ELAINE PEARSON. Australia Should Suspend Military Sales to Saudi Arabia

The Australian government should immediately halt military sales to Saudi Arabia following numerous unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Australia should also release details about military weapons and material it has sold to other members of the Saudi-led coalition carrying out the Yemen campaign and whether any Australian-made arms have been used in unlawful coalition attacks.  

In the past year, based on media reports, the Defence Department has approved four military export licenses to Saudi Arabia, but it has not released information on the types or quantities of arms and equipment sold. Since the Saudi-led coalition began its military campaign in Yemen in March 2015, the United Nations and nongovernmental organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have documented numerous unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of them apparent war crimes, on homes, markets, schools, and hospitals.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has approved military sales to Saudi Arabia when he should be using Australia’s leverage to press Riyadh to end unlawful airstrikes in Yemen,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “Until the Saudi-led coalition credibly investigates and curtails its unlawful attacks, Australia should stop selling them arms and equipment.”

After two years of fighting, at least 4,773 civilians have been killed and 8,272 wounded, the majority by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The coalition has not seriously investigated alleged laws-of-war violations, and has provided almost no information on which country’s forces participated in such attacks.

The coalition has also imposed a naval blockade on Yemen that has exacerbated the country’s grave humanitarian crisis, which the UN recently declared one of the world’s worst. The blockade has diverted ships carrying life-saving medical supplies and delayed shipments of civilian goods for up to three months. Nearly 19 million Yemenis – over two thirds of the population – need humanitarian assistance, and seven million are facing starvation.

Opposing Houthi-Saleh forces have also been implicated in numerous serious violations of the laws of war, including using antipersonnel landmines and restricting and impeding the flow of aid.

Several countries are showing increasing reluctance to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons, Human Rights Watch said. In March 2016, the Dutch parliament voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia. United Kingdom arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently under judicial review.

Several United States senators recently introduced a bill to limit the sale of US weapons unless Saudi Arabia acts to minimize civilian casualties in Yemen.

“Halting defence sales to Saudi Arabia would send a strong signal to Riyadh that the Australian government is committed to ensuring respect for the laws of war, and to the Australian people that the lives of Yemeni civilians are of genuine concern,” Pearson said.

Elaine Pearson is Director of Human Rights Watch Australia  This statement was first released on April 19, 2017.


Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch. Based in Sydney, she works to influence Australian foreign and domestic policies in order to give them a human rights dimension.

This entry was posted in Defence/Security, World Affairs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

For questions regarding our comment system please click here.
(Please note that we are unable to post comments on your behalf.)

4 Responses to ELAINE PEARSON. Australia Should Suspend Military Sales to Saudi Arabia

  1. Avatar michael lacey says:

    “Human Rights Watch, have documented numerous unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of them apparent war crimes, on homes, markets, schools, and hospitals.”
    Unfortunately any airstrikes that occur the mainstream media play down the coalition events as well as the terrorist events that are usually blamed on Syria or Russia!
    Yemen is virtually a forgotten war by the mainstream and the Saudis are a terrorist organisation both in implementation and resource support for other groups! Turnbull is not listening he has his instruction sheet given to him and he will follow! Mind you the opposition has the same instruction sheet!
    We do not have an independent foreign policy!

  2. Avatar Peter Small says:

    So no one disagrees with my assertion that Turnbull has been “groomed” by Goldman Sacks to do the bidding of the American “Deep State”. Or are the readers of John Menadue’s wonderful blog either too afraid to agree or disagree.
    Or is it that Australian’s have become so accustomed to their PM from which ever party they reside, deserting the National Interest in favour of being a vassal state of the US, that most think Turnbull’s behavior is par for the course!
    So, where oh where will we find a true patriot who puts Australia’s interest first?

    • Avatar Geoff Upton says:

      Because no one has responded to your comments does not mean that readers agree or disagree with your comments. I for one do not accept your assertion that Turbull has been groomed in the way you describe but accept that you are free to express your, to me, prejudicial views. I have no evidence to believe that he in this unhealthy negativist populist political environment without a clear majority is in an enviable situation as would be any other alternative Australian political leader.

  3. Avatar Peter Small says:

    You are wasting your time appealing to Turnbull. Turnbull has been groomed by Goldman Sacks to do the bidding of the “Deep State”. Remember the “Deep State” was what Trump promised to free the Americans from, instead he is now their captive in the White House. Turnbull groomed by Goldman Sacks, will do their bidding and to hell with Australia’s National Interests. Where oh where can we find a leader who is a true patriot and will pursue policies that most of us crave for!

Comments are closed.