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Thousands Protest in Yemen Against Immunity for Outgoing President Saleh

Law would grant immunity for any crimes committed since he took office in 1978

Common Dreams staff

(photo: Khaled Abdullah / Reuters)

Thousands of Yemenis are protesting in the capital, Sanaa, against immunity from prosecution for outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Agence France-Presse reports:

Yemen’s parliament on Saturday adopted a law giving Saleh "complete" immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down under a Gulf-brokered transition deal.

The law also offers partial protection from legal action for Saleh’s aides, saying his lieutenants cannot be charged for "actions that were politically motivated and carried out in the exercise of their duties."

The BBC reports on the reaction to the immunity vote:

Thousands of Yemenis are protesting in the capital Sanaa after MPs passed a law giving President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution.

They want him to be tried for offences they say he committed, including a crackdown during a year-long uprising that left hundreds dead.

Agence France-Presse reports:

The protesters carried banners calling on lawmakers to reverse their decision.

"To the lawmakers, we say there will be no immunity at the expense of the blood of our martyrs," said one banner, referring to the hundreds of people killed in the government crackdown.

"It is our duty... to execute the butcher," chanted angry protesters gathered in Sanaa’s Change Square, the epicentre of the democracy movement that has been calling for Saleh’s ouster since January last year.

Al Jazeera reports on the UN reaction to the immunity granted to Saleh:

The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, has criticised the immunity law, arguing that it neglects the rights of "victims".

Speaking before departing Yemen late on Saturday, Benomar said that though "the law was amended ... it does not live up to our expectations.

"The UN in principle stands against this type of blanket immunity."

Benomar further called on the Yemeni parliament to enact a "transitional justice and reconciliation" law that would allow victims to be heard and make claims for compensation.

He said the UN could not condone a broad amnesty that covers crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights.

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