Many people have recently been in touch with me with concerns about the ongoing conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen. The civil war in Yemen has now been going on for almost two years. In that time, millions of people have been displaced and thousands of civilians have been killed. Before the war, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the Arab world and this has dramatically worsened since. Much of Yemen’s infrastructure has been destroyed by airstrikes, including much of the Hudayah port disrupting the vital import of humanitarian supplies. Last year the world was shocked by pictures depicting the extent of the famine in Yemen, which is estimated to strongly affect at least 80% of the population.
Air strikes in Sana'a, Yemen in 2015
I am particularly concerned about reports of breaches to international humanitarian law in Yemen and believe that these must be investigated. In my view there is sufficient evidence to constitute a serious risk that UK provided arms may be used in violations of humanitarian law and this must be looked into as a matter of urgency. While an independent inquiry is ongoing, the Government must immediately suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia until this is concluded. The UK subscribes to and promotes the abidance of international humanitarian law and any perception that the Government is failing in its responsibility to apply its own criteria on arms sales would seriously undermine Britain in the eyes of the world.
This is an increasingly concerning situation, especially in light of today's news that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, allegedly pressed Liam Fox to continue exports of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen last year. I have now therefore written to Boris Johnson about concerns that UK arms have been used in violations of humanitarian law.
This blog will be updated once I receive a response from the Secretary of State.
I have now received the below response from Tobias Ellwood, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in response to my letter about the crisis in Yemen.