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(Beirut) – President Abdu Rabu Hadi’s removal from military command on April 10, 2013, of senior figures linked to abuse was a key step in Yemen’s post-uprising transition. The president’s appointment of some of these key figures to posts in which they would have diplomatic immunity is a source of concern, however.

“While shuffling these men out of the country’s security forces is a positive development, shuffling them into cozy diplomatic posts abroad where they may be immune from prosecution could take them away from justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If President Hadi is to break with the impunity of the past, he should ensure an independent investigation into the role of these men in the terrible crimes against his countrymen.”

Hadi removed the Republican Guard commander, Gen. Ahmad Ali Saleh, son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but named him ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Hadi also named Saleh’s nephew, Col. Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, deputy director of the National Security Bureau until 2012, to be the new military attaché to Ethiopia. Another nephew, Brig. Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the Presidential Guard commander until 2012, was nominated to be the new military attaché to Germany.

Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of serious human rights violations involving forces under the command of all three, including attacks on peaceful protesters, arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances.In their new diplomatic posts, they would benefit from diplomatic immunity in the countries where they are posted, which may prevent criminal prosecution in those countries. Such postings would not grant them immunity from investigation in Yemen, though in Yemen they are covered by the January 2012 immunity law that covered Saleh and those who served with him.

During the uprising in 2011, Human Rights Watch documented 37 cases in which security forces—including the Republican Guard, National Security Bureau, and Presidential Guard—held people for days, weeks, or months without charge. Twenty two of the former detainees told Human Rights Watch they had been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including beatings, electric shock, threats of death or rape, and weeks or months in solitary confinement. Human Rights Watch also interviewed relatives of five protesters, opposition fighters, and others who were forcibly disappeared or held without charge.

In the city of Taizz, Human Rights Watch documented the Republican Guards’ indiscriminate shelling of civilians, firing on peaceful protesters, storming and occupation of hospitals, as well as preventing doctors from treating wounded protesters and evicting patients at gunpoint from February to December 2011.

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