When the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal for Yemen was signed in November 2011, Yemenis reacted in a range of ways. Some felt it was a victory, a sign that the crisis was nearing an end. Others objected to the fact that the deal granted members of the old regime an immunity from prosecution for crimes they had committed. Since the signing, state violence against civilians has continued, notably in the city of Taiz, and the community’s attitude to the deal has seemingly hardened (although the regime does have its supporters).
While the GCC deal is still receiving support from two foreign powers that wield significant influence in Yemen and the region – the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – some within the international community share the view held by many Yemenis. Last week the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, pointed out that the immunity arrangement may represent a breach of international law. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the parliament of Yemen to reject a draft immunity law.
Since Yemen’s uprising began almost a year ago, the nonviolent principles and practices of the pro-democracy protest movement (frequently discussed on this blog) has exemplified the very best aspects of the Arab Spring. It would be nice to think that Yemen can once again set an example by holding criminals to account through the international mechanisms that exist for that purpose. However, neither the Saleh regime nor its international backers have a track record of listening to either the Yemeni people or the international community. The struggle for justice may be a long one.
- Demonstrations in Yemen Demand Trial for President (abcnews.go.com)
- Yemen: no immunity for Saleh; Russia & China won’t block resolution (showdownmideast.com)
- Saleh granted amnesty (alhittin.com)
- Nobel laureate slams poor support for Yemen revolt (nation.com.pk)
- Yemen immunity law sparks debates over past crimes – Atlanta Journal Constitution (ajc.com)
- Pillay: Granting Immunity is Contrary to International Law (socyberty.com)
- US defends immunity law for Saleh (bbc.co.uk)