(Paris) – France should reconsider allowing Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms trading company, to participate in Euronaval, a major international arms show being held outside of Paris from October 17 to 21, 2016, human rights groups EuroMed Rights and Human Rights Watch said today. The arms show is sponsored by the French Defense Ministry.
Human rights organizations have called for the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, and for Rosoboronexport in particular to stop supplying arms to Syria in light of compelling evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“France is leading the call on ending violations in Syria but at the same time allowing Russia, which is complicit in those violations, to promote its weapons and land new deals,” said Michel Tubiana, president of EuroMed Rights. “It’s not acceptable to do business as usual with a company arming a government engaged in systematic atrocities against its own people.”
More than 90 exhibitors from 70 countries are expected to attend the Euronaval arms show, including Rosoboronexport. Rosoboronexport said in October, 2015, that it is continuing to supply arms to the Syrian government despite its record of serious international human rights and humanitarian law violations.
Under international law, providing weapons to Syria while its forces are known to be committing war crimes and crimes against humanity may translate into aiding and abetting the commission of those crimes. Any arms supplier could bear potential criminal liability as an accessory to those crimes and could face prosecution. In addition to Rosoboronexport, all other suppliers of arms to Syria should be subject to scrutiny.
The Russian government began conducting military operations in Syria on September 30, 2015. Since then, Russian-Syrian airstrikes have hit civilian objects and caused civilian casualties, Syrian-Russian joint military operations have extensively used internationally banned cluster munitions, and there has been an increase in the use of incendiary weapons in Syria. Since September 19, 2016, Russian-Syrian forces have bombarded opposition-controlled parts of the city of Aleppo. The attacks included the use of indiscriminate barrel bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, and damaged or partially destroyed at least five hospitals in six separate attacks.
In November 2015, the Rosoboronexport chief executive officer, Anatoly Isaikin, indicated that Russia’s military involvement in Syria was “good testimony for Russian armaments.” Media reports indicate that Russian airstrikes in Syria actually have contributed to buyer interest in weaponry from Rosoboronexport and could result in billions of dollars in new contracts.
Given its role in Syria, Rosoboronexport should not be allowed to promote itself and seek new contracts at Euronaval, the organizations said. Should Rosoboronexport be permitted to participate in the arms show, all arms show participants, including official delegations and private arms brokers, should decline to negotiate any new deals with Rosoboronexport.