Yemen’s cabinet proposed an immunity law to speed President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s exit from the Arab state under a Gulf-brokered plan to end months of protests that have paralysed the impoverished country.
Yemenis angry at the offer of legal immunity to Saleh over the killing of demonstrators have been taking to the streets, calling for him to be put on trial while the United Nations has said the deal would violate international law.
The bill would give immunity “to Saleh … and those who worked with him in all civilian, military and security state bodies and institutions during his rule,” the state news agency Saba reported, Reuters reports.
Saleh’s sons and nephews hold key posts in military and security units blamed for attacks that killed hundreds of protesters during 11 months of demonstrations against his 33-year rule.
Saleh has repeatedly rejected previous such deals drafted in the wake of protests that have pushed Yemen to the brink of civil war. Islamic militants have exploited the unrest to seize several towns in the south, territory Saleh’s opponents say he deliberately lost to justify his claim that his rule keeps al Qaeda in check.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are keen for the plan to work, fearing that a power vacuum in Yemen is giving militants an opportunity to thrive alongside the Red Sea, a key shipping channel.
But U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday any guarantee of immunity to Saleh would violate international law.