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Australia must stop arms sales to Saudi and Emirati-led coalition

On the 4th anniversary of the war in Yemen, Save the Children is demanding a change of policy on defence exports
26 March 2019
Today marks the 4th anniversary of the beginning of the brutal and senseless war in Yemen.

A war which has seen an estimated 85,000 children die of starvation and more than 30 children killed or injured every month by foreign bombs. 

Save the Children is urging the Australian Government to end defence exports to the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition, key parties to the conflict.

Save the Children CEO, Paul Ronalds said now is the time for the world, including Australia, to stop fueling a war that is having such dire consequences for children.

“This is not a war of their making, but children are paying the highest price,” said Mr Ronalds. 

“If the Australian Government cannot guarantee that Australian defence exports are not contributing to the war in Yemen, it must stop issuing licences immediately.”

Senate Estimates recently revealed that the Australian Government is continuing to issue defence export licences to Australian companies wanting to send weapons and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The Department of Defence was not able to guarantee that defence exports from Australia were not contributing to the war in Yemen.

“The Government’s ambition to see Australia become a top ten defence exporter comes with a responsibility to ensure weapons and other military equipment are not used by parties perpetrating alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Mr Ronalds. 

“In the case of Yemen, the United Nations has found that parties to the conflict such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, may have committed war crimes including rape, torture and indiscriminate airstrikes that have killed civilians.”

“It is inconceivable, therefore, that Australia could justify continuing to issue defence export licences to a party to the Yemen conflict on human rights and humanitarian grounds.”

“Australians are rightly horrified to know that we could potentially be prolonging this war; the suffering of millions of children.”


“This war will end with words, not weapons. We call on the Government and the Opposition to take a stand today.” 

A United Nations (UN) investigation in August 2018 found that parties to the war in Yemen may have committed war crimes including airstrikes which killed thousands of civilians, rape and torture. 

Germany, Denmark, Italy and Finland have all suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a number are reviewing export licences previously issued. 

Last month, the United Kingdom’s all-party Lords Select Committee on International Relations report: Yemen: Giving Peace a Chance found that arms export sales to Saudi Arabia and its allies were unlawful. Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives have used a War Powers Resolution to express disdain for the Administration’s support to the Saudi-led coalition.

Save the Children, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wrote to the then Minister for Defence, Senator Payne and Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne in September 2018 in relation to Australia’s defence exports to Saudi Arabia. A response has not been received.

Save the Children has launched a petition calling on the Australian Government to end defence exports to parties to the war on Yemen.

For interviews, call Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918.

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