Yemen: Saleh stepping down must not involve immunity deal

The international community must send a clear message that those responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances in Yemen will be brought to justice as part of any transition agreement, Amnesty has said, after at least 15 more people were reported killed by the security forces in the capital Sana’a since Saturday.

A power-transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appears to offer blanket immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and some of those serving under him, and could prevent criminal investigations and prosecutions for hundreds of protester deaths in recent months, as well as a string of serious human rights violations in the past.

Amnesty urged the UN Security Council, expected to vote soon on a resolution on Yemen, to ensure that any power-transfer deal does not provide immunity to anyone, regardless of rank or affiliation.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:

“President Saleh must not be rewarded with the grant of immunity for agreeing to leave power.

“The GCC must withdraw the immunity clause from its proposal and the UN Security Council must make it clear that no agreement is acceptable if it prevents those accused of grave human rights crimes being investigated or prosecuted.

“The path to peace in Yemen lies not just in ending the current fighting, but in bringing to justice all those who have committed crimes such as extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances, both during the current protests and in past years.

“When it debates the crisis in Yemen, the UN Security Council must demand an independent, international investigation into the alleged human rights crimes committed in recent months, as already recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The investigation should be empowered to refer cases to national prosecuting authorities and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecutions must follow. It is high time that those whose rights have been so grievously violated obtain both justice and reparation.”

The Security Council vote comes as tensions have again risen in Sana’a in recent days. On Saturday, plain-clothed gunmen and snipers reportedly fired live rounds at protesters who were on a march from their camps in the city’s Change Square, resulting in at least ten deaths. Security forces also reportedly used tear gas and stood by while the shooting took place.

A similar march took place on Sunday, when plain-clothed snipers and security forces reportedly shot at protesters, killing at least five. At least 15 protesters died in the latest violence, adding to some 200 killed in the crackdown on pro-reform protests that began last February. President Saleh returned to Yemen in late September after spending three months in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries he sustained in an assassination attempt.

In a report in April, Amnesty documented widespread human rights violations during the protests and called on the international community to play a more active role if Yemenis are to see justice and receive reparation for such crimes.

Following a fact-finding mission to Yemen in July, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent, international investigation into ongoing abuses.

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