Friday, January 6, 2012

UN's Pillay urges no amnesty for Yemen rights breaches

January 6, 2012
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday said anyone who had committed abuses during the mass protests in Yemen must not be allowed to evade justice.
The UN commissioner in a statement urged decision-makers in Yemen to respect the prohibition in international law against amnesties for gross human rights violations.
"I have been closely following the events in Yemen, particularly the very contentious debate about an amnesty law to be presented to parliament shortly," Pillay said in a statement.
Pillay said that international law and UN policy are clear.
"Amnesties are not permissible if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for international crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and gross violations of human rights."
The high commissioner said the UN has information that some of the crimes she was referring to were committed in Yemen during a period during which an amnesty was under consideration.
"Such an amnesty would be in violation of Yemen's international human rights obligations," said Pillay.
For a society emerging from a period of violent conflict a "victim-centred approach" to justice is critical to restoring stability, she said.
Victims have the right to justice, the truth, remedy and reparation which are internationally established she said.
On November 23, after months of street protest against his rule Saleh signed an accord in Riyadh making provision for him to step down and allow presidential elections on February 21, in exchange for immunity for himself and his family.
The draft amnesty law "is a result of the agreement" Ravina Shamdasani a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner told AFP.
Any new legislation in Yemen should respect the principle of equality before the law, Pillay said in her statement.
This meant there should be no discrimination between government supporters or those in in opposition and there should be no distinction based on family connections she noted.
"Every individual who commits a crime is accountable and should not be allowed to escape justice."

Yemeni protesters ask release of activists

Friday, January 6, 2012
SANAA - Yemenis demonstrated across the country on Friday demanding the release of activists detained in almost a year of protests against veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Tens of thousands demonstrating in Sanaa chanted “freedom to the detainees,” a slogan chosen by protest organisers for demonstrations in 18 cities across the impoverished nation.
“O, great Allah, free every detainee,” they chanted at Sitin Street, close to Change Square ��" the focal point of anti-Saleh protests.
Protesters say detainees are mostly held by the political security and national security bodies, which are controlled by people close to Saleh, who has bowed to world pressure and agreed to leave following presidential elections in February.
A Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, signed by Saleh in November after more than 10 months of mass anti-government protests, forced Saleh to hand power to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
The plan also gave Saleh and his closest aides and relatives immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes committed against Yemenis in months of unrest that left hundreds of people dead and thousands more wounded.
It also allowed Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for more than 33 years, to retain the title of honorary president until he formally resigns after the elections.
The United States said Wednesday it would hold Saleh accountable for transitioning power after elections, after he canceled a planned trip to America which said would admit him only for medical treatment.
A senior Yemeni official said on Wednesday that Saleh had now decided to stay in the country until after the presidential elections.

Yemen's Shiite rebels form political group

SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A new political party supported by the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen aims to free the country from foreign influence, a leader said.
Mohammed Miftah, identified by Emirati news agency The National as an organizer of a Houthi political movement, said Shiite rebels wanted a role in the country's emerging government.
The main platform, he was quoted as saying, is "the independence of the Yemeni political decision from the foreign dominance."
The U.S. State Department said it was considering a visa application from embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh but wouldn't dictate his travel plans. Saleh had suggested he would travel to the United States for medical treatment after he signed a political transition deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Saleh has since said he would stay in Yemen to help his vice president's presidential campaign.
Houthi leaders were included in talks with Saleh's government last year as the embattled president contemplated his future. Saleh spent much of last year in a military hospital recovering from wounds suffered during a June assassination attempt.
Houthi rebels, operating mainly in Yemen's north, have been engaged in sporadic conflict with government forces since 2004.

Opponents fear Yemen’s president may renege on exit plan

He seems poised to stay in power
By Ahmed Al-Haj and Ben Hubbard | Associated Press
January 06, 2012
SANA, Yemen - Suspicions are mounting in Yemen that outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh is trying to wiggle out of a US-backed deal meant to bring his 33-year, autocratic rule to an end.
Both opposition leaders and officials close to the president said yesterday that they remain unconvinced that Saleh is serious about leaving power. They fear he will try to use the unstable country’s continued unrest to keep his seat on the grounds that Yemen’s active Al Qaeda branch will step up operations if he leaves.
In November, following 10 months of mass street protests calling for his ouster, Saleh signed a deal by Yemen’s powerful Gulf neighbors and backed by the United States, agreeing to pass power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed while in office.
Six weeks later, he remains president, Yemeni state media still speak of him as leader of the nation, and his allies frequently hinder the work of a new unity government sworn in by his vice president.
“The president is basically not convinced that he has to leave power, so he will resist with all his remaining force,’’ said a ruling party figure in Saleh’s last government who was close to the president. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Adding further fuel to the concerns over the past week, Saleh changed his plans to travel to the United States. Mediators have been saying for weeks that he would seek medical care in the United States for continued treatment of wounds sustained in a June attack at his palace. In late December, Saleh said he would go to help calm the turmoil in his country. Then on Saturday, he announced he would stay.
Saleh’s request for a visa put US officials in a bind. Allowing him in would open them to criticism from protesters who want Saleh to stand trial in Yemen for deadly crackdowns that have killed hundreds of protesters. Refusing him entry, however, would be hard to explain since he remains a US ally. Washington says it is still considering whether to grant it.
On Wednesday, a leader in Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress party said Saleh had decided to remain in Yemen in response to concerns that his departure could be bad for Yemen and the ruling party.
The opposition accused Saleh of stalling, recalling how for months he repeatedly agreed then refused to sign the Gulf proposal before he ultimately signed.
“Saleh is repeating the scene from the past when he refused to sign the proposal,’’ opposition leader Mohammed Sabri said. “Today he is trying to get out of carrying out the proposal and transferring power.’’
The United States has long considered Yemen a necessary if not entirely reliable ally in the fight against the country’s active Al Qaeda branch and has provided Yemeni antiterrorism forces with funds and training.
Yemeni officials said Saleh is seeking to preserve his rule by using the same scare tactic he has used for decades: telling the United States and Saudi Arabia that Al Qaeda will have a freer hand to operate on Yemeni soil if he leaves.
Al Qaeda remains active in Yemen. Military officials said four soldiers and six militants were killed in new clashes yesterday near the city of Zinjibar.
The militants took advantage of chaos early in the anti-Saleh uprising to overrun Zinjibar and a number of other towns. Government troops have been fighting to dislodge them since.
Under the Gulf initiative, presidential elections are scheduled Feb. 21 and Saleh is forbidden from running.

Yemen: Clashes Kill 22; Saleh Reconsiders Visit to USA

Sanaa, Jan 6 (Prensa Latina) At least 18 Islamist militiamen and four government soldiers died in the latest hours in Yemen, while President Alí Abdulah Saleh continues to reconsider on Friday his visit to the United States amid the transition process the country is suffering.
Sources of the Yemeni army confirmed the death of four soldiers during clashes with Islamist individuals linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the suburbs of Zinjibar, capital of the southern province of Abidjan, occupied by irregular forces last May.
The government of Yemen, now headed by vice and currently acting President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi and interim Premier Mohammed Basindwa, underlined that AQAP is the most dangerous branch of the network created by late Osama Bin Laden.
In a communiqué released in this country, tribal leader, entrepreneur and head of the Al-Islah opposition party, Hamid Al-Ahmar, again demanded that Saleh be tried due to his alleged responsibility in the violent death of hundreds of demonstrators.
On the other hand, Washington continues assessing the visa request issued by Saleh "out of medical reasons", an option some analysts described as positive given that the president leaving Yemen would pave the way so that the upcoming elections can be heal peacefully.
The U.S. government inclines to favor the fact that Saleh remains in Yemen as the transition process advances.