Jared Grove / CC-BY-SA

Justin Trudeau may be popular for his yoga poses, but the Canadian prime minister’s policies on arm sales to oppressive governments are another matter.

A group of Canadian law students at the Universite de Montreal and their professor have filed a lawsuit to prevent their government from selling $15 billion in light armored vehicles (LAV) to Saudi Arabia.

The Huffington Post reports:

Law professor Daniel Turp and his students say Canada is violating its own laws and policies that he says prohibit Ottawa from selling arms to countries with poor human rights records and without assurances the equipment won’t be used against civilians.

The notice was formally filed Monday in Federal Court in Montreal and might be heard later this spring—in May or June.

The lawsuit, filed by Turp against the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, claims “that this issuance of export permits for the LAV … would be illegal in that it would be contrary to the Export and Import Permits Act,” as well as “contrary to the Geneva Conventions Act.” As The Intercept reports, Turp’s lawsuit “comes in the wake of growing evidence of war crimes by Saudi-led forces. … But the spectacle of democratic countries selling deadly military equipment to one of the most oppressive governments in the world has triggered outrage from human rights groups,” outrage that is “now beginning to coalesce into legal and political action.”

Trudeau, who has been highly praised for his progressive views and actions, has supported the arms contract, which was put into place before he took office in November. Just last week, he said that his government’s credibility would be harmed if he broke the contract.

The Intercept also notes that it’s not just Canada: Several “major arms-producing countries,” including the United States, have created arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the website reports.

The legal battle unfolding in Canada may set a global precedent for other human rights activists to take action against governments participating in arms deals with countries engaged in war crimes.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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