Defence officials have today confirmed reports that the Australian Government has spent taxpayer funds to support the development of a weapons systems bound for Saudi Arabia – a country which has been accused of committing war crimes against civilians in Yemen.
$36 million to one weapons systems manufacturer in Canberra stands in stark contrast to the Australian Government’s contribution to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen which stands at just $23 million in direct funding over almost 4 years of the conflict.
In August 2018, the UN found that actions taken by the Saudi and UAE led coalition in Yemen – including rape, torture and using child soldiers as young as eight – may amount to war crimes.
Save the Children is demanding an immediate ban of Australian defence export licenses to Saudi Arabia and other parties to the Yemen conflict which has seen 85,000 children die since 2015.
Save the Children Director of Policy and International Programs Mat Tinkler said that Australia’s exportation of weapons to countries engaged in warfare that violates international law is leaving us globally isolated.
“Australia is becoming increasingly isolated in our support for the Saudi led coalition in this way,” said Mr Tinkler.
“The world over, nations have taken steps to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in light of the UN’s finding of possible war crimes.”
In addition to the Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian governments, in recent days both the UK Parliament and the US Congress have taken moves to stop arms sales and other military supplies to parties to the Yemen conflict.
The Department of Defence today confirmed in Senate Estimates that the Australian Government has granted export permits to an Australian company that sold 500 weapons mounting systems to Saudi Arabia.
“The fact we’re still exporting defence equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE raises serious questions about what role we’re playing in prolonging this war, in prolonging the suffering of children in Yemen.”
“Many Australians would be rightly be shocked to learn that Australia could potentially be contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
“Unfortunately, the secrecy has continued in Senate Estimates this morning, with the Government refusing to disclose what has been sold to Saudi Arabia and what safeguards exist to ensure Australian exports are not being used in support of the war Yemen.”
The Australian Government announced in January 2018 its ambition to become a top 10 defence exporter in the world.
“The Australia Government is clearly pursuing big defence export deals with countries engaged in warfare around the world.
“The question for the Australian Government to answer today is at what cost to taxpayers, and at what cost for children. Because every war is a war against children.”
This month Save the Children released a flagship report, Stop the War on Children, which revealed that almost 1 in 5 children are living in conflict zones around the world and for every 1 fighter killed, 5 children are killed in war.
In 2019, it’s Centenary year, Save the Children will be calling on the Australian Government to do more to stop the war on children, including an end to defence exports to parties to the war in Yemen.
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