Arms sales: Australia must exercise caution in expanding arms sales to the Middle East

Responding to reports that Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has said that he wants Australia to become a major arms exporter and use those exports to cement relationships with countries in volatile regions such as the Middle East, Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Campaigns Coordinator Diana Sayed said,

“We are seriously concerned about indications that the Australian Government intends to become a major arms exporter to countries with such appalling human rights records.

“Australia held itself up as a leader in the successful negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty. As a global arms control leader, it is deeply concerning that Australia would express an intention to expand arms exports to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, while they are part of a Saudi-led Coalition committing shocking abuses in Yemen.”

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.

“We urge the Australian Government 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 cease the authorisation of any future arms transfers while there remains a substantial risk these arms will be used to fuel human rights abuses,” Diana Sayed said.


While leading the military coalition fighting in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has committed gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law including indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes that have killed and injured many civilians. It has repeatedly used internationally banned cluster munitions, including in civilian populated areas. The United Arab Emirates, which Mr Pyne mentions specifically as an arms export target, is a partner in the Saudi-led coalition.