As China, Russian Federation Abstain, Permanent Representative Accuses Houthi of Child Abduction, Rape, Other Atrocities
The Security Council authorized a one-year extension today of the asset freeze and travel ban imposed in 2014 on individuals or entities threatening peace, security and stability in Yemen.
Adopting resolution 2511 (2020) by a vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (China, Russian Federation), the Council also reaffirmed the provisions of an arms embargo imposed in April 2015 on militias of Ansar Allah — also known as the Houthis — and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, it also reaffirmed the need for full and timely implementation of the political transition, following the comprehensive National Dialogue Conference.
By other terms, the Council extended until 28 March 2021 the mandate of the Panel of Experts tasked with gathering information about those who potentially meet the criteria for designation. It requested that the Panel provide a midterm update to the Committee no later than 28 July 2020, and a final report to the Council itself no later than 28 January 2021. Both should contain information about the commercially available components used by individuals or entities designated by the Committee to assemble unmanned aerial vehicles, water-borne improvised explosive devices and other weapons systems, bearing in mind that the request should not have an adverse impact on humanitarian assistance or legitimate commercial activities.
The Security Council Committee established by resolution 2140 (2014) — which monitors implementation of the sanctions and designates the individuals or entities to be subjected to the measures — may exempt any activity, on a case‑by‑case basis, from sanctions imposed under resolutions 2140 (2014) and 2216 (2015) if it determines that such exemption is necessary to facilitate the work of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in Yemen.
Karen Pierce (United Kingdom) expressed disappointment that two Council members chose not to vote in favour of the resolution, saying she is concerned that potential use of the veto could become a negotiating tactic. She added that her delegation — the resolution’s main sponsor — made compromises over what would otherwise have been its ideal text so that the Council could speak authoritatively. “I hope this does not herald a shift in the way the Council does business,” she emphasized.
Rodney M. Hunter (United States) said that, while his delegation supports United Nations efforts to hold spoilers in Yemen to account, Iran is defying its obligations under the sanctions regime by smuggling increasingly sophisticated weapons to the Houthis. He added that the resolution rightly calls out Houthi abuses against the Yemeni people and refers for the first time to the environmental risks posed by the oil storage tanker Safer, located in Houthi‑controlled northern Yemen, and the need for United Nations officials to inspect the vessel without delay.
Nicolas de Rivière (France) also expressed regret that unity collapsed when the time came to vote since the resolution contains no problematic elements. Pointing out that Council resolutions are the fruit of compromise, he said no one can expect to get everything they want. Through the text, the Council is sending a signal to the people of Yemen, he added, stressing that good faith and unity should be the rule and not the exception.
Muhsin Syihab (Indonesia) said that, in light of the increasing violence and humanitarian challenges, sanctions remain necessary to support the peace process and the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy. The resolution was never about Council members, he said, adding that the people of Yemen must know the Council is on their side.
Vassily A. Nebenzia (Russian Federation) said his delegation was unable to support a resolution that did not take all its concerns into account. The international community must focus on resolving the crisis and not on pinning blame, he emphasized. What happened today attests to the non-constructive working methods of the resolution’s sponsors, he said, emphasizing that the Council’s “penholdership mechanism” requires meaningful consideration. The Russian Federation wanted a balanced text but cannot agree to a take‑it‑or‑leave‑it approach that does not allow for compromise, he stressed.
Wu Haitao (China) said his delegation proposed many amendments, but the final text failed to meet its concerns. China could not, therefore, vote in favour of its adoption, he added, describing the resolution’s requirement that the Panel of Experts collect information on commercially available components that can be used for drones and improvised explosive devices as excessively broad. The text also makes unnecessary amendments to designation criteria, he noted, emphasizing that the work of the 2140 Sanctions Committee should be more constructive.
Abdou Abarry (Niger) welcomed the decision to reopen negotiations on the text in the hours before the vote, noting that members might otherwise have missed an opportunity to show the people of Yemen that the Council is ready to listen to them.
Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, emphasizing the need for unity while welcoming the resolution’s reference to the recruitment of children as a sanctionable violation of international law. He also expressed support for the goal of protecting humanitarian assistance from the unforeseeable consequences of the sanctions, while underlining that the text’s language does not constitute a precedent for other sanctions regimes.
Abdullah Ali Fadhel al-Saadi (Yemen), welcoming the adoption, expressed hope that the conclusions of the Panel of Experts will help to end the humanitarian tragedy and disastrous effects of war waged by the Iran-supported Houthis. Their atrocities are not new, he added, pointing out that the militias flout their obligations under the Stockholm Agreement, notably by receiving Iranian experts and military support in violation of the arms embargo. He said that his delegation had hoped the resolution would have contained a clear Council position on those violations.
Condemning Houthi violations of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights, he said the militias commit aggression against Yemeni women — including arrest, arbitrary detention and rape in secret prisons — emphasizing that those responsible must be held to account. He also condemned the militias’ abduction of children, saying they are then sent to the front lines without the knowledge of their parents, and thanked the Panel of Experts for bringing those actions to light. Recalling that the Government of Yemen has called attention to Houthi actions against humanitarian agencies — such as looting, the diversion of assistance and the exploitation of human suffering to achieve political gains — he said the perpetrators of such practices must be held accountable. The Houthis should also be held to account for the Safer’s rupture, he added, pressing the Council to help prevent a major environmental catastrophe.
The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 3:38 p.m.