(Reuters) – The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday that any power transfer deal in Yemen should not include an amnesty for President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose security forces are accused of killing largely peaceful protesters and other crimes.
A proposed power transfer plan brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would offer immunity to Saleh and those serving under him in exchange for his stepping down.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to make a decision this week on a resolution to “strongly condemn” the government’s human rights violations. The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters in New York, urges Saleh to “immediately sign and implement” the plan by the six-nation GCC.
“We’ve not seen the details of the initiative put forth by the GCC so we can’t comment on the specifics of that proposed deal. However, international law is pretty clear on this issue. It prohibits the use of amnesties that prevent the prosecution of individuals for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or gross violations of human rights,” U.N. rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
“So that’s the general position on amnesties which would apply in this situation, as in any other,” he added, speaking in response to a reporter’s question.
The office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemns the killing of largely peaceful protesters in the cities of Sanaa and Taiz by Yemeni security forces wielding indiscriminate force, Colville said.
At least 34 people have been killed in the last four days, including six on Tuesday, in the intensifying crackdown.
“In addition to those killed, hundreds of people have been reportedly injured by the disproportionate use of force against unarmed protesters,” Colville said.
An international, independent investigation was required to hold perpetrators accountable and render justice to victims.
“We are extremely concerned that security forces continue to use excessive force in a climate of impunity for crimes that are resulting in heavy loss of life and injury, despite repeated pledges by the government to the contrary,” he added.
Amnesty International has said that Saleh should not be immune from prosecution and those responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances should be brought to justice as part of any transition agreement.
Saleh, who says he is ready to step down but wants to ensure that control of the country is put in “safe hands”, has rejected the GCC plan three times.
Saleh, who has ruled the impoverished country for 33 years, has stayed in office despite 10 months of mass protests against his rule inspired by pro-democracy unrest across the Arab world.
Opposition to him has turned increasingly violent and organised, threatening to pitch Yemen into all-out civil war.
The U.N. rights office also called on armed opponents of Saleh’s government to remove weapons from public spaces being used by peaceful protesters and to “stop launching armed attacks from densely-populated areas”.