February 10, 2012

YACC Condemns Saleh’s Immunity, Demands Accountability

Nearly two weeks have elapsed since Ali Abdullah Saleh entered New York City under the diplomatic immunity afforded to Yemen’s “President.” During this time the Obama administration has only made one passing reference to Yemen, a throwaway statement courtesy of Secretary Hillary Clinton, as foreign powers busy themselves imposing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s power-sharing agreement. Saleh’s presence at Central Park’s Ritz Carlton is also generating a corresponding blackout in the U.S. media, a seemingly unbreakable trend unless al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is somehow involved.

Low odds, though, won’t stop Yemenis from shining light on their cause, and the Yemeni-American Coalition for Change (YACC) is committed to altering the long-term status quo in Washington. Last Sunday’s demonstration resulted in a rare Saleh spotting, complete with a blown kiss to those protesting his immunity. As usual the Obama administration ignored this inflammatory act, and YACC’s actions failed to elicit a response from the White House or State Department (a modest media reaction was triggered). However YACC represents the only force capable of producing an immediate reaction, leaving the vanguard no choice except to continue engaging. Ceaseless operations are vital to both militarized and non-violent fourth-generation warfare (4GW).

YACC’s latest attempt to raise the profile of Saleh’s visit - Friday’s “March for Justice” - took protesters over the Brooklyn Bridge to New York City Hall, where they vented their frustration at the Obama administration’s interference in Yemen’s revolution.

“Over 29,000 peaceful protesters has been murdered and injured in less than a year by Saleh’s security forces and Obama administration still rolled the red carpet for this dictator to enjoy a luxury near Central Park in recognition for the crimes against humanity Saleh committed against the People of Yemen.”

The march has yet to force the Obama administration into breaking its silence, but YACC has tied its next theme into the plausible reaction. Western and Gulf powers view the GCC’s agreement as a successful counter-revolution; Saleh is “removed,” a controllable figure from his regime sits in his place, the opposition is cornered by the ruling party and foreign powers, and the youth movement is now forced to choose between a single-candidate “election” and further political isolation. The GCC’s power-sharing was constructed from the ground up to prevent regime change, and this reality will become more apparent over the two-year transitional period.

YACC must take aim at the GCC’s proposal and all of the risks that it entails. The following letter was sent to President Barack Obama:
We write to you today as concerned American citizens, urging you to reconsider your policy of support for Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and adopt instead a policy toward Yemen that honors the principles that Americans hold dear – principles of equality, justice, and freedom from tyranny. Living in one of the most heavily‐armed countries in the world, Yemen’s revolutionaries could have overthrown the regime by force or through civil war. Instead, they affirmed their commitment to non‐ violent change and their aspiration for a peaceful, democratic system. In response, they were slaughtered by embattled President Saleh’s security forces and loyalists for months on end.

We understand that President Saleh’s immunity from prosecution in Yemen was a central component of the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement (GCC), signed by President Saleh and by representatives of the formal political opposition. And we understand that this agreement has ushered in a period of relative freedom from government‐sponsored violence for the hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who continue to hope for genuine change. But the GCC agreement was negotiated with and endorsed by senior level political elites only, and it does not capture the voices or reflect the interests of the most vital forces in Yemen’s protest movement, its youth. Among the youth’s demands, the most consistent and clear has been the call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be held legally accountable for the crimes he has committed against the Yemeni people. While the US‐backed GCC agreement traded away this essential demand in exchange for a short‐term end to the bloodletting, it is unsustainable.

We do not believe that the situation is beyond repair, but any process of genuinely‐inclusive national reconciliation must begin with accountability. We call upon your administration to reverse its position on Saleh’s legal immunity and withdraw his visa immediately. As American citizens, we see no reason why a man with as much blood on his hands as President Ali Abdullah Saleh should continue to enjoy the protection and support of the United States. As Yemenis look ahead to next week’s uncontested election of Saleh’s designated successor, they know that it will be an uphill struggle to repair and build genuinely democratic institutions in Yemen, butut they will try. At the very least, we believe that by denying President Saleh sanctuary in the United States, we can demonstrate to Yemenis in good faith that we affirm democratic principles in this country.
Saleh’s immunity isn’t a pure case of maintaining diplomatic protocol. Protected from U.S. prosecution, he will return to Sana’a and maintain influence under Washington and Riyadh’s pseudo-authority. Saleh currently possesses immunity at the national level (parliamentary approval in accordance with the GCC deal) and he will never step foot in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Refusing to implicate Saleh has nothing to do with “peacefully” removing him from power, and everything to do with politico-military cooperation and guarding secrets with his regime. The puppet show is thus extended from Washington and Riyadh to Saleh’s arms, VP, son, nephews, uncle and half-brothers.

Yemen’s revolutionaries don’t fight and die for this subservient (and unstable) outcome, but envision a Yemen free of internal and external tyranny.

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