HRW: Australia-Saudi Military Sales Should Be Suspended
In a letter to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Human Rights Watch [HRW] urged Tuesday the Australian government to immediately halt military sales to Saudi Arabia following numerous unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen.
The rights group further said that Australia should also release details about military weapons and material it had sold to other members of the Saudi-led coalition carrying out the Yemen campaign and whether any Australian-made arms had been used in unlawful coalition attacks.
In the past year, based on media reports, the Defense Department had approved four military export licenses to Saudi Arabia, but it had 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 UN and nongovernmental organizations, including HRW, had 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 HRW. "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 had been martyred and 8,272 wounded, the majority by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [OHCHR]. The coalition had not seriously investigated laws-of-war violations, and has provided almost no information on which country's forces participated in such attacks.
The coalition had also imposed a naval blockade on Yemen that had 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.
HRW said several countries are showing increasing reluctance to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons. In March 2016, the Dutch parliament voted to ban arms exports to Saudi Arabia. UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently under judicial review.
Moreover, several US senators recently introduced a bill to limit the sale of US weapons unless Saudi Arabia acts to minimize civilian casualties in Yemen.
"Halting defense 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.
Source: HRW, Edited by website team