What's In Blue

Posted Mon 31 Aug 2015

Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee Open Briefing

Tomorrow afternoon (1 September), the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee will hold a briefing open to all UN member states on the Yemen sanctions regime. The chair of the 2140 Committee, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania) and the Coordinator of the Yemen Panel of Experts, Ahmed Himmiche will brief. The briefing follows meetings earlier this month of the Committee. On 17 August, Committee members considered the Panel of Experts’ mid-term report, and were briefed on 25 August about the recently agreed UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism, being established to increase the flow of commercial and humanitarian goods into Yemen. This is the first open briefing by the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee. Other committees, in particular the 1718 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the 1737 Iran sanctions committees have previously had such sessions to improve states’ understanding of their obligations and the work of their respective panels.

The briefing tomorrow is being organised to raise awareness about the existing sanctions measures, member states’ obligations, the work of the Panel of Experts, and to answer questions that member states have regarding the sanctions regime. Murmokaitė will likely focus her remarks on explaining the sanctions, as laid out in resolutions 2140 and 2216 and their implementation. Himmiche is expected to discuss the Panel’s work and future plans. The briefing is an opportunity for the Committee to encourage states to cooperate with the Panel as it conducts investigations.

The Yemen sanctions were created by resolution 2140, adopted on 26 February 2014, establishing an assets freeze and travel ban against individuals or entities “engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen”. The resolution elaborated that the designation criteria include undermining the successful completion of the political transition, impeding the implementation of the final report of the National Dialogue Conference, or being responsible for human rights abuses in Yemen. The first designations by the 2140 Committee were made on 7 November 2014, when it imposed the assets freeze and travel ban on two Houthi military commanders and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Resolution 2216, adopted earlier this year after the start of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition military intervention, expanded the sanctions regime through the creation of a targeted arms embargo against the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh. It also expanded the designation criteria to include violations of the embargo or obstructing delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemen or access to, or distribution of, humanitarian assistance. It further subjected Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi and the son of former president Saleh, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh to the assets freeze and travel ban measures. In establishing the arms embargo, resolution 2216 authorised states to carry-out inspections of cargos when they possess information providing reasonable grounds to suspect the presence of prohibited items, requiring that such inspections be reported to the 2140 Committee.

The topics of the two 2140 Committee meetings held in August may filter into tomorrow’s briefing. On 17 August Committee members were briefed on the mid-term report by the Panel of Experts. Committee members were apparently very critical of the report. Many felt it lacked the type of specific information that could provide a basis for committee action. This is not a new issue for the Committee. Due to unhappiness with previous Panel reports, the Secretariat recruited entirely new panel members following the Council’s renewal of the Yemen sanctions in February (S/RES/2204). Four members of the new panel were appointed in April, and a fifth added in June. Following the resignation of one member, Himmiche was appointed as its new member on 17 August, and assumed the function of the Panel’s Coordinator on 31 August (S/2015/639). One of the current challenges facing the Panel is traveling to Yemen due to the volatile situation, although it seems it is making plans for a trip.

It seems Russia also criticised the report for not identifying possible coalition violations while doing so for the Houthis. It seems that there were sections such as a humanitarian dossier, that are still being finalised and were not shared with the Committee, which may have more details of violations by both groups. The Panel continues to work on the sections as it would like to ensure that they are well documented in case there is push-back, for example, from the coalition.

On 25 August, the 2140 Committee was briefed by the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Yemen Crisis Amer Daoudi on the recently concluded agreement between the UN, Yemen government and the coalition to establish a UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) to increase the flow of commercial goods to Yemen such as food and fuel; severe shortages of which have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. With commercial goods reduced to a fraction of pre-crisis levels due to coalition restrictions, described as a “de facto” blockade, which it claims are to enforce the arms embargo, the UN had been negotiating to set up such a mechanism in recent months. The issue’s consideration by the Committee seems to reflect concerns that the arms embargo as outlined by resolution 2216 has not been implemented properly.

Daoudi explained that the UNVIM will operate under two streams. One stream falls under the shipment of humanitarian assistance from Member States, which must be transshipped through Djibouti. In Djibouti, it will be inspected by UN monitors and then delivered to Yemen via a UN or UN-chartered ship. Regarding commercial shipping, a UN Verification Center (UNVC) will be established in Aden. According to Daoudi’s briefing, member states or shipping companies must notify the UNVC of all planned shipments of commercial goods to Yemen, and then submit all relevant documentation. The UNVC will review this information within 48 hours, either clearing ships to proceed or flagging a shipment for inspection. Daoudi noted that the UNVC will report all inspections to both the 2140 Committee, in accordance with resolution 2216, and the Panel of Experts, and it is envisioned that inspections can be kept to a minimum.

Daoudi clarified for Committee members that the UNVIM will only apply to ports that are not under government control. This would exclude shipments going to Aden, and for the time being it seems its application will be limited to deliveries to Al-Hudaydah port. At his 25 August briefing, he explained the UNVIM will be operational in three weeks, once the UN hires a third party company to carry out many of the functions, establishes the center in Aden and obtains necessary donor funding. During tomorrow’s briefing, member states may seek further clarification on the details of setting up the UNVIM and on how it will function.

Both Daoudi and Jordan spoke about the UNVIM Steering Committee, which will be comprised of three representatives: Daoudi representing the UN, a representative from the Yemen government and a representative from the coalition. While details on the Steering Committee’s mandate and powers were not made very clear to Committee members, it seems one of its purposes will be to monitor the work of the UNVIM and provide policy guidance. Following the briefing, the Committee issued a press statement about the meeting on 27 August. (SC/12026).

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