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International brief ~ Southern Sudan worried about Muslim peacekeeping force

[JURIST] Leading Friday's international brief, a key member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement [official website], now the ruling party in Southern Sudan, has expressed concern about the makeup of the proposed UN peacekeeping force to be deployed in March. Deng Alour Deng, a senior official in the SPLA, said that Southern Sudanese officials were unhappy with the number of Muslim countries that have been asked to contribute troops to the proposed 10,000 member peacekeeping force. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia have reportedly been asked to contribute troops, and officials in Rumbek worry that the predominantly Muslim nature of these countries will cause tension between the civilian population composed mainly of Christians and Animists and the peacekeepers deployed to the area. The UN Security Council [official website] isn't scheduled to vote on the deployment force until early February, but in order to ensure a March arrival, countries must begin preparing now. UN envoy Jan Pronk is likely to return to Rumbek, where the first diplomatic mission for Southern Sudan was opened Thursday, to continue working on the arrangements with Southern Sudan officials. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan [JURIST country archive]. BBC News has more.

In other international legal news ...

  • The Russian State Duma [official website in Russian] passed a resolution Friday to enforce the switch from social benefits to cash compensation under the new benefits package implemented at the beginning of the year. The Duma acknowledged that several regions of Russia have not been distributing the monetary compensation called for following the cancellation of benefits. Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] has been working to pull the parties of the State Duma together to ensure the smooth and prompt implementation of the compensation legislation. The Russian political party Rodina has implemented a hunger strike [Interfax report] in response to the enforcement, pledging not to end the strike until their demands for restructuring of the law are met. Interfax has more local coverage.

  • The Kenyan government [official website] has dropped criminal libel proceedings against a reporter writing about government corruption on Wednesday. Kamau Ngotho, an investigative writer with The Standard [official website], was charged under a libel law that Attorney-General Amos Wako [official profile] described as archaic and ineffective. Wako's announcement is seen as an end to the practice of criminal libel proceedings, which carried a maximum penalty of 10 years, as he encouraged aggrieved parties to "pursue civil remedies in court", and that the Kenyan government's policy was to not investigate or pursue criminal libel charges. The charges had allegedly been filed under the prompting of Cabinet Minister Chris Murungaru in response to his inclusion in a story about corruption in the Kenyan government. The Kenyan Daily Nation has local coverage.

  • The tiny archipelago nation of Maldives [official government website] will hold its first democratic elections since 1978 on Saturday. The parliamentary elections for the 42-seat body are part of democratic reforms promised by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [official profile] last June, when he also allowed the official recognition of opposition political parties. The elections were scheduled for three weeks ago, but the devastation from the Indian Ocean tsunami forced their postponement. Voting centers are being set up in relief areas to ensure that those displaced by the flooding still have the opportunity to vote. The first order of business for the newly elected parliament will be to review and begin implementation of the proposed democratic reforms. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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