December 30, 2011, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) issued the following statement strongly opposing the United States’ decision to grant a visa to interim Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which would permit him to stay in the United States in order to receive medical treatment:
“We are confounded and deeply disappointed that the United States government would give even temporary safe haven to the leader of a brutal regime and undermine the Yemeni people’s legitimate aspirations for justice in their own country. To provide Mr. Saleh with immunity or safe haven after he oversaw countless crimes against his people, and while his supporters continue to retaliate against the victims’ families, is an affront to accountability efforts in Yemen and will be seen by the people of Yemen as making the U.S. a partner in his crimes. Whatever the United States’ intentions may be, the symbolism in the Arab world will be crystal clear: the U.S. is siding with repressive rulers rather than with the Arab people in the ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in the Arab world.
The murder and torture of civilians, particularly on the scale committed by Saleh, is a crime under international law. Should Saleh leave Yemen, he faces possible criminal and civil actions for crimes he committed while head of state. Should he come to the United States, he would become vulnerable to a civil lawsuit in U.S. courts, including claims under the Alien Tort Statute, which could be brought by his victims and their family members. CCR and HOOD believe the better course would be for him to be brought to justice in his home country in a proceeding satisfactory to the Yemeni people’s legitimate calls for justice.”
CCR embraces the plea also made by 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, Yemeni Human Rights Activist, Tawakkul Karman, to the United States:
“The US should stand with the people of Yemen and their courageous efforts to bring peace and democracy to our country. Rather than providing a safe haven for Saleh, the U.S. should instead seek criminal investigation and prosecution for crimes against humanity and refer the issue to the UN Security Council for action by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.”
Hood is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization. It was established in 1998 by lawyers, people working in the media, and MPs, all of whom are activists in human rights issues and the law. Hood is considered one of the first frontline organizations working to defend human rights in Yemen. Hood reports all kinds of violations of human rights, offers free legal aid and brings the perpetrators to justice.
CCR was responsible for the landmark human rights case, Filartiga v. Pena Irala, which pioneered the use of the Alien Tort Statute to prosecute human rights abuses committed abroad in U.S. courts.