Amnesty warns against Yemen immunity

DUBAI- Amnesty International warned on Wednesday against any immunity deal for those responsible for the deaths of dozens of anti-regime demonstrators in Yemen, especially the "Black Friday" bloodbath.
"The international community must play a more active role if Yemenis are to get accountability for the bloody killings of recent weeks," the London-based human rights organisation said.

The statement warned against "any possible political deals that would see President (Ali Abdullah) Saleh, his close relatives and possibly others offered immunity against prosecution in return for handing over power.
"The strongmen at the top cannot be allowed to just shift quietly into the sidelines when the Yemeni people are so vocally calling for accountability," wrote Philip Luther, Amnesty's deputy head for the Middle East and North Africa.
"The way to begin defusing tensions across the country is to deliver truth and justice, not to find ways to sidestep it."
Amnesty urged Sanaa "to acknowledge they need the help of the international community to carry out investigations that can uncover the full truth" on the more than 100 protesters killed since demonstrations erupted in late January.
"Yemenis need an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the killings and injury of demonstrators or bystanders in recent weeks," Luther wrote.
"The inquiry needs real teeth, with powers to compel officials to testify and to ensure that anyone identified as having committed or ordered unlawful killings or excessive use of force is brought to justice."
Amnesty charged that Saleh's government had "an abysmal record of failing to investigate or prosecute those responsible for unlawful killings and torture or other ill-treatment."
The worst case was the Bloody Friday bloodbath of March 18 when 52 people were gunned down in what the rights group called "an apparently coordinated sniper attack on a protest camp in Sanaa."
"An eyewitness told Amnesty International that most of those killed were shot in the head, chest or neck, many of them dying at the scene."
The organisation deplored the lack of any official follow-up since the Yemeni government announced the following day that an investigation would be opened into the mass killing.
"Amnesty International is not aware of any member of the security forces being investigated for deaths which have occurred in anti-government protests since mid-February 2011," it added.

Wednesday, April 6th 2011

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