[JURIST] A spokesman for Argentinian cardinal Jorge Bergoglio [official Vatican bio; Wikipedia profile], deemed by observers to be one of the leading contenders to succeed Pope John Paul II in the Vatican conclave that begins April 18, said Saturday that allegations of Bergoglio's involvement in the 1976 kidnapping of two Jesuit priests by the military government then in power were groundless and just "old slander". Human rights lawyer Marcelo Parrilli, a founding member of Argentina's activist Center for Legal and Social Studies [advocacy website], made the accusation in court papers filed Friday. It is known that Bergoglio, then the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, had disagreed with the priests over their activism and later asked them to stop pastoral work and leave the order. After being kidnapped they were freed five months later, and despite his disagreements with them Bergoglio is generally credited with having helped gain their release. One has since died and the other is said to have "good relations" with Bergoglio to this day. Parrilli's accusation has not been tested in court and required only minimal evidence; there has as yet been no formal investigation. AP has more. from Buenos aires, Clarin provides local coverage in Spanish.
[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website] Saturday granted ex-Kosovo prime minister Ramush Haradinaj provisional release for a short time to enable him to attend his brothers funeral and post-funeral ceremonies. Enver Haradinaj, a student as Pristina University, was killed in an ambush in western Kosovo Friday in what may have been a drug-related assassination; his funeral will take place Sunday in the Haradinajs' home the village of Gllogjan. Ramush Haradinaj resigned from office and turned himself in to the ICTY [press statement] in early March after he was indicted [ICTY text] for war crimes allegedely committed while he was senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the late 1990s. The release order specifies that Haradinaj cannot make or attempt contact with any potential witnesses in the case against him and cannot attempt to contact the media. Read the ICTY press release. Balkan Update has more on the shooting.
[JURIST] In an effort to bolster support for UN ambassador nominee John Bolton [official website], the State Department Friday released endorsements and letters of support for Bolton from former secretaries of state, ambassadors and senior government officials. The endorsements come two days after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] decided to delay its vote on his nomination [JURIST report] after Democrats requested more time to question former officials who worked with Bolton. Bolton, the current Under Secretary of Arms Control and International Security and a harsh critic of the UN political and judicial system, has come under attack by those who accuse him of being a "serial abuser" of lower-level officials who challenge his views. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated her support for Bolton in a speech [text] Friday, and said he would be a strong advocate for instituting much-needed changes in the world body. The Bolton committee vote is now expected Tuesday. CNN has more.
[JURIST] Foreign ministers from European Union [official website] countries expressed alarm Saturday about growing resistance in France to the proposed European constitution [official website; treaty text]. A new poll released Saturday that was conducted after Thursday's TV pitch by French President Jacques Chirac [JURIST report] shows that 56% of French voters plan to vote "No" [Bloomberg report] in a referendum May 29th to decide whether to accept or reject the constitution, a gain of three perscentage points for the No side. Along with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, foreign ministers from Luxembourg, Denmark, and the Netherlands have rallied to support the constitution among French voters and voters in their own countries. A "No" vote from France could send a message to Britain, the Netherlands and elsewhere where support for the charter is also waning that a Europe united through a constitution is unfeasible. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot expressed concern that there was not a "plan B" should the constitution be rejected in France and stated that voting "Yes" was the only way to proceed with the constitution. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] President Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador [Wikipedia profile] declared a state of emergency in the capital Quito late Friday and dissolved the Ecuador Supreme Court [official website in Spanish]. The drastic measures announced in a surprise national television address came after three days of protests in the streets of Quito, which Gutierrez blames on unpopular Supreme Court judges. Rather than quell the protests, the declaration has caused thousands of people to descend on the capital to rally against Gutierrez and against the state of emergency which suspends the rights to free expression and freedom of assembly. This is the second time in four months that the Ecuadorian Supreme Court has been dissolved, the first time [JURIST report] being because Gutierrez declared that the court was biased against him [BBC report]. Both the US and the UN have expressed concern over the government's interference with the operation of the Court. Reuters has more. From Quito, the Diaro Hoy newspaper has the latest developments in Spanish.
6:32 PM ET - AP is reporting that Gutierrez has now called off the state of emergency in Quito in another televised address.
[JURIST] American and British officials have rejected assertions made by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the US and UK governments share blame with the UN for oil scandals involving Saddam Hussein's regime. Speaking in New York late this week [Reuters report] Annan said that most of the money illegally pocketed by Hussein came from smuggling operations outside of the oil-for-food program [JURIST new archive] and implied that the US and British governments may have turned a blind eye because of their alliances with Turkey and Jordan, two countries Annan claims were involved. Annan's comments come after US prosecutors charged three people [JURIST report] Thursday with an elaborate scheme to pay Hussein's regime millions in kickbacks out of oil-for-food funds meant to purchase relief supplies for Iraqis. AFP has more.
[JURIST] Records released Friday by the Florida Department of Children and Families [official website] pursuant to a Thursday court order [JURIST report] revealed no evidence that Terri Schiavo [Wikipedia profile] had been abused or exploited by either her husband Micheal Schiavo or her parents Robert and Mary Schindler. The agency investigated 89 complaints from as early as 2001 alleging that Schiavo was mistreated for financial gain by her husband and parents. Allegations that the Schindlers sold videos of Schiavo for profit and that Micheal Schiavo was misusing funds for his wife's rehabilitation were not supported by the report. Investigators' notes revealed that they often found her well cared-for when they visited her hospice. Neither the parents not Micheal Schiavo have yet to comment on the released documents. JURIST has background on the Schiavo case . AP has more details on the DCF documents.
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