Call to stop Australia’s weapons exports to Saudi

International children’s rights organisation, Save the Children, is demanding the Australian government immediately stop exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia. It says 85,000 children have died in the Yemen conflict since 2015.

Last August the United Nations (UN) found actions taken by the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition in Yemen might amount to war crimes. They include rape, torture and using child soldiers as young as eight.

Save the Children wants an immediate ban of Australian defence export licenses to Saudi Arabia and other parties to the Yemen conflict, as the Australian government has been underwriting weapons purchases.

These purchases include providing tens of millions of dollars to Electro Optic Systems (EOS), which has designed a remotely operated vehicle-mounted platform.

The platform holds cannons, machine guns and missile launchers.

Australian Defence officials have confirmed the government spent taxpayer funds to support developing weapons systems.

Save the Children Director of Policy and International Programs Mat Tinkler is concerned about Australia’s weapons’ exports.

“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”.

The Australian Government announced in January 2018 its ambition to become a top 10 defence exporter in the world.

The Australian Department of Defence’s Senate Estimates confirm the government had granted export permits to an Australian company that sold 500 weapons mounting systems to Saudi Arabia.

Tinkler says the fact that Australia is “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.”

Australian news outlet, ABC, claims it has seen confidential EOS board minutes which describe signing a Letter of Intent for the sale of 500 remote weapons systems units destined for the Saudi Ministry of Interior.

Following the ABC’s report, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told a Senate Estimates hearing that a ban on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia was under review.


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