Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] on Wednesday urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate the death of protesters. The report chronicles reports of beatings and use of excessive force by security forces including shootings of peaceful protesters. AI criticizes the response of authorities to the mounting death tolls as woefully inadequate. While investigations have been announced, they are being conducted by governmental bodies that do not have a mandate to carry out the judicial investigations and they are not likely to be successful. The report also alleges that security forces have used US-made tear gas and rubber grenades to violently repress the protesters. AI recommends that the international community provide Yemeni authorities with the support necessary for an effective and independent investigation into the human rights violations, suspend the supply and transfer of weapons that could be used for excessive force and ensure that the military and security support given to Yemen adheres to international human rights standards. The protests which have been fueled by frustration at corruption, unemployment and repression of freedoms have resulted in 94 deaths.
On Tuesday, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] also urged the Yemeni government [JURIST report] to discontinue using force against peaceful protesters. The Yemeni Parliament enacted several emergency measures [JURIST report] in March at the request of President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic] in an effort to end anti-government protests. The new laws give the government greater power [AP report] to arrest and detain protesters and to censor the media. Protests, largely organized by the Joint Meeting Party (JMP), have been ongoing in Yemen since February, largely calling for Saleh to step down. Saleh has been in power since 1978 and is considered popular in Yemen and the international community. However, he and his party, the General People's Congress (GPC), have caused mounting political tensions due to attempts to remove presidential term limits [JURIST report] and expand their political power. In December, the parliament stoked outrage among opposition parties and independents when it amended the constitution [AFP report] to eliminate provisions requiring that opposition parties be represented on the high election commission. Although the government has maintained control in urban areas, the northern and southern parts of the country remain unlawful and dangerous, plagued by southern separatists groups and al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. The protests in Yemen have been analyzed in two recent JURIST op-eds: Constitutional Enforcement in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt by L. Ali Khan, Professor of Law at Washburn University, and The Middle East protest movements: each with a story, all with uncertainty by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies [advocacy website].