media release Reduce Military Spending

Australia provides weapons to the Yemen War. media release 25th July

Australia must be transparent about its military exports:

Australian Arms Control Coalition

25th July, 2019: A newly formed group of civil society organisations and human rights advocates are calling on the Australian Government to lift the shield of secrecy over the sale and export of Australian-made military assets, following a damning ABC report aired today.

The story on ABC News 24 today called ‘Fighting Yemen’s dirty war, an Arab military is buying a weapons system made in Canberra’ clearly indicates the duplicity of the Australian Government over the last few years.  It also does not put the former Defence Minister Christopher Pyne in a good light.  Mr Pyne often claimed that Australian weapons would not be used in the conflict in Yemen.

The story refers to the company Electro Optics Systems (EOS) which produces weapons systems in Canberra.  Pallets of these weapons systems are clearly marked to be sent to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the Interior are seen at a warehouse at Sydney Airport awaiting transport to the war in Yemen.

At the head office of EOS in the Sydney CBD the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign has held a vigil on the second Thursday of the month about EOS systems going to the Yemen conflict.  The vigil has been going for nearly a year now.

“The evidence presented in the ABC story raises a whole range of questions around where Australian arms are going, what risk assessment processes are taking place and what kind of follow ups are being done to ensure these arms are not inadvertently being used to carry out human rights abuses,” said Kellie Trantor, a lawyer and member of the newly formed Australian Arms Control Coalition, which encompasses key Australian civil society organisations and advocates.

“The lack of transparency around Australia’s defence exports is extremely concerning. Australians should know who their government is sending arms to and how those arms are being used, and they should have concrete guarantees that those arms will never be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law. Right now those concrete guarantees do not exist, and that is unacceptable.”

Chair of the Australian Arms Control Coalition (AACC), Save the Children’s Global Campaign Manager Joe Rafalowicz, said:

“It is unthinkable that Australian made defence exports could be helping fuel the war in Yemen, which has left more than 22 million people in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, while some 85,000 children have died from the effects of war including starvation.

“The coalition is calling for increased transparency and accountability surrounding Australia’s defence exports processes, and associated risk assessments. We cannot turn a blind eye to the war in Yemen, and the role foreign weapons are playing.”

The Australian Arms Control Coalition formed in April 2019 out of shared concern around Australia’s current defence exports, particularly to parties to the war in Yemen.

Its members include Save the Children, Amnesty International, the Medical Association for Prevention of War, Sum of Us, Wage Peace, Human Rights Watch, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, Australian Centre for International Justice, Anti-Bases Campaign and Oxfam Australia.

This comes after a UK appeals court last month found the UK had unlawfully authorised exports of British weapons to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the war in Yemen. The Court held that the UK’s system for assessing the risk of defence exports leading to IHL violations in Yemen was flawed because it failed to properly assess and consider relevant evidence of Saudi Arabia’s IHL violations in Yemen.

“This significant decision, which forced the UK government to change its processes for future applications and reprocess all current permits, raises the possibility that Australia’s system is also falling short of a suitable due diligence process,” Ms Traintor said.

For more information

Australian Anti-Bases Campaign