Belgium’s Supreme Administrative Court has suspended eight licenses for export of arms to Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom’s human rights record.
The court said authorities in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region had failed to examine the kingdom’s human rights record before issuing the permits.
The decision affected planned sales to the kingdom by Belgium’s leading weapons manufacturer FN Herstal, which is based in the region.
Also known as Fabrique Nationale, the company specializes in making firearms, ranging from pistols to heavy machineguns.
Last year, the kingdom bought €153 million ($179 million) worth of arms from the company. Two years earlier, it had bought more than €575 million ($672 million) — 65 percent of Wallonia’s arms exports.
Last September, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on the European Union to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia as accusations flew against Riyadh of rampant rights violations and arms abuse.
A month later, the Belgian Human Rights League and the country’s National Peace and Democracy Coordination Center urged the court to rescind the licenses for the export of lethal arms to Riyadh. In their drive, the organizations were being backed by UK-based rights body Amnesty International.
The kingdom has been coming down hard on dissent in Eastern Province. It has ordered repeated police raids against the province’s Qatif region and once razed an entire neighborhood in its capital of Awamiyah.
The kingdom is also accused of channeling weapons to terrorists in Syria, and has been leading a hugely deadly war against Yemen.
More than 600,000 people have either died or been injured in the war, which seeks to restore Yemen’s former Saudi-allied officials.
Back in January, Germany stopped approving licenses allowing arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to its involvement in the warfare.