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article imageOp-Ed: Yemen national dialogue group wants to revoke Saleh immunity law

By Ken Hanly     Nov 21, 2013 in Politics
Sanaa - The Transitional Justice Working Group wants to see the controversial immunity law that was part of the deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council with the support of the US to be struck down.
The group is part of the National Dialogue Conference. This happens just as the National Dialogue Conference was winding down. The initial meeting of the Conference was in March of this year as described in this article which also describes its general purpose: The National Dialogue Conference, scheduled by the Saudi orchestrated Gulf Cooperation Council deal- which ended Saleh's 33 year rule- was due to commence in November 2012, but was postponed several times due to disagreements between the participants. It finally started yesterday, on March 18th, with 565 representatives of Yemen’s various political groups, ranging from many old and familiar faces, secessionists in the south to Houthis in the north, in addition to a few civil society representatives. It will last for six months and its main aims are, reconciliation, paving the way for the drafting of a new constitution and staging the upcoming presidential elections in 2014.
The immunity law dates back to 2011 when former President Abdullah Saleh agreed to resign from the presidency in return for immunity for himself, his family, and many other associates for any crimes they might have committed during the uprising against his regime: On 23 November(2011), Saleh signed a power-transfer agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, under which he would transfer his power to his Vice-President within 30 days and leave his post as president by February 2012, in exchange for immunity from prosecution.[36][37] Although the GCC deal was accepted by the JMP, it was rejected by many of the protesters and the Houthis.[38][39] Yemen's parliament passed a law on January 21, 2012 that granted blanket immunity to Saleh, his aides and others from any actions during his 33 year rule. A presidential election was held in Yemen on 21 February 2012. With a report claims that it has 65 percent of its turnout, Hadi won 99.8 percent of the vote. Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi took the oath of office in Yemen's parliament on 25 February 2012. Saleh returned home at the same day to attend Hadi's presidency inauguration.[40] After months of protests, Saleh had resigned from the presidency and formally transferred power to his successor, marking the end of his 33-year rule.[41]
The election was praised by much of the Arab press. Obama supported Hadi, who has been a faithful ally of the US, even supporting drone strikes. However many protesters and others were angry at the immunity agreement and remember in particular March 18th of 2011 when Saleh security forces dressed in civilian clothes shot and killed 56 people. A video of the demonstrations is appended.
The executive Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Whitson,reacted to the news that National Dialogue Conference representative wanted to revoke the law saying:
“The National Dialogue should embrace the proposal to rid Yemen of its terrible immunity law … Allowing the worst human rights violators to escape prosecution puts all Yemenis at risk of future abuses.”
The Conference extended two months beyond its planned dates. The Group of Ten Ambassadors from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UN Security Council and the European Union complained about the actions of some of the parties and noted that challenging issues remain unresolved including the status of the southern part of Yemen. The group complained: Unfortunately, some of the parties currently engaged in negotiations have taken positions that are impeding progress, rather than facilitating resolution of these outstanding issues. The Group of Ten Ambassadors urges all parties to remain engaged and redouble their efforts to quickly reach agreement on a way forward. Such a way forward should entail agreement on general principles on the future of the State. This will then form the basis for the work of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, as set out in the GCC Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism. Perhaps included in the moves impeding progress are the demand to revoke the immunity law and also the move by the group to make drone attacks illegal.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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