January 31, 2012, New York, NY – In response to the Obama administration’s decision to admit interim Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the U.S. on Saturday night, purportedly to receive medical treatment, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
The Center for Constitutional Rights strongly condemns the Obama administration’s decision to welcome interim Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh into the United States. Saleh has overseen countless human rights violations against his own people – kidnapping, torturing and murdering civilians, including children – and his security forces, headed by his sons and nephews, continue to retaliate against the victims’ families. Further, despite a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence and an investigation into past violence, Yemeni security forces have continued committing and enabling attacks against protestors—killing and injuring peaceful demonstrators directly and defending brutal, pro-government mobs.
By granting Saleh even temporary safe haven in the U.S., the Obama administration has sent an unmistakable message: while people across the Arab world struggle for democracy and justice, the United States has sided with repressive rulers, undermined efforts at accountability, and undercut legitimate aspirations for justice.
This action by the U.S. is especially troubling given the decision last week by the Yemeni Parliament to grant Mr. Saleh immunity from prosecution for so-called “political” crimes. The murder and torture of civilians, particularly on the scale committed by Saleh, is a crime under international law. The proper response to Yemen’s domestic obstruction to accountability would be international investigation and prosecution of Mr. Saleh for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Instead, the U.S. will now be seen by the Yemeni people as a partner in these crimes.
Nonetheless, by entering the country, Saleh has made himself 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.
The Center for Constitutional Rights supports the Yemeni American Coalition for Change, which will hold a press conference this Thursday, February 2, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park, where Saleh is reportedly staying while in New York, and a rally against Saleh’s presence in the U.S. on Friday, February 10, marching from downtown Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and ending at City Hall.