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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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DOJ Urged to Prosecute Former Chief of Yemen

MANHATTAN (CN) - A rights group wants federal prosecutors to initiate torture proceedings against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is reportedly recovering in New York from a bombing last year that led to his resignation.

Saleh, who assumed office in 1992, came under mounting international criticism for his violent suppression of mass protests against him during the Arab Spring in 2011.

On Tuesday, Katherine Gallagher, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, sent the U.S. Department of Justice a nine-page letter, with an additional 160 pages of attached reports from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, detailing Saleh's clampdowns of protesters.

"Demonstrations and permanent sit-ins in various cities in Yemen began in February 2011 and continued throughout the remainder of 2011, bringing hundreds of thousands of people to the streets calling for the government to respect basic human rights and urging political reform," Gallagher wrote. "Among the most prominent locations where demonstrations took place were Al-Tagheer or Change Square in Sana'a, and Hurriya or Freedom Square in Ta'izz. These locations were also the site of some of the most deadly incidents against civilians protestors: on March 18, 2011, 53 civilians were killed and hundreds injured in Al-Tagheer Square in Sana'a; between May 29- June 3, 2011, more than 50 civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured in Hurriya Square in Ta'izz; and on September 18-19, 2011, more than 25 unarmed protestors were killed in the two cities. Other such incidents include the attack on protestors in Aden in February 2011, which left an estimated 20 people dead and more than 150 injured. Many among the hundreds of victims have been children."

Last June, Saleh was wounded in a bombing of the Presidential Palace, leading him to announce his resignation on Nov. 23 to treat the lingering effects of his injuries. Saleh arrived in New York on Jan. 28, and was last spotted recovering at the Ritz Carlton on Central Park South, according to The New York Times.

The Center for Constitutional Rights believes that federal prosecutors should investigate whether U.S. citizens were among the victims of Yemen's clampdowns on protesters.

If so, prosecutors could claim jurisdiction, under the U.S. War Crimes Statute, for violations of the Geneva Conventions, according to the letter.

"By opening an investigation into credible claims of torture arising out of acts by Saleh's forces against peaceful protesters in Yemen, the United States will send a powerful message that the days of crimes without consequences and free-passes for those who wield power are giving way to a new era of true justice and accountability," Gallagher said in a statement. "The U.S. must not provide a safe-haven for a man who has caused so much pain and suffering to his people."

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