By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SANA’A, Yemen — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has declared general amnesty for people who committed abuses during the uprising and political crisis that began in Yemen 10 months ago.
Last week, Saleh ceded power to the vice president, however, as his opponents point out, he has yet to step down or stop making decisions. This has led to some confusion as to what his new role is now that he has supposedly stepped down as president.
Saleh’s opponents have called on him to stop making decisions that affect the country.
The amnesty of those who “committed errors during the crisis” does not extend to the parties responsible for injuring Saleh in a bombing at the presidential palace in June.
Saleh did not give extensive details about his offer of amnesty, but many think that it is meant to pardon his own forces that are accused of killing protesters during the many months of bloody unrest.
Yemeni lawmakers have already agreed to grant Saleh and other government officials immunity from prosecution as part of the power sharing arrangement that led to Saleh’s ceding of power.
There is a presidential election scheduled for 21 February, but currently Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi is the only candidate. This is the result of of a deal between the ruling party and the opposition.
Despite political progress, Yemen’s armed conflicts are ongoing. Fighting in the northern Saada Province between Houthi rebels and the government was renewed on Sunday resulting in at least 25 dead.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Friday which noted that Yemeni troops have killed at least 35 civilians in the city of Taiz since 21 October, when the United Nations Security Council issued a statement calling on Saleh to end human rights violations in Yemen.
The Yemeni opposition has demanded that the United Nations Security Council adopt recommendations contained in the HRW report. The recommendations include an asset freeze and travel ban on President Saleh and other civilian officials. They also ask the Security Council to disassociate itself from the agreement that offers Saleh immunity for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in exchange for leaving office.
“The army’s indiscriminate shelling in Taizz shows President Saleh’s brazen disregard for the lives of Yemeni civilians right up to the time he signed a deal to transfer power,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Because President Saleh’s signature is only as good as the actions that follow, concerned governments and the UN Security Council should still impose targeted sanctions until these unlawful attacks stop and hold Yemeni authorities accountable.”
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet early this week.
For more information please see:
Al Jazeera — Yemen’s Saleh decrees ‘general amnesty’ — 27 Nov. 2011
Al Sahwah — Yemeni protesters demands Security Council to adopt HRW’s Recommendations — 27 Nov. 2011
New York Times — Power Ceded, Yet President of Yemen Declares Amnesty — 27 Nov. 2011
Ocala — New Turmoil as President Comes Back to Yemen — 27 Nov. 2011
Amnesty — Yemen: immunity deal would be ‘hammer blow’ to human rights victims — 24 Nov. 2011