Call for independent review into use of Canadian-made armoured vehicles in Saudi Arabia

July 9, 2018

A coalition of human rights and arms control groups sent a letter to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, related to the report released by Global Affairs in May 2018 concerning allegations that Canadian-made military exports were used against civilians last year by the Saudi Arabian armed forces. The report revealed major shortcomings both in the investigation of the allegations and in the interpretation of Canadian obligations under international law. The letter, dated July 3rd, 2018, calls for an independent, external review of the allegations.

The letter was sent on behalf of:

  • Alex Neve, Executive Director: Amnesty International Canada English branch
  • Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director: Project Ploughshares
  • Julie Delahanty, Executive Director: Oxfam Canada
  • Peggy Mason, President: Rideau Institute
  • Geneviève Paul, Directrice générale: Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
  • Denise Byrnes, Directrice générale: Oxfam-Québec
  • John Packer, Director: Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
  • Roy Culpeper, Chair: Group of 78
  • Thomas Woodley, President: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

From the letter:

Dear Minister Freeland,

As civil society organizations with expertise and long-standing interest in strengthening Canada’s arms export controls, we are writing to call for an independent external review of the reports that emerged in the media last year that Canadian-built armoured vehicles may have been used by Saudi Arabian armed forces in violence directed at civilian populations in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province.

We issue this call because it is our view that the internal government report on the allegations released by your department to the public in May 2018 reveals major shortcomings both in the investigation of the allegations and in interpretation of Canadian obligations under international law. These shortcomings suggest that a thorough review conducted by an independent and impartial expert is now required to adequately address the serious questions and concerns that remain unresolved.

Following the media reports, the decision by your department to suspend the relevant export permits was a prompt and welcome response that underlined the important human rights concerns at stake. We welcomed your directive to department officials to investigate and to prepare a “Memorandum for Action” for your consideration that we later learned was completed by September 29, 2017. We particularly welcomed the public release of the report in May of this year, not only as a demonstration of the government’s commitment to arms control transparency but also for its potential boost to international reporting standards within the Arms Trade Treaty that Canada is soon to join.

In contrast to the welcome transparency, however, in our view the report contains failings that undermine public confidence in its documentation and analysis. In particular we are concerned about the:

  • lack of independence of the primary sources relied upon;
  • standard of proof that was applied;
  • approach taken to analyzing information that was available; and
  • the fact that a number of irrelevant considerations appear to have featured in the analysis.

Full link: Click here to view the letter sent to MFA Freeland

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