Tawakul Karman receives congratulatory phone calls at a protest tent in Sana’a yesterday following the announcement that she was one of three women awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Tawakul, who became the first Arab woman to win the peace prize, dedicated it to “all the activists of the Arab Spring”. Image Credit: AFP

Doha: Yemen’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman said the UN must act “immediately and decisively” to halt a deadly government crackdown on protesters calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

Tawakul urged the United Nations “to take immediate and decisive action to stop the massacres and hold the perpetrators accountable,” in a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, a copy of which she showed to AFP late Monday during a visit to Doha.

“This is the only thing that will give Yemenis ... confidence that international justice exists ... and that it extends far enough to reach Saleh, his gang and all the despots who continue to kill innocents.”

Tawakul and tens of thousands of other pro-democracy activists have for months been camped out in Sana’a’s Change Square, marching against Saleh despite a violent crackdown by government troops that has killed hundreds since the mass protest movement began in late January.

“Protect the peaceful protesters in Yemen,” she wrote in the letter, ahead of her departure yesterday to New York where she had been invited to give a speech at the UN on Yemen’s 10-month uprising.


“In the name of the victims and in the name of our people, I call on you to take Saleh and his regime to the International Criminal Court.”

The UN rights office yesterday condemned the killing of peaceful protesters in the Yemeni cities of Sana’a and Taez by security forces who they accused of using indiscriminate force.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the reported killing of a number of largely peaceful protestors in Sana’a and Taez as a result of the indiscriminate use of force by Yemeni security forces since Saturday,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We are extremely concerned that security forces continue to use excessive force in a climate of complete impunity for crimes resulting in heavy loss of life and injury, despite repeated pledges by the government to the contrary,” he added.

Call for a halt to violence

Calling for a halt to violence, Colville said an international, independent and transparent investigation has to be carried out so as to prosecute those responsible for the killings.

Tawakul said she planned to call on the “free people of America” to protest in front of the UN building and demand Saleh’s assets be frozen, his travel be restricted,” and his alleged crimes punished.

The Security Council is currently drafting a resolution calling on all sides to stop the violence and for Saleh to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and step down.
Saleh has for months refused to sign the GCC initiative which calls on him to hand power over to his vice president in return for immunity from prosecution.