Before asking this question read What characterizes an act of war as "war crime?" and Does international regulation forbid a country to kill children in a conflict if the other part uses them as human shields?. While providing valuable content relevant to children and the subject matter of war crimes where the children are not being used as shields, but rather are directly targeted or killed by pure incompetence (i.e.g., "incorrect information") during war, do not answer the present inquiry.

It could be that arms manufacturers and dealers are not governed by U.S. or international law relevant to war crimes whatsoever. If that is the case, then that is the answer.

The question arises by data contained in several articles

Questions raised over $110bn arms deal to Saudi Arabia, by William Roberts 7 Jun 2017

Washington, DC - President Donald Trump's highly touted deal to sell Saudi Arabia $110bn in weapons from the United States is coming under new scrutiny in Washington, DC, where politicians are increasingly concerned about the kingdom's conduct of the war in Yemen and, now, the sudden blockade of Qatar.

US approves proposed $1bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS 23 Mar 2018

The US State Department has approved a possible arms sale to Saudi Arabia worth more than $1bn.

The package includes a $670m deal for 6,600 TOW anti-missile tanks, a $106m contract for helicopter maintenance and $300m spare parts for military vehicles, the department said in a statement on Thursday.

"This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country," the statement read.

The department said it has notified the US Congress about the planned sale.

The announcement came as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continued a three-week tour of the US. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump hosted bin Salman at the White House, and expressed hope the Gulf kingdom will share some of its wealth with the US "hopefully in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world".

But campaigners, including some US legislators, are urging western governments to halt or limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of its involvement in a devastating civil war in Yemen.

GCC arms race: Who sells to whom SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS 16 Apr 2018

The global trade in weapons is booming, with sales to the Middle East surging.

Amid regional instability, an arms race is under way among Arab Gulf countries. The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait - have spent billions of dollars on weapons this year alone.

Saudi Arabia So far in 2018, Saudi Arabia has allocated over $3bn to arms deals.

  • Spain: On April 12, Spain and Saudi Arabia signed a framework agreement to sell the Gulf Arab state warships under a deal estimated to be worth around $2.2bn. Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia will sell five small warships to the kingdom. The deal will include the Spanish army training military personnel in Saudi Arabia and building a naval construction centre there.

  • UK: On March 9, a memorandum of intent was signed between both countries aiming to finalise discussions for the purchase of 49 Typhoon aircraft.

  • US: On April 8, the state department approved a possible sale of $1.31bn of self-propelled Howitzer systems and conversion equipment to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon reported.

  • US: On March 22, the state department said it had approved a possible sale of an estimated $670m in anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, just hours after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pentagon leaders.

  • US: On the same date, the state department approved a possible sale of $300m in military spare parts and a $106.8m contract for helicopter maintenance. "This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country," the statement read.

  • US: On January 18, the US government approved a $500m sale of missile system support services to Saudi Arabia.

Bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by the US By Nima Elbagir, Salma Abdelaziz, Ryan Browne, Barbara Arvanitidis and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN Updated 7:50 PM ET, Fri August 17, 2018

(CNN)The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.

Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed "incorrect information" for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.

U.N. Says Saudi-led Airstrike Killed at Least 22 Yemeni Children By Rick Gladstone Aug. 24, 2018

The United Nations said Friday that a Saudi-led airstrike had killed at least 22 children and four women in Yemen as they fled a fighting zone — the second mass killing of Yemeni civilians by Saudi Arabia and its military partners in two weeks.

Mark Lowcock, the top United Nations relief official, asserted without qualification that the Saudi-led coalition warring with Yemen’s Houthi rebels was responsible for the attack, which happened on Thursday in a pro-Houthi district near the Red Sea port of Al Hudaydah. He said an additional airstrike in the area had killed four more children.

The assertion by Mr. Lowcock, in a statement on his office’s website, came as the Saudi coalition and the Houthis were accusing each other of the attack, which has underlined the vulnerability of civilians in a war that has lasted more than three years and become what the United Nations considers the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis.

Criticism of Saudi Arabia and its partners has been growing over thousands of civilian casualties, many of them caused by munitions fired from the coalition’s warplanes.

All sides in Yemen conflict could be guilty of war crimes, says UN By Judith Vonberg and Nima Elbagir, CNN Updated 11:29 AM ET, Tue August 28, 2018

Parties fighting a brutal civil war in Yemen have conducted attacks that were "disproportionate" and could be considered war crimes, a United Nations panel of experts announced Tuesday.

Their report, which comes after multiple recent civilian deaths, points to thousands of civilian casualties caused by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, widespread arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence and the conscription of children as young as 8 into Yemen's armed forces, all of which are crimes under international law.

All sides are "responsible for a violation of human rights" and crimes "continue to be perpetrated," the report says. "The violations we have documented were horrendous," said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, the report's authors, at a press conference Tuesday morning.

The U.S. is used as an example case for the question as there is evidence of knowledge by the parties of the potential catastrophic risks to innocent civilians relevant to the prospective arms deal and eventual usage of the arms within the war in Yemen; evidence of arms manufactured in the U.S. and dealt to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia being responsible for causing the killing of children in Yemen using arms that were manufactured in the U.S. and approved to be sold to Saudi Arabia by the U.S.; continuing concern for the usage of the arms "There’s a level of frustration we need to acknowledge," General Harrigian said in a wide-ranging telephone interview last week. "They need to come out and say what occurred there." (U.S. Commander Urges More Transparency in Yemen Strike on School Bus by Eric Schmitt Aug. 27, 2018).

It is not clear if the recent U.S. arms deal included the arms which resulted in children being killed by the bomb manufactured in the U.S., or if Saudi Arabia purchased those arms which killed children in Yemen from the United States before the recent arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Could not locate an instance of an arms manufacturer or dealer being accused of or convicted of a war crime, and the question does not attempt to narrow, broaden or parse any international allegations of war crimes; and am not certain if the language "All sides are" followed by the quote "responsible for a violation of human rights" are the actual language in the report and were intended to include the side which manufactured and dealt the arms which killed children; or if killing children due to "incorrect information" rises to war crimes in the broadest interpretation of the term, or is considered simply children being killed due to "incorrect information" during a war, and no more.

Have arms manufacturers and dealers ever been accused of or convicted of a war crime in the United States or by and at an international tribunal?

  • 1
    Do the war crimes need to be directly due to the arms manufacturing/dealing, or just that a person convicted of war crimes was also dealing weapons? For example, Charles Taylor was indicted in part for directly facilitating the "transfer of arms, ammunition and funds" to rebel groups, but those arms deals weren't one of the war crimes he was accused/convicted of. Also, is there a specific time period your looking for? I'm sure at least some arms manufacturers were tried at the Nuremberg trials.
    – Giter
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:26
  • @Giter Where the allegation of war crimes is directly due to the arms manufacturing/dealing. Any time period. For example, the U.S. and the U.S. arms manufacturer knew or should have known war crime atrocities would take place using the arms the U.S. was considering selling to Saudi Arabia. The arms were dealt anyway. Soon after children were killed by Saudi Arabia using arms manufactured in the U.S. Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 14:51
  • Would you count this? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krupp_Trial. They weren't technically war crimes as they weren't, themselves, accused of waging aggressive war.
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 15:25
  • @Alex: No, the Krupp Trials were for arming the Nazis and thus participating in the crime of waging wars against the peace (specifically, their arms deals were illegal because at the time, Germany was under restrictions from the Treaty of Versailles following WWI). Basically, the broke the treaty by allowing Germany to buy weapons they made that were later used in WWII.
    – hszmv
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:40
  • Would Frans van Anraat count? Dutch, ultimately convicted by a Dutch court for war crimes on account of selling chemicals to Saddam Hussein, but one of the FBI's most wanted back in 2005.
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


Yes, from The Guardian:

Dutch arms trafficker to Liberia given war crimes conviction

Guus Kouwenhoven convicted of selling weapons to ex-president Charles Taylor during wars that involved mass atrocities

An international timber trader who used his business as cover for smuggling weapons into West Africa in defiance of a UN arms embargo has been sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Guus Kouwenhoven, 74, was convicted by the Dutch appeal court of being an accessory to war crimes and arms trafficking for selling weapons to Liberia’s then president Charles Taylor during civil wars that involved mass atrocities, the use of child soldiers and sexual slavery. He had denied the charges.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/apr/22/dutch-arms-trafficker-to-liberia-guus-kouwenhoven-given-war-crimes-conviction

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