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From Europe a tough resolution on the conflict in Yemen

Denounced the violence committed by the Saudis, the Emirates and the Houthi, calling for the application of individual sanctioning policies.

by Nicola Pedde Director of the Institute of Global Studies

Article published on, the 17th February 2021

On February 11, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, 2021/2539 (RSP), approving it with 638 votes in favour out of 694 parliamentarians present, 12 against and 44 abstained.

A significant majority not easy to obtain in the European Parliament, especially on a delicate vote, which directly calls countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the dock.

The initiative of the resolution was promoted mainly by the Belgian MEP of Italian origin Marc Tarabella, of the Socialist Party, with the result of having produced a final document that has in fact collected the consent and approval of almost all members of parliament, expressing a consensus that largely reflects the orientation of the main European chancelleries.

The preamble of the resolution bluntly accuses the Saudi-led coalition of being responsible for most of the civilian victims of the conflict through its air strikes (point B), believing that the conflict has taken on the connotation of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with serious repercussions for the entire region.

In a long and detailed preamble, the European Parliament expresses its concern for the difficulty in identifying negotiation mechanisms to mitigate the effects of war, accusing each of the parties involved of having caused devastation and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (point D).

These violations are identified and listed (point G) with precision, including murder, kidnapping, arbitrary detention, gender and sexual violence, torture and denial of the most basic rights, thus causing the civilian population untold suffering and human and material losses of enormous proportions.

The Houthi militias are specifically charged with the widespread use of anti-personnel mines (point G), while Yemen and the United Arab Emirates are asked to ratify the Rome Statute, which Saudi Arabia has not even signed.

The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Yemen is considered by the European Parliament as the worst in the world at the moment, determining the immediate need for aid for 24 million people, representing 80% of the population. Among these, at least 12 million children are in need of immediate food and medical care, as well as protection from bombings and violence and, not least, the uncontrolled spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The resolution (at point P) then openly denounces the responsibility of the security belt forces supported by the United Arab Emirates for rapes and violence against detainees, and identifies in the detention centres of Bureiga and Bir Hamed the main episodes of violence documented by the United Nations. The Houthis are also accused of conducting rape and violence, especially against politically committed women and activists.

The European Union has explicitly asked member states to ban the export of arms to members of the Saudi-led coalition engaged in the conduct of military operations in Yemen and considers an important step the application of this ban by Germany and Italy, to which has been added that of the United States pending a review.

The role of Iran in facilitating the access of arms to the Houthi is also recognized (point S), recalling, however, that the designation of the Houthi as a terrorist group (adopted on January 19, 2021) was revoked on February 5.

The core of the resolution

Harsh, however, the substance of the resolution, which (in point 1) condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing violence in Yemen since 2015, recalling how a military solution to the conflict is impossible and a harbinger of further suffering for the civilian population.

The European Parliament expresses itself "horrified" by the devastating humanitarian crisis, calling on the parties to fulfill their obligations to facilitate the transit and distribution of humanitarian aid. It recognizes and supports the efforts of the UN Secretary General's envoy, Martin Griffiths, with whom it joins in calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The resolution then explicitly calls for the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen, asking Saudi Arabia to immediately stop the naval blockade of fuel destined for the territories controlled by the Houthis, reaffirming the value of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

It explicitly condemns the attacks perpetrated by the Houthi against targets in Saudi territory, at the same time reminding European arms exporters of the blatant violation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms exports, which is legally binding, reiterating the strict ban on sales to coalition members, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (point 12).

The resolution then calls on all parties to the conflict to adopt a deployment policy for missile and drone strikes in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law, thereby immediately ensuring the safety of the civilian population.

Instead, in an unprecedented move, it calls on the Council to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216 of 2015 by identifying by name individuals who obstruct the delivery of humanitarian assistance and those who plan, direct, and execute acts that violate international human rights law or international humanitarian law. Individual sanctions are therefore called for, although at present no specific designation has been defined despite the copious documentation collected by the UN EGE.

Reiterating the imperative need to protect minors and women from the documented crimes and violence committed especially in the areas of detention, the resolution also adds its concern for the extensive damage caused by the bombing of the Saudi-led coalition against the historical remains of the country.

Finally, the resolution calls (in paragraph 25) for the EU and its member states to use all instruments at their disposal to hold accountable all perpetrators of gross human rights violations, noting the possibility of applying the principle of universal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of gross human rights violations in Yemen. To this end, it calls for the use of the EU's comprehensive human rights sanctions regime to impose targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes on officials of all parties to the conflict involved in serious human rights violations in Yemen, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

An amendment proposed by the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists, which called for including in the text of the resolution a specific condemnation of Iran's role and responsibility for facilitating the entry of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah into Yemen, was rejected by a majority of voters.

Collateral effects

In the same days that the resolution was taking shape and getting closer to being drafted in its final form, a military-related event caught the attention of analysts following the conflict in Yemen.

The United Arab Emirates entered into a cooperation agreement with Eritrea in 2015, the details of which have never been officially revealed but which led to the construction of a massive military base in the south of the country, not far from the port of Assab.

The runway of the Eritrean port city's airport was expanded to 3,500 meters, including a large parking and logistics area, connected to a new maritime access built near the base, through the opening of a navigable channel with a seabed capable of allowing the entry of large ships.

The base, which according to some rumors never confirmed by the two countries would have been the subject of a 30-year agreement, has long represented the strategic and logistical hub of the UAE military operations in Yemen, and, according to some press sources, in more recent times would have provided support to the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the offensive against the rebel government in the Tigray region.

For a long time the Mirage 2000s of the Emirates Air Force have been stationed on the yards of the Assab base, as well as a vast quantity of transport aircrafts, vehicles, military vehicles and above all drones.

Without any official communication having anticipated the decision of the United Arab Emirates, starting from the second week of February, the operations of abandonment of the base have been carried out in absolute secrecy and with the maximum speed, which, from the analysis of satellite images, have also entailed the dismantling of most of the infrastructures built over the last six years to host the air and ground means of logistics and airport security.

In a insufficient press release of the Eritrean Ministry of Information, Yemane Meskel, the information was defined as instrumental and inexact, without however providing any details and referring to a future communication of clarification that the United Arab Emirates would be about to disclose.Within the community of analysts, however, there was no lack of mention of the event in conjunction with the disclosure of the European resolution, in addition to the observation of an ever greater divergence of vision on the conduct of the conflict within the coalition, where the Emirati and Saudi positions have for some time been diverging with regard to the territorial integrity of Yemen as well as the management of the many formations on the ground suspected of being an integral part of the Al Qaeda network

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