The suggested immunity law for outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is not a new element, but part of an ongoing process for political transition in the country, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
“This is not a new element. The immunity provisions were negotiated as part of the GCC deal to get Saleh to leave power,” department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
“They have to be codified in law. That’s the process that’s ongoing now and hasn’t yet been completed,” she added.
Yemen’s new coalition government approved the immunity law on Sunday and referred it to the parliament for voting. Under the deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and signed by Saleh and the opposition on Nov. 23, 2011, the Yemeni parliament should adopt the immunity law for Saleh before he resigns.
Under the deal, Saleh’s deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi formed an opposition-led coalition government in December, and called for presidential elections on Feb. 21, 2012, moves that aimed primarily to end 11 months of protests demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.
The immunity law, however, has sparked controversy in Yemen, with thousands of the opposition-led protesters demanding prosecution of Saleh for his ordering of crackdown on the anti- government protests over the past 11 months.
“You know that in these situations, it’s often difficult to get the strongman to leave the stage when his time comes if he’s not sure about his safety and security,” Nuland said of the law.