From Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
To Stephen Twigg MP, Chair
I am writing following the International Development Committee’s evidence session of 27 January. I undertook to reply to the Committee with details on two specific points
Regarding the issue of European Union discussions on a Common Position on allegations of breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in Yemen, the EU agreed its common position on Yemen in Council Conclusions on 16 November 2015. In these Conclusions, inter alia, the EU:
Secondly, I undertook to reply with more detail on the process by which the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in October 2015, which called upon the UN to provide technical assistance to the Government of Yemen, assist the Yemeni National Independent Commission of Inquiry, and report back to the next session of the Human Rights Council. There were two different drafts initially put forward and the UK’s priority was to secure cross-regional agreement on a text that would strengthen human rights in Yemen. Both drafts had elements that were unacceptable to the other side; we encouraged the Member States to work towards a compromise which reflected the current human rights situation in Yemen and made constructive suggestions on how to improve it. The two sides tabling resolutions reached an agreement on a single text, which was then adopted by consensus. The resolution ensured Yemen remained on the Council’s agenda (an oral report on developments will be given at the next session in March) and tasked the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help Yemen investigate human rights abuses and violations. We believe that this resolution will help create the conditions for the legitimate Government of Yemen to improve its capacity to protect human rights, while we continue our significant political engagement and support of UN efforts to end the war.
I would like to use this letter to clarify three further points of detail from my evidence to the Committee.
I referred to the Houthis as a “terrorist organisation” rather than an “armed group”. To confirm, the UK has not designated the Houthis as a terrorist organisation and has no plans to do so.
During my comment on the example of the alleged Iranian Embassy bombing, I referred to this as an unsubstantiated example of a “breach of human rights”. I should have referred to it as an unsubstantiated example of a breach of IHL, which despite being widely reported by the media, has subsequently been proven not to have happened.
Regarding the port of Hodeidah, I can confirm it is not closed, but the number of ships docking there remains constrained, due to physical damage and space limitations. The number of ships arriving in Hodeidah has increased since August. We are funding the new UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) along with US, EU, New Zealand and the Netherlands to avoid unnecessary delays in the clearance process. Returning commercial shipping to pre-conflict levels remains one of our top priorities and we will continue to urge the Government of Yemen and Saudi Arabian-led Coalition to ensure the current improvement is maintained and extended.
The UK remains fully committed to and actively supports the UN’s efforts to bring about a political solution to the conflict, which remains the best way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
29 April 2016