Transform arms export regime to strengthen human rights protections

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is calling on the Government to urgently introduce legislation to better regulate the export of military products and technology that could be used to breach human rights in other countries.

Golriz Ghahraman, the Green Party’s human rights spokesperson told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee this morning that the Government needed to act to uphold New Zealand’s values overseas.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is entrusted to regulate the sale of weapons overseas. The very least people expect is that decision makers in Wellington would not allow the sale of military equipment to countries where they could be used to breach human rights,” Golriz Ghahraman says.

MPs were discussing the findings of an independent review into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s export controls regime. The review found significant shortfalls in process, transparency, and risk management that has allowed the sale of military or dual-use goods to military groups, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Many New Zealanders were shocked by the news earlier this year that MFAT had signed off the export of military-use equipment to forces in Saudi Arabia. Now we know the shortcomings that led to this happening, legislation must be introduced so it never happens again,” says Golriz Ghahraman.

“The Green Party has consistently called on the Government to prioritise Aotearoa New Zealand’s human rights and humanitarian law obligations when exporting overseas.

“However, as we have seen, shortfalls in the way Government have managed the export of weapons and other military equipment have, in some cases, resulted in possible aiding of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Legislation is urgently needed to provide clarity and oversight of decisions made by MFAT and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We call on the Minister to fulfil the recommendations of the independent review in full,” says Golriz Ghahraman.

The independent review MPs were discussing this morning was called for by the Green Party after it was revealed that Air NZ was involved in helping run Saudi military ships while they enforced the harrowing blockade of Yemen.

“The findings of the review are consistent with concerns raised at the time by the Green Party, numerous human rights stakeholders and the public, who were horrified by the mounting evidence that MFAT’s controls regime was falling short of both our legal and ethical obligations.

“The best practice standards recommended by the report would be enhanced by a regime that holds companies and exporters directly to account by creating binding due diligence obligations on anyone seeking to export weapons or equipment to military forces. This is the case in jurisdictions such as the UK, as noted by the independent review.

“We strongly support the recommendations of the report and thank the authors for their hard work,” says Golriz Ghahraman.

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