Security Council Orders States to Cooperate on Yemen Arms Embargo

On 14 April 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2216 (2015). The resolution is the latest in a string of resolutions addressing the threat to international peace and security arising from the ongoing violence in Yemen (see resolutions 2014 (2011)2051 (2012)2140 (2014)2201 (2015) and 2204 (2015)).

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in operative paragraph (OP) 1 of the resolution, the Security Council:

1.   Demands that all Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis, fully implement resolution 2201 (2015), refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition in Yemen, and further demands that the Houthis immediately and unconditionally:

(a)   end the use of violence;

(b)   withdraw their forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital Sana'a;

(c)   relinquish all additional arms seized from military and security institutions, including missile systems;

(d)   cease all actions that are exclusively within the authority of the legitimate Government of Yemen;

(e)   refrain from any provocation or threats to neighbouring States, including through acquiring surface-surface missiles, and stockpiling weapons in any bordering territory of a neighbouring State;

(f)   safely release Major-General Mahmoud al-Subaihi, the Minister of Defence of Yemen, all political prisoners, and all individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained; and

(g)   end the recruitment and use of children and release all children from their ranks.

Among the measures to address the deteriorating situation, the Security Council emphasizes the importance of the implementation of the previously extended sanctions regime on Yemen (OP 4). A significant change, however, is that the measures adopted by the Security Council now include a comprehensive arms embargo buttressed by a duty of all States to cooperate in its enforcement. The text (OP 14 to 17) provides that the Security Council:  

14.   Decides that all Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to, or for the benefit of [the identified individuals and entities], and those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, related to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories; 

15.   Calls upon Member States, in particular States neighbouring Yemen, to inspect, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, all cargo to Yemen, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items the supply, sale, or transfer of which is prohibited by paragraph 14 of this resolution for the purpose of ensuring strict implementation of those provisions; 

16.   Decides to authorize all Member States to, and that all Member States shall, upon discovery of items the supply, sale, or transfer of which is prohibited by paragraph 14 of this resolution, seize and dispose (such as through destruction, rendering inoperable, storage or transferring to a State other than the originating or destination States for disposal) of such items and decides further that all Member States shall cooperate in such efforts; 

17.   Requires any Member State when it undertakes an inspection pursuant to paragraph 15 of this resolution, to submit promptly an initial written report to the Committee containing, in particular, explanation of the grounds for the inspections, the results of such inspections, and whether or not cooperation was provided, and, if prohibited items for supply, sale, or transfer are found, further requires such Member States to submit to the Committee within 30 days a subsequent written report containing relevant details on the inspection, seizure, and disposal, and relevant details of the transfer, including a description of the items, their origin and intended destination, if this information is not in the initial report.

Moreover, in OP 18 the Security Council "underscores that acts that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen may also include the violations of the arms embargo imposed by paragraph 14". The resolution hereby not only imposes a far-reaching arms embargo with a corresponding duty on all States to cooperate in its enforcement, but also opens the door to the imposition of enforcement measures against violations of the embargo. Any breaches of the duty to cooperate on the embargo would therefore be a matter of serious concern.