(Paris) – Seventeen humanitarian and human rights organizations denounced threats to press freedom after three French journalists were summoned by French intelligence services for investigating the presence of French weapons in the conflict in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today.

The General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) will hear cases against Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal of the French investigative media outlet Disclose, and Benoît Collombat of Radio France’s investigation unit, as part of the preliminary investigation for “compromising national defence secrecy” opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office after France’s Ministry of the Armed Forces lodged a complaint.

On April 15, 2019 Disclose and its partners published classified documents by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) confirming what Human Rights Watch, ACAT, Amnesty InternationalFIDH, the Observatoire des Armements, and other organizations have been highlighting for months. The organizations have reported that French military equipment purchased by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is involved in the war in Yemen, including in illegal attacks against civilian populations.

The documents revealed by Disclose also show that French authorities have no certainty about the use of French weapons in the war in Yemen, contrary to assurances given even in recent days by President Emmanuel Macron, the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, and the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, who were recipients of the DRM documents.

Since April 15, Disclose has continued to investigate the use of French weapons in Yemen in reporting on the arrival in Le Havre of a Saudi cargo ship scheduled to load French military equipment. Following heightened pressure from parliamentarians and other organizations, the ship finally left France last Friday without the planned cargo.

The undersigned nonprofits consider the information unveiled by Disclose and its partners to be of essential public interest. It confirms the major risk of French-made weapons being used in war crimes in Yemen, in breach of France’s international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, of which France is also one of the main defenders, and the European Union’s Common Position.

In this context, the threat of prosecution against the three journalists, reaffirmed last week by Parly, constitutes an unacceptable threat to press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources.

Collombat, Destal, and Livolsi have been threatened just for having done their job, without revealing ongoing French military operations or putting any French personnel in danger.

The undersigned organizations express full solidarity with the three journalists summoned this week. They call on the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of the Armed Forces and the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs to stop intimidation against the press and to guarantee the confidentiality of sources.

Signatories:

  1. ACAT
  2. Action Contre la Faim
  3. AIDL, Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés
  4. Amnesty International
  5. CARE France
  6. Collectif Solidarité Yémen / Yemen Solidarity Coalition
  7. Fédération Internationale des Ligues Droits de l’Homme (FIDH)
  8. Handicap International (HI)
  9. Human Right Watch
  10. Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH)
  11. Médecins du monde
  12. Observatoire des Armements
  13. Oxfam France
  14. Salam for Yemen
  15. STAND France, Mouvement étudiant de lutte contre les génocides et crimes de masse
  16. Sherpa
  17. SumOfUs