UK Foreign Policy

Time is running out to pay attention to the crisis in the Yemen

Article by Yemeni journalist Rafat Al-Akhali for NewStateman

The West must turn to the world's "forgotten crisis" - before it becomes too big to forget.

The horrifying images of starving children, women, and men coming out of Yemen tell a story to the world that we Yemenis have known for a while: the country is sliding into a wide-scale famine while all sides of the conflict turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions of innocent civilians.

While an alliance of the Houthi rebel movement and the ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to persecute their opponents in the areas they control, and besiege and shell Taiz, the country’s third-largest city, in an effort to consolidate their control over the central part of Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition besieges most of the country and indiscriminately targets civilian areas and infrastructure. The worst single incident took place earlier this month when an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a funeral hall in Sana’a left an estimated 140 dead and 525 injured. With a crumbling health system unable to cope, the majority of the injured were not able to travel abroad for treatment as the Saudis have forced the closure of Sana’a airport for nearly two months.

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Boris Johnson and John Kerry call for ceasefire in Yemen – video

Video by theguardian

Watch it here

Britain increases aid to Yemen while selling arms to Saudis

Express article by Tom Batchelor

BRITAIN is to increase the amount of aid destined for those caught up in the civil war in Yemen - at the same time as it sells arms to the Saudi regime which is carrying out airstrikes in the war-torn Gulf state.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced that Britain will provide an additional £37million in funding for Yemen this year.

A total of £72m has already been committed to the crisis in Yemen by the UK Government.

But the Government has simultaneously approved more than £3billion in arms sales over the past 18 months.

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MPs call for UK to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia

BBC News article

The UK should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia while Saudi actions in neighbouring Yemen are investigated, a draft report by MPs has said.

The Committees on Arms Export Controls said it was highly likely that weapons had been used to violate international humanitarian and human rights laws.

The draft report has been seen by the BBC's Newsnight programme.

The UK government said it had received assurances from Saudi Arabia but the committee said this was not sufficient.

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Boris Johnson defends UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Article by Patrick Wintour for theguardian

Foreign secretary says breaches of international law during Yemen airstrikes were not proven, as MPs prepare to call for ban on UK exports

The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has defended UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen is not “in clear breach” of international humanitarian law.

This week MPs will decide whether to call for a ban on arms sales to Saudi in light of allegations of indiscriminate bombing by the Saudi-led coalition during the 18-month-old Yemen civil war.

In a written statement to parliament, Johnson says: “The key test for our continued arms exports to Saudi Arabia in relation to international humanitarian law is whether those weapons might be used in a commission of a serious breach of international humanitarian law. Having regard to all the information available to us, we assess this test has not been met.”

His judgment is based largely on an Saudi-led inquiry into eight controversial incidents, including the bombing of hospitals. The report, published on 4 August, largely defended the bombing runs on the basis that the Saudis had received credible intelligence that enemy Houthi forces were in the area. In one case it offered compensation to the victims.

Defending the credibility of a Saudi-led inquiry exonerating Saudi targeting, Johnson said: “They have the best insight into their own procedures and will be able to conduct the most thorough and conclusive investigations. It will also allow the coalition forces to work out what went wrong and apply the lessons learned in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.”

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Don't just condemn humanitarian law violations. Stop them

Article by MP Stephen Twigg for theguardian

In the name of war, hospitals and camps for stranded people have been bombed. Leaders at the world humanitarian summit must hold those responsible to account

The recent airstrike on a camp for Syrians displaced from their homes is the latest in a long line of tragedies resulting from the disregard that certain parties to conflict hold for international humanitarian law.

The UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, the UN high commissioner for human rights, the French foreign ministry, the White House and many others have all spoken out against this horrific attack, yet frustrations abound with the inability of the international community to stop them from happening.

While a recent resolution from the UN security council condemning attacks against medical facilities and their staff is welcome, it is only the starting point. Condemning violations is not enough – they must be stopped.

This frustration has prompted the withdrawal of the highly respected Médecins Sans Frontières‎ (MSF), one of the integral cogs in the humanitarian system, from participation in the first world humanitarian summit, due to take place in Istanbul this month.

MSF staff work in harrowing conditions on the frontlines of humanitarian response – in cities like Aleppo, Kunduz and Taiz – and this level of commitment can cost them their lives.

In announcing their withdrawal, MSF said: “We no longer have any hope that the summit will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.”

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MPs call for immediate halt of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Article for theguardian by Patrick Wintour:

An all-party group of MPs has called for an immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an international independent inquiry into the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.

The call from the international development select committee follows evidence from aid agencies to MPs warning that Saudi Arabia was involved in indiscriminate bombing of its neighbour.

The UK government has supplied export licences for close to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last year, the committee said, and has also been accused of being involved in the conduct and administration of the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

In their letter to the international development secretary, Justine Greening, it urged the UK to withdraw opposition to an independent international inquiry into alleged abuses of humanitarian law in Yemen.

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View the International Development Committee's report here

Watch the 27 January International Development Committee's enquiry sessions on my Parliament page

UN: UK fuelling Yemen civil war with arms sales to Saudi Arabia


Britain is at war with Yemen. So why does nobody know about it?

Article for theguardian by Owen Jones:

Britain is arming and aiding a fundamentalist dictatorship that’s bombing and killing civilians. This is an incontestable fact. The Saudi tyranny – gay-hating women-oppressors who kicked off the year with ~a mass beheading – has been waging war in Yemen for 10 months.

If the 26 million Yemenis were being besieged and bombed by an official enemy of the west, we might expect emotive calls to “do something” and militarily intervene. Well, we are intervening: not simply by supplying weapons but even by providing the Saudi-led coalition of Arab dictators with British military advisers. As the SNP’s Angus Robertson put it to the prime minister’s face, Britain is “effectively at war” – and yet few Britons know anything about it.

Since Saudi-led forces intervened in the conflict between President Hadi and Houthi rebels last March, around 6,000 Yemenis have been killed, perhaps half of them civilians. With the country under naval blockade, what the UN was already calling a “humanitarian catastrophe” six months ago has been unleashed. Eight in every 10 Yemenis are now dependent on humanitarian aid, and most do not have “adequate access to clean water or sanitation”, according to the UN.

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UK's International Development Committee - Government and stakeholders questioned on humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Wednesday 27 January 2016, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

The International Development Committee hears from non-governmental organisations and from Department of International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the UK Government's response.

Purpose of the session
This session covers the scale of the crisis and how effectively DFID and other strands of Government have responded to protect civilians and ensure adherence to international humanitarian law.

Watch the video here

View a written transcript of the meetings here

MY COMMENT
This is a video of two one-hour meetings. If you have the time to watch it, it gives an invaluable insight into the UK's response to the Yemen Crisis.

In the first meeting at 1pm, the committee questions a panel of four expert witnesses on the Yemen crisis, as follows:

Julien Harneis, Head of UNICEF Yemen
Josephine Hutton, Regional Programme Manager, Middle East, Oxfam
Grant Pritchard, Director of Advocacy, Media and Communications on Yemen, Save the Children
Roy Isbister, Head of Arms Unit, Saferworld

I found this meeting encouraging in that it demonstrates that DfID (the Department for International Development) has a real desire to understand the facts about Yemen and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. However, it is also very clear from this meeting that the UK has a paradoxical policy towards Yemen. On the one hand, DfID is providing humanitarian assistance. On the other hand, the policy of the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to support the Saudi-led coalition and to continue its licencing of arms sales to Saudi is undermining the efforts of DfID. The first meeting makes it very clear that the UK must stop its arms sales to Saudi.


In the second meeting at 2.00pm, the committee questions the following members of the UK government:

Rt Hon Desmond Swayne MP, Minister of State for International Development
Juliette John, Head of DFID Yemen, Department for International Development
Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Nicholas Alton, Deputy Head of Arabian Peninsula and Iran, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This second meeting is very disappointing in that it demonstrates the government's clear and unwavering support for the Saudi-led coalition, as well as justification for its refusal to support the Dutch call for an independent enquiry into human rights violations in Yemen. The meeting closes with the chair saying, "On that rather unsatisfactory note, I think we have run out of time", which about says it all.


European Parliament resolution on the humanitarian situation in Yemen

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION, submitted 27/1/16

Read the full text of the motion here

Who Voted to Bomb Yemen? Asks Angus Robertson SNP

goingundergroundRT video:

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on British backed airstrikes in Yemen with leader of the SNP in Westminster Angus Robertson. We talk about the UK military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

SNP's Angus Robertson seeks meeting with David Cameron over Yemen

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, has requested a meeting with David Cameron to discuss the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

He has urged the prime minister to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia claiming the weapons are being used in its military campaign in the neighbouring country.

Mr Robertson said the situation meant the UK was "effectively at war".

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Angus Robertson: 'Britain effectively at war in Yemen'

PMQs: Robertson and Cameron on Yemen

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, said thousands of civilians were being killed in Yemen including by the Saudi air force.

Mr Robertson said this was happening using British-built planes, with pilots trained by British instructors and bombs “co-ordinated with the help of British advisers”, suggesting the UK was already effectively involved in a war in Yemen.

David Cameron said the UK was not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, its military personnel were not directly involved and that the UK was “not involved in the Saudi targeting decision making process”.

Watch the video here

British and US military 'in command room' for Saudi strikes on Yemen

Article for theguardian by Emma Graham-Harrison:

British and American military officials are in the command and control centre for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen, and have access to lists of targets, although they do not play any role in choosing them, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has said.

Human rights groups, the European parliament and the UN have all expressed concerns about airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, in support of the internationally recognised government.

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Britain gives £275m to Yemen but lets Saudi BOMB relief efforts

Daily Express article:

Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, formerly the UK's international development secretary, says, "The Yemenis are being pulverised by the Saudis while we try to get aid in through ports which are being blockaded and while British ordnance is being dropped there."

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Philip Hammond says he wants UK to sell even more weapons to Saudi Arabia

Article for The Independent by Jon Stone:

Britain should sell more weapons to the Saudi Arabian regime despite the fact they are being used by the country as part of its military operations in Yemen, the Foreign Secretary has said.

Philip Hammond said he was aware that human rights violations by Saudi Arabian forces operating in the country had been reported but said the Saudis denied these allegations.

Saudi Arabia has been blockading Yemen since March this year and is launching airstrikes in the country’s territory.

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Scandal of Britain's £6bn arms deals with war-torn Middle Eastern countries which could fall to ISIS

Mirror article by Chris Hughes:

Britain is selling billions of pounds' worth of weapons to the war-torn Middle East – including countries which could be overrun by ISIS.

Our soaring arms deals in the region include £15million in sales over the past five years to embattled Libya, large parts of which are already controlled by the vicious terror group.

Anti-arms trade campaigners say our ability to stop the weapons falling into the wrong hands once they are sold to Arab and African governments is failing as the jihadi network spreads.

Arms deals with foreign buyers – brokered by civil servants and approved by the Government – have created a deadly business that means nearly two-thirds of UK weapons exports go to the battled-scarred Middle East, critics say.

uk-arms-exports

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