Australia significantly increased the number of permits for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia last year despite calls for such sales to be banned because of the humanitarian crisis caused by war in Yemen, The British newspaper the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, the Australian government continues to maintain significant secrecy over the type and value of weapons and military technology exported to nations such as Saudi Arabia.
The Guardian stated that figures provided to Greens senator David Shoebridge show Australia approved 21 permits for the export of military or dual-use equipment to Saudi Arabia between 1 January and 9 November 2022, saying “That was already more than the 17 permits approved in 2021 and considerably more than the five between 23 August 2019 and 26 October 2020.”
It pointed that in 2018, UN investigators accused the Saudi-led coalition of killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes, torturing detainees, raping civilians and using child soldiers – acts they said may constitute war crimes.
Australia does not release any information about what equipment it is exporting to Saudi Arabia, but it has previously said it could include weapons, munitions, armour, radios, simulators and training equipment that is “not necessarily for a military purpose”. The permits also relate to dual-use goods, which can be used for civilian and military application.
According to the paper, “it was “disturbing” that Australia’s approval of military exports to Saudi Arabia had increased despite claims of its involvement in human rights abuses and indiscriminate attacks that had killed Yemeni children”.
“Moreover, the blanket secrecy surrounding Australian arms exports, which has continued under successive governments, is deeply concerning,” the paper said.
“Right now, due to the lack of transparency, Australian-made weapons could be being used to harm children or could be ending up in the hands of child soldiers and the Australian public would have no idea.
“Australia has made clear its intention to become a major global arms exporter, but we must ask at what cost? Yemen, for example, is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world yet Australia’s military exports to countries involved in that conflict are likely worth more than the humanitarian aid Australia has committed to alleviating the crisis.”