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Six years of war in Yemen

23 March 2021, Impact of Our Work

How Australia is fanning the flames of war 

It’s been six devastating years and the conflict in Yemen shows no sign of abating. The conflict is now considered the world’s worst humanitarian disaster with 66 per cent of the population requiring humanitarian aid, including over 11 million children. The conflict has been fueled by the export of arms from around the world to countries fighting the war, including from Australia. 

At this pivotal juncture, we are calling for the Australian Government to immediately ban defence exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is time to stop the war on children.

Why should Australia ban defence export licences to countries waging war in Yemen?

There have been alarming levels of civilian casualties in the Yemen conflict over the past six years, a war in which the United Nations said there are “no clean hands.” Earlier this month, 3 children were killed and 17 injured in two artillery shell attacks in Taiz City. Last year, 4,042 grave violations against children were reported in Yemen, including at least 395 children killed, and 1,447 maimed. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been accused of carrying out war crimes against children in Yemen. The UN found that Saudi-led coalition were responsible for killing and injuring at least 222 children in 2019.

Save the Children strongly condemns the granting of defence export permits for countries and armed groups that have violated international humanitarian law, including those who have committed grave violations against children. We have repeatedly called on Australia to ban all defence exports to Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

Which Australian companies are involved in defence exports? 

A number of Australian companies are involved in exporting goods to countries waging war in Yemen. Defence export permits are required for military or “duel-use” goods exported overseas – this can include parts of weapons, like the Australian made components in the F-35 Fighters.

In 2019, ABC reported on photographic evidence that revealed UAE Armed Forces were receiving Australian made weapons, developed by Australian company Electro Optic Systems (EOS). More recently, it was discovered that EOS signed a joint venture partnership to produce a high-tech machine gun in the UAE.

In 2016, the Mercury reported on an HSV-2 Swif ship built in Australia in 2003 by Austal, subsequently leased to the UAE by the US Navy, was found carrying equipment for the UAE army off the coast of Yemen.

How do you know which permits are issued?

It is incredibly difficult to find information about who Australia has granted defence export permits to, as the current defence export regime is shrouded in secrecy. The lack of timely, transparent reporting means information about defence exports permits, including those that have been granted to countries that have violated international humanitarian law, are obtained through Freedom of Information requests, or through responses to direct questions from politicians, including recent questions on notice through Parliament.

Since 2019 Save the Children Australia has campaigned for a ban on defence exports to countries at war in Yemen. We formed the Australian Arms Control Coalition, launched a petition, generated media coverage and continue to advocate to the Minister for Defence and other government officials.

So far over 15,000 Australians have signed our petition calling for an immediate ban. Can you help us get it to 20,0000?

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