As ousted political and military leaders in the Middle East continue to seek immunity from war crimes prosecutions, the United Nations and international human rights groups are taking an increasingly tough stance against such legislation in Yemen, Egypt, and possibly in a post-conflict Syria.
"I think it's extremely serious," Jose Luis Diaz, who heads the Amnesty International office at the United Nations, told IPS.
He pointed out that measures providing immunity from prosecution for political or military leaders, who may be responsible for human rights violations, war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, are not only a slap in the face of the victims, but they also eat away at the still fragile gains made to consolidate international justice and fight impunity.
After 33 years of repressive rule, President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has agreed to step down from office - following nearly 12 months of street protests - in exchange for immunity from prosecution, under a law passed by parliament last week.
In Egypt, the interim ruling military council is negotiating with the incoming government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, for immunity from prosecution for military leaders responsible for the killings of peaceful demonstrators last year.
And if beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad relents to international pressure and decides to step down, it is very likely he will seek immunity from prosecution as part of a negotiated deal.
"We came out strongly against the immunity law for Saleh before it was adopted, as we consider it to be in breach of Yemen's obligations under international law to investigate and prosecute human rights violations," Luis Diaz told IPS.
He said that Saleh and others may feel safe from prosecution in Yemen for now, but the immunity law would not necessarily protect them from the courts elsewhere for some of ...