The people of Yemen have suffered so much throughout this conflict and the humanitarian situation in many parts of the country is extremely dire. Indeed, Yemen is now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world and the UN has estimated that several million people are at risk of famine.
I have shared the strong concerns about potential violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen for some time now. As you may know, the High Court recently ruled that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful. This was after the presentation of secret evidence in closed sessions of court. However, I am clear that this ruling should not be used as a green light to continue pushing for a military solution in Yemen.
Any evidence of violations of IHL in Yemen – regardless of the perpetrator – must be thoroughly investigated as part of a genuinely independent inquiry. The Labour Party has therefore repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into alleged violations of IHL in Yemen by both sides, accompanied by a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia until such an inquiry has concluded. Any perception that the UK 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 reinforces the need for a ceasefire in Yemen and I am particularly disappointed that, despite promises from the UK Government to bring a ceasefire resolution to the UN Security Council in October 2016, there has been no progress on this. The UK Government must now live up to its international commitments and start taking a much more proactive role in seeking a peaceful resolution – one that ensures Yemen gets the political settlement and food aid that it desperately needs.
Unfortunately, as a frontbench spokesperson I am unable to sign Early Day Motions, however, I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue very closely and raise it in the House whenever I can.