The software in question is used by militaries across the globe to create an on-screen overview of military operations, coordinate attacks and designate bomb targets. Suspicions have been voiced that it may have been used in the Yemen war, which the UN has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Danish National Police have initiated an investigation of Systematic, Denmark’s largest IT company, after allegations were made of illegal cooperation with the United Arab Emirates’ military.
The investigation was started after TV2, Danwatch and Lighthouse Reports revealed that Systematic allegedly delivered advanced military software to the UAE military, despite the ban on military equipment exports to the Middle Eastern country, which has been in place since November 2018.
The three-year-old export ban was introduced because Copenhagen feared that Danish equipment risked being misused by the UAE in the Yemen conflict, where the country had been accused of war crimes by human rights organisations. For the same reason, the Foreign Ministry spoke against a renewal of Systematic’s export permit for the UAE military.
Systematic withdrew its application for UAE exports a day before it would have been denied. However, the company reportedly continued to supply the UAE with military software via its British subsidiary.
The system in question bears the name SitaWare and is used by several countries’ militaries, including Denmark’s, to create an on-screen overview of military operations, coordinate attacks and designate bomb targets.
Danish Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup emphasised that a ban must be complied with, calling for a thorough investigation of the possible wrongdoing.
Several experts have called this “amoral” and a “deliberate circumvention” of the Danish export ban.
“For me, it is very clear that Systematic is applying for an export permit in the UK to circumvent Danish law, and that is definitely wrong. There is nothing to discuss”, Tom Kirchmaier, a professor of economic crime at Copenhagen Business School, told
That assessment was backed by William Hartung, an expert in international arms trade at the Center for International Policy, a US think tank.
“Using a foreign subsidiary for exports is an undermining of the Danish government’s decision not to arm the Emirates. If it is legal, then there is a huge loophole in the Danish export legislation”, Hartung told
According to him, there is no doubt that Systematic had withheld information from the National Police.
“I believe that the fact that Systematic did not even mention the end user in the papers is an attempt to circumvent the law. For, of course, they knew where the equipment was heading after Britain. They knew it was going to the Emirates and that it was banned,” he said.
Military experts argued that there is a great risk that the UAE may have used the Danish combat control system for their controversial warfare in Yemen.
“It simply wouldn’t make any sense if it wasn’t used in Yemen”, Pieter Wezeman, military researcher at the Stockholm Peace and Research Center (SIPRI), said, venturing that in such a complex theatre as Yemen, the UAE badly needed overview provided by SitaWare.
Ryan Buhl, a military analyst at the intelligence agency Stratfor, also argued that SitaWare is likely to be used in Yemen.
A coalition of Arab and African countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE went to war in Yemen in March 2015 in response to the Houthi rebels overthrowing the country’s government in January 2015. Between 100,000 and 230,000 are estimated to have died in hostilities or as a result of the war and naval blockade of the country, preventing deliveries of food, medicine and relief supplies. Wholly 80 percent of Yemen’s 28 million inhabitants need emergency aid. With millions starving and lacking medicine, the UN has described Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.