[JURIST] A Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] minority report released Wednesday says that Bush administration UN ambassador nominee John Bolton planned to ask CIA Director George Tenet to help punish a government intelligence analyst who disagreed with him. The report by Democratic members of the committee claims that Bolton pushed for months to have the analyst reprimanded, but Bolton testified under oath at his confirmation hearing last month that he had made no effort to have the man disciplined. Bolton has been criticized for his harsh views of the UN as an institution; allegations [JURIST report] were also made at the April hearings that Bolton was a "serial abuser" of lower-level officials who challenged his views. GOP Foreign Relations Committee chair Senator Richard Lugar [official website] says that that new report reveals there was no evidence to support the most serious charge, that Bolton sought to manipulate intelligence. Boltons nomination passed [JURIST report] committee last week without the customary endorsement, making him the third ambassador nominee in history with the dubious distinction. California Democrat Barbara Boxer [official website] sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday repeating a request for financial disclosure reports for a paid Bolton adviser, Matthew Freedman, who also maintains a roster of private consulting clients. Freedman, refused to answer questions about his clients during an interview with the committee. The State Department said internal ethics officials had concluded Freedman's outside work violated no laws or regulations and there was no need to turn over the documents. AP has more.
[JURIST] The long-awaited debate over the fate of the judicial filibuster [Senate backgrounder] began Wednesday in the US Senate. Republican majority leader Senator Bill Frist [official website] opened the floor debate [statement transcript] and accused the Democrats of using the obstructive tactic as an attempt to kill, and defeat President Bushs federal judicial nominees. Republicans are opposed to the use of the procedural hurdle that allows Senators to block an up or down vote for judicial nominees by engaging in extended floor debate. A "super majority", 60 votes or more, is needed to invoke cloture [Senate backgrounder], or otherwise end the filibuster; Republicans want to reduce that to 51 as regards judicial nominees. The Senate is currently deliberating the nomination of Pricilla Owen [DOJ profile], a Texas Supreme Court justice first nominated to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals four years ago. Republicans have stated that if Owens nomination is blocked again, they will move to abolish the filibuster. It is unclear whether they have the votes to prevail. Senate Democrats led by minority leader Senator Harry Reid contend that the century-old tool promotes compromise and moderation [Reid floor statement]. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Following up on a story previously reported on JURIST's Paper Chase, a jury in West Palm Beach Florida has ordered investment giant Morgan Stanley to pay $850 million in punitive damages to billionaire investor Ronald Perelman [Forbes profile]. On Monday, the jury ordered Morgan Stanley to pay Perelman $604 million in actual damages for misrepresenting a clients financial status to Perelman in the 1998 sale of his controlling stake in Coleman Co. to Sunbeam Corporation. A press release on the companys website states it will appeal and that the damages award "is legally deficient and a byproduct of the unprecedented and highly prejudicial rulings imposed by the judge throughout the trial". Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's international brief, Spain [government website in Spanish] officially ratified the EU Constitution [official website] today after the Spanish Senate [government website] voted 225 - 6 to approve the document. Spain held a non-binding referendum [JURIST report] in February that demostrated strong popular support for the proposed Europe-wide constitution. Spain's lower house of parliament, El Congreso de los Diputados [government website] approved the Constitution 28 April. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of the EU Constitution [JURIST news archive]. The International Herald Tribune has more.
In other international legal news ...
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] spoke on French radio Wednesday, warning French voters that a no-vote in the EU Constitution [official website] referendum scheduled for 29 May would "be very bad news for the economy in France." Barroso added that a strong EU needed a strong France at its heart. Barroso is unpopular in France, as many voters feel his push to make the EU more competitive threatens France's large welfare state. French President Jacques Chirac [official profile] reportedly intervened personally in March to keep Barroso from launching a television yes-vote campaign, arguing that it would do more harm than good. Most polls in France put the no-vote slightly ahead. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of the EU Constitution [JURIST news archive]. BBC News has more.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization [official website] has agreed to convene a board of Alliance military authorities to offer advice to the African Union [official website] on the deployment of military forces in a peacekeeping role in the Darfur region of Sudan [government website]. The AU requested advice [NATO report] from NATO on 26 April and met Tuesday to consider what level of involvement that traditionally European-focused regional organization would take. NATO officials did not comment on whether their involvement would extend to the logistical support requested by the AU. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan and NATO [JURIST news archives]. Read the official NATO news report. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.
Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel assured US officials Wednesday that anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles [Wikipedia profile] would not be turned over to Cuba [government website] if he was extradited to Venezuela [government website]. Carriles is wanted in both Cuba and Venezuela for his suspected involvement in a 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people. US officials had previously stated that the US government has a policy of not extraditing anyone that may be turned over to the Cuban government following their removal from the United States. Rangel called these statements "excuses and subterfuge" and urged US officials to return Carriles to Venezuela, where he is a citizen. Carriles is currently being held pending the outcome of his appeal for asylum. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Cuba and Venezuela [JURIST news archives]. Venezuela's El Nacional has local coverage in Spanish.
[JURIST] The main opposition parties in Ivory Coast signed a deal Wednesday in Paris ahead of the general elections to be held later this year. The prospective alliance would see a distribution of power between the opposition groups if current President Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] is defeated. The alliance initially started as a reaction to the civil war [overview] that divided Ivory Coast beginning in September of 2002. AFP has more.
[JURIST] Kuwait will begin cracking down on illegal weapon possession after an amnesty period ends on Thursday. In February, Kuwait passed a law [Ain Al Yaqeen overview] giving police broad powers to search for unlicensed weapons. The law allows the police to more easily obtain search warrants to look for weapons in private residences and allows women officers to search female living quarters that male officers must avoid under Islamic law. About 3,700 weapons have been turned over so far. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] has obtained records [ACLU press release] from the US Army describing mock executions [Los Angeles Times report] being used against Iraqi detainees, which are forbidden. An army captain ordered a detainee to dig his own grave then ordered troops to pretend to shoot him. In a similar incident, a soldier fired a gun over a detainee's head. In all, over 2,600 pages of testimony, documentation, and disciplinary records were released. AP has more.
[JURIST] A Palestinian court has thrown out election result in parts of Rafah [map], a town in the Gaza Strip where Hamas [Wikipedia backgrounder] had made a strong showing. Supporters of the Fatah [Wikipedia backgrounder] movement, led by President Mahmoud Abbas [Wikipedia profile], praised the court's decision to cancel the results in 51 of the 141 polling stations after finding irregularities in ballot boxes and voter registration lists. Hamas had won 12 Rafah council seats to just 3 Fatah seats. Leaders of Hamas have downplayed the ruling and said they expect to do even better in the as yet unscheduled re-vote. Aljazeera has more.
[JURIST] Cambodia's National Assembly [official website] came to an agreement with the US government Wednesday regarding the nonsurrender of current or former US government officials and employees to the International Criminal Court [official website]. The US Embassy in Phnom Penh [official website] praised the decision and reaffirmed its commitment to pursue justice for crime committed by its citizens. The measure is the latest instance of the controversial Article 98 [Department of State overview] agreements that the US has negotiated with many countries around the world. Kyodo News has more.
[JURIST] British Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] unveiled a new plan Tuesday to introduce national ID cards [official background] for the first time since World War II. The proposed ID cards, which would carry biometric details such as fingerprints or iris scans, have come under criticism [press release] from human rights group Liberty [advocacy website]. Blair cited the need for the cards [official release] to combat fraud and confront illegal immigration. AP has more.
[JURIST] Seeking to curb piracy, China has announced new rules to take effect later this month that will make ISPs liable if they host content that violates copyright. ISPs that don't remove illegal content face fines [China Daily report] of up to $12,000. The rules come in response to a call from President Bush for China to abide by international trade rules [Reuters report]. The US Supreme Court is currently deciding [MGM v. Grokster, background] if P2P file-sharing companies are liable for infringing use by third parties. AFP has more.
[JURIST] A Spanish judge indicted 13 suspected Islamic militants Wednesday on charges of forming terror cells in the al Qaeda network. The men, mostly Moroccan, were arrested in raids last October when Spanish police claim to have stopped the suspects from executing a suicide attack on the National Court [court overview]. The two terror cells they created worked out of Morocco and Madrid, the latter believed to be partly responsible for the March 11, 2004 train bombings [JURIST news archive, BBC timeline] in Madrid. AP has more.
[JURIST] After almost a decade of delays, Russia and Estonia formally agreed [Estonian Foreign Ministry press release] upon a deal fixing borders between the two countries Wednesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet signed two treaties, one for the land border and one for the maritime border. Russia previously settled a similar dispute [Pravda report] with Lithuania in 2003, and another agreement with Latvia [RIAN report] is still pending. Russia occupied the three countries following World War II. AFP has more.
[JURIST] In the wake of conflicting reports, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] on Wednesday urged an independant probe of reports of killings by Uzbekistan security forces. Witnesses say over 500 demonstrators were killed [JURIST report] Friday when government troops fired into crowds in the eastern Uzebek city of Andijan. The government places the figure at 169 [JURIST report] and claims most of the victims are themselves "bandits," responsible for the deaths of civilians or security officials during the violence. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Senate Republicans picked Priscilla Owen [DOJ profile] and Janice Rogers Brown [court profile] in the battle with Democrats over nominations to the federal judiciary. Owen is set to be renominated [White House reaction to earlier blocked nomination] Wednesday with a test vote early next week. Aides to Senator Bill Frist [official website] say that if the vote is unsuccessful Frist plans to call a vote on banning judicial filibusters [JURIST news archive], the so-called "nuclear option." A small group of moderate senators is working behind the scenes to come to an agreement with both sides to avoid any changes to the filibuster. AP has more.
[JURIST] With a close vote already expected in France [JURIST report], a UK group has released a poll showing more than half of British voters oppose the European Constitution [JURIST news archive]. Vote No [advocacy website] complains that the new constitution [backgrounder], written following the admittance of 10 new members into the EU, shifts too much power away from individual countries. The new charter must be approved by all member nations to be adopted. The French vote is scheduled for May 29. No date has been announced for the UK poll yet. BBC News has more.
[JURIST] The days-long verdict reading [JURIST report] in the trial [defense website] of Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky [Wikipedia profile] will continue at least into Thursday and perhaps longer. The court adjourned Wednesday after four hours, prompting defense lawyers to accuse the government of stalling in order to try and downplay a politically-charged case [Reuters report]. But defense lawyers appear to have won their statute of limitations battle on another charge, auction rigging, since it hasn't yet been mentioned in the reading. The omission of this charge could be a sign of a lighter sentence. AP has more.
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