Monday, February 15, 2021

MFAT's blocked nose

Last week, the public was appalled to learn that our national airline had been helping saudi Arabia commit war crimes in Yemen by servicing their military equipment. Jacinda Ardern was right that this sort of deal doesn't pass the sniff test. Meanwhile, her own Ministry of Foreign Affairs was approving weapons exports to Saudi Arabia:

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Ministry granted export permits for military equipment that was sent to Saudi Arabia's forces in 2016 and 2018, raising concerns the government may have breached its human rights obligations.


[Documents obtained under the Official Information Act] showed that in May 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) approved a permit for military simulation training equipment to be sent to Saudi ground forces. In December that year, sign-off was also given for hand-held computers, radios and range-finding binoculars bound for the Saudi Navy.

The exporter, whose identity has been kept secret by MFAT, applied for an extension to its December permit after that shipment was delayed, the documents showed. This was granted in May 2018. The quantity and value of the equipment exported was also withheld.

While there are no specific international prohibitions on exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, when MFAT considers an export permit it must assess whether there are any serious violations of humanitarian law. Waikato University international law professor Al Gillespie said officials may have breached this obligation.

I guess MFAT must just have a blocked nose - probably from constantly inhaling bullshit from promoting dairy exports. But this is just as unacceptable to the public as Air New Zealand's support for war criminals. Hopefully rather than making excuses the Minister will immediately put a stop to it (and if the weapons industry doesn't like that, they're welcome to fuck off to the UK, where they'd clearly fit in much better).