January 9, 2012

U.S. Explicitly Backs Saleh’s Immunity

Although instrumental in drafting the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) power-sharing agreement for Yemen, an “initiative” that included immunity for Ali Abdullah Saleh’s extensive family, the Obama administration has advanced the political deal in notorious silence. No detailed information has been offered by the White House or State Department since the GCC mobilized in early May, only unflinching support for its unpopular initiative. When Washington spearheaded the GCC’s ratification process through the UN Security Council, resolution 2014 simply reaffirmed the GCC’s initiative while adding “that all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable.”

Politically and legally speaking, “should be” is another world from “will be.”

Having never released an official copy of the GCC’s initiative, the international community continues to confuse and divide Yemen’s vigorous pro-democracy movement up to the present. This disinformation campaign generated modest headlines last week when Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned Yemen’s GCC-approved “unity government” against granting immunity for crimes against humanity. As honest as Pillay’s comments may appear, directing criticism at the remnants of Saleh’s regime is grossly manipulative; the UNSC - not just Yemen’s government - is guilty of violating its “international human rights obligations.”

Then again, neither Saleh nor his allies in the UNSC are likely to listen to her.

That the Obama administration has supported the continuation of Saleh’s regime over Yemen’s revolutionaries is well documented. Never, though, had the White House or State Department explicitly addressed America’s support for the GCC’s immunity clause until today. Questioned on Assistant Secretary Jeffery Feltman’s recent trip to Riyadh and discussions surrounding Saleh’s immunity, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland replied as though no one should be surprised - a rare truth from the administration.
“I think you’ll remember that as part of the GCC transition initiative, which President Saleh ultimately signed and which Vice President Hadi and the opposition are working together to try to implement now, there was a provision of immunity for President Saleh and those who worked with him during the period of his government. However, that had to be put into law, so that’s what they’re working on now. This is part and parcel of giving these guys confidence that their era is over and it’s time for Yemen to be able to move forward towards a democratic future.”
Thus the White House’s public argument remains unchanged despite a new level of exposure: Saleh and dozens of relatives must be coaxed out of power to “move Yemen forward.” Immunity is critical to implementing the GCC’s deal - and maintaining influence with the “new” government. The natural counterargument is that immunity will encourage Saleh’s destructive behavior, as it has since the GCC’s initiative launched in May, and many Yemenis still demand justice for 33 years of misrule. Furthermore, the Obama administration is blatantly covering up U.S. military support for Saleh's regime through his immunity clause.

Washington and European powers had some special concrete shoes made for the wrong side of Yemen’s revolution.

Fully analysis on Thursday, the alleged deadline for Saleh to cede power and withdraw from the country.

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