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DW exclusive: German arms in Yemen war

February 26, 2019

Germany prides itself on its restrictive export policies, which ban arms sales to countries involved in armed conflict. But a DW exclusive shows the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen uses German-built weapons and tech.

DW Exclusive Deutsche Waffen in Jemen SPERRFRIST 26.02.2019 20 Uhr saudische Luftwaffe Folgen
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/H. Mohammed

German arms and technology play a far greater role in the Yemen war than previously known.

According to the findings of the investigative research project #GermanArms, the armies of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are using German weapons and technology in Yemen for naval, ground and air operations.

#GermanArms is a collaborative effort of Deutsche Welle and its German media partners 'report München' of public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and Stern magazine, together with the Dutch independent media organisation Lighthouse Reports and the investigative network Bellingcat.

Representatives of the German government have repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the use of German-made arms in Yemen.

The research team analysed video footage and satellite images and geolocated a number of German-made weapon systems in Yemen, thereby proving their presence in the conflict.

#GermanArms identified the precise locations of several UAE military vehicles in Aden and near Al Khawkhah (both in Yemen). The vehicles were equipped with Fewas weapons stations, produced by the German arms company Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND). In a video from October 2018, the team also identified a French Leclerc tank seemingly equipped with additional armour of the Clara type, also produced by DND.

What is more, #GermanArms located German-built Emirati warships in the port of Mokha in Yemen and the Eritrean port of Assab, which serves as an operational base for the naval blockades of Yemen.

DW Exclusive Deutsche Waffen in Jemen SPERRFRIST 26.02.2019 20 Uhr saudische Luftwaffe Folgen
Saudi-led airstrike on the outskirts of Yemen's capital Sanaa in October 2016Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/H. Mohammed

The team also unearthed new evidence that seems to substantiate the assumption that the Royal Saudi Airforce is deploying Eurofighter and Tornado combat jets as well as Airbus 330 MRTT refuelling aircraft in the Yemen war. All of these aircraft have essential components that come from Germany.

The German government declined to comment on specific questions regarding the use of individual weapon systems. The weapons manufacturers told #GermanArms that they had followed all relevant German guidelines.

Germany prides itself as having one of the most restrictive arms export controls. Buyers have to sign an end-user agreement in which they pledge not to sell the weapons or pass them on to any other group or country.

On top of that, the governing coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel signed a coalition agreement in early 2018 that explicitly forbids the approval of weapons exports to any country "directly" involved in the war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are both considered strategic partners. "The United Arab Emirates play an important role in the Arabian Peninsula in the international community's efforts to restore stability” in the region, the German Foreign Office told DW and its partners.

Deutsche Welle's detailed report of the #GermanArms investigation will be published at 20:00 CET.