[JURIST] Overturning a lower court ruling, the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision Monday that the sale to a private organization of land containing a Ten Commandments monument in a La Crosse Wisconsin public park did not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Circuit Judge Daniel A. Maion wrote:
The City also had a rather obvious secular motive for the sale - it wanted to eliminate its ownership in the Monument to preempt litigation accusing it of using the Monument to endorse a religious message by displaying it on public property. The Appellees claim that the reason is not secular because the City could have avoided the lawsuit by simply removing or allowing someone else to remove the Monument. They claim that by not removing it and by leaving it on what had been City property demonstrates that the Citys motive was not secular. But as we have stated above, Marshfield makes clear that in most cases, a government can remedy a potential Establishment Clause violation by selling the real property where the religious monument sits. While removal was an option, so also was the sale. By selling the Monument site to end a perceived endorsement, the City exercised an option that served a secular purpose.
[JURIST] In an apparent effort to address growing concerns about scandal and corruption in the United Nations system UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Monday announced the appointment of UN Development Program head Mark Malloch Brown as his new Chief of Staff, the number three position in the UN structure after Annan and Canadian Deputy Under-Secretary Louise Frechette. The outspoken Brown, a Briton, a former journalist with the Economist magazine and former World Bank official, takes over from Iqbal Riza, 70. He made it clear in a morning press conference that he would be spearheading Annan's institutional reform agenda and would pursue a more public strategy in articulating UN positions on a wide range of issues. Read the UN press release here. Watch recorded video of this morning's UN press conference announcing the appointment here. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] A top advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin who publicly voiced concerns about the Russian government takeover of Yukos, free speech limitations and Russian policy towards Ukraine has been stripped of his responsibilities as Russia's envoy to the G8 industrial nations, according to a Kremlin statement issued Monday. No official reason was given for the announced shift in the duties of Andrey Illarionov, apparently a lone voice of official dissent. Read today's statement from the Russian Presidency here. AP has more.
[JURIST] Two court-martials of US soldiers accused of killing or abusing Iraqis in separate incidents are set to take place this week at Fort Hood, Texas. On Tuesday, Sgt. Tracy Perkins will stand trial in the deaths of two Iraqis allegedly pushed into into the Tigris River north of Baghdad in January 2004, and on Friday, Sgt. Charles Graner will face a military court accused of conspiracy to mistreat detainees, dereliction of duties, maltreating detainees, assault and indecency. Graner becamee infamous earlier this year for posing behind naked Iraqi prisoners in photographs taken at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison that led to a major scandal and multiple military and civilian investigations. The charge sheet for Graner is available here. Reuters has more. Lawyers for Graner have repeatedly insisted that he was siimply carrying out policies set at a higher level in the chain of command. This week's court-martials happen to coincide with confirmation hearings for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, whose nomination as Attorney General has been complicated by his role in helping to craft an expansive American policy on torture and interogation that has since been revised and rejected by the Justice Department. Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase:
[JURIST] Thai government officials have announced a program of legal assistance for victims of last week's tsunami that killed over 4000 people in Thailand and left thousands more in the country homeless. A senior spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Justice was quoted Monday as saying that the Ministry will set up a special legal center and will also produce legal handbooks and documents for the guidance and help of survivors. From Bangkok, the Thai News Agency has more.
[JURIST] Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Monday that an autonomy plan passed by Basque lawmakers last week is doomed for failure and called the proposal secessionist, unconstitutional and an anomaly in a Europe moving to become more united. Last Thursday, the Basque regional legislature approved a plan seeking to amend the 1970 charter that granted the Basque region autonomy over its police force, schools, health care, tax revenue and other public services. The plan seeks to transform the region's status into a "free state" associated with Spain. The proposal must be approved by the Spanish Parliament before it would come into force. In a news conference Monday, President Zapatero rejected calls that the government file suit against the proposal in the Constitutional Court, saying a lawsuit would freeze the initiative and prevent Parliament from debating and rejecting the proposal. AP has more. From Madrid, El Mundo has local coverage in Spanish
[JURIST] Survivors and families of victims of last week's tsunami disaster in South Asia are falling prey to thieves, rapists, kidnappers and hoaxers. Sri Lanka's Women and Media Collective said Monday that they "have received reports of incidents of rape, gang rape, molestation and physical abuse of women and girls in the course of unsupervised rescue operations and while resident in temporary shelters." Humanitarian relief organization Save the Children has warned that those orphaned by the tsunami are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation. In Sweden, names of victims are being kept secret after some homes were looted by thieves. Reuters has more. A British man pleaded guilty Monday to charges of malicious communication and causing a public nuisance for sending emails to relatives of missing people. The emails purported to be from Thailand's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and stated "that the UK Government regretted to inform the victim that the missing person they were inquiring about was confirmed dead." BBC News has more. JURIST's Paper Chase has ongoing coverage of the tsunami disaster.
[JURIST] Scotland's Tory leader David McLetchie is calling for public debate over Scotland's proposed ban on smoking in public places, saying the ban is tougher than that proposed in a UK white paper, published in November (JURIST's Paper Chase has background on the UK proposal). The Scottish plan, approved by the Scottish Executive last November, would ban smoking in all public places, while the UK plan for England and Wales allows an exemption for clubs and pubs that do not serve food. Calling the English approach "far more reasonable and balanced," McLetchie has said that the public should be asked which plan they favor. BBC News has more.
[JURIST] Reacting to reports of a US government plan to detain some suspected terrorists for life (see this previous report on JURIST's Paper Chase), Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Carl Levin have suggested that the proposal was unconstitutional. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Lugar called lifetime detentions without judicial review "a bad idea" and Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that "some semblance of due process" is necessary when detaining people. The Los Angeles Times has more.
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