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Australia caught out exporting weapons to countries accused of violations against children in war

Explosive new documents have revealed Australia is granting defence export licenses to 24 countries, many of which have a track record of child rights violations.
14 October 2021

Freedom of Information documents obtained by SBS Dateline have shown Australia is exporting weapons to: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.
 
The FOI documents show that since January 2015, Australia has granted 179 defence export licences to the United Arab Emirates, and 102 to Saudi Arabia. The Government did not disclose what type of goods were exported and did not rule out weapons.
 
In 2019, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition were responsible for killing or injuring at least 222 children in Yemen, and at least four incidents of attacks on schools.
 
Save the Children’s Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said Save the Children has written to the Defence Minister ’s office to request greater transparency about what type of Australian made weapons end up where. 
 
“It’s deeply troubling to see the list of countries Australia has been approving weapons sales to in recent years,” Mr Tinkler said.
 
“Because there is such a lack of transparency, Australians have zero assurance that our weapons do not end up killing children, or in the hands of children recruited into war.”
 
“Our view is simple: Australia should not sell weapons to any country that violates international humanitarian law.”
 
“Australia aspires to be among the world’s top 10 defence exporters but does not have the necessary transparency around where these weapons end up.”

 
Mr Tinkler said Save the Children is particularly concerned about Australian made weapons exported to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
 
Just last week, the Human Rights Council removed the power for the Group of Eminent Experts to investigate and report on human rights violations in Yemen, meaning crimes against children there will now go unrecorded.
 
“Without a monitoring mechanism for child rights violations in Yemen, it is ever more important that Australia is transparent about weapons sales to Saudi-led forces.”
 
“War is becoming increasingly dangerous for children,”
Mr Tinkler added.
 
“More than 25,000 verified grave violations were committed against children last year. Over the last 10 years, more than 93,000 children have been killed or maimed in conflict. That’s 25 a day. The weapons killing those children have to come from somewhere.”
             
The Arms Trade Treaty, which Australia has signed and ratified, requires governments to ensure arms transfers are not used to commit violence against children.
 
Save the Children Australia is proposing enhanced safeguards to prevent any weapon or product manufactured in Australia being used in violation of international law, particularly laws that protect children in conflict.
 
ENDS
 
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner on 0437 435 777 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au

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