18 May 2021 |
Hensoldt, like Rheinmetall, has extensive operations in South Africa.
A call on the German government to ensure that German parent companies comply with the country’s ban on the export of arms to Saudi Arabia at all offshore locations.
As part of an ambitious growth strategy, Hensoldt AG continues to expand its sites in crisis areas and highly problematic states such as Saudi Arabia. Its aim is to supply customers throughout the Middle East with radar equipment for combat aircraft and sensors for border security. This is happening despite the German ban on the export of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The establishment of Hensoldt South Africa in 2019 was part of pursuing the goal of supplying the booming military market in the Middle East in addition to the African market. Hensoldt’s factories in South Africa are the company’s biggest international industrial footprint outside of Europe.
In late 2019, at a time when Saudi Arabia had already been involved in warfare in Yemen for several years in violation of international law, Hensoldt signed an exclusive agreement in Riyadh with Saudi company, Intra Defense Technologies, to jointly develop airborne electro-optical systems to monitor and acquire targets from aircraft and drones.
According to South African non-profit organisation, Open Secrets, the Saudi armed forces are currently using surveillance drones in the bloody war in Yemen, some of which use Hensoldt’s Argos II optical system. On 6 January 2021, the media arm of the Houthi forces released video footage and photographs of a Saudi Arabian drone shot down by Houthi fighters which revealed that it was carrying the Argos II optical system manufactured by Hensoldt. Hensoldt manufactures these systems at their South African production facilities.
Michael Marchant from Open Secrets says that: “As is the case with Rheinmetall, Hensoldt is a German company with extensive South African operations that is supplying the Saudi military with weapons systems manufactured at their South African production facilities. Hensoldt appears to be following Rheinmetall’s lead in expanding and increasing its presence in South Africa. At present, this allows it to access lucrative clients and markets such as Saudi Arabia, even if German law prohibits it”.
The actions of Hensoldt AG here are in blatant contradiction to the company’s commitment to the UN Global Compact. In it, the Group undertakes to support and respect international human rights and to ensure that it is not complicit in human rights abuses.
Niels Dubrow from Urgewald says: “Processing problematic arms exports via foreign locations has fatal consequences. We already know this from the German arms giant Rheinmetall. Hensoldt AG has chosen a completely wrong role model here. Instead of making the same mistakes, the corporation should refrain from exports to states that supply to warring and human rights violating states”.
The two organizations also call on the German government, as a major shareholder (holding 25.1%), to enforce the German weapons ban and help to ensure that that Hensoldt AG does not circumvent German arms export restrictions by suppling Saudi Arabia with weapons that are fuelling the ongoing war in Yemen, through its subsidiaries in foreign locations.
Barbara Happe from Urgewald adds: “The German government and the corporation should also distance themselves from plans to spend billions on the development of new combat aircrafts and tanks. These financial resources are more urgently needed elsewhere in the wake of the Corona pandemic”.