Yemen

Part of Concentrix – in the House of Commons at 6:26 pm on 26th October 2016.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 6:26 pm, 26th October 2016

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. When we consider that the war in Yemen is reported as the forgotten war, it seems even more appropriate that it is raised in this place, the highest seat of democracy, to ensure that our international obligations are being satisfied.

I support the legitimate Government in Yemen. I also put on the record that I support the peace process as we try to move forward. It is important that we do so, and to put that on the record when we are looking at these issues in this House. Indiscriminate bombing and the murder of innocents in Yemen—the destruction of property and the loss of life—are issues we are very aware of. We must condemn such actions, wherever they come from, and I have done so in the past. Amnesty International has said that violations of international humanitarian law have been committed by both sides with impunity, so it has said that both sides have been guilty of—dare I say it?—war crimes, in many cases. That has to be condemned by everyone in the House.

The Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for scores of airstrikes that have indiscriminately targeted civilian objects, disproportionately harmed civilians and attacked infrastructure indispensable to the civilian population, including hospitals, schools and humanitarian installations. According to the UN report on Yemen of 2016, the coalition airstrikes have failed to uphold the cornerstone principles of proportionality and distinction in any armed attack, and have clearly failed to take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

There is a definite need for intervention. That is the reason for my highlighting this issue back in June in a written question, asking what assessment the Foreign Office had made of the UN Secretary-General’s report, “Children and Armed Conflict”, and its annexe, published in April 2016, in which the Saudi-led coalition is listed as committing grave violations against children in Yemen. I ask the Minister again, what is being done to provide the response there should be to a war of this magnitude? What aid has been sent, what diplomatic pressure has been applied and how are we attempting to bring an end to this forgotten war?

As other hon. Members have said, Yemen is a tribal society. Islam is part of the identity of the Yemeni tribes, and tribal leaders are likely to enforce punishments for those who wish to leave Islam. That can mean honour killings, house arrest or, for women, forced marriage. Those are human rights abuses that we cannot legitimise or support. I put on the record my concerns about those abuses.

In the power vacuum resulting from the conflict, al-Qaeda and Islamic State are trying to gain power. That alone should mean we do all in our power—we must act to stop another Muslim country turning into an ISIS-held country. The world can little afford more strongholds for those who despise our very existence, and passionately wish to stop any of us in this place having another breath.

We have a duty to help children who are being slaughtered indiscriminately. We must send aid to the support networks to provide the assistance that is needed. We have a duty internationally to stand with our allies and ensure that those who seek to tear down and destroy understand that we will not stand by and passively allow or, even worse, encourage atrocities to take place.

Finally, we have a duty to our constituents to prevent terrorists having an even greater hold upon this world. Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. I do not want that to be said of this House in this debate. At a sensitive time of delicate diplomacy, let us support the UN initiative as it elevates this critical problem in Yemen and support a solution and a peace process that can last. Let that be the message from this House tonight.