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UN rights chief urges Yemen to deny amnesty for human rights violations

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday urged Yemen to accept the international prohibition against granting amnesty for human rights violations [press release]. Yemen is currently considering passing legislation which would grant amnesty for a period during which human rights violations [OHCHR backgrounder] may have taken place. She stressed that victims deserved justice and "amnesties are not permissible if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who may be criminally responsible for international crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and gross violations of human rights."

In June the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] announced plans to send a panel to investigate the human rights situation in Yemen [JURIST report]. Rights groups have criticized Yemen for its handling of pro-democracy protests that have persisted since February. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text; PDF] in April urging the international community to pressure Yemeni authorities to investigate protestor deaths. Just days earlier, the OHCHR 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. Saleh, who agreed to step down in April [JURIST report], and his party, the General People's Congress (GPC), had 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.

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