Responding to reports that the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants Australia to become one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters to target markets including the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region, Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Campaigns Coordinator Diana Sayed said:
“When the Government talks about expanding arms exports to the Middle East, where exactly does it mean? Syria? Saudi Arabia? And when it talks about the Indo-Pacific, is it contemplating Myanmar? The Philippines? We are seriously concerned about indications that the Australian government intends to become a major arms exporter to volatile regions that have appalling human rights records.
“Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne floated this idea back in July, when he said he was looking to increase Australia’s weapons exports to the United Arab Emirates, among other target markets. At the time, Amnesty pointed out that Australia held itself up as a leader in the successful negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty and that, as a global arms control leader, it is deeply concerning that Australia would express an intention to expand arms exports to the United Arab Emirates, while they are part of a Saudi-led Coalition committing shocking abuses in Yemen, or indeed to Saudi Arabia itself.
“We have been asking the Australian Government for some time now to publicly report the exact nature of all arms transfers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to date and to its allies in the war in Yemen, and to cease the authorisation of any future arms transfers while there remains a substantial risk these arms will be used to fuel human rights abuses. While there is reluctance on the Government’s part to exercise transparency in its arms exports trade, it is unthinkable that it would even contemplate expanding it.”
Australia is obliged under the Arms Trade Treaty not to authorise weapons transfers to countries where there is an overriding risk these weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law.