Veil of secrecy must be lifted as Australia continues to sell weapons to countries accused of war crimes in Yemen

Save the Children has expressed alarm after it was revealed that the Australian Government has continued to sell weapons and military equipment to countries accused of carrying out war crimes in Yemen.

Responses to Questions on Notice revealed that between August 2019 and October 2020 the Australian Government issued five permanent permits for military goods to be sent to Saudi Arabia and a further nine to the United Arab Emirates.

Both countries have been heavily involved in Yemen, a war in which the United Nations said there are “no clean hands”.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been accused of carrying out war crimes against children in Yemen. Numerous weapons producing countries have committed to ban or suspend military exports to both countries. Since 2019 Save the Children has called for a ban on exports to countries at war in Yemen.

Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds said:

“Australia should not issue permits for weapons and other military goods to any country in violation of international humanitarian laws, including those who have committed any of the grave violations against children.

“If permits for military goods are issued, the government needs to provide full transparency when they are granted. The Australian public has a right to know which countries are buying Australian weapons, what they are buying and track where and how they are being used.

“It is deeply disturbing that our government could allow weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who the UN has said are responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law, including the killing of children, in Yemen.

“The war in Yemen has seen as many as 85,000 children under five die of starvation, while more than 24m people are in need of humanitarian assistance – roughly equivalent to the population of Australia.

“Yemen is the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet and it is unthinkable that the Australian Government could be complicit, fuelling war crimes by allowing military goods to be sold without transparency or accountability.”

Germany recently extended an arms export ban on Saudi Arabia for another year, while in August Belgium suspended arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia over fears the weapons may end up in Yemen. Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have also all imposed restrictions on arms-exports to the Saudi-led coalition.

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