Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive] on Saturday agreed to step down from power, ending his 32-year reign as the nation's leader. Saleh agreed to a proposal requiring him to hand power over to his deputy in 30 days [AP report] in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Opposition groups have accepted the resignation with some reservations [Yemen Post report] — including disagreement with the proposition to form a national unity government in the next week, rather than once Saleh has formally vacated his office. Demonstrators concerned that the resignation was a political ploy continued to protest [Al Jazeera report] throughout Yemen. The Gulf Cooperation Council [official website], a group of six nations from the region, helped to broker the agreement.
Earlier this month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate the deaths of protesters [JURIST report]. 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. The US Department of State [official website] earlier this month released the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials; JURIST report] that, among other things, pointed out the ongoing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, police and military abuses and restrictions on freedom of expression in Yemen. In March, the Yemeni parliament passed temporary emergency laws [JURIST report], giving the government more power to arrest and detain protesters and to censor the media.