Yemen's Saleh should not get immunity: Amnesty

SANAA, April 28, 2011 (AFP) - Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh should not be granted immunity from prosecution under a Gulf plan that seeks to end months of bloodshed, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The London-based human rights watchdog said the transition plan proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) appeared to provide a blanket immunity to Saleh as well as those who served under him.

"President Ali Abdullah Saleh must not be allowed to evade accountability for the long catalogue of human rights crimes committed under his rule," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Smart said in a statement that Saleh and those around him should be held accountable for the arbitrary arrests, torture and unlawful killings that have been committed, in line with Yemen's laws.

"He must not be awarded a 'get-out-of-jail' card to walk free from any question of investigation or justice for what has been done under his authority," the statement said.

It said Gulf efforts to break the impasse and end the current cycle of violence was welcome, but Saleh "should not be be allowed to set his own price for agreeing to stand down."

If he was granted legal immunity, it would be a "gross betrayal" of the many victims of rights, and send the wrong signal to others who violate the rights of their people.

"Are the Western governments that have spoken up so strongly for accountability in Libya and elsewhere now willing to endorse this shabby attempt to evade justice by one of the Middle East’s longest-serving rulers," the statement said.

The plan drawn up by the six-nation GCC proposes the formation of a government of national unity in Yemen, Saleh transferring power to his vice president, and an end to deadly protests rocking the impoverished country.

Under the initiative, the president would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, which was to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

However, a defiant Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has publicly insisted on sticking to the constitution in any transfer of power, even though his ruling General People's Congress party has said it accepts the GCC plan.

The crackdown on demonstrations calling for the veteran leader's immediate ouster has claimed more than 145 lives since January.

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