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International brief ~ Zimbabwe opposition challenges election in court

[JURIST] Topping Tuesday's international brief, leaders from the Zimbabwean opposition party Movement for Democratic Change [official website] have filed the first of nearly a dozen legal challenges to the validity of the March 31 elections in Zimbabwe [government website]. MDC Legal Affairs Minister David Coltart [party profile] said that the first legal challenge had been filed Tuesday before the election court alleging specific government fraud in the city of Bulawayo. Coltart also said that 10 more specific cases would be filed Friday, one for each of Zimbabwe's 10 electoral provinces. The electoral court has six months to rule on the challenges under Zimbabwean electoral law. MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai [party profile] had previously said that the MDC would not be taking legal action. Coltart and MDC Party spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi [party profile] said they had convinced Tsvangirai to file the challenges in order to prove to the world that the election was stolen, even though MDC maintains that the Zimbabwean judiciary is more firmly under President Robert Mugabe's control than it was in 2000 and 2002 when MDC previously challenged electoral results and lost. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Zimbabwe. Reuters has more.

In other international legal news ...

  • The European Commission [official website] Tuesday issued its report on the feasibility study relating to the admission of the Republic of Serbia & Montenegro [government website] to the European Union [official website]. Recent controversy over the cooperation of the Serbian government with the attempts of the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website] to capture and try alleged war criminal Nebojsa Pavkovic cast doubt on the likelihood of a favorable report, but EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official profile] said that the EC was pleased with the reforms already implemented by Serbia and encouraged the nation to continue its cooperation with the ICTY. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica [official profile] expressed his pleasure at the report, and said that Serbia was looking forward to gaining full membership in the EU. Read the official Serbian press release. Serbia's B92 has local coverage.

  • Following five voting rounds that produced an exact 17-17 tie, the General Assembly [official website] of the Organization of American States [official website] announced that the vote for the next Secretary-General of the regional body would be postponed until May 2. Voting was evenly divided between the two candidates: Chilean Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza [official profile in Spanish], and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Ernesto Derbez [official profile in Spanish]. Under the General Assembly's Rules of Procedure, the vote for Secretary-General may be postponed following repeated ties. The special election is being held to fill the post currently held by Acting Secretary General Luigi R. Einaudi [official profile] following the resignation of Secretary General Miguel Angel Rodríguez, who stepped down to face criminal charges of corruption stemming from his 1998 - 2002 term as president of Costa Rica. Read the OAS official press release.

  • The United Kingdom Home Office [government website] has confirmed that new applicants for UK passports will be required to submit their fingerprints for inclusion in the identification document. The UK is currently engaged in a debate about national ID cards, which require authorizing legislation, but as passports are issued by Royal Prerogative, no legislative approval is required. Fingerprint inclusion is the first of several changes the UK is making in the UK Passport Service [official website]. Starting later in 2005, all passports will include a microchip with a digital photograph of the bearer, in addition to the traditional hard copy photo. By the end of 2006, all new passport applicants will be required to conduct a face-to-face interview with a Home Office official. The Home Office confirmed that it plans to include 'biometric' data on all UK passports by the end of the decade. BBC News has local coverage.

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