Yemen

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:56 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 12:56 pm, 21st November 2018

Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker. It is only right that all of us from across the House who have been urging the Government for more than two years to table a ceasefire resolution on Yemen have a chance to discuss the draft that will finally go before the UN tomorrow.

I applaud the Foreign Secretary for the fresh impetus that he has brought to the process, just as he has in recent days to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. There have been other factors at play: the appalling bus bombings in August; the famine faced by 14 million Yemeni citizens; the murder of Jamal Khashoggi; the rising tide of public anger at the war; and the news today that at least 85,000 children have died of hunger and disease since the war began. Unlike his predecessor, this Foreign Secretary has not buried his head in the sand. He has listened to the House, and he deserves credit for that.

Even if we have had to wait for a long time—and we have—there is a great deal to welcome in this draft resolution. We all support its key demands: an immediate cessation of hostilities around Hodeidah; urgent and unhindered access for humanitarian relief; all targeting of civilians to stop; compliance by all sides with international humanitarian law; and full co-operation with the UN’s peace envoy. I will write to the Foreign Secretary later with a number of detailed questions about the resolution and ensure that that letter is available to colleagues, but in the brief time I have, I want to ask him three questions.

First, the five key demands that I mentioned were all included in the Government’s draft resolution circulated in October 2016, which frankly gives the lie to every excuse that the House was ever offered about why that draft was dropped. Can the Foreign Secretary explain why we have had two years of inaction, and tell us what has changed and why it has taken so long?

Secondly—this was also a failing of the 2016 draft—can the Foreign Secretary tell us why the latest resolution fails to spell out what compliance with the resolution will be monitored and by whom, and what sanctions will apply to any party that breaches its terms, whether in terms of the ceasefire or the restriction of humanitarian aid?

Finally, and this is my most important point, there is one major change between the new draft resolution and the draft in 2016. While the new resolution refers to violations of international law in Yemen, it proposes no investigation of those crimes, let alone the independent and transparent investigations that we need if all those who are responsible are to be held to account. Can the Foreign Secretary explain that omission? I want to ask him a simple yes-or-no question: was a demand for an independent, transparent investigation into all alleged war crimes in Yemen and full accountability for those responsible, which is not included in the current draft, in the draft that he showed to Crown Prince bin Salman when they met last week in Riyadh?