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UN Pushed "Only So Far" Against US-Supported Immunity for Saleh, Gets "Obama Care"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- After passage of a law granting him amnesty for ordering the killing of protesters in Yemen, Ali Saleh left Sana'a Sunday to come to the United States.

Wednesday in front of the Security Council, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice if there is any limits on Saleh's stay. Rice replied, "as long as his medical" treatment.

  In US President Obama's State of the Union speech on January 24, he spoke of Yemen, that "a wave of change has washed... from Sana’a to Tripoli.  A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators – a murderer with American blood on his hands.  Today, he is gone."

   And Saleh's in a luxury hospital in the US.

  Given questions about the Obama administration sheltering a dictator (as was done for example with the Shah of Iran), one wag opined that who ever is paying, Saleh is now getting "ObamaCare."

  UN envoy Jamal Benomar came out and described a humanitarian situation in which half a million children could die or face lifelong injury unless something is done.

  This was mentioned in the subsequent Security Council press statement, but not the amnesty law. Inner City Press asked Council president Baso Sangqu of South Africa, who said it was discussed, but is not in the UNSC Press Statement.

  Inner City Press asked Benomar for his view of the amnesty law, and for his view of the US -- the "host country" -- allowing Saleh in for medical treatment, and if Saleh would go back to Yemen afterwards and in what role.

  Benomar answered about the law in depth, saying that he told his Yemeni interlocutors that even as amended, the law does not comply with international standards. He noted, however, that a second law on transitional justice is due. But could that second law modify or strip Saleh's immunity? It does not seem so.

In fact, the US Ambassador in Sana'a is known to have badmouthed a youth march devoted to accountability for Saleh, and to have praised the immunity law, or at least the Gulf Cooperation Council's immunity agreement.

  After his answer on the law, Benomar said "next question," and took one in Arabic. Then he was asked again, what about the agreement -- with the US -- allowing Saleh to come to the US for medical treatment?

  Benomar answered in detail, about the Yemeni agreement of November, the transfer of power, the elections slated for February 21. Another reported followed up, what about answering about Saleh's medical treatment in the US? I think I answered the question about the agreement, Benomar said.

  Benomar has had to balance the usually conflicting views of the UK, France and US, and Russian and China, in his good offices role in Yemen: perhaps such balancing means not answering certain questions.

   Inner City Press asked one more time, what about Saleh's entry for medical treatment into the US, which ostensibly stands for accountability for the killing of protesters?

(c) UN Photo
Ban Ki-moon & Ali Saleh, previously, amnesty & "Obama-Care" not shown

  You must ask "those concerned," Benomar said. As noted above, Inner City Press did ask US Ambassador Rice, how ever briefly. Obama Care may be a funny joke, but what the answer on impunity and double standards? Watch this site.

Footnote: When Ban Ki-moon spoke with Saleh in November, afterward he spoke to select media outside the Security Council. Inner City Press asked what he'd said about immunity. Ban said it wasn't really discussed. Did this help the UN's stated efforts about the law? As one close observer put it, the UN pushed "only so far," given the US position as well as Ban Ki-moon's normal soft diplomacy.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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