Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

68 Restrictive measures against the regime in Yemen

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsCouncil Decision and Council Regulation on amendments to existing restrictive measures
Legal base(a) Article 29 TEU; unanimity

(b) Article 215 TFEU; QMV

DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document numbers(36936), — (36937), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

68.1 The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that:

—  on 14 April 2015 the United Nations Security Council adopted Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015) in view of the situation in Yemen;

—  the resolution imposes an arms embargo against two individuals under the Yemen sanctions regime — the leader of the Houthi rebel group, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, and the former President of Yemen's son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh — as well as the three individuals previously designated under UN Security Council resolution 2140 (2014);

—  that earlier Resolution imposed an asset freeze and travel ban against individuals and an asset freeze against entities designated by the UN Sanctions Committee as engaging in, or providing support for, acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen;

—  Resolution 2216 (2015) further extends the travel ban and asset freeze measures to Abdulmalik al-Houthi and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh; and

—  also extended the scope of the designation criteria set out in resolution 2140 (2014), underscoring that acts that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen may also include violations of the arms embargo, or obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemen or access to, or distribution of, humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

68.2 The Minister recalls that an EU Council Decision and Regulation ("the principal Decision and Regulation") implementing the asset freeze and travel ban into EU law were adopted on 18 December 2014; and explains that the EU Council Decision and Regulation, adopted on 8 June 2015, update the Decision and Regulation of 18 December 2014, thereby also implementing the arms embargo into EU law and extending the designation criteria

68.3 As the two UN statements issued when these UNSCRs were adopted illustrate (see "Background"), the international response is not altogether united. The country's history is complex.[ 486] After three decades of rule, President Saleh finally ceded power in November 2011, after months of protests; his successor, President Hadi, then fled the capital in February 2015 after Houthi Shia rebels seized control. This situation is now even further complicated by what many observers regard as a proxy battle between the Sunni and Shia worlds of Saudi Arabia and Iran. With the Russia on the side-lines, what the effect of the UN measures will be is thus open to conjecture at the very least.

68.4 However, their implementation by the EU raises no questions, and we therefore clear the Council Decision and Council Regulation from scrutiny.

68.5 Given that the Committee was not in existence at the point at which these measures needed to be implemented, we do not take issue with the Minister having over-ridden scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: (a) Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/882 of 8 June 2015 amending Decision 2014/932/CFSP concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Yemen: (36936), —; (b) Council Regulation (EU) 2015/878 of 8 June 2015 amending Regulation (EU) No. 1352/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Yemen: (36937), —.


68.6 In a statement of 26 February 2014, the UN said:

"Sending a message of support to the Government and people of Yemen, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution welcoming recent progress in the country's political transition and expressed strong support for the completion of next steps, among them drafting a new constitution, and holding a referendum as well as general elections.

    "Unanimously adopting resolution 2140 (2014) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council encouraged all the country's constituencies, including youth and women's groups, to continue their active and constructive engagement in Yemen's political transition.

"The Council reaffirmed the need for full and timely implementation of the political transition following the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference, in line with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and Implementation Mechanism. Encouraging all constituencies to implement the recommendations of the National Dialogue Conference, it called upon the Hiraak Southern movement, the Houthi movement and others to partake constructively in the process and to reject the use of violence for political aims.

"Further by the text, the Council condemned the growing number of attacks carried out or sponsored by Al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, expressing its determination to address that threat in accordance with the Charter and international law. It called for national efforts to address the threat posed by explosives as well as small arms and light weapons to Yemen's stability and security.

"Also by the text, the Council expressed concern over reported serious human rights abuses and violence against civilians, and urged all parties to end conflicts and comply with their obligations under applicable international humanitarian and human rights law. It also expressed concern over the continuing recruitment of children by armed groups and Yemeni Government forces, calling for continued national efforts to end and prevent their recruitment and use. The Council also expressed concern over the use of media to incite violence and frustrate the people's legitimate aspirations for peaceful change.

"By other terms, the Council decided that, for an initial one-year period from today's action, all Member States would prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of designated individuals. It also decided to establish a Committee comprising all its members to monitor implementation of measures imposed by the Council; designate individuals and entities to be subjected to such measures; and to establish such guidelines as may be necessary to facilitate their implementation.

"The text also contained provisions on economic reform and development assistance to support the transition, among others."[ 487]

68.7 On 14 April, the UN issued a further statement, which said:

"Imposing sanctions on individuals it said were undermining the stability of Yemen, the Security Council today demanded that all parties in the embattled country, in particular the Houthis, immediately and unconditionally end violence and refrain from further unilateral actions that threatened the political transition.

"Adopting resolution 2216 (2015) by 14 affirmative votes to none against, with one abstention (Russian Federation), the Council also demanded that the Houthis, withdraw from all areas seized during the latest conflict, relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions, cease all actions falling exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Government of Yemen and fully implement previous Council resolutions.

"Acting under chapter VII of Charter, the body also called upon the Houthis to refrain from any provocations or threats to neighbouring States, release the Minister for Defence, all political prisoners and individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained, and end the recruitment of children.

"Imposing sanctions, including a general assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, on Abdulmalik al-Houthi, who it called the Houthi leader, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the president who stepped down in 2011, the resolution called upon all Yemeni parties to abide by the Gulf Cooperation Council and other initiatives and to resume the United Nations-brokered political transition.

"Reaffirming the need for all parties to ensure the safety of civilians, the Council called on parties to facilitate the evacuation by concerned States and international organizations of their civilians and personnel from Yemen. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution within 10 days.

"Explaining his delegation's decision to abstain, the representative of the Russian Federation said the text failed to take into account proposals his country had made, refused to call on all sides to halt fire and lacked clarity on a humanitarian pause. There were inappropriate references to sanctions, he added, stating that resolution must not result in an escalation of the crisis.

"The representative of Jordan, Council President for April, said, however, that the adoption of the resolution under Chapter VII was a clear and firm signal to the Houthis and all those supporting them to comply with their obligations. Stressing the regional ramifications of the escalating conflict, she stated that the Council was prepared to consider any additional measures required.

"The Council had for months demanded that the parties in Yemen proceed with the agreed upon political transition, the representative of the United States recalled. In response, however, the Houthis had intensified their military actions, threatening the country's and region's security. For that reason, she strongly supported the resolution, which provided a general asset freeze and travel ban on spoilers.

"Also welcoming the adoption, the representative of Yemen described it as a tangible demonstration of the seriousness of the international community's support for his people's effort to restore peace, rule of law and democracy. He said that while the Yemeni Government and other parties were finalizing a comprehensive peace framework, opposition forces had mounted a coup d'état, threatening the social fabric and cohesion of the Yemeini people. He applauded the response of the Gulf Cooperation Council to the crisis as consistent with the imperative of preserving Yemen's Constitution and rebuffing Iran's designs."[ 488]

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 19 June 2015

68.8 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 June 2015, the Minister says that the unilateral actions by the Houthis, and their supporters, "have gravely undermined the political transition process in Yemen, and have seriously jeopardised the security, stability, sovereignty and unity of Yemen". The Houthis have "consistently failed to implement their commitments made in the Peace and National Partnership Agreement and have continued to use force to achieve their aims". A political solution in Yemen will "be difficult to achieve unless the Houthis and their supporters can be deterred".

68.9 The Minister explains that:

—  the targeted arms embargo prevents, by law, the supply of weapons, military equipment and financial assistance to the Houthis and their supporters;

—  it is reinforced by the designation of Abdulmalik al-Houthi and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh under the asset freeze and travel ban measures set out in UNSCR 2140 (2014); and

—  these targeted sanctions are intended to support the efforts of the Gulf Co-operation Council and the wider international community to facilitate a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.

68.10 The Minister comments thus:

"The situation in Yemen remains very serious and fighting between competing forces continues. Ultimately the solution to the crisis must be a political one. Under UN-auspices, initial consultations were held on 16-17 June in Geneva between the Yemeni Government and adversaries to the conflict. We see this as a first step towards establishing a political process and are fully supportive of the UN efforts. These negotiations should promote a return to the political transition based on the GCC Initiative, the Yemen National Dialogue outcomes, and UN Security Council resolutions."

68.11 In a separate letter of the same date, the Minister;

—  explains that the draft EU Council Decision and Regulation were received by his officials on 11 May and were formally adopted on 8 June 2015, after negotiations in Brussels; and

—  expresses his regret that, with the Committee yet to reconvene, the Government had to agree to the adoption of these Council documents before the Committee had an opportunity to scrutinise them.

Previous Committee Reports


486   The modern Republic of Yemen was born in 1990 when traditional North Yemen and communist South Yemen merged after years of clashes. Since unification Yemen has been slowly modernising and opening up to the world, but still retains much of its tribal character. A short civil war in 1994 ended in defeat for separatist southerners, but regional tensions re-emerged in the summer of 2009 when government troops and Houthi rebels from the Shia Zaidi sect clashed in the north, killing hundreds and displacing more than a quarter of a million people. See BBC News Yemen Overview. Back

487   See "Security Council Adopts Resolution 2140 (2014), Welcoming Yemen's Peaceful Transition towards New Constitution, General Elections", which also contains the full text of the Resolution. Back

488   For the full text, including statements by other Heads of Mission and the text of the Resolution, see "Security Council Demands End to Yemen Violence, Adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), with Russian Federation Abstaining".  Back

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Prepared 30 July 2015