NEWSROOM ARMS TRACKING

The arms tracking newsroom defined the early phase of Lighthouse Reports with short intensive investigative sprints conducted all over the EU. In 2020 we built on these investigations into arms export deals to focus on where much of the real money is hidden: long-term maintenance contracts. These agreements are worth up to 80% percent of the total value of defence contracts and bind the buying and the selling countries for years. Often invisible links connected selling countries to controversial conflicts but we had to go and find them. Investigations zoomed in on Libya and Yemen. We documented how EU companies supported Turkey and the United Arab Emirates — opposing parties in the Libya conflict — with structural support, in spite of their obvious and well-known breaches of the UN arms embargo on Libya. We also published analyses of French companies profiting from the training of Saudi soldiers, when the war in Yemen was raging for years already.

UK’s toothless arms control

The UK claims to strictly control its arms exports, but an investigation traced British-made sniper rifles to Yemen, Syria and Russian-occupied Ukraine

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French arms, and deception

France claims to have one of the world’s strictest arms exports regimes but its weapons go to warmongers and repressive rulers

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German support for Yemen

German-made military equipment is used by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their destructive war in Yemen

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IMPACT

  • After breaking new ground on arms deals the newsroom has succeeded in providing entirely new scrutiny to underlying structures. When German MEP Hannah Neumann successfully pushed for tight, centralised control on EU arms exports and an export ban for Yemen, she cited Lighthouse’s work and made sure spare parts and maintenance were included too.

  • Investigations from this newsroom have helped sustain a 300+ page submission to the ICC. When the NGO, ECCHR, filed their extensive submission requesting an investigation into the responsibility of EU arms manufacturers for war crimes in Yemen it relied, in part, on evidence from our arms tracking newsroom. A legal analysis we wrote to support our investigation has been published in guide form, to become a manual for NGOs, public litigation initiatives and universities.

  • The findings of our newsroom exposed Belgian claims that its exports were not being used in Yemen as false. As a consequence, the Belgian Council of State suspended several Walloon export permits to Saudi Arabia. It concerned licenses for ammunition, firearms and gun turrets and was based on our arms tracking newsroom findings. Since that case Belgian civil society has won several cases against the state, contesting the legality of arms export licenses for the Saudi coalition.

  • The Danish Business Authority has reported the Danish company Terma to the public prosecutor for special economic and international crime. The action was launched as a result of Lighthouse’s revelations that Terma has supplied radar parts to Emirati navy and airforce without applying for an arms export license. Latest supplies were as recent as 2019. These Emirati navy and airforce are possibly involved in war crimes for their role in the war in Yemen.

  • In Germany we found extensive proof of German arms being used in Yemen – on the ground, at sea and in the air. The evidence created a new dynamic in the political debate. The coalition CDU/CSU and SPD still had to decide whether they would lift the ban on arms exports to KSA, a prohibition they had installed after the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Our newsroom findings were cited as grounds for SPD’s refusal to agree to lifting of the ban, despite pressure from their coalition partners. In March 2019, German authorities decided to continue the embargo. It is in place today.