Thursday, March 12, 2020

Arms Dealing Australia

Mali has been in near-perpetual conflict for eight years. The number of Malian civilians requiring protection and assistance jumped by 700,000 to 3.9m people in 2019, the UN estimated. The war also caused the number of internally displaced civilians to grow from 80,000 to nearly 200,000 in 2019. About half of those displaced were women and children.

Alioune Tine is currently monitoring the deteriorating human rights situation in Mali as the UN’s independent expert. He has called on Australia to cease selling arms to the war-torn country and urged the international community to do more to stop nations “actively producing and selling weapons” in conflict zones.

Australian weapons companies were given 31 permits last year to export weapons and military technology to a cluster of African nations suffering from instability and violence, including Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. One export permit was issued for weapons sales to Libya, where an ongoing civil war between a complex array of competing militias are fighting for control of oilfields and against the UN-backed government. Five export permits were issued for Somalia and four were issued for Sudan, where ongoing instability and violence in the West Darfur region has caused major displacement.

The majority of exports went to Mali. The Australian government had issued 16 permits to arms manufacturers to export weapons or military technology to Mali in 2019.  Last year, while Australia was approving the weapons sales, the UN warned that internal conflict was causing an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” in Mali, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and putting millions of civilians at risk.  Just last month, Tine warned the multiple failures of the state – in administration, justice and security – were facilitating “mass violence with impunity” in central Mali. Tine said the diffusion of arms in the region should be considered a crime against humanity.
Tine said the African Union’s Agenda 2063 seeks to put an end to the use of weapons, as well as controlling the quantity of weapons circulating in the Sahel, a massive stretch of Africa that incorporates central Mali.

“In the Sahel, the intent behind the possession of weapons and the practice of violence has never been democratic in nature,” he said. “Today, no less than 20 million weapons circulate in the Sahel (including kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, and surface to air missiles). In Libya, between 800,000 and 1 million weapons are estimated to be in circulation.”
Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and Save the Children have all called for greater transparency on Australia’s arms sales.  Amnesty International, said the organisation had repeatedly called on the Australian government to publicly report the details of its international arms transfers.

Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Ronalds said, “We cannot let vested interests and profits take precedence over the lives of children. Australians would be rightly appalled to know we were potentially prolonging devastating wars in places like Yemen and Mali, and in doing so, increasing and prolonging the suffering of millions of children.”
The Australian government refused to say what it is exporting, to whom, and for what purpose. Requests under freedom of information law for such details have been refused.

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