Last updated: 20 January, 2012

Yemen scraps amnesty for Saleh’s aides

The Yemeni government has tweaked a contested bill that would have granted legal immunity to aides of President Ali Abdullah Saleh implicated in criminal affairs, a government source said on Friday.

The new version “grants complete immunity to president Saleh” but his assistants will only benefit from “political immunity” and could eventually be held accountable for criminal or terrorist acts, the same source told AFP.

The amended bill, adopted by the government on Thursday during an extraordinary meeting, also provides for the ratification of “laws on national reconciliation and transitional justice.”

The government is to submit the bill to parliament on Saturday.

The original version, submitted on January 8, would have granted amnesty against prosecution to Saleh and the aides “who worked with him in all government, civil and military departments during the years of his rule.”

In November, Saleh signed a Gulf-brokered deal to end the political crisis in the impoverished country, under which he handed authority to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and the opposition formed a national unity government.

Saleh serves now as an honorary president until polls are held in February to elect Mansur, the sole candidate, as his interim successor for two years.

A bloody crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations since January 2011 has claimed hundreds of lives.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said earlier this month that anyone who had committed abuses during the mass protests in Yemen must not be allowed to evade justice.

The UN commissioner urged decision-makers in Yemen to respect the prohibition in international law against amnesties for gross human rights violations.

A senior official in Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party, Sultan al-Barakani, said on Wednesday that February’s vote would be held on time, amid rumours of a possible delay.

Meanwhile, parliament was scheduled to vote on the ammended bill, and on Mansur’s presidential candidacy, on Monday, he added.

Separately, Saleh could travel abroad for medical treatment in the near future for injuries suffered in a bomb attack in Sanaa last June, another party source told AFP on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The GPC’s political bureau has accepted, at Saleh’s request, that he should travel abroad for treatment,” the source said, without specifying the destination or date of his departure

Late last month, the veteran leader announced his intention to visit the United States “in order to create favourable conditions … for the presidential election.”

But a senior official declared shortly afterwards that the trip was cancelled following requests from his ruling party that he remain in Yemen until after the elections.