The Labour front bench has shared deep concerns about potential violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen for several years now. My colleague Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, has repeatedly called on the Government to immediately suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the war on Yemen pending a comprehensive and independent investigation of all alleged war crimes.
Over 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015 and the humanitarian situation in many parts of the country is extremely dire. Indeed, the UN estimates that almost 18 million people are food insecure and over 8 million people are at risk of starvation. Millions more also lack access to safe water and sanitation or adequate access to healthcare.
There is no military solution to this conflict and it is vital that a peaceful, negotiated resolution can be secured. The recent peace talks in Sweden and the adoption of Resolution 2451 by the UN Security Council in December 2018 has been one of few moments of hope in Yemen since the conflict began. This moment must be seized and the Government must look towards the next steps in brokering a ceasefire and, indeed, a political settlement for the whole country.
The Court of Appeal judgement on 20 June 2019 shows that the Government wilfully disregarded the evidence behind concerns of alleged war crimes. We now need a full parliamentary or public inquiry to find out how that was allowed to happen, and which Ministers might have been responsible for breaches in the law.
The judgement shows beyond doubt why we need root-and-branch reform of our arms export rules so that these decisions are never again made by Ministers in such a careless and arbitrary way.
The Government has said it will not grant any new licences for arms exports that might be used in the conflict in Yemen. It must now also suspend all existing arms exports for use in the Yemen conflict until there has been a full and independent, UN-led investigation into all breaches of international humanitarian law.
The people of Yemen have suffered throughout this conflict and resolving it could not be more urgent. A political settlement is absolutely vital for the peace, security and stability of Yemen and the health and well-being of the Yemeni people.
In March I met with young constituents who came to Parliament specifically to meet with MPs to highlight how serious this issue is for them.
The Government should end its support of the Saudi-led coalition’s conduct in the war and use all its influence to play its part in bringing about the peaceful, negotiated resolution that is so desperately needed.