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Exclusive: NZ companies exporting military equipment to countries accused of human rights violations

New Zealand companies have been exporting military equipment to countries accused of major human rights violations.

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1 NEWS has obtained a list of export control permits for weapons and military technology, approved by our Foreign Affairs Ministry Source: 1 NEWS

1 NEWS has obtained a list of export control permits for weapons and military technology, approved by our Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Among the 41 countries and territories on the list are: China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Indonesia, UAE, Turkey, Philippines and Jordan.

“It is a veritable who's who of human's rights violators, these are some of the worst human rights violators on the planet,” Valerie Morse from Peace Action Wellington said.

New Zealand has been exporting military equipment to all of them and to other nations with atrocious human rights records.

“How can they be confident that those goods are not going to be used to human rights violations,” Lisa Woods from Amnesty International asked.

In the last three years, the ministry has received 256 applications for military exports to 41 countries and territories it has declined just one, that was an export to Saudi Arabia in 2019.

1 NEWS understands that was rejected because Saudi Government assassins had recently murdered the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at their consulate in Turkey.

“All but one of the requests for these military related exports has been approved regardless of the character of the government in question,” security analyst Paul Buchanan said.

The Prime Minister is in the dark about the exports.

“I'd want a little more information if I may, this issue has just been raised,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Despite the war in Yemen, the Foreign Affairs Ministry previously approved two permits to Saudi Arabia - for equipment including range-finding binoculars and handheld computers that help fire mortars.

“These very overtly authoritarian countries with abysmal human rights records both at home and abroad, why on earth would a country that claims to stand on principal would deal with them in anyway shape or form when it comes to military equipment is beyond me,” Buchanan said.

Ministry bosses refused to be interviewed today but they were recently asked at Parliament if they were helping to kill civilians.

“Do you think you might have been helping the Saudi military to kill Yemenis people and to breach international humanitarian law,” Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman asked in February.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy chief executive Ben King denied it.

“Absolutely no. We take each application on its merits,” he said.

As we found out today, they're finding merit on almost every occasion.

The Government has yet to appoint anyone to lead the independent review into its export controls regime, which was announced on March 16.