UAE military meetings in Canberra raise human rights criticism

UAE military meetings in Canberra raise human rights criticism
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Photo: Christopher Pyne, Twitter

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a nation that has been accused of committing war crime in a conflict with nearby Yemen, has met with officials in Canberra to discuss purchasing more of Australia’s military equipment.

Foreign Minister for the UAE, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, made a trip to Parliament House to have discussions regarding new arms deals with Julie Bishop, his Australian counterpart. The meetings also included Christopher Pyne, Australia’s Defence Industry Minister.

It is said that the UAE’s President Guard has shown interest in buying the HSSV (high speed support vessel) from Australian shipbuilding company Austal. The President Guard unit is captained by a former Australian Major, Mike Hindmarsh, who is said to report directly to the UAE’s crown prince.

Minister Pyne said that it was a great meeting to discuss military trades and that Australia has a “positive and growing relationship” with the controversial Arab state. He said the discussions focused around Aspen Medical and Austal.

Mr Pyne met with the Crown Prince of the UAW last year during the IDEX (International Defence Exhibition) conference in Abu Dhabi. There they discussed possible military deals for warships and ammunition.

Despite the smiles in Canberra, Diana Sayed (Amnesty International Crisis Campaigner) has said seeing the Australian government developing defence contracts with the UAE was “seriously alarming”.

She said that the UAE had an outrageous record for human rights abuses as part of a Saudi-led alliance that was oppressing civilians in Yemen.

The Coalition Government has insisted that all of its applications for exporting defence goods are valued on a case-by-case basis. It was said that this evaluation took human rights into consideration. Earlier in the year, the government announced its military export plans which seek to make Australia one of the top 10 nations for military sales in the world within the next 10 years.