In 2018-2019, Australia issued weapons export permits to countries accused of war crimes. Those countries where permits were issued include United Arab Emirates (45), Saudi Arabia (23), Sri Lanka (14) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (4).
In a campaign published on their website, Human Rights Organisation Amnesty International specifically focussed on Saudi Arabia and the UAE citing “a growing catalogue of human rights violations in Yemen.” They suggest that by allowing Australian companies to export weapons to these two countries, Australia is complicit in these human rights violations. They point to airstrikes in Yemen that have targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure – hospitals, school buses and markets.
A UN investigation has suggested that conflict in the northeast of Congo has been responsible for the death of 701 people between December 2017 and September 20. There were also upwards of 168 injured. They suggested the most recent wave of violence “may amount to crimes against humanity.
These current figures come off the back of many decades of turmoil in the DRC. The country has faced waves pf political turmoil leading to violence, rebellions and other protests across the country.
The UN has imposed sanctions on the DRC and Australia has generally followed these sanctions. These sanctions were introduced after a civil war that resulted in 5 million deaths between 1997 and 2003.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has the following advice on their website:
Australian law prohibits the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DRC of the following ‘export sanctioned goods’: arms or related matériel; without a sanctions permit.
Amnesty International is asking supporters to lobby the Australian Government to stop supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE because of their actions in Yemen, They cite recent examples of Germany, Norway and Belgium no longer supplying weapons.
Others are advocating for a similar stop to sales in the DRC. On Twitter, Phil Lynch, the Director of International Service for Human Rights suggested: “It’s very difficult to imagine how weapons sold by Australia to countries responsible for widespread and systematic human rights violations could not in any way contribute to those abuses.”
Most Australians would be surprised to hear of these Weapons deals mentioned in the article above. It’s highly likely they would agree with the opinions of Phil and the team at Amnesty International.