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Yemen

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2015

10. What steps he plans to take to ensure that potential breaches of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are investigated. (902312)

Britain has made its support for President Hadi in Yemen very clear and recognised his legitimate request for military assistance in deterring the Houthi-Saleh aggression, which has compounded an already dire humanitarian situation. We are aware of reports of alleged violations of international humanitarian law, and both the Foreign Secretary and I have received repeated assurances from Saudi Arabia of compliance.

Can the Minister give a timeline for the “proper investigations” pledged earlier this month into any breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen?

These investigations must be concluded, they must be looked into and they will be ongoing. The situation on the ground is very difficult and, in many cases, we are unable to have access to verify what has happened. I am pleased to say that progress is being made by the UN envoy, Ismail Ahmed, in bringing the parties together in Geneva very shortly, and that is where we need to focus in terms of getting a ceasefire in place.

The humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Yemen, a country I know well, are heart-rending. Does the Minister agree that international peace talks leading to a political settlement are the best way to bring an end to the humanitarian suffering and any potential breaches of international law in Yemen?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we are discussing important challenges in the middle east, but unfortunately the scale of the situation in Yemen is dire; 20 million people are facing famine and starvation, as there is a lack of oil, water and the support that they need. There is no governance there and until we have a ceasefire, the port of Hodeidah will not be able to be opened up to allow that humanitarian support to come into the country.

Human Rights Watch has documented 27 air strikes since 26 March that appear to have violated the laws of war in Yemen. On 11 November, the Foreign Secretary that he supported “proper investigations” into human rights violations from all sides in the Yemen conflict. Can the Minister therefore explain why the UK failed to support the Dutch at the last meeting of the UN Human Rights Council when they called for a credible investigation into these violations?

The hon. Lady raises important points. I met non-governmental organisations and had a round-table discussion on policy, and many of these issues were raised. As she states, there was an international discussion on this matter in that process. We have been wanting to encourage Saudi Arabia and other parties that are involved—it is not just the Saudis in this coalition, but 10 other countries—and we want these cases looked into efficiently and properly by the country itself.