian vessel that is due to dock in northern France later in the day, its lawyers said, arguing the cargo contravened an international arms treaty.
The move comes 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, but 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.
Speaking on behalf of rights group ACAT, lawyer Joseph Brehem told Reuters he had filed a legal suit to prevent the weapons being loaded aboard the Bahri-Yanbu, a cargo ship operating for Saudi Arabia's defense and interior ministries, on the basis of an article of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.
"The article says that one country cannot authorize the transfer of weapons if at the time of the authorisation, the country knew that weapons could be used to commit war crimes," he said.
France's Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Wednesday confirmed the vessel would take delivery of French arms relating to an order dating back several years.
Investigative website Disclose said this week that eight howitzer Caesar cannons, manufactured by Nexter, were part of the order. The French government declined to give details on the contents of the arms order.