Yemen: Amnesty Law in Breach of International Law and Yemen’s Obligations


Yemen’s national unity government last week adopted a draft law giving President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution as part of a deal brokered by Gulf states and other international sponsors. The law would give amnesty to Saleh and his aides in “all government, civil, and military” departments covering all 33 years of his rule.

Human rights activists in Yemen and elsewhere have vehemently rejected the law as an affront to justice and an illustration of double standards held by the international community, allowing some leaders to commit human rights violations with impunity. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the law “would violate Yemen’s human rights obligations.”

In this podcast Paul Seils, ICTJ vice president, strongly underlines this point. “There are essentially a number of treaties in international law, to which Yemen has acceded or ratified, which require Yemen to investigate and prosecute gross violations of human rights. The proposed amnesty law is manifestly and uncontroversially in breach of those obligations.”

Seils discusses the cases where amnesties for former combatants have helped societies transition from conflict to a more stable and peaceful state. However, he contends, any attempt to provide amnesty for gross violations of human rights is a throwback to an outdated and discredited attempt to deal with transitions.

“The idea that you can simply amnesty away the past, provide for official amnesia, and guarantee official impunity, is unacceptable in the current state of international law and international relations.”

Listen to the podcast:

[Download](/sites/default/files/Seils_ICTJ_Podcast_01092012_2.mp3) | Duration: 12:00mins | File size: 8.37MB

Photo: Tens of thousands of anti-government Yemeni mourners carry the body of an activist who was among more than 50 protesters gunned down by snipers in Sanaa on March 20, 2011 during a mass funeral procession in the capital. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images