Security Council to adopt resolution condemning Yemen’s Saleh

Nine months after the Yemeni government launched its armed crackdown on peaceful protesters, the U.N. Security Council is poised to adopt a resolution later this afternoon condemning the government for its repressive practices and endorsing a regional political settlement that would lead to President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s departure from office. The resolution would mark the ...

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Nine months after the Yemeni government launched its armed crackdown on peaceful protesters, the U.N. Security Council is poised to adopt a resolution later this afternoon condemning the government for its repressive practices and endorsing a regional political settlement that would lead to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure from office.

The resolution would mark the first time the 15-nation council has weighed in on Yemen's political crisis, and will place the U.N. security body squarely behind a regional deal that would grant immunity to President Saleh and his inner circle from prosecution for crimes.

The amnesty provision, which was included in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, is highly controversial. Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Tawakkul Karman, denounced the amnesty provision at a demonstration Tuesday outside U.N. headquarters, and the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) office also opposed an amnesty for serious crimes. 

Nine months after the Yemeni government launched its armed crackdown on peaceful protesters, the U.N. Security Council is poised to adopt a resolution later this afternoon condemning the government for its repressive practices and endorsing a regional political settlement that would lead to President Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s departure from office.

The resolution would mark the first time the 15-nation council has weighed in on Yemen’s political crisis, and will place the U.N. security body squarely behind a regional deal that would grant immunity to President Saleh and his inner circle from prosecution for crimes.

The amnesty provision, which was included in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, is highly controversial. Yemen’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Tawakkul Karman, denounced the amnesty provision at a demonstration Tuesday outside U.N. headquarters, and the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) office also opposed an amnesty for serious crimes. 

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for UNHCR, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that, while the U.N. cannot comment on the GCC deal, "international law prohibits the use of amnesties that prevent the prosecution of individuals for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights — so that would apply in this situation as in any other."

But Gulf leaders believe that it would be impossible to convince Saleh to yield power without a guarantee that he and his closest aides won’t be prosecuted. And the Security Council has thrown its weight behind them.

Still, there are few signs that Saleh had any real intention of stepping down.

In recent weeks, Saleh’s government has intensified its military crackdown on protesters, while armed groups, including al Qaeda, have targeted government buildings and officials.

In April, the Gulf Cooperation Council produced a political accord that would commit Saleh to transfer powers to his vice president, followed by elections and the drafting of a new constitution. In return, Saleh and his advisers would be granted immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during the crackdown. Yemen’s main opposition alliance, the Joint Meeting Parties, signed the accord. But Saleh has stubbornly refused to do so.

A report by UNHCR last month concluded that "many Yemenis, peacefully calling for greater freedoms, and end to corruption and respect for the rule of law, have been met with an excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by the state. Hundreds have been killed and thousands have suffered injuries, including loss of limbs."

The demonstrators have provided a backdrop to an increasingly violent power struggle between Saleh and his supporters, on one side, and armed opponents, including al Qaeda elements, on the other, according to the report. Today’s U.N. resolution, which presses for restraint on all sides, reflected on the complexity of the crisis.

The resolution "strongly condemns the continued human rights violation by the Yemeni authorities" and "expresses profound regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children." It also demands that all opposition movements refrain from violence and provocation "for perpetrating human rights abuses and "stresses that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable."

It also calls on President Saleh to sign and implement the agreement "as soon as possible "stresses that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable."

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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