Greenpeace to appeal Spain-Saudi arms deal confidentiality

Feb 13, 2023, 10:40 AM | Updated: 10:48 am

MADRID (AP) — Greenpeace said Monday it will appeal a Spanish Supreme Court decision blocking public access, on national security grounds, to information on government export licenses for vehicle-mounted weapons systems sold to Saudi Arabia.

The global environmental and human rights group argues that the Alakran 120 mm mortar system developed by the Madrid-based firm NTGS was deployed by the Saudi-led coalition on the border with Yemen, endangering civilian lives. The weapon’s use “not only violates the Spanish law on arms trade control, but also the international Arms Trade Treaty signed by Spain,” Greenpeace argued.

Greenpeace asked the trade ministry in 2020 for copies of recent export licenses for the mortar system, but was denied on grounds of national security and official secrets laws.

The Supreme Court upheld the ministry’s decision on Feb. 7, arguing that the NGO had not demonstrated sufficient public interest to warrant declassifying the licenses. The court further argued that the right to access license details was “subjective,” and that Greenpeace had failed to prove that fundamental human rights would be harmed as a result of the ministry withholding the information.

Greenpeace can appeal the decision before Spain’s Constitutional Court, but vowed to take it to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

“Only an informed citizenry can prevent human rights violations in any society,” said Lorena Ruiz-Huerta, lawyer for Greenpeace Spain, in a statement. “It is time for judges and courts to recognize Spanish men and women as citizens with full rights to truthful information on issues that affect human rights,” she added. Spanish law prohibits weapons export licensing where human rights would be violated.

As a longtime commercial ally of Saudi Arabia, Spain is the fourth largest provider of military equipment and weapons to the Gulf state, according to Amnesty International. Madrid canceled the delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs purchased by Saudi Arabia in 2018 following criticism from human rights groups.

Yemen’s war began when the Iran-backed Houthis seized the country’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition — armed with Western weaponry and intelligence — entered the war on the side of Yemen’s exiled government in March 2015.

Currently all sides appear to be looking for a solution after eight years of a war that has killed more than 150,000 people, fragmented Yemen and driven the Arab world’s poorest country into collapse and near starvation.

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Greenpeace to appeal Spain-Saudi arms deal confidentiality