November 2006 Archives


FEC seeks to reduce penalties for self-reporting campaign finance violators
Gabriel Haboubi on November 30, 2006 8:30 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Federal Election Commission [official website] is asking for public approval of new proposed policies [press release], one of which would reduce penalties for politicians and contributors who voluntarily report their own potential violations of campaign finance laws. The draft proposal for sua sponte submissions [text, PDF] has two separate recommendations for penalties:

The first recommendation is to reduce penalties by up to 50 percent (depending on the individual facts of the case) for respondents who alert the FEC before the violation had been or was about to be discovered by any outside party, amends reports or disclosures to correct past errors, returns any ill gotten funds, immediately ceases the violation upon discovery, and fully cooperates with the FEC. If the respondent meets the previous criteria but also hires independent experts to conduct a thorough review, provides the FEC all documentation of the expert’s audit, and take appropriate corrective actions such as disciplinary action against those responsible, then penalties may be reduced up to 75 percent.

The second recommendation would set the reduction at 50 percent, and use the above mitigating factors to lower the penalty down to 25 percent of damages, or use other aggravating factors to raise the damages up to a 75 percent discount, all depending on the situation. The FEC will be seeking public comment until January 29th.

Other policy proposals forwarded by the FEC include setting up an 8-month pilot program to allow hearings [policy draft, PDF] for those under investigation before the commission determines if there is enough probable cause to prosecute. While some argue this is fairer than the current system, which only allows parties to make their case using legal briefs, others say that the commission is already notoriously slow in resolving complaints, and the hearings will only further weaken the enforcement process. AP has more.






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Thirty charged in Mumbai train bombings probe
Gabriel Haboubi on November 30, 2006 7:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Authorities in India [JURIST news archive] have charged 30 people for their connections to the July 11 Mumbai train bombings [JURIST news archive] which left 185 dead and approximately 700 injured. The suspects, mostly Muslims, include 15 Pakistanis and 17 Indians. Only 13 of the suspects, all Indian, were present in court, while the others were charged in absentia. Two of those charged in absentia are known to be dead, one having died in the blasts, the other killed by police later. All in all, the court in Mumbai - formerly Bombay - received over 10,000 pages of charges from Mumbai police [official website], covering conspiracy, illegal possession of arms and explosives, aiding terrorist acts, and waging war against the state.

Alleged attack mastermind Azam Cheema [official wanted poster] is one of the named Pakistani suspects, and is believed to be the head of Pakistan based Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba [FAS backgrounder]. While Lashkar-e-Taiba is officially banned in Pakistan, the US, India, and other nations have claimed that Pakistan is allowing the group to operate under other names, and India has blamed Pakistan for the blasts, claiming links between the blasts, the militant group, and Pakistan’s spy agency. India and Pakistan’s peace talks stalled during the public outcry after the attacks, however has recently resumed. BBC News has more. AFP has more.






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Liberia truth commission denies work suspended due to lack of funds
Jeannie Shawl on November 30, 2006 4:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [UN Mission in Liberia news release, PDF] has denied reports that it has shut down operations due to lack of funding [JURIST report], with a spokesperson telling the Voice of America Thursday that a suspension of field research was previously scheduled. Though TRC spokeswoman Juliane Westphal acknowledged that lack of adequate funding is a problem, she said that the decision to recall workers is part of a plan to evaluate procedures. After any revisions are made, TRC researchers will resume taking statements from witnesses to crimes that occurred during Liberia's 14-year civil war [Globalsecurity.org backgrounder]. VOA has more.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission formally began its work [JURIST report] in June after being inaugurated [JURIST report] in February. TRC workers began taking witness statements [JURIST report] in October, but last week a UN rights expert urged the TRC to accelerate its efforts [JURIST report]. According to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile], the commission is intended to heal the war-torn country and uncover the truth about the civil war. It has nonetheless been criticized by human rights groups [JURIST report] who advocate the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia that would have prosecutorial powers.






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ICTY appeals panel sentences Sarajevo siege general to life in prison
Jeannie Shawl on November 30, 2006 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] An appeals chamber at the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia [official website] Thursday sentenced a former Bosnian Serb Army general to life imprisonment [judgment; summary; press release] for leading troops in attacks against civilians during the 1992-1994 siege of Sarajevo [BBC backgrounder]. Stanislav Galic [ICTY case backgrounder; case summary] was convicted [judgment] in 2003 on five crimes against humanity and war crimes charges and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The appeals chamber dismissed all of Galic's arguments, but affirmed the prosecution's appeal of the sentence, extending the term to life in prison, marking the first time the appeals chamber has handed down the maximum sentence.

In its ruling, the appeals panel said that "terrorisation of the civilian population was the primary purpose of the campaign of sniping and shelling and that Galic, who held the position of commander of the Bosnian Serb Army Sarajevo-Romanija Corps (SRK), had the intent to spread terror among the civilian population." AP has more. The UN News Service has additional coverage.






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UN rights council to hold special session on Darfur
Jeannie Shawl on November 30, 2006 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council [official website] agreed Thursday to hold a special session to look into human rights abuses committed in the Darfur region [JURIST news archive] of Sudan. The rights body, established [JURIST report] earlier this year to replace the beleaguered Human Rights Commission, has so far focused mostly on the conflict in the Middle East, holding two special sessions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a statement [text] delivered to the HRC Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Council to avoid "political maneuvering" [JURIST report] and stressed that the atrocities in Darfur deserve the group's attention.

Earlier this week, the HRC rejected a measure that would have called on the Sudanese government to try individuals charged with killing, raping and injuring civilians in Darfur. Reuters has more.






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Serb war crimes defendant refusing medical attention for hunger strike
Jaime Jansen on November 30, 2006 1:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Serb nationalist war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder], who has been on hunger strike [JURIST report] for close to three weeks, has forbidden staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to force feed him, provide medical treatment or resuscitate him should it become necessary, the tribunal said Thursday. Seselj, who has been refusing food for 21 days, was transferred to a Dutch prison hospital [JURIST report] adjoining the tribunal's detention center [ICTY backgrounder] at Scheveningen near The Hague Wednesday so that his medical condition could be more closely monitored. According to an ICTY press release:

Seselj, who continues to drink water, has been declining food and medical care since 11 November 2006. Nonetheless, he has throughout had contact with a Dutch doctor who works with inmates at the Tribunal's Detention Unit. However, Seselj has maintained that he will not be treated by this or any other doctor of Dutch nationality.

In response to his refusal to allow Dutch doctors to assess his medical condition the Tribunal has sought to identify with Seselj a doctor or doctors whom are agreeable to him. Seselj advised the Tribunal that he would agree to doctors from a number of countries, including France and Serbia. Today, Seselj refused to meet with a French doctor who had traveled to the Dutch prison hospital specifically to assess his medical condition. While taking this measure, the Tribunal has also requested both Seselj and those he identifies as his associates to name a Serb physician or team of doctors that is acceptable to him. To date, Seselj has not provided any name despite the Tribunal's willingness to accommodate his request for medical assistance of his choosing, in accordance with Rule 31 of the Tribunal's Rules of Detention. ...

The reasons provided by Seselj for his refusal to accept food have been various and changing. A number of requests he has made in pre-trial proceedings have been addressed by the Tribunal's Registry including unmonitored visits by his wife, the facilities to be made available for the preparation of his defence and recognition of his legal associates. But he has also made other less publicized demands, such as that the Tribunal approach a foreign state in order to unfreeze assets he holds in overseas bank accounts.

Faced with a shifting group of demands, the Tribunal has sought from the outset to protect Seselj's human rights. It has entered into extensive dialogue with him and endeavoured to impress upon him that the proper forum for many of his complaints is before the court where they will be given a fair and impartial hearing according to the highest standards of international law. Contrary to misinformation in some media where it is alleged that Seselj is isolated in a Dutch prison hospital, the situation is that Seselj enjoys frequent contact with the hospital and the Detention Unit staff, as well as unimpeded 24-hour access to a telephone.

The Tribunal is committed to securing all rights guaranteed to Seselj by the Tribunal's Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence. However, Seselj has chosen to persist with a course of action that has seriously jeopardized his health and attempts to impede the Tribunal in its exercise of its duty of care.
In a November 24 document, Seselj asked that tribunal staff refrain from taking life-saving measures, including transferring him to a Dutch hospital or performing an autopsy. ICTY spokesperson Refik Hodzic acknowledged [ICTY press conference summary] Wednesday that hospital staff will perform a "medical intervention" if there is a "medical necessity" to save Seselj's life. Seselj's ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian] said Thursday that Seselj was moved against his will [press release] and that he had been initially prevented from contacting his defense team.

When Seselj went on hunger strike in early November, he demanded [statement, DOC] that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers and allow him to conduct his defense to nine war crimes charges [indictment, PDF]. Since then, the court stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] after he failed to appear in court. Seselj's lawyers said Wednesday that their client had decided to continue boycotting his trial against their advice [JURIST report]. AP has more.





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Video game industry wins two more court victories against violence laws
David Shucosky on November 30, 2006 12:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The Entertainment Software Association [trade website], the trade group representing video game companies, won two more legal battles this week against laws aimed at restricting the sale of violent games to minors. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the 2005 ruling that the "Safe Games Illinois Act" was unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The appeals court agreed that the labeling requirements and restrictions on the sale of objectionable games to minors were overbroad and not narrowly tailored [opinion, PDF]. Under the original district court order in the case, Illinois also owes the ESA over $500,000 in legal fees - an amount which has not been paid [AP report]. A spokesman for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said the state "will comply with any court order" but didn't provide a timetable for payment or a reason for the delay. The ESA has gone to court to request a deadline for payment and is seeking an additional $7,800 in interest; a ruling on their motion is expected next month.

The US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana has meanwhile delivered a similar victory for the ESA, ordering a permanent injunction against a Louisiana law that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Judge James Brady made the ruling from the bench with no written opinion; in issuing a temporary injunction in August, he wrote "the evidence that was submitted to the legislature in connection with the bill that became the statute is sparse and could hardly be called in any sense reliable" [Ars Technica report]. Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry said "We did everything we could to defend the law, but, as the judge said, the law was practically unenforceable as written" [AP report]. Outspoken video game critic Jack Thompson had drafted the law, although he later feuded with Guidry [GamePolitics report] over the case and even accused Guidry of not adequately presenting the government's side. Thompson's conduct in a failed Florida lawsuit [JURIST report] to block release of the game Bully last month prompted the judge who presided over that case to file a complaint against Thompson with the Florida Bar [GamePolitics report].






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Kentucky judge orders public hearings on lethal injection methods
Jaime Jansen on November 30, 2006 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] A Kentucky judge on Wednesday ordered the state to hold public hearings on its lethal injection [DPIC backgrounder] protocol, which the state changed two years ago after two death row inmates challenged it as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Though the Kentucky Supreme Court [official website] last week upheld lethal injection as the state's method of execution [JURIST report], ruling that the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment "does not require a complete absence of pain" in the challenge [JURIST report] brought by inmates Thomas Bowling and Ralph Baze, Franklin County Circuit Judge Sam McNamara's Wednesday ruling refers to procedures the state must follow before implementing administrative changes. Kentucky altered both the mix of drugs used in lethal injections and the administration procedures in response to Bowling and Baze's lawsuit when the two inmates brought the action in 2004. Kentucky has not declared a moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST news archive], but McNamara's ruling may successfully halt executions pending resolution of the controversy surrounding the state's new lethal injection protocol.

Kentucky's lethal injection protocol, like several other states, requires a first drug to make the inmate unconscious, a second drug to paralyze the inmate, and a third drug to stop the inmate's heart. Several constitutional challenges [JURIST news archive] to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate feel excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. Inmates in Missouri and South Dakota have successfully challenged the lethal injections, while challenges in Florida and Texas [JURIST reports] have failed. Ohio recently executed its first inmate under a new lethal injection protocol [JURIST report] after a problematic execution last May prompted the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to review their methods. AP has more.






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US urges Serbia to increase efforts to capture war crimes fugitives
Katerina Ossenova on November 30, 2006 10:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina must arrest former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder; BBC profile] and his military commander Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive], both wanted on war crimes charges, in order to be further integrated into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website], US officials said Wednesday. The US State Department comments came after a two-day NATO summit [summit website] in Riga, Latvia and NATO's decision to invite [press release] Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to join the Partnership for Peace Program [official website]. A State Department spokesman warned that both nations can expect no further integration [press briefing transcript] into NATO, the European Union or other Euro-Atlantic organizations until Karadzic and Mladic are captured. Deputy State Department Spokesman Tom Casey said that while "both countries have turned over dozens of people indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal," they need "to do more to insure that the six remaining fugitives, which includes Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are apprehended as quickly as possible. And I do think it's pretty clear, if you look at what decisions have been made here, that further integration, not only into NATO but into some of the other Euro-Atlantic institutions, is going to be contingent on the full resolution of those cases."

Carla Del Ponte [official profile], chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website], has repeatedly criticized Serbia's lack of progress [JURIST report] in capturing Mladic and Karadzic and has discouraged [JURIST report] the European Union [official website] from resuming membership talks with Serbia. Mladic and Karadzic are wanted by the ICTY for alleged crimes committed during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, including organizing the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica [JURIST news archive]. VOA has more.






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Saddam rejects mass grave testimony by US forensic experts
Jaime Jansen on November 30, 2006 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] on Thursday rejected forensic evidence of mass graves presented by US experts in his genocide trial [JURIST news archive] for the "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq between 1987 and 1988. Hussein said that pictures of the graves are "irrelevant to the Anfal case" and that he "refute[s] all the testimonies submitted by the Americans" in the Anfal case, but expressed willingness to accept evidence offered by coalition countries other than the United States. Also on Thursday, Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa admitted testimony of Michael Trimble, an American forensics expert with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Trimble offered an account of his discovery of corpses of hundreds of Kurdish women and children in three mass graves [NYT report].

On Tuesday, Khalifa rejected an attempt by Hussein to bar testimony by American forensics expert Clyde Snow [JURIST report] after Hussein demanded a neutral witness from a country that was not involved in the 2003 Iraq invasion. Hussein was sentenced to death [JURIST report] earlier this month for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline]. An appeals panel is expected to rule [JURIST report] on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein's execution. The Anfal trial has now been adjourned until Monday. Xinhua has more.






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US says EU carbon emissions plan violates international aviation treaty
Katerina Ossenova on November 30, 2006 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Union [official website] may face a legal challenge from the US over plans to extend the EU's greenhouse gas emission allowance trading program to cover all international flights to and from Europe. The European Union's Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) [EU materials], based on European Commission Directive 2003/87/EC [text], began in October 2005 as the largest multi-country, multi-sector greenhouse gas emission trading scheme world-wide. Senior US officials quoted in British media reports Thursday said that the EU's plans to apply the ETS to civil aviation would be a violation of the 1947 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation [text] and has called for the ETS extension to be limited only to internal EU flights. The US fears that a more comprehensive scheme would cause financial hardship on airlines and airports by adding 35 euros to the cost of international flights. EU Environmental Commissioner Stavros Dimas [official website] has said that the plan is consistent with International Civil Aviation Organization [official website] rules and that it complies with the Chicago convention because it will be applied on a non-discriminatory basis to all airlines.

The plan to extend the ETS to civil aviation is due to be adopted by the full European Commission on December 12. The Guardian has more.






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UK court approves extradition of British terror suspects to US
Katerina Ossenova on November 30, 2006 9:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK High Court ruled [judgment] Thursday that two British citizens charged with terrorism offenses can be extradited to the US to face terrorism charges. Haroon Rashid Aswat [Wikipedia profile; JURIST report], wanted in the US on suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp, and Babar Ahmad [advocacy website; BBC profile; JURIST report], wanted for conspiring to kill Americans and running a website used to fund terrorists and recruit al Qaeda members, had argued that they should not be extradited to the US because they would be mistreated or tried as enemy combatants. The extraditions were approved only after the US offered assurances that it would not seek the death penalty, try the suspects before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants. Lord Justice John Laws dismissed the appeal and held that possible mistreatment by the US "would require proof of a quality entirely lacking here" and that the US is a country" in which the United Kingdom has for many years reposed the confidence not only of general good relations, but also of successive bilateral treaties consistently honoured."

Aswat was arrested in August 2005 [JURIST report] by Zambian police and returned to the UK [JURIST report] in connection with the July 7 London bombing attacks [JURIST news archive]. He was later arrested under a US warrant on the suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon five years ago. Ahmad was indicted in the US [arrest warrant and criminal complaint, PDF] in October 2004. Both extradition cases were heard under a "fast track" extradition procedure under the UK Extradition Act 2003 [text] that decreases the burden of proof on certain countries, including the United States. AP has more. BBC News has local coverage.






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China executes Christian sect leaders accused of killings
Holly Manges Jones on November 30, 2006 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese authorities have executed the founder of a Chinese Christian church [BBC backgrounder] and two of his close associates for allegedly ordering the murders of several members of a rival religious sect, a lawyer for Xu Shuangfu [CSW materials] said Wednesday. The death penalty apparently imposed last week on the former head of the Three Grades of Servants Church without any notification to his family or defense team is part of a crackdown by the government of China [JURIST news archive] on underground religious organizations that authorities label as cults. Making the sects illegal prohibits them from recruiting members or raising money, so the churches go underground to worship. Xu's conviction and July 2006 sentencing [China Aid report] stemmed from the 2002 murders of members of the Eastern Lightning Church, which attempted to steal followers away from the Three Grades of Servants Church. Christian groups say that 15 members of the Three Grades Church have been executed by Chinese authorities so far.

Xu's family does not claim that the murders never happened, but contends that his trial was wrought with flaws [Xu defense statement] and included no physical evidence linking Xu to the deaths. Prosecutors instead relied on confessions of fellow church members, which Xu's lawyer says were garnered by torture. Earlier this year, the Falun Gong spiritual group [Wikipedia backgrounder], also banned by the Chinese government, alleged [JURIST report] that thousands of its followers were being held in a Chinese "concentration camp" to be killed for organ-harvesting. Thursday's New York Times has more.






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South Africa deputy president approves civil unions bill
Holly Manges Jones on November 30, 2006 8:10 AM ET

[JURIST] South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka [BBC profile] Thursday approved the country's Civil Unions Bill [JURIST report], making South Africa [JURIST news archive] the first African nation to recognize same-sex unions [JURIST news archive]. Mlambo-Ngcuka signed the measure into law on behalf of President Thabo Mbeki [official profile] who is at a conference in Nigeria. Both houses of the South African parliament passed [JURIST report] the measure this month. The law, without specific reference to heterosexual or same-sex couples, recognizes the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It also includes an opt-out clause, which allows officiants to refuse to perform a same-sex ceremony if it conflicts with his or her "conscience, religion and belief."

The government drafted the new law in response to an October 2005 South African Constitutional Court judgment [summary; JURIST report] that the 1961 Marriage Act [1997 extension text, PDF], effectively precluding same-sex marriages, violates the South African Constitution [text]. The court gave the government until December 1, 2006 to draft the new legislation. SAPA has more.






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Mexico appeals court says ex-president can be charged with genocide
Holly Manges Jones on November 30, 2006 7:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A Mexican appeals court ruled Wednesday that a genocide trial against former Mexican President Luis Echeverria [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] may proceed as long as prosecutors file formal charges against him before Friday, when the 30-year statute of limitations ends. The court effectively reversed previous rulings [JURIST report] that the statute of limitations had already expired because Echeverria ended his role as the interior minister of Mexico [JURIST news archive] in 1969. Judges instead adopted the prosecution's argument [JURIST report] that the limitations period did not begin to run until December 1, 1976 when Echeverria left the presidency and therefore gave up his immunity against prosecution.

Echeverria is accused [JURIST report; Mexico AG report] of involvement in the murders and disappearances of more than 500 leftist dissidents during a period of time in the 1960s and 1970s called Mexico's "dirty war" [National Security Archive backgrounder]. Echeverria has denied all wrongdoing, including his alleged role in the October 1968 Tlatelolco massacre [backgrounder; BBC report] which left dozens of students dead. Current Mexican President Vicente Fox [official website; BBC profile], who leaves office on Friday, has focused on holding government officials responsible for committing human rights abuses during his administration. The New York Times has more.






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US prison population on the rise: DOJ report
Holly Manges Jones on November 30, 2006 7:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The population of individuals in US prisons rose by 2.7 percent in 2005, according to an annual report [DOJ materials] released Wednesday by the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics [official website]. The report indicates that over 7 million people were either in jail, on probation, or on parole [press release] by the end of last year, with 2.2 million of them in prison. The Justice Department statistics also show that the percentage of female prisoners is rising - the number of female inmates rose 2.6 percent in 2005 with the male population only increasing by 1.9 percent. Sentencing Project [advocacy website], an advocacy group that promotes criminal justice reform, has blamed the increase in women prisoners on harsh sentences handed down for nonviolent drug offenses.

The report also showed racial disparities among prisoners that are similar among men and women inmates. Among male prisoners ages 25-29, 8.1 percent of black men are in prison, while 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men are incarcerated. South Dakota accounted for the highest increase in inmate population with a rise of 11 percent, followed by Montana with 10.4 percent, and Kentucky with 7.9 percent. Georgia's prison population dropped the most with a decrease of 4.6 percent, followed by Maryland with a 2.4 percent drop, and Louisiana with a 2.3 percent decrease. AP has more.






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Hunger-striking Serb war crimes defendant hospitalized
Alexis Unkovic on November 29, 2006 7:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] decided Wednesday to move Serb nationalist war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] to a hospital unit adjoining its detention center [ICTY backgrounder] at Scheveningen near The Hague to monitor his medical condition. Seselj has been on hunger strike [JURIST report] for over two weeks, while demanding [statement, DOC] that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers and allow him to prepare his defense to nine war crimes charges [indictment, PDF] with lawyers of his choosing. An ICTY spokesperson earlier acknowledged [ICTY press conference summary] that Seselj's refusal to take food and medicine had "caused his health to deteriorate" and said that Seselj would receive medical attention if such treatment became necessary "to protect Seselj's health and life."

Earlier Wednesday, Seselj's lawyers told the ICTY [JURIST report] their client had decided to continue boycotting his trial, disregarding their advice. Seselj's lawyers also said their client had not spoken to them about his case since Monday when the ICTY stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] for failing to appear in court. AP has more.






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Canada parliament set to revive debate on same-sex marriage law
Robert DeVries on November 29, 2006 6:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Parliament [official website] will revisit the issue of same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] next week, with debate on a federal law permitting same-sex marriage [text] scheduled to begin in the House of Commons Wednesday. The ruling Conservative Party [official website] in June promised to reconsider the law [JURIST report], which was passed in 2005 [JURIST report] under the leadership of former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. MPs will be debating whether to reconsider the law and a vote could come later next week.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] said in June that he would allow a free vote, which permits members to vote according to their conscience rather than along party lines. Current projections show that most Canadian federal lawmakers support same-sex marriage [tracking website], and a January 2006 poll [PDF text] by Environics Research Group revealed that 66 percent of those surveyed did not want the matter of same-sex marriages brought back to Parliament. When the federal law passed in 2005, Canada became the fourth country after the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium to recognize same-sex marriage. Reuters has more.






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Federal judge orders FEMA to resume Katrina housing payments
Alexis Unkovic on November 29, 2006 6:07 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Richard J. Leon [official profile] ruled [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] in Washington, DC, Wednesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [official website] must reinstate certain housing payments for victims of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Leon granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction against the payments stoppage, maintaining that FEMA had failed to provide evacuees with adequate explanations for their denials of housing assistance and their means of appeal under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act [text]. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit on behalf of displaced hurricane evacuees alleging violations of their due process rights.

FEMA responded [press release] Wednesday by defending its policies and saying it will consult with the US Department of Homeland Security [official website] and US Department of Justice [official website] to determine a formal response to the district court's ruling. FEMA still faces several other suits [JURIST news archive] relating to its termination or withdrawal or housing benefits to Katrina victims. AP has more.






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US settles suit by Oregon lawyer wrongly accused in Madrid bombings
James M Yoch Jr on November 29, 2006 3:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The US government agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday in a settlement agreement [PDF text] with Brandon Mayfield, the attorney arrested [JURIST report] and detained for two weeks in May 2004 after the FBI mistakenly established that his fingerprints matched [JURIST report] those found on a bag containing detonators used in the 2004 Madrid terrorist train bombings [BBC backgrounder]. Mayfield, a Muslim convert, alleged that the FBI orchestrated his arrest because of his religious belief, though a 2006 DOJ Inspector General report [text] refuted those claims [press release]. After an investigation into his arrest and detainment, the Inspector General [official website], the DOJ's internal watchdog, cleared FBI agents involved in the incident of any wrongdoing and made several suggestions for improvement to the fingerprint identification process that have been implemented by the DOJ. The US also formally apologized [PDF text] to Mayfield per the agreement.

The settlement permits Mayfield to continue his lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.






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Halliburton subsidiary settles Kosovo fraud allegations
Brett Murphy on November 29, 2006 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) [corporate website] has settled fraud allegations [DOJ press release] under the False Claims Act [text], the US Justice Department said Wednesday, and has agreed to pay the US $8 million for allegedly overcharging the Army for logistical support it provided between 1999 and 2000. The DOJ alleged that KBR double-billed the military and delivered non-conforming goods to be used for the construction of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

In August, Eagle Global Logistics, a subcontractor of KBR, settled fraud allegations [JURIST report] under the False Claims Act for $4 million for allegedly inflating invoices on Iraq military cargo shipments. Last month, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website] released a report accusing KBR of violating Iraq reconstruction rules [JURIST report].






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EU agency laments ongoing racial, ethnic bias in Europe
James M Yoch Jr on November 29, 2006 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Significant racial and ethnic discrimination and violence persist in European Union countries, according to a report [PDF text; summary, PDF] released by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) [official website] Tuesday. According to the report, victimized groups include asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented migrants, Roma gypsies [ERRC backgrounder], Jews and Muslims. Despite identification of the problem, the EUMC detailed the difficulty in compiling data and exposing the extent of racial and ethnic bias due to lack of reporting by EU nations [EUMC press release]. Racial and ethnically motivated violence represents the most underreported type of discrimination with only Great Britain and Finland providing complete racial crime statistics, while five countries reported no crime numbers. Some countries, including France, have no statistics because they do not classify residents by race or ethnicity. The EUMC suspects substantial bias in education and housing, two sectors also lacking adequate reporting, caused by insufficient access to resources as well as active discrimination.

The EUMC speculates that the increasing migration of Middle Eastern Muslims into Europe caused a rise in discrimination figures; however, Roma and Jews are also identified as significantly vulnerable groups. The Washington Times has more.






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Arbour warns against 'impunity' for violations of Palestinian rights
Brett Murphy on November 29, 2006 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] told [transcript] the UN Human Rights Council [official website] Wednesday in the aftermath of a controversial trip [AFP report] to the Middle East that "the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is grave and worsening, within a general climate of impunity." She called on Israel to properly investigate 19 Palestinian civilian deaths [CNN report] caused by an Israeli attack on Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip on November 8, stating that its probes must remain "transparent, credible and independent." Arbour told the council that while Israel has a duty to protect its own citizens from Palestinian attacks, it must do so within the bounds of international human rights law.

Earlier this month the US vetoed [JURIST report] a UN resolution condemning the Beit Hanun attack after Israel admitted that it was a mistake [Haaretz report]. While visiting Gaza, Arbour condemned [JURIST report] ongoing violations of Palestinian rights in the region as "intolerable". AFP has more.






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Supreme Court hears arguments in global warming, bank regulation cases
James M Yoch Jr on November 29, 2006 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Massachusetts v. EPA [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-1120, a case where 12 states and several environmental groups are challenging an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] determination that it does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] to regulate the emission of "greenhouse gases," such as carbon dioxide, by automobiles. The petitioners argued that the unfettered emission of greenhouse gases causes irrevocable damage to the environment through the erosion of coastal land. Questions remain, however, whether the petitioners have sufficiently satisfied the burden of proving that the EPA's failure to regulate caused any harm. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito appeared most reluctant to accept the petitioners' arguments, noting that EPA regulation of automobiles would have little impact on the overall emission of greenhouse gases. Lawyers representing the EPA pointed to the substantial effect on the economy that regulation would cause. Additionally the federal government lawyers argued the Bush administration's position that the EPA would not restrict emissions even if it had the authority under the CAA because scientific evidence of the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming is too uncertain. Massachusetts v. EPA is the first case concerning global warming to come before the Supreme Court. AP has more.

Also on Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Watters v. Wachovia Bank N.A. [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-1342, a case asking whether the National Bank Act [text] and regulations promulgated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency [official website] pre-empt state laws regulating mortgage lending by subsidiaries of national banks. Chief Justice Roberts questioned whether pre-emption applies, suggesting that there is no inconsistency in state oversight of a bank subsidiary's financials. Justice Antonin Scalia expressed concern that ruling for Wachovia would eliminate important state safeguards on subsidiary activity. All 50 states are united in their position against federal pre-emption. AP has more.






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Annan urges UN rights body to avoid politics, focus more on Darfur
Holly Manges Jones on November 29, 2006 12:24 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] Wednesday urged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] to avoid the "political maneuvering" that plagued the rights body's predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission [official website], telling the 47 member states that their role was to combat human rights violations even if regional allies were opposed to those efforts. In a statement [text] delivered on Annan's behalf by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour during the HRC's third session, Annan criticized the council for focusing too much on the Arab-Israeli conflict, pointing out that the atrocities in the Darfur [JURIST news archive] region of Sudan also deserve the group's attention. Annan said:

If this Council is to fulfill its vocation, and take its place as one of the paramount bodies of the United Nations, giving human rights a priority on a par with that accorded to peace and security and to development, its work must be marked by a strong sense of purpose – one in which states from all regions come together to promote the vision contained in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

That will only happen if the Council's members are willing and able to build coalitions based on principle, and on a determination to uphold human rights worldwide. Do not let yourselves be split along the fault line between north and south – between developed and developing countries – as your colleagues have done in some other parts of the system, with results inimical to progress. States that are truly determined to uphold human rights must be prepared to take action even when that means, as it sometimes will, giving offense to other states within their own region.
Reuters has more. The UN News Service has additional coverage.

Annan's statement follows Tuesday's rejection by the HRC of a measure proposed by the European Union and Canada that would have called on the Sudanese government to try individuals charged with killing, raping and injuring civilians in Darfur. After a 22-20 vote against the measure, the rights body voted 25-11 to approve a proposal [UN News report; press release] by an African consortium of nations calling on all warring groups to put an end to abuses and violations of human rights there. AP has more.





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South Africa civil unions bill awaiting Mbeki signature
Holly Manges Jones on November 29, 2006 11:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The South African National Council of Provinces [official website] has approved the Civil Unions Bill [JURIST report], legislation that would make South Africa [JURIST news archive] the first African nation to recognize same-sex unions [JURIST news archive] if President Thabo Mbeki [official profile] approves the measure. The lower house of the nation's parliament approved [JURIST report] the bill earlier this month in a 230-41 vote. While religious leaders inside the nation and elsewhere in Africa oppose the bill, calling it motivated by "foreign influence," gay rights groups have voiced their approval of the measure. The bill, without specific reference to heterosexual or same-sex couples, recognizes the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It also includes an opt-out clause, which allows officiants to refuse to perform a same-sex ceremony if it conflicts with his or her "conscience, religion and belief."

The government drafted the new law in response to an October 2005 South African Constitutional Court judgment [summary; JURIST report] that the 1961 Marriage Act [1997 extension text, PDF], effectively precluding same-sex marriages, violates the South African Constitution [text]. The court gave the government until December 1, 2006 to draft the new legislation. PinkNews has more.






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Bolivia president signs land redistribution bill favoring poor
Holly Manges Jones on November 29, 2006 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] signed a land redistribution bill Tuesday that he hopes will allow his government to give 77,000 square miles of unproductive land to the country's poor. The president signed the bill amidst shouts of approval from more than 3,000 Indian supporters who may gain land from the new measure, which is part of Morales' plan to put more power in the hands of Bolivia's indigenous majority [JURIST report]. Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia [JURIST news archive], has already given 8,500 square miles of land to farmers this year. Though it is unclear how the new law will take effect, the government will probably begin by determining what constitutes unproductive land.

The measure passed unanimously 15-0 in Bolivia's Senate [official website, in Spanish] Tuesday, though 27 conservative lawmakers did not show up after walking out last week in an attempt to block the bill. Morales' Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) [party website, in Spanish; Wikipedia backgrounder] party currently holds 12 seats in the Senate. One senator from the opposition party Podemos [party website] along with assistants of two senators from minor opposition parties voted for the measure as well. Fourteen seats constitute a quorum and it is unclear whether the assistants' votes were legal. Morales is also currently facing challenges [JURIST report] following a move to give Morales' leftist party more power [JURIST report] in the special assembly currently rewriting the country's constitution. AP has more.






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Serb nationalist persists in war crimes trial boycott despite lawyers' urgings
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 10:20 AM ET

[JURIST] A Serbian war crimes suspect will continue boycotting his war crimes trial, despite the urgings of his court-appointed lawyers, who have not had contact with him since Monday. Lawyers for Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] that their client has refused to speak with them about his case since Monday, when the ICTY stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] after he failed to appear in court. Seselj, who has been on hunger strike [JURIST report] for over two weeks, also skipped a pre-trial hearing [JURIST report] last week. An ICTY appeals panel ruled in October that Seselj could represent himself [JURIST report] during trial, but warned that future courtroom antics would not be tolerated. During a pre-trial hearing earlier this month, Seselj was removed from the courtroom [JURIST report] for disrupting proceedings whenever the court-appointed lawyers attempted to speak.

Seselj was indicted by the ICTY in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges, five of which were dropped [JURIST report] by the ICTY earlier this month. AP has more.






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German defendants agree to $74M settlement in Mannesmann corruption case
Holly Manges Jones on November 29, 2006 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of six German defendants accused of breaching their fiduciary duties during the takeover of telecom giant Mannesmann [corporate website] came to an end Wednesday, with the defendants agreeing to pay substantial financial settlements in exchange for no criminal charges on their records. The defendants, including Deutsche Bank [corporate website] chief executive Josef Ackermann [Wikipedia profile], former Mannesmann executives, and labor leaders, were accused of illegally approving bonuses totaling 57 million euros ($74 million) for former executives when Vodafone [corporate website] assumed Mannesmann in 2000. The six men were acquitted [JURIST report] once before in 2004 when the court ruled that the approval of the bonus payments was not a criminal offense, but the German Federal Supreme Court [official website, in German] ordered the case to be retried in 2005.

Duesseldorf trial judge Stefan Drees approved the settlement reached last week, which mandates the six defendants to personally pay a total of 5.8 million euros ($7.5 million). A substantial portion of the money will be forwarded to charities with the remainder of the sum going to state coffers. AFP has more.






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El-Masri asks appeals court to reinstate CIA extraordinary rendition case
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for German national Khalid el-Masri [JURIST news archive; ACLU case materials] argued Wednesday before the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that his civil case against the CIA for his alleged 2003 extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] from Macedonia and his subsequent detention in Afghanistan should be reinstated [ACLU press release; ACLU press conference recorded video]. A federal judge in May dismissed the lawsuit [order, PDF; JURIST report] on the grounds that it would reveal state secrets. El-Masri's ACLU attorneys argued that details of el-Masri's allegations and of a subsequent CIA investigation are already public knowledge, and that without a trial, the CIA will escape punishment for clearly illegal conduct. El-Masri claims the CIA held him at a secret Afghanistan prison for five months, subjecting him to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation, and eventually released him in Albania in 2004 without charge.

In October, el-Masri testified before a Spanish judge [JURIST report] as part of a Spanish investigation [JURIST report] into whether the CIA used Spanish airports to transport el-Masri to countries where they could legally torture him. In June, a German investigator concluded that no evidence had surfaced to disprove el-Masri's story [JURIST report]. The New York Times has more.






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Saddam trial lawyer arrested for breaching court conduct rules
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive] ejected a defense lawyer from the courtroom Wednesday and ordered a day-long detention after the lawyer repeatedly addressed a prosecutor as "brother." Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa had previously warned Badih Aref, lawyer for former intelligence director Farhan al-Jubouri [TrialWatch profile], to respect courtroom formalities, and found Aref guilty of "violating professional conduct" rules. Last month, Aref boycotted proceedings after some 1,000 pages of his defense documents were stolen [JURIST report] from the lawyer's lounge in the Iraq Supreme Court building.

On Tuesday, Hussein sought to bar testimony [JURIST report] of an American forensic scientist during proceedings at his genocide trial, demanding a neutral witness from a country that was not involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Tuesday also saw a group of UN human rights experts urging officials not to execute Hussein [JURIST report] due to procedural and substantive flaws surrounding his conviction in his first trial. Hussein was sentenced to death [JURIST report] earlier this month for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline]. An appeals panel is expected to rule [JURIST report] on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein is executed. AFP has more.






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Federal judge finds insurance may cover Katrina damage
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 8:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Flood damage caused by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] may be covered under those insurance policies that do not specifically exclude from coverage damage caused by negligence, according to a federal court opinion [PDF text] handed down Monday. Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of the US Eastern District of New Orleans rejected a bid by insurers to dismiss plantiffs' actions in a set of consolidated cases [LAED materials]. Applying the Louisiana Civil Code, Duval ruled that insurance policies should be strictly construed against insurers after finding that much of the flood damage resulting from the hurricane was caused by levee failures. He concluded that the term policy "flood" refers only to naturally-caused flooding unless the policy specifically defines the term to cover flooding caused by man as well. He nonetheless noted that certain policies, including those written by State Farm and Hartford Insurance Company, categorically excluded all coverage for flood damage and should not be construed to cover any flood damage. The cases against the insurers will now go forward pending review of Duval's ruling by the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the first Katrina-related insurance lawsuit to go to trial, a federal judge in Mississippi ruled in August that Nationwide Insurance was not obligated to cover a policyholder's claims [JURIST report] for water damage caused by the hurricane. AP has more.






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Italy judge considers trial for US soldier in shooting of intelligence agent in Iraq
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 8:07 AM ET

[JURIST] An Italian judge held a hearing Wednesday to determine whether Mario Lozano, a US Army Specialist, should stand trial in connection with the death of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari [BBC profile] at an Iraqi checkpoint in March 2005. Italian prosecutors requested an indictment in June after investigators concluded their probe [JURIST reports] into Calipari's death, finding Lozano responsible for "voluntary homicide." If the court chooses to indict Lozano for manslaughter and attempted double homicide, as prosecutors want, Lozano will almost certainly decline to comply and will be tried in absentia. Lozano's lawyer described the incident as a "tragic accident."

Calipari was shot to death in 2005 while driving to the Baghdad airport after securing the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi kidnappers. A second Italian agent, Andrea Carpani, was also wounded in the shooting by US soldiers that perceived the car as insurgents speeding through a security checkpoint. US and Italian officials have failed to agree [JURIST report] on details surrounding Calipari's death. A US investigation [JURIST report] into the incident cleared US soldiers of any wrongdoing but an initial Italian probe [JURIST report], while also concluding that the killing was accidental, found that there were serious miscommunications among US officials in Iraq, and confusion about the rules of engagement for checkpoints. Reuters has more.






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Federal judge finds parts of terrorist designation order unconstitutional
Joshua Pantesco on November 29, 2006 7:36 AM ET

[JURIST] A US district judge has declared unconstitutional [CCR press release] portions of a 2001 presidential executive order that allowed President Bush "unfettered discretion" to designate organizations as terrorist organizations. In a decision [PDF text] released Tuesday, Judge Audrey Collins ruled that Executive Order 13224 [PDF text; DOS backgrounder], signed twelve days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, was unconstitutionally vague as it gave the president "unfettered discretion" to effectively "blacklist" terror groups without applying objective criteria in making the designation. Collins said that portions of the order violated the petitioners' First Amendment rights in that it "imposed penalties for mere association" with a designated group, and because several operative terms in the order are so vague as to give the president nearly unlimited power to declare organizations illegal.

The government did not defend the constitutionality of the executive order, but instead attacked the plaintiffs' standing to bring the constitutional challenge, as the organizations they were penalized for associating with, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), were designated as terrorist organizations by the secretary of state and not the president. Collins rejected that argument, writing:

this attempt to challenge Plaintiffs' standing fails to meet Plaintiffs' argument, which is that they may be subject to designation under the President's authority for any reason, including for associating with the PKK and the LTTE, for associating with anyone listed in the Annex, or for no reason. Because the President has used his designation authority in the past, and because there is no apparent limit on his ability to continue to do so, Plaintiffs have standing to bring their constitutional challenge....
Collins ruled that the government cannot block the plaintiffs' assets under the executive order, which was authorized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) [PDF text], but did not grant a nationwide injunction. In another controversial ruling in 2004, Collins declared part of the Patriot Act unconstitutional [JURIST report] as impermissibly vague. AP has more.





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Virginia court says lesbian child custody dispute governed by Vermont law
Bernard Hibbitts on November 28, 2006 8:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The Virginia Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Tuesday that Virginia state courts had a constitutional obligation to defer to the rulings of Vermont courts in a child custody dispute involving two lesbian partners who had entered into a Vermont civil union. Lisa and Janet Miller-Jenkins lived in Virginia but traveled to Vermont to be joined in a civil union in 2000, and Lisa conceived a child through artificial insemination while the two were still together. The couple subsequently moved to Vermont, but in 2003, they separated with Lisa returning to Virginia and suing for full custody of the child.

A court in Virginia granted full custody [JURIST report] to Lisa in 2004, with the judge declaring that since Virginia law does not legally recognize unions between members of the same sex, Lisa was the child's "sole parent." In August 2005 the Vermont Supreme Court disagreed, saying Vermont had exclusive jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the case since the couple's civil union had taken place under Vermont's laws. Without ruling on whether Virginia recognizes the civil union entered into by the parties in Vermont, the Virginia appeals court said that Virginia could not deny "full faith and credit" to the orders of the Vermont court and remanded the case back to the Virginia trial court in Frederick County, saying it failed to "recognize that the PKPA [Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act text] barred its exercise of jurisdiction" and it had to respect the custody and visitation orders of the Vermont court favoring Janet Miller-Jenkins. AP has more.






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Federal judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Ned Mulcahy on November 28, 2006 7:09 PM ET

[JURIST] In a Tuesday ruling [PDF], Judge James Robertson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] declared that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 [US DOL materials] provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency." In support of its decision, the court noted that over half of all countries that print their currency vary its size to aid the blind, and the others make use of varying texture or other indicators. The court rejected the government's arguments that the change would be cost prohibitive, increase counterfeiting, and disrupt international recognition of US currency. Robertson wrote:

Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they lack meaningful access to US currency. They have put forth several potential accommodations that are reasonable on their face. The government has not sustained its burden of showing that any of them would be unduly burdensome to implement... I will grant plaintiffs’ prayer for a declaratory judgment.
The American Council of the Blind [advocacy website] filed the action four years ago. Under 28 USC s.1292(b) [text], the government has ten days to appeal the ruling. AP has more.





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Liberia truth commission on hold due to lack of funds
Robert DeVries on November 28, 2006 6:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [UN Mission in Liberia news release, PDF] has had to put its operations on hold due to lack of funds, according to its acting chairman. The TRC is charged with investigating and documenting crimes that occurred during Liberia's 14- year civil war [Globalsecurity.org backgrounder]. Despite urgings from the UN to accelerate its operations, the TRC had to recall recently dispatched workers [JURIST reports] when it could not pay their wages. One official estimated that it would need US$2 million to finish the three-month fact-finding mission it has scheduled, and several key financial pledges have not materialized. Main donors include the Liberian government, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) [official website] and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa [official website].

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission formally began its work [JURIST report] in June after being inaugurated [JURIST report] in February. According to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile], the commission is intended to heal the war-torn country and uncover the truth about the civil war. It has nonetheless been criticized by human rights groups [JURIST report] who advocate the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia that would have prosecutorial powers. AFP has more.






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Saddam opposes American forensic expert testimony on mass graves
Lisl Brunner on November 28, 2006 6:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein sought to bar testimony of an American forensic scientist during proceedings at his genocide trial [JURIST news archive] Tuesday, demanding a neutral witness from a country that was not involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The chief judge allowed the expert, Clyde Snow [profile], to testify about a mass grave he encountered in the northern Iraqi town of Koreme. Snow told the court that Iraqi forces killed 27 Kurdish men and boys there in 1988 as part of the Anfal campaigns [HRW backgrounder].

Hussein was sentenced to death [JURIST report] earlier this month for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline]. An appeals panel is expected to rule [JURIST report] on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein is executed. AP has more.






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ICC prosecutors urge war crimes trial for Congo militia leader
Jeannie Shawl on November 28, 2006 4:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court [official website] urged the court Tuesday to confirm war crimes charges [indictment, PDF] against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [Trial Watch backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Lubanga, founder of the militant Union of Patriotic Congolese [Global Security backgrounder], could be the first war crimes suspect to be tried by the ICC since it opened in 2002. He is accused of enlisting child soldiers [BBC report] in the Democratic Republic of Congo's violence-plagued Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. Judges presiding over Lubanga's confirmation of charges hearing [press release; JURIST report], which ended Tuesday, must decide by January 29 whether the case should proceed to trial, be dismissed, or whether prosecutors must present further evidence or amend the charges.

Lubanga's defense lawyer maintained his client's innocence during closing statements Tuesday and said that the prosecution had withheld evidence necessary to prepare a full defense. Representatives of Lubanga's alleged witnesses also addressed the court, calling for justice for the child soldiers. Chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said last week that if the charges against Lubanga are confirmed, the court could hold its first formal trial in 2007 [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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EU countries knew of CIA prisons, rendition flights: European Parliament report
Jeannie Shawl on November 28, 2006 3:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Many European countries were aware that the US Central Intelligence Agency operated secret prisons [JURIST news archive] or used their territory for the transfer of terror suspects, according to a report [DOC text] released Tuesday by a European Parliament committee [official website] investigating the CIA's alleged use of European countries for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners. The committee's rapporteur, Italian MEP Claudio Fava [EP profile], said Tuesday that most countries cooperated with the CIA "passively or actively" [AFP report] and that evidence had been gathered showing 16 nations were involved - Austria, Bosnia, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The European Parliament investigation was launched after the existence of secret prisons [JURIST report] was first disclosed last year. President Bush publicly confirmed [JURIST report] the existence of the prisons in September, saying that the facilities were used to house high-value terror suspects [DNI backgrounder, PDF].

Fava also faulted most EU countries, Germany and Spain being the exceptions, for not fully cooperating with the European Parliament investigation. Following a meeting in Poland earlier this month, an MEP accused Polish officials of obstructing the probe [JURIST report], and Fava said Tuesday that almost all EU member states showed "very great reticence" to cooperate. Fava also faulted EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana [official website] for failing to provide full information to the committee. Nevertheless, Fava said there was evidence that 20 terror suspects had been subject to extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] and some 1,200 CIA flights stopped in or flew over European territory, some of which were likely prisoner transfer flights.

The European Parliament committee reached a conclusion similar to previous findings by Europe's human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe [official website]. In June, a COE study [PDF text] submitted by Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty reported that 14 European countries collaborated with the CIA [JURIST report] by taking an active or passive role in a "global spider's web" of secret prisons and rendition flights. BBC News has more.






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Supreme Court hears patent, antitrust cases
Brett Murphy on November 28, 2006 3:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex Inc. [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 04-1350, a case involving a fight over a patent on adjustable pedal assemblies for engines. At issue is what constitutes a patent claim that is "obvious" under 35 USC 103(a) [text]. In January 2005 the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed [opinion, PDF] the district court's grant of summary judgment for KSR, holding that it erred in deeming the invention obvious. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to agree that the test for patent obviousness is unclear, with Scalia going so far as to describe it as "gobbledygook." CNET News has more.

Also Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Ross-Simmons Hardwood Lumber Co., Inc. [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-381, concerning Weyerhaeuser's alleged monopolization of the lumber industry as prohibited under Section 2 [text] of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Ross-Simmons sued Weyerhaeuser, complaining that the company purchased more logs than it needed at unnecessarily high prices to drive competitors out of business. Weyerhauser argued that the District Court applied the wrong standard to determine if the company's actions violated antitrust laws. Its lawyer argued that the correct standard, as set forth in Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco, requires a plaintiff to show "(1) 'the prices complained of are below an appropriate measure of its rival's costs,' and (2) 'a dangerous probability' existed that the rival would later 'recoup its investment in below-cost prices' once it stopped such pricing." The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed [PDF text] the district court's decision, holding that the Brooke Group standard does not apply to buy-side monopolies. AP has more.






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NEA appeals dismissal of No Child Left Behind lawsuit
Brett Murphy on November 28, 2006 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] The National Education Association (NEA) [association website] joined three school districts on Tuesday in appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit [JURIST report] that challenged the funding of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) [PDF text; executive summary; US Dept. Ed. factsheet]. In an appeal filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the NEA and school districts argued that Congress has failed to appropriate enough funding for local school districts to comply with the federal program. The government maintains that the Act was never intended to provide complete financial support for the new policies that President Bush advocated.

The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed [JURIST report] the lawsuit in November 2005. The NEA and individual school districts in Texas, Michigan and Vermont filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in April 2005 in hopes of forcing the federal government to pay more of the costs incurred under the Act. AP has more.






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UK court dismisses Muslim cleric's appeal of incitement conviction
Katerina Ossenova on November 28, 2006 2:16 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the UK Court of Appeal [official website] on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri [BBC profile] to overturn his conviction [JURIST report] on incitement-to-murder charges [BBC summary; BBC trial timeline]. In February, Hamza was convicted of 11 counts for urging his followers to kill Jews and other non-Muslims and using "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior" to stir up racial hatred. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. His lawyers claimed that the delay in bringing charges, which stemmed from speeches given in the late 1990s, resulted in an unfair trial [JURIST report]. In dismissing the appeal, Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips [BBC profile] said, "There is no reason to believe that the jury were not able to consider and resolve the relevant issues objectively and impartially."

Hamza [JURIST news archive] also faces separate terrorism-related charges [PDF indictment; JURIST report] in the United States for allegedly funding and attempting to establish terrorist training camps. BBC News has more.






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Canadian parliament recognizes Quebecois as 'nation' within Canada
Lisl Brunner on November 28, 2006 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] A motion recognizing the people of Quebec as a "nation" within Canada passed the Canadian House of Commons [official website] Monday by a vote of 266-16. The motion, introduced [speech transcript] last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website], represents a compromise on an earlier proposal by the Bloc Quebecois [official party website] that would have defined the territory of Quebec as a nation within Canada. The successful motion states that "the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada." According to Harper, the motion recognizes the Quebecois nation in a "cultural-sociological" sense rather than a legal one.

The politically-divisive issue, which has confounded Canadian politicians and social observers for decades, sparked the resignation [National Post report] Monday of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Michael Chong [official website]. Chong claimed that his belief in Canada as an indivisible nation could not be reconciled with the motion. CBC News has more.






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Australian AGs demand return of Hicks
Katerina Ossenova on November 28, 2006 1:53 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian state and territory attorneys general demanded action Tuesday in the case of David Hicks [JURIST news archive], an Australian detainee held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] since 2002. Upset that the US has failed to charge Hicks under revised military commission rules, the AGs sent Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock [official profile], their federal counterpart, a photo of Hicks' cell and urged that Hicks be brought to Australia to face trial. Queensland Attorney General Kerry Shine [official profile] said the Australian federal government should demand Hicks' return to Australia. "Either that he is brought to trial in the United States quickly or he is returned to Australia," Shine was quoted as saying by ABC News. "Under just natural justice, ordinary principles, he's entitled to his day in court and he's entitled to it well before now."

Hicks was taken to Guantanamo Bay after he was captured in Afghanistan, where he allegedly had been fighting for the Taliban. He was charged [PDF text; JURIST report] in 2004, but his trial was delayed [JURIST reports] while the US Supreme Court considered, and eventually ruled against, the legality of the military commissions system. New charges are expected to be filed against Hicks and other detainees once new commission procedures are finalized under the recently-passed Military Commissions Act [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, Australian federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock told a meeting of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that he would seek Hicks' return if new charges were not laid against him [JURIST report]. US President George W. Bush has assured Australian Prime Minister John Howard [JURIST report] that Hicks will be brought to trial, but has refused to give a timetable. ABC News has more.






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ICTY appeals chamber reduces sentence of former Bosnian Serb mayor
Katerina Ossenova on November 28, 2006 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Tuesday reduced [judgment summary, press release] the sentence of local Bosnian Serb politician Blagoje Simic [ICTY case backgrounder] from 17 to 15 years, after reversing one of his convictions. Simic was convicted [judgment] on charges of crimes against humanity in 2003, along with Miroslav Tadic and Simo Zaric, for "persecutions based upon unlawful arrest and detention of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians, cruel and inhumane treatment including beatings, torture, forced labour assignments, and confinement under inhumane conditions, and deportation and forcible transfer." The appeals chamber reversed his conviction for participation in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was persecution of non-Serbs in the Bosanski Samac municipality in northern Bosnia after concluding that Simic was not informed of this charge until the prosecution had finished presenting its case.

Simic, who served as mayor of the Bosnian town of Samac and was a doctor by profession, voluntarily surrendered [BBC report] to the ICTY [JURIST news archive] in 2001. Miroslav Tadic was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for deportation and forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians while Simo Zaric was sentenced to six years imprisonment for "persecutions based upon cruel and inhumane treatment including beatings, torture, and confinement under inhumane conditions." Reuters has more.






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Thai cabinet approves lifting martial law in Bangkok, 40 other provinces
Holly Manges Jones on November 28, 2006 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Thai cabinet Tuesday approved a measure to lift martial law in 41 of the country's 76 provinces, including Bangkok, despite a recommendation by coup leader and Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin [BBC profile] Monday to retain martial law in the capital city. Thailand [JURIST news archive] has been under a state of martial law since the Thai military seized power from civilian prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] in September. The country's military leaders Monday proposed [JURIST report] the initial list of territories which would be released from martial law, indicating that border provinces would not be included.

Sonthi opposes lifting martial law in Bangkok and said Monday that he will hold Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official website; BBC profile] responsible for any problems that occur there. King Bhumibol Adulyadej [Wikipedia profile] must still approve the cabinet's decision and the king's assent is expected to come in the next several days. AFP has more.






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UN rights group urges Iraq not to execute Saddam after 'flawed' trial
Holly Manges Jones on November 28, 2006 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A group of United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday urged the Iraqi government to refrain from carrying out the death sentence [JURIST report] imposed on Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] earlier this month for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline]. In a statement [text] from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website], the rights experts said the trial against Hussein was flawed due to:

[T]he lack of independence and impartiality of the tribunal, which heard the case, the lack of respect for his right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defense, the restrictions on his right to access to defense lawyers and on the possibility to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf.
The group has not called for Hussein's release but has instead suggested that the governments of Iraq and the US consider a retrial of the former dictator before an international panel.

The group's comments echo those in a Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] report [text; JURIST report] released last week which called the trial "fundamentally unfair." The UN group is comprised of five human rights lawyers and independent legal experts. Reuters has more.






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Russia prosecutors convicted of taking bribes
Holly Manges Jones on November 28, 2006 8:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Russian prosecutors were convicted Monday of accepting a $10,000 bribe from a construction company in the country's latest example of corruption in the court and police systems. Sergei Kocherov and Ruslan Fedosenko of the district prosecutor's office in Moscow were sentenced to four years in a maximum security prison, while lawyers for the two said they plan to appeal. The convictions come a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] called for greater efforts in fighting corruption [speech text], which has increased substantially since he took office in 2000.

Transparency International [advocacy website], an anti-corruption advocacy group, has reported that incidents of corrupt activity may be up to seven times more prevalent than they were in 2001. Bribes totaling $240 billion are taken by corrupt officials in Russia [JURIST news archive] on a yearly basis, according to a report by a senior Russian prosecutor earlier this month. AP has more.






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State judge allows Iraq wrongful death suit to proceed against US security contractor
Holly Manges Jones on November 28, 2006 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] A North Carolina state court judge Monday ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of four US contractors killed in Iraq against Blackwater Security Consulting [corporate website] could move forward after being stayed for nearly two years. The company has argued that the case should be litigated in federal court, but the US District Court hearing the dispute remanded the case to state court. That decision was upheld [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and Blackwater's lawyers are preparing to ask the US Supreme Court to consider the case. In October, Chief Justice John Roberts refused to issue a stay [docket] pending appeal. Lawyers for Blackwater have argued that cases against the contractor should be dismissed because the security firm is an extension of the military. An undersecretary of the US Army denied any legitimate ties between Blackwater and the military in her testimony in a congressional hearing two months ago

The lawsuit, filed in January 2005, alleges that Blackwater did not provide the four men with the proper weaponry or personnel to defend themselves when they encountered a group of insurgents who attacked their supply convoy in March 2004. The videotaped ambush showed the four men being burned and tortured. AP has more. The News & Observer has additional coverage.






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Hariri tribunal proposal goes to Lebanon president for approval
Holly Manges Jones on November 28, 2006 7:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Lebanese cabinet on Monday sent a draft measure [JURIST report] concerning the creation of a UN-supported international tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official website] for his approval. Lahoud is not expected to back the accord, having labeled the cabinet's weekend vote on the measure "null and void" and having rejected a preliminary cabinet approval [JURIST reports] of the tribunal as "unconstitutional" after all the cabinet's Shiite lawmakers resigned before the vote. The proposal was nevertheless forwarded to the UN Security Council, which approved the proposal [JURIST report] last week after the assassination of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

In addition to Lahoud's backing, the Lebanese Parliament must also approve the measure before Lebanon can be deemed to have formally accepted it. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is also head of Shiite party Amal, has expressed agreement with Lahoud's view that the current cabinet make-up is unconstitutional. AP has more.






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High court refuses to block probe access to NYT reporters' phone records
Melissa Bancroft on November 27, 2006 8:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] announced in a one line order [text, PDF] Monday that it would not grant a temporary stay in a case involving federal investigators' access to the phone records of two New York Times [media website] reporters. The Times filed suit to block access after US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald [Wikipedia backgrounder] attempted to obtain records of phone conversations involving Judith Miller [JURIST news archive] and Philip Shenon directly from their telecom providers. A Chicago grand jury is seeking to identify the sources that leaked information on the planned terrorism probe into the funding of two Islamic charities to the journalists in 2001. The federal government asked the Supreme Court [NYT report] Saturday not to impede the federal prosecutor because of the pressing time concerns over the Justice Department's investigation into the leaks. In August, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official site] ruled [JURIST report] 2-1 in favor of the government, stating that the interests of law enforcement outweigh the reporters' constitutional protections under the First Amendment [text]. The Times was seeking a stay pending the court's ruling on its application for certiorari in the case.

The Supreme Court has not addressed the question of protecting journalists' confidential sources since 1972. Judith Miller [Wikipedia backgrounder] has previously been a subject [JURIST report] of a federal grand jury investigation regarding the identity leak [JURIST news archive] of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. She was imprisoned for 85 days for failing to reveal her sources and has since left the Times. AP has more.






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Congo high court dismisses presidential election challenge
Melissa Bancroft on November 27, 2006 7:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] in Kinshasa Monday rejected a legal challenge [JURIST report] by Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile] to the official results of last month's presidential run-off election [JURIST report]. The court declared the challenge unfounded and upheld the victory of incumbent Joseph Kabila [BBC profile; PPRD party website, in French], who was declared the winner by a margin of 16 points.

Voting fraud has been an issue [JURIST report] since the first round of the election in July. Last week, Bemba's supporters [MLC party website] set the Supreme Court on fire [JURIST report], forcing the court to relocate [JURIST report] some of its offices. More than 30 people have died [NYT report] in election-related violence. AFP has more.






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DOJ internal watchdog opens domestic surveillance probe
Jeannie Shawl on November 27, 2006 4:21 PM ET

[JURIST] US Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine [official website] has launched an internal investigation into the DOJ's use of intelligence gathered under the NSA's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], according to a letter from Fine to Congressional leaders obtained by AP Monday. Fine has notified leaders of the House and Senate judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees that his office is investigating the Justice Department's "controls and use of information related to the program" as well as its "compliance with legal requirements governing the program." Under the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program [DOJ fact sheet, PDF], warrantless wiretaps are used to intercept telephone calls and e-mails of conversations of individuals suspected of being involved with the al Qaeda terrorist network if one of person is located outside the US.

After the program was first disclosed last year, inspectors general from both the DOJ and the Defense Department refused requests to investigate the program [JURIST report], with Fine citing a lack of jurisdiction. The DOJ request was referred to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility [official website], but the internal probe into the role DOJ lawyers played in designing the program was dropped [JURIST report] after the NSA denied investigators clearance to review all relevant documents. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later said that President Bush personally put an end to the internal OPR investigation [JURIST report].

Fine's investigation will not cover the legality of the controversial program. In August, a federal judge ruled the program unconstitutional [JURIST report]; that decision is currently on appeal [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Supreme Court lets stand Philip Morris 'light' cigarettes damages dismissal
Joe Shaulis on November 27, 2006 4:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday declined to review an Illinois Supreme Court decision setting aside a $10.1 billion verdict against Philip Morris USA [corporate website] for its marketing of "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes. The court issued its order in Price v. Philip Morris Inc. [docket] without comment. Late last year, the Illinois court dismissed the case [JURIST report], holding that US Federal Trade Commission regulations gave tobacco companies authority to denominate products as "light" or "low tar and nicotine" and that under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, companies cannot be held liable for behavior that has been specifically permitted by a regulatory body. Another case involving Philip Morris, challenging $80 million in punitive damages awarded in a wrongful death action against the company, was argued before the Supreme Court [JURIST reports] last month and remains pending. AP has more.

Among other cases in which the court denied certiorari Monday:

Read the Court's full Order List [PDF text].





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Supreme Court hears arguments in gender pay discrimination, antitrust cases
Joe Shaulis on November 27, 2006 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. [Duke Law case backgrounder; merits briefs], 05-1074, a case that addresses whether and when a plaintiff may sue for pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text] if the disparate pay was received during the statutory limitations period but resulted from decisions that fall outside the period. Lilly Ledbetter, who worked at Goodyear for 19 years, alleged that she received less pay than male counterparts because of sex discrimination. After a jury in the Northern District of Alabama returned a verdict for more than $3.5 million in damages, the district court awarded Ledbetter $360,000. The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed [opinion, PDF], holding that the district court should have granted Goodyear's motion for judgment as a matter of law because the statute required Ledbetter to file her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] within six months of the alleged illegal employment practice. Lawyers for Goodyear and the US Department of Justice argued Monday that allowing Ledbetter's claim would "undo" the statute of limitations in pay discrimination cases, while Ledbetter's attorneys asserted that each paycheck represented a discriminatory act. All of the justices except Clarence Thomas [LII profile], a former EEOC chairman, participated in the questioning. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared to doubt whether the statute of limitations should apply to claims alleging pay disparities that widened over a period of years, while Chief Justice John Roberts expressed concern about claims surfacing long after the alleged discriminatory act. AP has more.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly [Duke Law case backgrounder; merits briefs], 05-1126, an antitrust case addressing whether a complaint under the Sherman Act [text] must allege specific facts showing that the defendants participated in a conspiracy, or whether a conspiracy may be inferred from their "parallel conduct." William Twombly filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that telephone and Internet service providers created after the breakup of AT&T in the early 1980s conspired by blocking local competitors from their service areas and agreeing not to compete with one another. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, but the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded [opinion, PDF], finding Twombly's pleading sufficient. At oral argument, Twombly's lawyers contended that a higher pleading standard would defeat meritorious claims by plaintiffs who can obtain evidence of conspiracy only through discovery. The defendants argued that a lower standard encourages companies to settle meritless cases - a position echoed by Justice Stephen Breyer, who said that a lax standard would allow plaintiffs to "sue half the firms in the economy." AP has more.






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Berlusconi tax fraud trial adjourned while former PM recovers from collapse
Jaime Jansen on November 27, 2006 2:30 PM ET

[JURIST] An Italian judge adjourned the tax fraud trial of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and British lawyer David Mills [Guardian profile] Monday after Berlusconi collapsed during a speech [AP report; recorded video] in Florence Sunday. Berlusconi's lawyers requested time for Berlusconi to recover, and the trial will likely resume on Friday. In July, a judge ruled [JURIST report] that Berlusconi should stand trial on charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud and money laundering in connection with a TV rights deal involving Berlusconi's company, Mediaset [corporate website]. In October, an Italian court ordered [JURIST report] Berlusconi and Mills to face an additional trial to begin in March 2007.

Last week, a judge refused a request [JURIST report] by Berlusconi and Mills to have one of the judges removed from presiding over his tax fraud trial. The two defendants had asked Judge Edoardo d'Avossa to remove himself [JURIST report] from the current trial, citing d'Avossa's involvement with other Berlusconi trials, including the "Medusa" case, which ultimately resulted in the former prime minister's acquittal on false accounting charges. D'Avossa had offered to step aside, but a supervisory judge rejected that offer on Wednesday. UPI has more.






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Iraq parliament bans media from sessions in bid to quell public disagreements
Jaime Jansen on November 27, 2006 1:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Parliament [official website, in Arabic] Monday indefinitely barred journalists from sessions of parliament as part of efforts by Iraq's National Security Council [FAS backgrounder] to stop contradictory statements made by Iraqi politicians, according to Reuters. Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashadani told members of parliament that reporters should be banned from parliament sessions because the media "may increase tension," and ordered cameras producing televised access to floor debate turned off. A spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] added that the decision by the National Security Council to bar journalists from access to parliament sessions was designed to "make sure people speak with one voice to the media."

The decision was made after conflicting media accounts of recent sectarian violence and political reactions to that. Last week President Jalal Talabani [official website] blamed the media for Thursday's killing of over 200 people in Baghdad's Shiite-dominated Sadr City [CNN report], saying that the attacks occurred because of the media's portrayal of attacks on a Sunni neighborhood earlier that day. Reuters has more. Iraqi independent news agency Voices of Iraq quoted al-Mashadani as saying [VOI report] Monday that "a recommendation was made at the Political Council of National Security as to accelerating an agreeable legal formula to deal with corrupted media men as well as dealing with the good journalists" and that "directives were given to lawmakers to reduce and even to avoid making statements before and after a parliament session."






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Pinochet indicted for 'Caravan of Death' killings of Allende bodyguards
Jaime Jansen on November 27, 2006 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Chilean Judge Victor Montiglio indicted former dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Monday and placed him under house arrest in connection with the firing-squad deaths of two of former President Salvador Allende's bodyguards during the so-called Caravan of Death [BBC backgrounder] that followed the coup in which Pinochet seized power and Allende was killed. Pinochet was originally charged in the case in 2000, but the Supreme Court of Chile [official website] ruled in 2002 that he was unfit to stand trial because of dementia and other ailments. In July, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling [JURIST report] stripping Pinochet of immunity in the homicide case for bodyguards Wagner Salinas and Francisco Lara. Last year, the high court ruled [JURIST report] that Pinochet was not too ill to stand trial on separate charges of human right abuses.

Judge Alejandro Solis initially placed Pinochet under house arrest in October [JURIST report], marking Pinochet's first detention on torture charges, in connection with 36 cases of kidnapping, 23 cases of torture and a single case of homicide at the Villa Grimaldi prison [Wikipedia backgrounder], an infamous political detention center operated by Pinochet's secret police between 1974 and 1977. AP has more. El Mercurio has local coverage. In an extraordinary statement released on his 91st birthday Saturday Pinochet publicly assumed "full political responsibility" [JURIST report] for the actions of his 1973-90 military regime. Pinochet nonetheless justified the military coup against Socialist Salvador Allende that brought him to power as having being necessary to preserve Chile's integrity amid "the continuation and worsening of the worse political and economic crisis than one can remember."






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Israel PM pledges to release 'many Palestinian prisoners' if soldier returned
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Israel is willing to release many Palestinian prisoners [speech transcript], even long-term detainees, if Palestinian militants agree to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit [Times backgrounder], Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official website; BBC profile] said Monday. Shalit was captured in Gaza [JURIST report] on June 25, and his detention helped spark the latest round of violence [JURIST news archive] in the region over the summer.

As early as July, the Israel Defense Forces said it would support a deal to release some Palestinian prisoners [JURIST report] in exchange for Shalit, and Egyptian negotiators have also been involved [JURIST report] in prisoner trade talks. Reuters has more.






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China mulls oversight agency for organ transplant system involving prisoners
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] China's State Council [official backgrounder] is considering a draft resolution that would establish a national agency to regulate organ transplants in the wake of international criticism over Chinese organ transplant practices. Chinese health officials have admitted that the majority of organs for transplant come from executed prisoners, and while China formally requires informed consent [JURIST report] from the prisoners or their families, doubt exists as to how the procedures are enforced. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded that China disclose organ donor statistics [JURIST report] to the public. Other critics suggest that the organ trade is a lucrative black-market business in China relatively ignored by officials.

In March, the Chinese Ministry of Health [official website, in Chinese] issued a general ban on the sale of human organs [JURIST report] that took effect on July 1. The Ministry also issued new regulations [JURIST report] in August intended to counter unauthorized international trade in organs. The policy changes followed international criticism [JURIST report] that human organs taken from executed prisoners were sold to foreigners. The proposed organ transplant oversight rules would also restrict the number of hospitals permitted to perform transplants. AP has more.






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Thailand military OKs lifting martial law in some provinces
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 9:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Thailand's military leaders decided Monday to lift martial law in 40 of the country's 76 provinces, pending the approval of Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official website; BBC profile]. Thailand has been under a state of martial law since the Thai military seized power from civilian prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] in September. The Council for National Security [official website, in Thai], the country's military council, did not specify which provinces would return to normalcy, but coup leader and Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin [BBC profile] indicated Monday that border provinces would remain under martial law.

Sonthi promised [JURIST report] last week that martial law would be eliminated by the end of the year. The US has urged Thailand to lift martial law [JURIST report], pulling almost $24 million in funding from the Thai government. Human rights groups have also called for martial law to be lifted [JURIST report], saying it is contradictory to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. Reuters has more.






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Saddam genocide trial resumes
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein's genocide trial [JURIST news archive] resumed Monday with testimony from witnesses describing how Hussein's soldiers executed civilians during the "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq from 1987 to 1988. All seven defendants appeared in court, though several were represented by court-appointed lawyers while members of the defense team continue their boycott [JURIST report] of the proceedings.

In a separate case and ruling issued earlier this month, Hussein was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [JURIST news archive; BBC trial timeline]. An appeals panel is expected to rule [JURIST report] on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein is executed. BBC News has more.








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Serb nationalist war crimes defendant refuses to appear for trial
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 8:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] failed to appear in court Monday as his trial began at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. The court subsequently stripped Seselj of his right to represent himself [press release] and summoned court-appointed defense lawyers to represent him. Seselj, who has been on hunger strike [JURIST report] for two weeks, also skipped a pre-trial hearing last week. According to the ICTY:

In coming to its decision, the Trial Chamber considered various factors: the conduct of the accused especially in the period since the Appeals Chamber's decision of 20 October 2006, the warnings that have been issued to the accused by the Chamber during the status conferences on 8 and 22 November 2006 and by the Appeals Chamber in its decision, the fact that the accused has failed to respond to the Trial Chamber's invitation of 22 November to make submissions regarding his conduct and the question of his legal representation, as well as the fact that the accused persists in not taking food and that he persists in being absent from the proceedings. Finally, the Chamber concluded that the accused's self-representation in the course of the period since ... 20 October 2006, "has substantially obstructed the proper and expeditious conduct of the proceedings" and found that "permanent assignment of counsel to represent the accused... is at this point justified".
An ICTY appeals panel ruled in October that Seselj could represent himself [JURIST reports] during trial, but warned that future courtroom antics would not be tolerated. During a pre-trial hearing earlier this month, Seselj was removed from the courtroom [JURIST report] for disrupting proceedings whenever the court-appointed lawyers attempted to speak.

Seselj was indicted by the ICTY in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges, five of which were dropped [JURIST report] by the ICTY earlier this month. Reuters has more.





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Spitzer cautions against easing Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reforms
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 7:47 AM ET

[JURIST] Many of the efforts to soften the corporate accountability reforms of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act [PDF text; SEC materials] are being pushed by the same corporations that employed questionable accounting and business practices before the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, New York state attorney general and governor-elect Eliot Spitzer [JURIST news archive] said in an interview with the Financial Times published Monday. Last week, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson [official profile] accused Sarbanes-Oxley of raising the cost of doing business in America [transcript; Bloomberg report], citing declining share sales since 2002 as one example of its impact, and recommended legislative tweaks to the Act, especially to the internal control structure requirements of Section 404 [KPMG backgrounder]. Spitzer said Monday that individual corporations are responsible for their own poor performances, and that corporate accountability and ethics will strengthen US markets in the long run.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been an object of criticism since its passage in the wake of the Enron debacle and other high-profile corporate scandals. Rep. Michael Oxley, one of the law's co-sponsors, said last year that the legislation was "rushed" and included "excessive" corporate reforms [JURIST report]. A GAO report earlier this year noted that an increasing number of small businesses are going private [JURIST report] in order to avoid disproportionately higher costs of complying with the law, prompting several senators to urge regulators to find ways to make it less onerous for smaller companies to comply. The Financial Times has more.






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Australia oil-for-food inquiry recommends charges for wheat execs, clears government
Joshua Pantesco on November 27, 2006 7:22 AM ET

[JURIST] An Australian government commission investigating Australian participation in the now-defunct UN oil-for-food program [JURIST news archive] in Iraq has recommended that criminal charges be brought against 12 business executives for paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's former regime [JURIST report]. In a report [commission materials] formally submitted to Parliament [AG statement] Monday, the Cole Commission [official website] confirmed earlier UN reports that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website] paid roughly $220 million in kickbacks to secure $2.3 billion in grain contracts.

The report found no evidence of government misconduct, although an AWB executive testified [hearing transcripts] that Australian officials knew of the kickbacks by March 2001. Australian Prime Minister Howard, who has repeatedly any denied government wrongdoing, on Monday agreed to establish a police task force [transcript] to consider prosecuting the 12 executives, as proposed by the Cole Commission report. AP has more.






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France denies Rwanda arrest warrants politically motivated
Melissa Bancroft on November 26, 2006 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy [official profile] said Sunday that the issuance of arrest warrants for nine senior Rwandan government officials relating to the 1994 plane crash of President Juvenal Habyariman [Wikipedia profile] was simply a judicial act by anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] and was not a political act endorsed by the French government. In a radio interview Douste-Blazy also expressed regret [Xinhua report] over Rwanda's decision to completely sever diplomatic ties [JURIST report] with Paris over the warrants, and a recommendation that Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website] face trial [JURIST report] before a UN tribunal. On Friday the Rwandan government ordered the French ambassador to leave the country in 24 hours after previously recalling its own ambassador from Paris [Reuters report].

Bruguiere could not issue a warrant for Kagame as he is protected by diplomatic immunity under French law. Kagame has denied any involvement in the downing of his predecessor's plane and last week derided Bruguiere's tactics [JURIST report] as "bullying and arrogant." Reuters has more.






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Saddam genocide trial prosecutor says tapes prove guilt for gas attacks
Caitlin Price on November 26, 2006 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial [JURIST news archive] said Sunday that audio tapes and documentation proving that Hussein personally ordered the 1988 gassing of Kurdish villagers will be submitted to the court hearing his case. Munqith al-Faroon told Reuters that he possesses tapes of meetings between Saddam and senior Baathist officials revealing that Hussein had sole authority over the use of the chemical weapons which were deployed in the "Anfal" campaigns that led to the deaths of 180,000 Kurds. Faroon also claimed to have documents signed by Hussein ordering the attacks. The court, which reconvenes Monday after a three-week adjournment [JURIST report], will review the material to determine if it is admissible as evidence. Reuters has more.

Hussein was sentenced to death [JURIST report] earlier this month in a separate trial for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail after an unsuccessful attempt on his life there in 1982. An appeals panel is expected to rule [JURIST report] on its review of that case by mid-January 2007.






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Israel high court upholds northern route of security barrier
Leslie Schulman on November 26, 2006 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Israel's High Court [official website] ruled Sunday that a proposed portion of Israel's Security Fence [official website; JURIST news archive] running north of Jerusalem is legal despite its segregation of five villages and about 1,500 Palestinians from the rest of Israel. Many of the villagers hold Israeli identification cards. Chief Justice Aharon Barak [official profile] wrote:

[w]e accept the State's position that there is a need to build a separation wall to advance the security objectives of protecting Jerusalem, nearby communities and roads leading to it, from terror activities.
UPI has more. YNet has local coverage.

The security fence has been the subject of national and international challenges. In April this year, the Israeli Supreme Court approved construction [JURIST report] of a portion of the fence around Jerusalem. The International Court of Justice [official website] handed down an advisory opinion [text; JURIST report] in 2004 that the fence violated international law.





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UN expert urges acceleration of Liberia rights efforts
Leslie Schulman on November 26, 2006 11:26 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Independent Expert on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Liberia Charlotte Abaka, recently returned from an 11-day visit to that country, has called on the Liberian government to press ahead with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [UN Mission in Liberia news release, PDF] and appoint members to its Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR). The TRC was publicly launched five months ago [JURIST report] to investigate and document human rights abuses occurring in Liberia from 1979 to 2003, but is not yet fully operational. The INCHR lacks a staff three years after its inclusion in the peace deal [BBC report] that ended Liberia's civil war. She said she was "very concerned" with the situation.

The TRC began its work in June after its inauguration [JURIST report] in February, but has already been criticized by human rights groups [JURIST report] who instead advocate a Liberian human rights court because the TRC cannot prosecute war crimes violations.






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Pinochet assumes 'political responsibility' for actions of military regime
Michael Sung on November 26, 2006 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] publicly assumed "full political responsibility" for the actions of his 1973-90 military regime in a statement released Saturday. The statement was read aloud by his wife at the celebration of Pinochet's 91st birthday, and marked the first time Pinochet has taken responsibility for his regime's actions, which included human rights abuses that Pinochet has previously attributed to subordinates. Pinochet nonetheless justified the military coup against Socialist Salvador Allende that brought him to power as having being necessary to preserve Chile's integrity amid "the continuation and worsening of the worse political and economic crisis than one can remember." The former dictator also made reference to his trial, which he characterized as being "vexation, persecution and injustices affecting [Pinochet] and [his] family" which he "gladly [offers] for the sake of harmony and peace that must prevail amongst Chileans."

Pinochet, established as a lifetime senator under Article 45 of the 1980 Chilean Constitution [PDF text], has general immunity from prosecution, which requires a separate decision on whether to lift his immunity each time charges are brought against him. Pinochet has been stripped of immunity in a case involving the 1974 disappearance of Spanish priest Antonio Llido [JURIST report], and cases involving kidnapping, torture, and homicide [JURIST report], and tax evasion [JURIST report]. AP has more. El Mercurio has local coverage.






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Nepal assembly passes expanded citizenship bill
Michael Sung on November 26, 2006 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Nepal's House of Representatives Sunday passed a citizenship bill granting opportunity to apply for citizenship to an estimated four million people living in the Terai region along the country's southern border with India. The bill declares that individuals born before mid-April 1990 and who have been residing in Nepal [JURIST news archive] since that date, are eligible to acquire Nepali citizenship. The passing of the legislation fulfills a term of the peace agreement between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels" [JURIST report], which stipulated citizenship reforms before national elections slated for mid-June of next year.

Opposition political parties conducted three weeks of pro-democracy protests [JURIST news archive] in April, forcing King Gyanendra [official profile; BBC profile] to reinstate parliament [JURIST report] and give up direct control of the government. A peace agreement last Tuesday formally ended a decade-long Maoist insurgency [JURIST report]. The agreement is expected to pave the way for Maoists to participate in an interim government by December 1, although a Sunday deadline to install a new interim parliament has now passed. AFP has more. eKantipur has local coverage.






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Lebanese government renews approval of Hariri tribunal over objections
Ryan Olden on November 25, 2006 4:26 PM ET

[JURIST] In a controversial meeting late Saturday the Lebanese cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] renewed its agreement to the terms of a UN-supported international tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The approval came over the objections of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official website], the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement and other pro-Syrian factions, and in the midst of a growing national crisis [JURIST report] that threatens to throw the entire country back into civil war in a week that saw the assassination [BBC report] of anti-Syrian Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. Last-minute efforts at compromise with dissenting groups failed despite offers from Siniora to delay the vote for "a few days" if six pro-Hezbollah ministers would return to the Cabinet and the pro-Syrian bloc would commit to the formation of a tribunal. Siniora denied, however, that the cabinet's decision was meant as a "provocation." In a statement he said it "is in fact based on Lebanese unanimity on the creation of this tribunal and the Lebanese who are yearning to protect Lebanon, bolster its democratic freedoms and national security and bring it out of the cycle of killings and assassinations."

An initial cabinet approval [JURIST report] of the tribunal was rejected [JURIST report] by Lahoud earlier this month as "unconstitutional" because it lacked a quorum of Shiite lawmakers. Lahoud released a statement Saturday calling the latest cabinet action "null and void." The next step in the Lebanese legal endorsement of the tribunal is unclear; the only person who can put it on the agenda for necessary parliamentary action is Nabih Berri [official profile], the Lebanese parliament's speaker and head of the pro-Syrian Amal Party [party website, in Arabic], who has supported the President's stance. AP has more. From Beirut, the Daily Star has a background report.






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Former Abu Ghraib commander repeats allegation that Rumsfeld ordered abuses
Ryan Olden on November 25, 2006 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] commander Janis Karpinski [JURIST news archive] has repeated her claim that outgoing US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] personally ordered "making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume" and so on at the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Karpinski told Spanish newspaper El Pais [media website] in an interview [transcript] published Saturday that she saw a memorandum ordering the use of these methods, which rights groups and others consider torture [JURIST news archive] in violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. The letter was allegedly signed by Rumsfeld with the handwritten words, "make sure this is accomplished." Karpinski, who claims to have been unaware of the abuses at Abu Ghraib until pictures surfaced in the press, earlier alleged [JURIST report] the existence of the memo in an interview [text] with law professor Marjorie Cohn, now president of the National Lawyers Guild, in August 2005. The former Army Brigadier General has also charged that Rumsfeld further violated the Geneva Convention by "ordering us to hold [a] prisoner without registering him... on various occasions."

Karpinski, the only high-ranking military officer to be punished in connection with the abuse scandal [JURIST report], alleged early last year that the interrogation techniques were approved by top US officials [recorded audio; JURIST report] and has testified to that effect [PDF] in support of a recent bid to have the German federal prosecutor bring war crimes charges [JURIST report] against Rumsfeld and others under German universal jurisdiction laws. According to that testimony:

[a Sergeant at Abu Ghraib] pointed out a memo posted on a column just outside of their small administrative office. The memorandum was signed by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and it discussed Authorized Interrogation techniques including use of loud music and prolonged standing positions, amongst several other techniques. It was one page. It mentioned stress positions, noise and light discipline, the use of music, disrupting sleep patterns, those types of techniques. There was also a handwritten note out to the side in the same ink and in the same script as the signature of the Secretary of Defense. The notation written in the margin said “Make sure this happens!” This memorandum was a copy; a photocopy of the original, I would imagine. I thought it was unusual for an interrogation memorandum to be posted inside of a detention cell block, because interrogations were not conducted in the cell block, at least to my understanding and knowledge. Interrogations were conducted in one of the two interrogation facilities outside of the hard site.

This was the command of Donald Rumsfeld himself talking about the specific interrogation techniques he was authorizing. And there was the note – the handwritten note out to the side. It said, "Make sure this happens." And it seemed to be in the same handwriting as the signature. And people understood it to be from Rumsfeld. This is all of what I can say about the memorandum.
Karpinski maintains her innocence in the Abu Ghraib scandal, claiming to be a scapegoat targeted for being a woman and a reservist. She has also derided "corruption like I've never seen it before" in the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [archived official website] that ran Iraq before a transitional Iraqi government took over in June 2004. Reuters has more.





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Northern Ireland parliament attacker charged
Geoff Leung on November 25, 2006 11:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Loyalist militant Michael Stone [CNN profile] was charged Saturday with 5 counts of attempted murder after he threw a package of explosives into the entrance of the Stormont parliament buildings [virtual tour] in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Friday and attempted to force his way past security guards. The recently-reconstituted Northern Ireland Assembly [official website] was in session at the time, meeting to move forward the critical process of selecting a new First Minister for the troubled United Kingdom region, when the attack took place. Stone's declared targets were unionist Sinn Fein [party website] leaders Gerry Adams [BBC profile; Sinn Fein profile] and Martin McGuiness [BBC profile], Sinn Fein's chief negotiator. Stone has also been charged with possession of items likely to be used in terrorist activity such as explosives and other weapons. He was released from life imprisonment six years ago under the 1988 Good Friday peace agreement [text]. His prior incarceration resulted from an attack on an IRA funeral 20 years ago in 1988.

In July 2005, the IRA announced that it was ending its "armed campaign" [JURIST report] for the independence of Northern Ireland from Britain in favor of a political process. Reuters has more.






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Yemen editor convicted for printing Muhammad cartoons
Ned Mulcahy on November 25, 2006 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A Yemeni court has convicted Kamal al-Aalafi, editor-in-chief of the al-Rai al-Aam [official website, in Arabic] newspaper, and sentenced him to one year in jail for violating Article 103 of the Press and Publications Law of 1990 [official text] as punishment for publishing offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive]. The weekly paper has additionally been closed for six months. Earlier this year the government of Yemen charged two other editors [JURIST report] of other newspapers with the same crime. Islamic law strictly prohibits portraying any image of the Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoons depicting the Prophet originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in September 2005. They initially went unnoticed but violent protests erupted around the world [JURIST report] in February 2006 when they were republished. AFP has more.






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Lebanon in crisis over Hariri tribunal
Bernard Hibbitts on November 25, 2006 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] A scheduled Saturday meeting of the Lebanese cabinet on the establishment of an international tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri has thrown Lebanon into crisis again even before it has taken place. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC profile] called the meeting after pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud rejected [JURIST report] an earlier cabinet approval [JURIST report] of the court as "unconstitutional" on the grounds that a quorum of Shiite ministers was not present. The move nonetheless met with immediate disapproval from leading Shiite lawmakers, including Nabih Berri [official profile], the speaker of the Lebanese parliament and head of the pro-Syrian Amal Party [party website, in Arabic], who said it lacked the President's endorsement. Siniora has offered to postpone the meeting "for a few days" if Berri's party and Shiite militant movement Hezbollah commit to ratifying the court plan, but a government minister said that if they didn't respond positively, the meeting would go ahead. Hezbollah officials have said they support the tribunal, but say Siniora is using the tribunal issue to sideline them. AFP has more.

The UN Security Council approved the terms [JURIST report] of the UN-supported tribunal earlier this week in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's assassination [BBC report] of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The proposal previously agreed upon by Annan and the Lebanese government after the Lebanese cabinet's initial meeting must still be formally approved by the Lebanese parliament and ratified by Lebanon's president. Syria has said in a letter to the UN that it will continue to co-operate in the Hariri investigation but objects [AP report] to what it considers premature establishment of a tribunal with which it has "no connection." Preliminary reports by the UN commission investigating the Hariri killing have already implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report].






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NYT asks high court to bar probe access to reporters' phone records
Geoff Leung on November 25, 2006 10:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The New York Times [media website] asked the US Supreme Court [official website] Friday to block a federal investigation into a terrorism probe leak from acquiring the telephone records of two Times reporters until the high court rules on a certiorari petition in the case. A Chicago grand jury is seeking to identify the sources that leaked information of the US government's pending action against two Islamic charities in 2001. The Times filed suit after US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald attempted to obtain records of phone conversations involving Judith Miller [JURIST news archive] and Philip Shenon directly from their telecom providers. In August, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official site] ruled [JURIST report] 2-1 in favor of the government, stating that the interests of law enforcement outweigh the reporters' constitutional protections under the First Amendment [text].

The Supreme Court has not addressed the question of protecting journalists' confidential sources since 1972. Judith Miller has previously been a subject [JURIST report] of a federal grand jury investigation regarding the identity leak [JURIST news archive] of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame. She was imprisoned for 85 days for failing to reveal her sources and has since left the Times. The New York Times has more.






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Cambodia genocide judges not yet agreed on trial rules
Ned Mulcahy on November 25, 2006 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] said Saturday that a meeting of the tribunal's judges [press release, PDF] convened to consider Draft Internal Rules [rules text] for pending genocide trials of former Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] leaders had failed to reach agreement on the regulations and that further meetings would be necessary. The rules cover every phase of the trials including investigation procedures, trial motions, appeals, and role of the parties involved with the trial. The disagreements on the rules, which have also been targeted by a number of rights groups, primarily center in how to integrate Cambodian law into international tribunal standards. Earlier this week, Amnesty International recommended that discussions on the rules be extended [press release], claiming that the draft regulations inadequately protected victims and witnesses, made only vague provision for reparations, and did not fully incorporate prohibitions against trials in absentia. The genocide trials are nonetheless still expected to begin in 2007 [JURIST report].

The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [PDF text] to investigate and try those responsible for the 1975-79 Cambodian genocide that led to the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians by execution, forced hardships or starvation in the so-called "Killing Fields." To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial and questions have been raised concerning exactly how many of the Khmer Rouge's top officials will face the tribunal, as several of those responsible for the genocide have died [JURIST report] in recent months and others are in failing health. The prosecutors nonetheless face significant administrative, legal and linguistic obstacles in preparing cases for trial; their formal investigations only began in July [JURIST report].






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Romney asks court to put same-sex marriage ban on Massachusetts ballot
Bernard Hibbitts on November 24, 2006 7:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney [official website] Friday filed a request with the state's Supreme Judicial Court [JURIST report] to put a measure effectively banning same-sex marriage [text, DOC] on the 2008 Massachusetts ballot if legislators fail to vote on the issue before the end of their term on January 2. Romney took the anticipated action [JURIST report] after state lawmakers voted 109-87 to recess an ongoing joint House-Senate session until that day. Opponents of the measure to define marriage as only between a man and a woman say they may not have the votes to block it, amounting to 151 of the 200 session members. Fifty members can approve the measure. AP has more.

Massachusetts [JURIST news archive] is currently the only US state to recognize same-sex marriage, after a November 2003 state high court ruling [JURIST report; background materials]. More than 8,000 same-sex couples have subsequently wed in the state, and the precedent has sparked a nationwide debate over gay marriage.






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UN committee urges Russia to probe Chechnya torture cases
Michael Sung on November 24, 2006 4:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Committee against Torture (CAT) [official website] urged Russia Friday to investigate and prosecute [press release] what it called the "widespread use of torture" in Chechnya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The human rights body cited "reliable reports" of the existence of secret detention facilities where "detainees faced torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." CAT also expressed its concern that "numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations that abductions and enforced disappearances in the Chechen Republic were inflicted by or at the instigation of public officials."

The Committee against Torture (CAT) monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text, in PDF] by states party to the 1984 convention. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch issued a report claiming that torture has become widespread in Chechnya [HRW report] with more than 100 known cases in both official and secret detention centers. Reuters has more.






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International lawyers group cancels Cambodia genocide trial training
Michael Sung on November 24, 2006 3:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Bar Association (IBA) [official website], the leading global organization of legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies, announced [press release] Friday that it has canceled a training program for Cambodian lawyers representing defendants in the genocide trial of Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] leaders. The program had faced opposition from the Cambodian Bar Association, which saw the program as infringing on the Cambodian Bar's sovereignty and prohibited Cambodian lawyers from taking part. The IBA alleged that the Cambodian move was "part of a wider scheme of opposition designed to obstruct the operation of the [genocide tribunal]"; IBA head Mark Ellis commented:

The Bar’s actions represent a disturbing development in the functioning of international justice, placing obstacles in the path of bringing those accused of international crimes to trial. The IBA’s programme was intended to improve the quality of legal services and the administration of justice in Cambodia, and help educate and inform the Cambodian public about international justice. It is unacceptable that the Cambodian Bar, which should share these objectives, is seeking to frustrate them in this way.
Ky Tech, the president of the Cambodian Bar, dismissed the IBA's accusations but said that the cancellation was "appropriate." On Friday, the Cambodian Bar Association threatened to block foreign lawyers [AFP report] from defending genocide trial suspects under the terms of draft internal tribunal regulations [PDF] released earlier this month.

The Extraordinary Chambers of Cambodia (EC) [official website] is currently conducting investigations in preparation for genocide trials expected to commence in 2007 [JURIST report]. The 1975-79 Cambodian genocide led to the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians, and to date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial in connection with the episode. AP has more.





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Europe delegation warns Indonesia against Sharia law adoption
Michael Sung on November 24, 2006 3:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Hartmut Nassauer [official website], German head of a European Parliament [official website] delegation visiting Indonesia, said Friday that adopting Sharia law [CFR backgrounder] would negatively affect Indonesia's relations with other states. Nassaeur emphasized that Islamic law should not affect Indonesia's legal code, stating that the liberty of faith "includes the right to live without faith and consequently [an individual should not] have to obey a faith which is not [theirs]." Nassauer's statements follow the partial implementation of Sharia law by the self-governed region of Aceh.

Aceh [JURIST news archive] has enforced Muslim dress codes and obligations like the Salat (ritual prayer), Zakat (alms-giving), and Siyam (fasting). The province was granted self-governance [JURIST report] in July by the passage of legislation in the Indonesian House of Representatives [official website, in Bahasa Indonesian]. AFP has more.






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Turkish Christians on trial for allegedly insulting nation
Michael Sung on November 24, 2006 2:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Two Turkish Christians have gone on trial for their alleged "public denigration of the Turkish identity." Hakan Tastan, 37, and Turan Topal, 46, allegedly made insults against Turkey while attempting to convert other Turks to Christianity. The two defendants are being charged under Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder] of Turkey's penal code, which makes insulting "Turkishness" a crime. The two are also being charged under Article 312 [HRW backgrounder], which criminalizes inciting hatred based on class, race, religion, creed, or region.

The controversial Article 301 has been used to prosecute Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk [JURIST report], and has been a point of contention between the European Union and Turkey [JURIST report], which has an ongoing bid for EU membership [EC materials]. Turkish leaders say they have no immediate plans to make further changes to the law [JURIST report], which the EU deems an infringement on freedom of expression [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Rwanda cuts diplomatic ties with France in wake of Kagame trial bid
Bernard Hibbitts on November 24, 2006 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] The government of Rwanda cut diplomatic ties with France Friday in protest at a French judge's recommendation that Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website] face trial [JURIST report] in connection with the 1994 downing of a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyariman [Wikipedia profile], whose death triggered a genocide that killed over 800,000 people. French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] also issued arrest warrants against nine top Rwanda officials on suspicion of involvement in the same incident. No warrant for Kagame's arrest was issued as he enjoys diplomatic immunity under French law. Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande told Reuters that the French ambassador to Rwanda has been ordered to leave the country in 24 hours and that other French diplomats were to be out in 72. The French Foreign Ministry has confirmed the break [press release, in French]. Earlier in the day Rwanda recalled its own ambassador from Paris [Reuters report] and issued a statement alleging that France was trying to overthrow its government. The Rwandan government claimed [press release] earlier in the week that the allegations were "an attempt to intimidate Rwanda using strong arm tactics and to use the superpower position to hide the truth of France’s involvement in genocide" in the wake of a Rwandan government probe [JURIST report] begun last month into accusations that France assisted the Hutu massacre of Tutsis.

Kagame has denied any involvement in the downing of his predecessor's plane and earlier in the week derided Bruguiere's tactics [JURIST report] as "bullying and arrogant." Friday's break of diplomatic ties came a day after a mass protest [JURIST report] against the French judge's orders by some 25,000 Rwandans gathered in a Kigali sports stadium. Reuters has more.






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Chinese reporter loses appeal of state secrets conviction
Ryan Olden on November 24, 2006 12:14 PM ET

[JURIST] The Beijing Higher People's Court Friday turned down an appeal by Hong Kong reporter Ching Cheong [advocacy website; SCMP Q/A] against his August conviction for passing state secrets. The presiding judge deemed the trial court's ruling "accurate in application of the law and appropriate in meting out punishment," according to a report by state news agency Xinhua. The ruling after a 30-minute hearing followed Ching's initial failure to get a hearing [JURIST report] in October. While working for Singapore's Straits Times [media website] in April of 2005, Ching was arrested in the Chinese city of Guangzhou for providing unnamed "state secrets and intelligence" to Taiwanese intelligence [BBC report] through an unspecified front organization. He was convicted after a two-week trial [JURIST report] behind closed doors. After Friday's ruling by the appeals court, Ching now faces a 5-year prison term [JURIST report].

The Straits Times has expressed disappointment with the decision and concern for the journalist's health. Ching's wife, Mary Lau, maintains her husband's innocence and believes that he was tried because he obtained politically-sensitive, unpublished interviews with late Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang [BBC profile], who was purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre [BBC backgrounder]. The government of Hong Kong, now a Chinese administrative region, refused to intervene in the mainland judicial process. AP has more. Xinhua has local coverage.






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UK legal services bill would create independent complaints body
Bernard Hibbitts on November 24, 2006 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Legal services in the UK are set to be revolutionized after the British government Friday published [press release] a much-anticipated bill [DCA materials] that would remove the right of the legal profession to regulate itself and would allow other businesses - such as banks and even, in theory, supermarkets - to own law practices. The legislation, which would also allow law firms to operate in free association with other groups of professionals such as accountants and to receive investment, was formally introduced in the House of Lords Thursday and is expected to come into force in 2008.

Disciplinary authority over the legal profession will now vest in an independent body. Lord Falconer [official profile], the Lord Chancellor and head of the Department of Constitutional Affairs [official website], said of the change:

Today's proposals aim to increase public confidence in acquiring legal services that are fit for purpose. The Legal Services Board will oversee approved regulators who will be required to separate regulation and representation, thus removing any conflict of interest.

Currently, bodies that regulate legal services provision also act as representatives of their profession, a position that could raise the question of impartiality. The Office of Legal Complaints will further increase public confidence through handling consumer complaints against legal services providers and ensuring a quick and fair response.
The changes have been under consideration for some time. Sir David Clementi submitted an independent comprehensive review [report text] of the regulatory framework for legal services in England and Wales in 2004. Falconer unveiled preliminary plans [JURIST report] in March 2005, bringing forward a White Paper in October which formed the basis of the first draft bill. Legal Week has more.





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Thailand military leader promises to lift martial law by year-end
Bernard Hibbitts on November 24, 2006 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Thailand Army Commander-in-Chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin [BBC profile], the leader of the military coup [JURIST report; AHRC backgrounder] that deposed civilian prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] in September, told CNN in an interview broadcast Friday that the martial law imposed on the country [JURIST news archive] in the aftermath of the takeover would be lifted by the end of the year. He made the comment after being pressed to go beyond vaguer expressions of "when possible" and "soon". The country's Defense Secretary said afterwards that martial law would "definitely be lifted before the new year," but the head of the country's military council, the Council for National Security (CNS), added later that "This is not for the whole country as martial law will be maintained in some areas." VOA has more. The Bangkok Post has local coverage.

The country's National Legislative Assembly [JURIST report], convened to draft a new permanent constitution for Thailand, is meanwhile preparing to debate the possible dissolution of five Thai political parties, including Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party and the leading opposition Democrat party. The Assembly is chaired by Thailand Supreme Court president Panya Thanomrod. TNA has more.






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Italy demands Getty Museum return looted antiquities
Bernard Hibbitts on November 24, 2006 9:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Italian Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli has demanded that the Getty Museum [official website] in Los Angeles return all the allegedly-looted Italian antiquities it is said to possess, and not just the 26 pieces of a total of 46 that it has already undertaken to hand back [Getty press release]. Negotiations with the Getty over the looted objects broke down earlier this week. Rutelli said his department was investigating evidence concerning the provenance of "dozens" of other works held by the Getty, perhaps as many as 250, according to Italian authorities. Reuters has more.

Earlier this year the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art [official website] signed an agreement [JURIST report] with the Culture Ministry [official website] under which it undertook to return several pieces of looted Hellenistic art in exchange for Italy loaning it other works of "equal beauty and importance." A similar agreement [MIBAC press release, in Italian] was recently signed with the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Under a 1939 Italian law, all archaeological property excavated in Italy belongs to the Italian state. Marion True, former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is currently on trial [NPR report] on charges of knowingly smuggling Italian artifacts in violation of the 1939 law.






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South Africa high court supports same-sex inheritance rights
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 9:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The South African Constitutional Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Thursday that same-sex partners in a permanent relationship have the same inheritance rights as married heterosexual couples [media summary], and that a surviving partner could therefore take by intestacy as a deceased partner's heir. It declared that existing South African succession law [text] was unconstitutional and should be amended to add after any reference to "spouse" the words "or partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the partners have undertaken reciprocal duties of support."

The judgment follows the same court's October 2005 ruling [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] that held existing South African marriage law unconstitutional because it did extend to same-sex relationships. The court at that time gave the South African parliament until December 1, 2006, to amend the law to legalize same-sex marriages. Last week the South African National Assembly passed [JURIST report] a vaguely-worded Civil Union Bill to do that. South Africa's upper house is expected to vote on the bill Monday, sending it on passage to President Thabo Mbeki. If parliament fails to act, gay marriages in South Africa will become legal by default. AP has more.






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ICC prosecutor says first trial could begin in 2007, Darfur charges coming soon
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 8:10 PM ET

[JURIST] International Criminal Court [official website; JURIST news archive] chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said Thursday that the tribunal could start its first formal trial in 2007 [Reuters report] if judges confirmed charges against Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga [Trial Watch backgrounder; JURIST news archive], and was almost ready to file charges [Reuters report] relating to alleged crimes against civilians committed in the Darfur [JURIST news archive] region of Sudan. Moreno-Ocampo was speaking to an assembly of the court's member states at ICC headquarters in The Hague and addressed a press conference afterwards.

Earlier this month the court held its first hearing [JURIST report] on whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial in the Lubanga case, and held another hearing [press release] in the matter Thursday. In June, Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council [JURIST report] that his investigation into crimes against humanity in Darfur had already documented thousands of killings of civilians, large scale massacres, and hundreds of rapes that he anticipated would result in multiple cases rather than a single proceeding.






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Microsoft bids to avoid more EU antitrust fines with new filing
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 6:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] announced [press release] Thursday that Microsoft [corporate website; JURIST news archive] had filed new technical documentation with it in a last-minute bid to comply with a March 2004 Commission antitrust ruling [text, PDF; background materials] ordering it to disclose information allowing non-Microsoft servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. The Commission has called for third-party submissions on the filing, so it is not yet known whether it will suffice. Microsoft had originally been directed to provide the documentation within four months of the 2004 ruling, but sought an extension that was denied and then failed to meet other deadlines, leading to the Commission's July 2006 imposition of a $357 million penalty [JURIST report], currently under appeal [JURIST report]. Microsoft made its first filing within days of that the latest filing was a further revision. Reuters has more.

EU regulators said last week that Microsoft had handed over only 90 percent of the necessary documentation [JURIST report] and could face added fines of up to $3.85 million per day unless the company complied by November 23.






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Rwandans protest French arrest warrants for officials
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 6:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Some 25,000 Rwandans gathered in a sports stadium in the capital Kigale Thursday to protest a French judge's issuance of arrest warrants for nine top Rwandan officials on suspicion of involvement in the 1994 downing of the plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyariman [Wikipedia profile], whose death triggered a genocide that killed over 800,000 people. The protestors sang anti-French songs and burned French flags. Reuters has more.

French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] has issued the warrants against the officials. He also recommended that current Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website] face trial [JURIST report] in connection with the case, but no warrant for Kagame's arrest has been issued as he enjoys diplomatic immunity under French law. Kagame has denied any involvement in the downing of the plane and has derided Bruguiere's tactics [JURIST report] as "bullying and arrogant." Sources say Bruguiere has written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] asking that Kagame be tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive].






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Canada PM proposes tough gun crime law requiring some suspects to make case for bail
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 4:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined with Ontario Liberal Party Premier Dalton McGinty and Toronto Mayor David Mills Thursday to lay out [speech transcript; recorded audio] the terms of proposed federal gun crime legislation [press release] being introduced in the Canadian House of Commons that would put the burden on serious gun crimes suspects seeking bail but guilty of a previous firearms offence to show cause why they should not stay in custody. Traditionally, the burden has been on Crown prosecutors to show why bail should not be granted. Harper defended the "reverse onus" aspect of the plan as being consistent with other laws already on the books concerning drug trafficking and organized crime. Last month Canadian Justice Minister Vic Toews defended a new federal crime bill which could require repeat criminal offenders to convince courts that they are no longer dangerous [JURIST report] instead of requiring Crown prosecutors to establish a continuing threat. CTV News has more. CBC News has additional coverage.

Pressure for stricter Canadian guns laws - already significantly more restrictive than those in the US - has increased in the past year in the wake of a surge in gun violence [JURIST report] in Toronto, Canada's largest city, and other Canadian centers. On Thursday, Harper himself pointed to Toronto police figures reporting that "almost 1,000 crimes involving firearms or restricted weapons have been committed so far this year", nearly 40 percent of which "were committed by someone who was on bail, parole, temporary absence or probation." Former Liberal Party prime minister Paul Martin pressed for a sweeping national ban on handguns [JURIST report] in the last federal election campaign, but ultimately lost to Harper on other issues.






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Pakistan senate approves reformed rape law
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 4:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Senate [official website] Thursday approved a reformed rape law that allows rape cases to be tried in either secular or Islamic courts, reduces the evidentiary burden necessary for conviction, and substitutes a fine and five-year prison term for persons found guilty of having sex outside of marriage. The Protection of Women Bill is expected to replace the Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan government backgrounder], which limited rape action to Islamic courts applying Sharia law. The bill has been strongly resisted by Muslim traditionalists, but is supported by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is expected to sign it into law. From Pakistan, Dawn has local coverage.

The National Assembly approved the bill [JURIST report] last week. Parliament had initially postponed consideration [JURIST report] of a revised version of the bill in September due to opposition. Women's and human rights groups have praised the bill, noting the inherent discrimination and the inadequacy of the Sharia system in a country where, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [official website], rapes are perpetrated every two hours and gang rapes every eight hours.






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EU panel says financial institution broke privacy laws by sharing data with US
Jaime Jansen on November 23, 2006 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party [official website] reported Thursday that the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) [official website] violated European privacy laws when it released information about cross-border wire transfers by European citizens to the US government. The draft report had been delayed [JURIST report] while the European panel performed further investigations into whether the program violated the European privacy laws, but came as no surprise following a Belgian report [JURIST report] by the Belgian Data Privacy Commission [official website], concluding that SWIFT supplied the US Department of Treasury [official website] with "massive amounts of personal data for surveillance without effective and clear legal basis and independent controls in line with Belgian and European law." The EU panel lacks enforcement power and any punishment for SWIFT must come from Belgian authorities. The European Commission, however, could take action against Belgium for failing to uphold EU privacy and security laws, but will wait for the Commission's final report before making any decisions.

The New York Times and other papers revealed the once-secret program [NYT report; JURIST report] in June, prompting sharp criticism from the Bush administration, which defended the initiative [press briefing]. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee later encouraged the administration to press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the media for publicizing the program, which allowed the CIA [official website] to monitor international financial transactions processed by SWIFT, a Belgium-based banking cooperative. A London-based civil liberties group subsequently asked data-protection and privacy officials in more than a dozen countries to prevent the further release of confidential financial information [JURIST report] to American authorities. According to US government officials, the program targets those with suspected ties to Al Qaeda. AP has more.






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Kentucky Supreme Court upholds lethal injection protocol
Jaime Jansen on November 23, 2006 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kentucky Supreme Court [official website] ruled [PDF] Wednesday that the state's use of a three-drug lethal injection [DPIC backgrounder] does not violate the constitution because the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment "does not require a complete absence of pain." The unanimous decision upholds a lower court ruling last year which held that conflicting medical testimony prevents the court from concluding that death row inmates "categorically" feel pain during their executions. Justice Donald Wintersheimer added that the two inmates challenging Kentucky's death penalty [JURIST news archive] protocol, Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, would have to prove that the three-drug cocktail creates "a substantial risk of wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, torture or lingering death."

Kentucky's lethal injection protocol, like several other states, requires a first drug to make the inmate unconscious, a second drug to paralyze the inmate, and a third drug to stop the inmate's heart. Several constitutional challenges [JURIST news archive] to the procedure have arisen across the country, arguing that the first drug fails to make the inmate fully unconscious, thereby making the inmate feel excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. Inmates in Missouri and South Dakota have successfully challenged the lethal injections, while challenges in Florida and Texas [JURIST reports] have failed. Ohio recently executed its first inmate under a new lethal injection protocol [JURIST report] after a problematic execution last May prompted the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to review their methods. The New York Times has more. The Louisville Courier-Journal has local coverage.






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UN Hariri commission to investigate Gemayel assassination
Bernard Hibbitts on November 23, 2006 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a request from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for the UN commission probing the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] to also investigate Tuesday's murder of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel [BBC report]. US UN Ambassador John Bolton urged the UN International Independent Investigation Commission [Security Council Resolution 1595 text; materials] chaired by former Belgian federal prosecutor Serge Brammertz [UN News report] to move quickly and gather evidence while it is still fresh. Gemayal was killed in Beirut when gunmen opened fire on his car.

The assassination came in the wake of a controversial Lebanese cabinet vote [JURIST report] to approve the creation of an international tribunal to hear cases arising out of the Hariri assassination, in which Syrian involvement is suspected [JURIST report]. Pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud disavowed the vote [JURIST report] saying it was taken with the support of an insufficient number of ministers, but the Security Council nonetheless endorsed the establishment of the tribunal [JURIST report] late Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of the Gemayel murder. Reuters has more.






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UN committee chides Belarus, Myanmar for human rights violations
Jaime Jansen on November 23, 2006 9:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN General Assembly's Third Committee [official website] on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs approved draft resolutions [press release] Wednesday denouncing both Belarus and Myanmar [JURIST news archives] (formerly Burma) for human rights violations. The Belarus resolution, introduced by the United States and passed by a vote of 70 to 31 with 67 abstentions, blames the Belarus government for rigged elections last year and state suppression of opposition candidates. The Myanmar resolution, passed 79 to 28 with 63 abstentions, condemns Myanmar for widespread human rights violations [JURIST report], including summary executions, torture, forced labor, sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers. A Belarus-sponsored resolution critical of the US human rights record was roundly defeated 114 to 6, with 45 abstaining, and an Iran-sponsored resolution criticizing the human rights situation of indigenous peoples and immigrants in Canada was rejected 107 to 6, with 49 abstentions. Iranian-Canadian relations have been strained since the death in Iranian custody of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi [JURIST news archive] in 2003.

The same UN panel on Monday blocked a resolution [JURIST report] faulting Uzbekistan's use of force to quell a May 2005 uprising in Andijan [JURIST news archive], its closure of 200 non-governmental organizations [JURIST report], and the detention of journalists and human rights activists within the country. Last week the committee narrowly approved a draft resolution [text, PDF] introduced by Belarus and Uzbekistan directly calling for an end to politically motivated condemnations [JURIST report] of countries for human rights violations. Reuters has more.






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Serb nationalist war crimes defendant skips pre-trial hearing due to hunger strike
Jeannie Shawl on November 23, 2006 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Hunger-striking Serbian war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case backgrounder] refused to attend a preliminary hearing Wednesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website], saying his voice was too weak to be able to participate. Seselj went on hunger strike [JURIST report] early last week demanding [statement, DOC] that the ICTY dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, allow him to pick his own defense counsel, deliver all court documents to him in paper form, and permit unrestricted visits with his wife. Seselj's trial is scheduled to begin next week.

Seselj was indicted by the ICTY in 2003 and charged [indictment, PDF] in connection with his role in establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian]. Those units are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Seselj has pleaded not guilty to the charges, five of which were dropped [JURIST report] by the ICTY earlier this month. An ICTY appeals panel last month ruled that Seselj could represent himself [JURIST report] during his trial, but also appointed two lawyers - David Cooper and Andreas O'Shea - to assist Seselj with his defense if necessary. During a pre-trial hearing earlier this month, Seselj was removed from the courtroom [JURIST report] for disrupting proceedings whenever the court-appointed lawyers attempted to speak. AP has more.






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US judge directs financial institutions to settle with Parmalat
Gabriel Haboubi on November 22, 2006 5:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] has asked that the financial institutions being sued by and counter-suing bankrupt Italian dairy giant Parmalat SpA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] negotiate a settlement with the company and has adjourned discovery proceedings until December 31st, Parmalat announced [press release, PDF] Wednesday. Parmalat’s stock rose by 4.8 percent to 3.04 euros ($3.90) on the Milan Stock Exchange following the news.

Parmalat filed for insolvency in December 2003, with about $17.3 billion of debt, after realizing there was a massive $4.9 billion discrepancy in its books. It later initiated suits against various group both in the US and Italy, including Bank of America [corporate website; JURIST report] and Citigroup [corporate website; JURIST report], as well its former auditors [press release, PDF] for their roles in the company’s economic collapse. Bank of America has pursued a counterclaim [JURIST report] charging Parmalat and its former management with fraud, misrepresentation, conspiracy and other illegal acts, and allege that the lawsuit is simply trying to shift the blame from the culprit to the victims of the fraud. AP has more.






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Congo Supreme Court offices to be decentralized after vote protest torching
Gabriel Haboubi on November 22, 2006 4:54 PM ET

[JURIST] Supreme Court offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] will be decentralized and spread to various parts of the capital city of Kinshasa, or even to other Congolese cities, following fire damage to one-third of the building earlier in the week, according to a statement from DRC Vice-President Azarias Ruberwa [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile] Wednesday. The building was set on fire [JURIST report] Tuesday by supporters of another of Congo's four vice-presidents, Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile], who is challenging his loss [JURIST report] in the presidential election to incumbent DRC President Joseph Kabila [BBC profile; PPRD party website, in French] amid allegations of voter fraud [JURIST report].

The rioters were demanding to be allowed into the Supreme Court building so that they could witness a hearing on the voter fraud complaint filed by Bemba after preliminary counts determined that he lost to Kabila by a margin of 16 percent. A number of election-related documents were damaged in the fire, including results of the country's constitutional referendum [JURIST report], and the first round results of the presidential election. The challenged second round results that are currently being reviewed by the high court were unharmed. IRIN has more.

5:15 PM ET - A senior Congolese official said Wednesday that in view of the fire the deadline for the Supreme Court's ruling on Bemba's legal challenge would be delayed. Under current law, the high court has seven days to rule on a complaint, but Azarias Ruberwa, one of the DRC's four vice-presidents, did not specify what the new deadline would be. AP has more.






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Iraqi general arrested on corruption charges
Gabriel Haboubi on November 22, 2006 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] An Iraqi general and three senior officers have been arrested on accusations of corruption, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zawba'i [PDF profile - see p.10] told Reuters Wednesday. Although the reported arrest has not been confirmed by the US military or the Iraqi Defense Ministry, al-Zawba'i said Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf Shuweil, in charge of troops in Kadhimiya, a suburb northwest of Baghdad, and three others were arrested by US forces Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) [official website] released its latest periodic human rights report [text] Wednesday, noting as first reported last month [JURIST report] that approximately 3,000 members of the Iraqi Interior Ministry have been removed from their posts due to allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. Corruption has been a major problem in Iraq [JURIST news archive] since the US invasion; earlier this month, a report by Transparency International ranked Iraq as one of the world's four most-corrupt countries [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Federal judge rejects national Vioxx class action
Bernard Hibbitts on November 22, 2006 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge in New Orleans Wednesday rejected [order, PDF] a bid to have all federal lawsuits [consolidated litigation website] against Merck & Co. [corporate website] brought in connection with the withdrawn painkiller Vioxx [JURIST news archive] consolidated in a single national class action against the company. US District Judge Eldon Fallon [JURIST news archive], who is responsible for co-ordinating pre-trial procedures [JURIST report] in the federal cases, said it made more sense to have the cases tried in their respective states of origin, but did not rule on specific state-based class actions.

The suggested national class action would have proceeded under the laws of New Jersey, where Merck has its worldwide headquarters. There are currently some 7000 federal complaints against Merck in connection with Vioxx, including some 160 class actions. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for more than 18 months. Merck has set aside $1 billion to fight every Vioxx court challenge. AP has more.






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Rwanda president rejects French judge's recommendation for trial
Katerina Ossenova on November 22, 2006 12:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] Wednesday derided the recommendation of French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] that he stand trial for the 1994 killing of former president Juvenal Habyarimana [Wikipedia profile] as "bullying and arrogant." Kagame has denied involvement [JURIST report] in shooting down the plane that carried Habyarimana, leading to the former president's death, which in turn sparked the country's genocide [HRW backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] in which some 800,000 people died. Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Kagame said "That some judge in France whose name I cannot even pronounce has something to say about Rwanda - trying a president and some government officials - that's rubbish!"

Although French law does not permit a warrant to be issued for Kagame's arrest because he has diplomatic immunity as a head of state, sources say Bruguiere had written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] asking for Kagame to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive]. On Tuesday, the defense lawyers association at the ICTR requested that prosecutors immediately start legal proceedings [Hirondelle report] against Kagame on war crimes charges. Last month, the ICTR denied a request to hear testimony from Bruguiere who was expected to implicate Kagame for ordering the attack on Habyarimana. The tribunal has also refused to give a 1997 UN report to Bruguiere which allegedly discusses Kagame's involvement in the former president's murder.

Meanwhile, French prosecutors have authorized arrest warrants for nine senior Rwandan officials who Bruguiere claims were involved in Habyarimana's death. The list includes Rwandan Armed Forces [Wikipedia backgrounder] chief James Kabarebe, army chief of staff Charles Kayonga, and other officials with close contact to Kagame, according to French court officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Reuters has more.






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Italy court rejects Berlusconi bid for judge recusal in tax fraud trial
Jeannie Shawl on November 22, 2006 11:38 AM ET

[JURIST] An Italian judge Wednesday refused the request of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to have one of the judges removed from presiding over his tax fraud trial. Berlusconi and co-defendant David Mills [Guardian profile] had asked Judge Edoardo d'Avossa to remove himself [JURIST report] from the current trial, citing d'Avossa's involvement with other Berlusconi trials, including the "Medusa" case, which resulted in the former prime minister's acquittal on false accounting charges. D'Avossa had offered to step aside, but a supervisory judge rejected that offer on Wednesday.

In July, an Italian judge ruled [JURIST report] that Berlusconi should stand trial on charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud and money laundering in connection with a TV rights deal involving Berlusconi's company, Mediaset [corporate website]. In October, an Italian court ordered [JURIST report] Berlusconi and Mills, a British lawyer, to face an additional trial to begin in March 2007. Reuters has more.






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Florida lawsuit targets electronic voting machines in close race
Katerina Ossenova on November 22, 2006 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A coalition of advocacy groups filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in Florida Tuesday claiming that officials in Sarasota County failed to investigate or report various alleged malfunctions with the touch-screen voting machines and are calling for a re-vote in Florida's hotly-contested 13th Congressional District. People for the American Way, Voter Action, the ACLU of Florida and the Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy websites] took the action on behalf of Republican and Democratic voters challenging the election of Republican Vern Buchanan [campaign website] to the US House of Representatives by a margin of 369 votes over Democrat Christine Jennings [campaign website]. The results were formally certified on Monday. The seat was formerly held by Katherine Harris (R-FL) [official website], Florida Secretary of State during the notorious 2000 presidential recount, who lost her Senate bid [campaign website].

The complaint alleges that a re-vote is needed because legal votes cast in Sarasota County [official website] were improperly rejected by malfunctioning electronic voting machines [JURIST report] on election day. According to the suit

no vote was recorded on any congressional candidate on approximately 18,000 electronic ballots cast on ES&S iVotronic voting machines...nearly 25 percent of all electronic ballots and approximately 13 percent of all ballots, paper and electronic. By treating these ballots as "undervotes" in the 13th Congressional election, the Sarasota Country Canvassing Board rejected thousands of legal votes sufficient to place in doubt the result of the election.
After Monday's certification of results Jennings filed her own lawsuit in nearby Leon County, contesting the certification and requesting a new election. Florida Second Circuit Court Judge William L. Gary said at a hearing Tuesday that Jennings' lawsuit will not be expedited as she had requested. CNET News has more. CQ Politics has additional coverage.





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Russia police torturing suspects for confessions: Amnesty
Katerina Ossenova on November 22, 2006 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Torture and ill-treatment in Russia is regularly used to extract confessions from suspects [AI press release], according to a report [text] released Wednesday by Amnesty International [advocacy website]. Noting that Russia was in violation of its national and international obligations, the human rights group found that Russian police regularly engage in the mistreatment of suspects and that "lawyers are not present during questioning of suspects in detention; relatives are not informed of their detention; suspects are tortured by police officers or left at the mercy of convicts who do the torturing for the police; [and] the victims are denied a medical examination by a doctor of their choice." Allegations into torture and ill-treatment are rarely investigated and those held to be responsible are rarely prosecuted. In 2005, official investigations found evidence of torture in only 33 out of 114 arguable cases of torture. Amnesty also expressed concern over Russia's reliance on torture to extract confessions by police officers who are anxious to solve a certain number of crimes. Russian NGOs in 2005 found medical evidence of 100 cases of torture in 11 of Russia's 89 regions.

Amnesty recommended that Russia establish a system for unannounced inspections of detention centers by credible impartial investigators, that Russia sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture [text], and that the government improve police officer training, including in human rights protection. The New York Times has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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DOJ drops appeal of dismissed Lay conviction after abatement bill proposed
Jeannie Shawl on November 22, 2006 9:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department has withdrawn its notice of appeal of a federal judge's decision to vacate the conviction [PDF text; JURIST report] of former Enron founder Ken Lay [Houston Chronicle profile; JURIST news archive]. Lay, convicted [JURIST report] in May of fraud and conspiracy charges [indictment, PDF] for providing investors with false and misleading financial information from 1999 up until Enron [JURIST news archive] filed bankruptcy in late 2001, died suddenly [JURIST report] of a heart attack in July. Lay died before his sentencing date and therefore was not afforded an opportunity to exhaust the appeals process, and no final judgment was issued in the case. US District Judge Sim vacated the conviction and dismissed Lay's indictment under the "doctrine of abatement," which allows federal courts to vacate convictions of criminal defendants that die pending appeal. Federal prosecutors had filed papers indicating a planned appeal to the US Court of Appeals to the Fifth Circuit, but withdrew the notice of appeal Monday.

A DOJ official noted that the decision not to appeal was made after legislation was introduced in Congress to modify the abatement doctrine. Last week, US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website], who previously urged the DOJ to appeal [letter, PDF; JURIST report] Lake's decision, introduced legislation [press release] that would "clarify the legal procedures that should be applied when criminal defendants, such as former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, die after they have been duly convicted, but before their appeals are final." The proposal, drafted in conjunction with the Justice Department, would:

  • Establish that, if a defendant dies after being convicted of a federal offense, his conviction will not be vacated. Instead, the court will be directed to issue a statement stating that the defendant was convicted (either by a guilty plea or a verdict finding him guilty) but then died before his case or appeal was final.

  • Codify the current rule that no further criminal punishments can be imposed on a person who is convicted if they die before a sentence is imposed or they have an opportunity to appeal their conviction.

  • Clarify that, unlike criminal punishment, all other relief (such as restitution to the victims) that could have been sought against a convicted defendant can continue to be pursued and collected after the defendant's death.

  • Establish a process to ensure that after a person dies, a representative of his estate can stand in the shoes of the defendant and challenge or appeal his conviction if they want, and can also secure a lawyer - either on their own or by having one appointed.
  • With Lay's vacated conviction, the federal government now has no means of seizing property controlled by the Lay estate to compensate victims of the Enron collapse. Instead, victims will have to pursue civil remedies against Lay [JURIST report] in order to recover money lost when Enron declared bankruptcy. Feinstein's proposal would allow the government, if a criminal forfeiture action was filed before a defendant's death, an additional two years after a defendant's death "to file a parallel civil forfeiture lawsuit so that [the government] could try to recover those same assets in a different and traditionally-accepted manner." The Baltimore Sun has more.





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    UN Security Council approves Hariri tribunal proposal
    Caitlin Price on November 21, 2006 8:38 PM ET

    [JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] Tuesday approved a proposal for an international tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. In a letter from the 15-person body to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Security Council accepted the terms of the tribunal [UN report] as agreed upon by Annan and the Lebanese government. The proposal now must be formally approved by the Lebanese parliament and ratified by Lebanon's president. The tribunal will proceed once enough funds are secured to cover its formation and one year of operation, with pledges to cover two further years of operation; 51 percent of the expenses will be covered by contributions from UN member states and the remainder will be paid by the Lebanese government. AFP has more.

    The approval of the tribunal came in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's assassination [BBC report] of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, which prompted US UN Ambassador John Bolton and others to urge quick agreement on the tribunal [JURIST report]. Annan submitted his proposal [JURIST report] for the Hariri tribunal to the UN Security Council [official website] last week despite Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's rejection of his cabinet's approval [JURIST reports] of the draft. Previous reports by the UN's Hariri investigatory commission [UN materials] implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report] in the assassination. Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive explosion on the Beirut waterfront. The UN's authority to help Lebanon establish the tribunal stems from UN Security Council Resolution 1644 [text].






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    Third US Marine sentenced to 21 months in Hamdania Iraqi civilian murder case
    Caitlin Price on November 21, 2006 7:58 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. was sentenced to a maximum 21-month confinement Tuesday after pleading guilty [press release] at court-martial to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with the alleged murder and kidnapping of an unarmed Iraqi civilian in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] on April 26. More serious murder and kidnapping charges [DOC text] were dropped in exchange for the plea, avoiding a potential eight-year sentence. Shumate may also face a reduction in rank and forfeiture of pay, but will not be dishonorably discharged. AP has more.

    Shumate is the third Marine and fourth serviceman to plead guilty in the case, in which seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were originally charged [JURIST report]. The military personnel allegedly shot and killed Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] and left his body by the side of the road with a shovel and AK-47, making him look like an insurgent. US Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka, US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos [JURIST reports] and US Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson [advocacy website; JURIST report] have also pleaded guilty in exchange for their testimony in the case. All have named US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III [JURIST report] as the mastermind of the plan. Last week Jodka was sentenced to 18 months and Jackson to 21 months [JURIST reports] in military custody. Hutchins faces court-martial [JURIST report] for murder, kidnapping and other charges.






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    First Guantanamo tribunal tapes released under FOIA
    Bernard Hibbitts on November 21, 2006 4:47 PM ET

    [JURIST] Audio recordings of proceedings from several US Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) [DOD materials] hearings conducted at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in 2004 were made public for the first time Tuesday by National Public Radio after being released to lawyers for two Guantanamo detainees acting under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The detainees, Hadj Boudella and Mustafa Ait Idir, are Bosnians who were taken into custody by US officials and sent to Guantanamo after being acquitted in Bosnia in connection with a plot to bomb the US and British embassies in Sarajevo. The Pentagon has already provided written transcripts of CSRT hearings [DOD materials], but the recordings provide the general first opportunity to hear the voices of detainees and assess the dynamic of their interactions with Tribunal members. Presiding officers can be heard giving routine directions, warnings, asking questions, and even expressing concern for the comfort of the detainees [recorded audio]. The detainees themselves try to tell their stories, complain about their treatment, question the unclassified evidence presented against them, and even express optimism that truth will come out of their attempts to defend themselves [recorded audio]. NPR has more.

    A report [text, PDF] released last week by lawyers at Seton Hall Law School concluded [JURIST report] on the basis of now-publicly-available records that CSRTs do not offer detainees at Guantanamo Bay an adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them or to object to their status as enemy combatants. Detainees failed to present any evidence of their guilt or innocence in 91 percent of the hearings, leading the report to conclude: "No American would ever consider this a hearing... This is a show trial." The US government says that the Combatant Status Reviews afford detainees adequate opportunity to contest their detention and has opposed detainees' access to civilian courts.






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    US urges quick Hariri tribunal approval after latest Lebanon assassination
    Katerina Ossenova on November 21, 2006 4:13 PM ET

    [JURIST] US UN Ambassador John Bolton [official profile] has urged quick agreement [press release] on the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] in the aftermath of Tuesday's assassination [BBC report] of anti-Syrian Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down in his car in Beirut. The murder of Gemayel, a Maronite Christian leader, was immediately condemned by world leaders. Bolton remarked that Gemayel's assassination "shows why we need the tribunal established as soon as possible, why it was correct to expand the mandate of the Brammertz investigatory commission, and why the tribunal needs the flexibility to try the perpetrators of the other political assassinations in Lebanon." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] declared [press release] that "such acts of terrorism undermine Lebanon's stability, are unacceptable and have no place in a democratic and open society. The perpetrators and instigators of today's attack must be brought to justice to ensure an end to impunity."

    Annan submitted [JURIST report] his proposal [JURIST report] for the Hariri tribunal to the UN Security Council [official website] last week despite Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's rejection [JURIST report] of his cabinet's approval [JURIST reports] of the draft. Although the UN's plan has not been made public, the tribunal is expected to be based outside Lebanon and will use a combination of Lebanese and international judges. Previous reports by the UN's Hariri investigatory commission [UN materials] implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report] in the assassination. Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive explosion on the Beirut waterfront. The UN's authority to help Lebanon establish the tribunal stems from UN Security Council Resolution 1644 [text]. Reuters has more.






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    Nepal peace deal ends decade-long Maoist insurgency
    Bernard Hibbitts on November 21, 2006 4:03 PM ET

    [JURIST] Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda signed [recorded video via eKantipur] a peace agreement [text in Nepali] Tuesday formally ending the decade-long Maoist guerilla insurgency against the government that left over 13,000 people dead. The deal clears the way for Maoists to serve in the country's interim parliament and in the new interim government by December 1. The government-Maoist rapproachement follows the re-establishment of civilian control over the government after a period of unpopular direct rule by King Gyanendra, who dismissed the previous civilian government [JURIST report] in February 2005 out of impatience with its anti-Maoist strategy but who was forced to restore civilian authority in April 2006 after mass protests [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

    The accord was concluded one day after Nepal's High Level Probe Commission submitted its final report to the Nepalese government, concluding that Gyanendra and some 200 members of his administration were responsible for the violent police response [JURIST report] to the democracy protests that left 22 dead and more than 5,000 wounded. Disagreements between government politicians and the Maoists continue over exactly what role, if any, the King should play in the new Nepalese constitutional structure. eKantipur has local coverage.






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    Congo Supreme Court building set ablaze during vote protest
    Katerina Ossenova on November 21, 2006 3:35 PM ET

    [JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] in Kinhasa was set on fire Tuesday by protestors supporting Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile], who on Saturday filed a challenge [JURIST report] to the results of last month's presidential run-off election [JURIST report], which he officially lost to incumbent Joseph Kabila [BBC profile; PPRD party website, in French] by 16 percentage points. Bemba's supporters [MLC party website], who have alleged voting fraud [JURIST report], clashed with police and UN peacekeepers attached to MONUC [official website], the UN Mission to DR Congo, who used tear gas and fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd. The fire was eventually brought under control [MONUC press release]. The rioting led the Court to suspend a scheduled hearing on Bemba's challenge, which alleges seven different violations [JURIST report], including ballot-box stuffing, irregularities in voter turnout and the barring of election officials from some polling places.

    Voting fraud has been an issue [JURIST report] since the first round of the election in July. More than 30 people have died [NYT report] so far in election-related violence. BBC News has more.






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    Former Fiji PM faces retrial for inciting military mutiny
    Katerina Ossenova on November 21, 2006 3:11 PM ET

    [JURIST] A Fiji High Court judge Tuesday declared a mistrial in the case against former Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka [Wikipedia profile], charged with inciting a military mutiny [JURIST report]. Although High Court Justice Gerard Winter did not disclose his reason for declaring a mistrial, local media speculated that the prosecution had failed to fully disclose evidence.

    The military mutiny charges stem from an incident in November 2000, when rebel Counter Revolutionary Warfare [Wikipedia backgrounder] soldiers allegedly led or organized by Rabuka attempted to remove military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama [Wikipedia profile], leading to a gun battle that resulted in the deaths of eight servicemen. Bainimarama had taken control of Fiji [government website; BBC timeline; JURIST news archive] and declared an interim military government in late May 2000 in response to what he considered an ineffectual response by the country's president to an attempted coup [JURIST report]. The coup was led by Fijian nationalist George Speight [BBC profile] against the government of Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry [BBC profile], who had been elected head of the tiny Pacific island nation in 1999. Bainimarama handed control of the government to a new civilian president in July 2000 but continued to exercise influence afterwards, leading to the alleged effort to remove him. Rabuka initially came to power in 1987 after he led a successful military coup [BBC timeline] by walking into the Parliament building and seizing control. Rabuka served as prime minister from 1992 until 1999. The new trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 27. AP has more.






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    Berlusconi tax fraud trial adjourned after defense seeks judge recusal
    Brett Murphy on November 21, 2006 2:34 PM ET

    [JURIST] The tax fraud trial of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and British lawyer David Mills [Guardian profile] was adjourned Tuesday after the defense applied to have one of the judges taken off the case. Judge Edoardo d'Avossa was involved in other Berlusconi trials, including the "Medusa" case, which resulted in the former prime minister's acquittal on false accounting charges. Proceedings will get underway again Monday.

    In July, an Italian judge ruled [JURIST report] that Berlusconi should stand trial on charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud and money laundering in connection with a TV rights deal involving Berlusconi's company, Mediaset [corporate website]. In October, an Italian court ordered [JURIST report] Berlusconi and Mills to face an additional trial to begin in March 2007. AFP has more.






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    Judge urges Louisiana prosecutors to charge hospital workers or drop case
    Brett Murphy on November 21, 2006 1:58 PM ET

    [JURIST] A judge in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court [official website] on Monday urged prosecutors to either charge hospital workers accused of killing four patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] or drop the case. Judge Calvin Johnson said he is concerned that no formal indictment has been brought against the workers and said that the case must "go forward or end."

    Dr. Anna Pou and nurses Cheri Landry and Lori Budo were arrested [JURIST report] in July in connection with patient deaths at the Memorial Medical Center [hospital website] in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti [official website] launched an investigation into the deaths [JURIST report] of at least 140 patients at six Louisiana hospitals and 13 nursing homes. AP has more.






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    Israel high court rules state must recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad
    Brett Murphy on November 21, 2006 1:40 PM ET

    [JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] ruled 6-1 Tuesday that same-sex marriages [JURIST report] ordained abroad must be recognized by the state [ACRI press release]. The ruling does not allow for same-sex civil marriages to occur in Israel but mandates that the government recognize the unions if performed in other nations. While gay rights activists are encouraged by the decision, one lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community are labeled it "the destruction of the family unit in the state of Israel."

    Several couples, represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), last year petitioned the Israeli court to review the issue [ACRI press release; JURIST report], arguing that the failure of the Ministry of Interior's Population Registrar to register the marriages constituted "unlawful discrimination" and breached the couples' basic rights. AP has more. Haaretz has local coverage.






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    California court rules bloggers not liable for republishing defamatory statements
    Brett Murphy on November 21, 2006 1:22 PM ET

    [JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] ruled Monday that the 1996 Communications Decency Act [PDF text - see Title V] protects online users, including bloggers, who republish defamatory statements written by others from liability. Citing First Amendment concerns, the court said in its opinion [PDF text] that plaintiffs claiming defamation can bring suit only against the "original source of the statement." The court said holding bloggers liable for republished material "would provide a natural incentive to simply remove messages upon notification, chilling the freedom of Internet speech."

    The lawsuit was filed in 2000 by two doctors against Ilena Rosenthal for allegedly distributing defamatory materials online. CNET News has more.






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    UN rights panel reports 'flagrant' breaches of international law in Mideast conflict
    Lisl Brunner on November 21, 2006 1:18 PM ET

    [JURIST] Israel's use of force during its 33-day standoff [JURIST news archive] with Hezbollah in Lebanon was "excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate" in "flagrant violation" of international law, according to a report issued Tuesday by the UN Human Rights Council [official website]. The report [PDF text] is the product of a commission of inquiry sent to the Middle East to investigate the consequences of the conflict between the Israel Defense Forces [official website] and Hezbollah [BBC backgrounder] that occurred during July and August. According to the report, Israeli forces did not give adequate warnings to civilians prior to attacks, and over a thousand deaths and four thousand injuries resulted from the conflict. Reuters has more.

    Meanwhile, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] also released a report [text] Tuesday accusing both sides of committing war crimes in violation of international law and urging the UN to establish an independent inquiry [press release] to investigate the allegations. The AI report documents Israel's use of cluster bombs and destruction of a UN observation as well as Hezbollah's use of rockets against civilian targets. Human rights groups have criticized the use of bombs by both Israel and Hezbollah [JURIST reports] during the conflict. AP has more.






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    UN committee stymies resolution condemning Uzbekistan rights record
    Lisl Brunner on November 21, 2006 12:37 PM ET

    [JURIST] A draft UN General Assembly [official website] resolution condemning human rights violations in Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] has been blocked [press release] in the General Assembly's Third Committee [official website] by a group of mainly developing nations that claim such resolutions are politically motivated. The resolution would have expressed "grave concern" at Uzbekistan's use of force to quell a May 2005 uprising in Andijan, at its closure of 200 non-governmental organizations [JURIST report], and at the detention of journalists and human rights activists within the country. The motion to take no action on the resolution, introduced by Uzbekistan itself, was approved in a 74-69 vote with 24 countries abstaining. In voting to block the resolution, representatives of both Uzbekistan and Cuba referred to an agreement of the Non-Aligned Movement of Heads of State and Government [BBC backgrounder] to prohibit "the exploitation of human rights for political purposes." China also supported the stalling of the measure, saying that the draft was confrontational and insisting that Uzbekistan had made recent progress on rights issues. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton [official website], representatives from the EU and Amnesty International [advocacy website] all criticized the UN panel for missing an opportunity to push for improvements.

    Last Thursday the same committee approved a draft resolution [text, PDF] directly calling for an end to politically motivated condemnations [JURIST report] of countries for human rights violations. The resolution, sponsored by Belarus and Uzbekistan and now headed for the General Assembly, says that human rights protection should be "guided by the principles of universality, non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity and should be not used for political purposes". Last month, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] closed its investigation [JURIST report] into the Andijan uprising, prompting criticism from human rights organizations. In May 2005, Uzbek government troops killed as many as 500 people who stormed a prison and released inmates [JURIST reports] in protest of trials of 23 businessmen who were charged with religious extremism. AP has more.






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    Marine claims Navy investigators blocked access to lawyer in Hamdania murder case
    Jeannie Shawl on November 21, 2006 12:12 PM ET

    [JURIST] Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, one of several US Marines facing court-martial in connection with the kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], told a military court Monday that agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service [official website] told him not to ask for a defense lawyer and threatened him with the death penalty during interviews after the April incident. During a motion hearing, Pennington testified that NCIS agents told him that asking for a lawyer would be "the worst mistake" he could make, but two NCIS agents took the stand and denied the allegations. Pennington is seeking to prevent the prosecution from using his statements during his court-martial and a ruling on his motion is expected Tuesday.

    Pennington is charged [DOC text] with murder, kidnapping, housebreaking, larceny and conspiracy for his role in the Hamdania incident, where military personnel allegedly left Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] by the side of the road with a shovel and AK-47 after they shot him, making Awad look like an insurgent. Of the eight serviceman originally charged [JURIST report] in the case, three additional Marines still face courts-martial [JURIST report], including squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III [JURIST report], Cpl. Trent D. Thomas and Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda. Two Marines and a Navy corpsman have pleaded guilty, and a fourth guilty plea is expected from Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. later Tuesday. AP has more.






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    Federal court rules NSA can withhold details of domestic wiretapping
    Lisl Brunner on November 21, 2006 11:57 AM ET

    [JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [PDF text] Monday that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] can withhold documents and information relating to its Terrorist Surveillance Program [JURIST news archive; US DOJ fact sheet, PDF] requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the People for the American Way [advocacy website], which sought information about the program's review process and lists of individuals and organizations that the NSA had subjected to electronic surveillance without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [official website]. Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle held that the NSA's refusal was justified under FOIA exception (b)(1), when an issue is "in the interest of national defense," and under exception (b)(2), when "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute." In the latter case, the court concluded that the National Security Agency Act of 1959 [text] and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 [text] satisfied the statutory exemption provision. AP has more.

    The ruling comes a few days after US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attacked critics [JURIST report] of the program. The administration is currently appealing a ruling by US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the initiative is unconstitutional. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the program could continue [JURIST report] pending the appeal process.






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    Bosnian immigrant sentenced to 5 years for lying about Srebrenica role
    Jeannie Shawl on November 21, 2006 11:49 AM ET

    [JURIST] A US judge sentenced Bosnian immigrant Marko Boskic to 63 months in prison Monday for failing to reveal his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] while trying to enter the US as a refugee. Boskic was charged [JURIST report] in August 2004 with five counts of making false declarations on US immigration applications and in an interview with federal agents. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report], claiming he had been held in a Serbian prison camp and threatened with a gun to his head if he did not take part in the killings, but was convicted [JURIST report] in July on two counts of concealing his military record.

    Boskic's lawyer had urged a lighter sentence, but US District Judge Douglas Woodlock said he considered Boskic's role in the Srebrenica massacre when determining the sentence. Under federal sentencing guidelines [USSC materials], judges may factor in a defendant's prior criminal history. Boskic will likely be deported to Bosnia-Herzegovina [JURIST news archive] after he serves his sentence, where he could be tried for war crimes. AP has more.






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    Former AG Reno challenges denial of habeas for 'enemy combatants' in US
    Holly Manges Jones on November 21, 2006 8:38 AM ET

    [JURIST] Former US Attorney General Janet Reno [WP profile] joined seven other former US Justice Department officials Monday in opposing an interpretation of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text; JURIST news archive] that would deny suspected terrorists held in the US access to the civilian court system. The former prosecutors filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] with the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in an appeal [brief, PDF] brought by Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri [Wikipedia profile], a Qatari citizen detained while studying in the US, who is disputing the government's plan to try him before a military commission [JURIST news archive].

    Last week, the Justice Department filed [JURIST report] a motion to dismiss [text, PDF] Al-Marri's case, arguing that immigrants labeled as enemy combatants [JURIST news archive] under an expansive definition [WP report] of the term in the MCA can be indefinitely detained and should be denied access to civilian courts even if they were arrested and held inside the country. The former prosecutors said construing the new law in this way would set a "dangerous precedent" and that

    the existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States — without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years. The federal government is eminently capable of both protecting our nation’s security and safeguarding our proud traditions of civil liberties. We would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s admonition that “[t]hose who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Reno's participation in the challenge marks a rare departure from the normal practice of former US attorneys general to refrain from questioning administration policy. While most of the other eight attorneys listed on the brief worked for the US government during former President Bill Clinton's time in office, W. Thomas Dillard and Anton Valukas both served as attorneys for former President Ronald Reagan. AP has more.





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    French judge recommends Rwanda president face war crimes trial
    Holly Manges Jones on November 21, 2006 7:53 AM ET

    [JURIST] French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] has recommended that Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] stand trial for the 1994 killing of former president Juvenal Habyarimana [Wikipedia profile], which sparked the country's genocide [HRW backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] in which some 800,000 people died. Kagame has denied any involvement in shooting down the plane that carried Habyarimana, leading to the former president's death. Rwanda's justice minister rejected Bruguiere's recommendation [BBC report] Tuesday, saying that the judge was acting on "unfounded" gossip. French prosecutors are investigating the case because the plane's crew was French. Last month, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] denied a request to hear testimony from Bruguiere who was expected to implicate Kagame for ordering the attack on Habyarimana. The tribunal has also refused to give a 1997 UN report to Bruguiere which allegedly discusses Kagame's involvement in the former president's murder. The London Telegraph has more. Le Monde has local coverage.

    Meanwhile French prosecutors have authorized arrest warrant for nine senior Rwandan officials who Bruguiere claims were involved in Habyarimana's death. The list includes Rwandan Armed Forces [Wikipedia backgrounder] chief James Kabarebe, army chief of staff Charles Kayonga, and other officials with close contact to Kagame, according to French court officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Kagame is immune from arrest as a head of state. AP has more.






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    Mexico election challenger swears himself in as parallel president
    Holly Manges Jones on November 21, 2006 7:19 AM ET

    [JURIST] Losing leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [campaign website, in Spanish; BBC profile] held a ceremony Monday to establish himself as the "moral" president of Mexico in his latest attempt to develop a parallel government [JURIST report] for the country. The defeated candidate is hoping to maintain the support of Mexico's poor by proposing tax reforms for the rich and fighting against business monopolies. Complete with its own cabinet, the parallel government plans to set up committees throughout the nation and solicit donations to carry out Lopez Obrador's proposed reforms since collecting taxes from Mexican citizens is not a legal option. One of the first tasks for the parallel government is attempting to stop the December 1 inauguration of presidential victor Felipe Calderon [campaign website, in Spanish; BBC profile].

    Leftist supporters object to the official results of Mexico's July 2 presidential election [JURIST news archive] which gave Calderon victory by a margin of 0.6 percent. Lopez Obrador argued before the Federal Electoral Tribunal [official website, in Spanish] in late July that the election was marred by fraud [JURIST report], but the court rejected most of his challenges [JURIST report] on the grounds that there was no evidence of systematic fraud. It is uncertain how long Lopez Obrador will be able to maintain momentum since members of his Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) [party website, in Spanish] have begun to disagree with his stance that their seats in Congress should be used to protest proposals by the legal government rather than try to negotiate for changes. AP has more.






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    Nepal rights commission report holds King responsible for protest violence
    Melissa Bancroft on November 20, 2006 8:46 PM ET

    [JURIST] Nepal's High Level Probe Commission [JURIST report] submitted its final report Monday to the Nepalese government, concluding that King Gyanendra [official profile; BBC profile] and some 200 members of his administration were responsible for the violent response to the democracy protests [JURIST news archive] last April that left 22 dead and more than 5,000 wounded. The commission, formed [JURIST report] by the interim government in Nepal [JURIST news archive] and led by a former supreme court justice, has the authority to interrogate officials, issue warrants, and make recommendations regarding actions which should be taken against rights abusers. The commission's final report does not include recommendations, but Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has promised to "fully implement" the report [NepalNews.com report]. The commission, whose findings were leaked to the media [JURIST report] last week, reasoned that because Gyanendra chaired Nepal's council of ministers, he was legally responsible for the actions of the cabinet. Rights activists are calling for those responsible for the violent crackdown to be prosecuted; Gyanendra has been stripped of most of his powers [JURIST report] since his fall from power in April, including his right to immunity.

    Rights groups have also urged Koirala to make the report available to the public [NepalNews.com report], asserting that the government's failure to release the report publicly violates a right to information and also runs contrary to the spirit behind the pro-democracy movement. AP has more.






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    China admits torture behind recent wrongful convictions
    Melissa Bancroft on November 20, 2006 7:58 PM ET

    [JURIST] China's deputy chief prosecutor has said that almost every wrongful conviction in the country in recent years has been the result of torture [JURIST report] and intensive interrogation techniques. The government has discovered at least 30 people who were wrongfully convicted using confessions extracted by torture, and even estimates the number could be higher. Wang Zhenchuan said that China will now make an effort to record all interrogations [JURIST report] in connection with major crimes on video and audio tape.

    China's notorious criminal justice system has been under increased international scrutiny since Manfred Nowak [official profile, [DOC]], UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, found after an investigation [JURIST report] last year that prisoner torture in the country was still widespread [JURIST report] and uncovered evidence of common torture methods such as submersion in pits of sewage or water, cigarette burns, electric shock batons, beatings to the point of exhaustion, and exposure to extreme conditions of heat or cold. The Chinese government initially refuted the accusations [JURIST report], claiming torture was banned in China and that Nowak's findings, based on evidence that suspects were routinely beaten by police, "lacks an objective foundation and does not accord with reality." Torture is most commonly used in the countryside and against those convicted of political crimes. AFP has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.






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    Federal judge rejects Guantanamo detainee transfer bid for heart operation
    Jonathan Rhein on November 20, 2006 7:08 PM ET

    [JURIST] US District Judge Paul L. Friedman [official profile] Monday rejected [official order, PDF] a Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee's petition to have his heart operation transferred to a civilian facility. Saifullah Paracha [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], a multimillionaire businessman and television producer from Pakistan, petitioned the US District Court for District of Columbia on November 15 to enjoin the US military [JURIST report] from performing a cardiac catheterization [AHA backgrounder] at Guantanamo Bay, claiming the facility lacks sufficient medical equipment and the backup to ensure his health if something goes wrong. Paracha lawyer Gaillard Hunt argued that his client, who has previously suffered two heart attacks, should be transferred to a medical facility in the US or Pakistan. Hunt's claims that Paracha's hands and feet would be shackled during his hospital stay were unconfirmed by government lawyers. US officials, however, asserted that Guantanamo facilities and doctors are adequately prepared to handle the procedure and noted that special equipment and practitioners can be brought in if needed.

    In rejecting Paracha’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, Friedman opined that the "petitioner has not established that he faces irreparable injury from having the procedure performed at Guantanamo Bay." The US government also noted that an identical procedure was successfully completed in 2003 and that it is Paracha's choice whether to have the operation. US authorities captured Paracha in 2003 on his way to Thailand, where he was detained until October 2004 when he was moved to Guantanamo. AFP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.






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    New York top court orders more NYC school funding to meet constitutional standard
    Joe Shaulis on November 20, 2006 4:02 PM ET

    [JURIST] The New York State Court of Appeals [official website] ruled Monday that the state must spend about $2 billion more per year to provide children in the New York City public school system [official website] with "a sound basic education" guaranteed by the state constitution [text]. In a 4-2 decision [opinion, PDF], the state's highest court embraced as "reasonable" the findings of a commission that recommended [press release] spending an additional $1.93 billion per year. The court deferred to the legislature and the governor to set the exact amount of the increase.

    The decision ends 13 years of litigation [CFE backgrounder] by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which said in a press release [text] today that the court "reaffirmed the state's responsibility to increase funding for New York City's public schools." Still, the CFE described the $1.93 billion figure as "insufficient" while expressing hope that legislators and Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer (D) [campaign website; JURIST news archive], the former state attorney general, would "come through with the right amount of funding." Spitzer has advocated an increase as high as $6 billion. The New York Times has more. AP has additional coverage.






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    UK AG breaks with Blair on terror detention limit extension
    Joe Shaulis on November 20, 2006 3:24 PM ET

    [JURIST] UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [official website; Guardian profile] spoke out Monday against a proposal by Prime Minister Tony Blair [JURIST news archive] to extend the 28-day limit on police detentions of terrorism suspects who have not been charged. Goldsmith, the government's chief legal adviser, said during a media briefing that he had not seen evidence to justify increasing the limit to 90 days. Blair last week renewed his support for the extension [press briefing summary], which last year was rejected by the House of Commons [JURIST report] in favor of a 28-day limit now contained in the Terrorism Act of 2006 [text; Home Office backgrounder].

    The Blair government floated the possibility of reviving the longer limit [JURIST report] earlier this year, and the proposal gained momentum some two weeks ago after London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair advocated an extension of the detention limit in a speech this month. Independent anti-terror law reviewer Lord Carlile has warned lawmakers against "rushing" to make the change [JURIST reports]. AP has more. The Guardian has local coverage.






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    Top Israel general 'disappointed' over use of cluster bombs in Lebanon campaign
    Jaime Jansen on November 20, 2006 2:24 PM ET

    [JURIST] Israel Defense Forces [official website] Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz [official profile] Monday expressed disappointment about Israel's use of cluster bombs [FAS backgrounder] during the recent Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive] and ordered an investigation into how the order to use the munitions was given. Major General Gershon Hacohen will lead the inquiry into whether Halutz's instructions on the authorization of cluster bombs was clear.

    Human rights groups have denounced the use of cluster bombs [Cluster Munition Coalition advocacy website] in civilian areas by both Israel and Hezbollah [JURIST reports] during the conflict because of the inaccuracies involved and strong possibility of hitting unintended targets. The New York Times has more. Haaretz has local coverage.






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    Rights groups call for Thai ex-PM to face crimes against humanity charges
    Jaime Jansen on November 20, 2006 1:51 PM ET

    [JURIST] Thai human rights groups have demanded that former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] face charges for crimes against humanity relating to his rough anti-drug campaign. The Lawyers Council of Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission [advocacy websites, in Thai] allege that more than 2,500 people died as a result of Thaksin's crackdown on drug dealers. The groups have also encouraged Thailand's interim government to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] so that the ICC may prosecute Thaksin and high-ranking officials in his government. The ICC can only prosecute crimes committed after July 1, 2002 and normally only has jurisdiction over events that occur after the court's Rome Statute [PDF text] enters into force for a particular country. States, however, may accept the ICC's jurisdiction for events occurring before the state ratifies the Rome Statute.

    Thailand [JURIST news archive] has been under martial law [JURIST report] since the Thai military seized power from Thaksin in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] in September. Thailand's Council for National Security [official website, in Thai] may lift martial law next month after investigators wrap up a corruption probe [JURIST reports] against Thaksin. Australia's ABC News has more. From Thailand, the Nation has local coverage.






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    Bolivia governors confront president on constitutional assembly vote
    Joe Shaulis on November 20, 2006 1:15 PM ET

    [JURIST] The governors of six of Bolivia's nine states vowed over the weekend to break off relations with President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] following a move to give Morales' leftist party more power [JURIST report] to rewrite the country's constitution. The six governors, who all belong to opposition parties but represent 80 percent of Bolivia's population, pledged not to participate in Morales' attempts "to change the structure of government, undermine the law and destabilize elected authorities." They also called on activists to demonstrate Thursday in Cochabama, Bolivia's third-largest city.

    On Friday, Bolivia's constitutional assembly [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion to make decisions by majority vote - a victory for Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS) [party website], which failed to receive two-thirds of the assembly seats [JURIST report] in July's elections. The vote allows MAS, with 137 of the 235 assembly seats, to easily adopt populist reforms into the amended constitution [current text], although a two-thirds vote will still be needed to approve the final constitutional draft. MercoPress News Agency has more.






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    Ohio GOP fundraiser sentenced to 18 years on fraud conviction
    Jaime Jansen on November 20, 2006 1:12 PM ET

    [JURIST] Tom Noe [Wikipedia profile], a former Republican fundraiser and prominent coin dealer in Ohio, was sentenced on Monday to 18 years in prison after his conviction [summary, PDF] last week on theft, corrupt activity, money laundering, forgery and tampering with records charges in a rare coin investment scandal [Toledo Blade backgrounder]. Noe managed a $50 million state investment in rare coins promulgated by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation [official website], and prosecutors alleged that Noe use some of the investment money to pay off his own business loans and purchase a Florida residence. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik concluded that Noe spent the state money at an "alarmingly large rate" culminating in an "elaborate scheme of theft."

    Noe was indicted [PDF; Columbus Dispatchreport ] in February along with his business partner, Timothy LaPointe. In addition to the coin investment scandal that came to light last year, Noe's actions led to ethics charges [JURIST report] against Republican Ohio Governor Bob Taft [official website], including criminal misdemeanors for failing to acknowledge nearly 70 golf outings and other favors. Taft pleaded no contest [JURIST report] and may face more disciplinary charges [JURIST report]. Noe already received a two-year prison sentence earlier this year after he pleaded guilty to fraudulently contributing $45,000 into President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. AP has more. The Toledo Blade has local coverage.






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    Philippines courts-martial ordered for 30 military officers in failed coup plot
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 10:00 AM ET

    [JURIST] Thirty Philippine military officers will face courts-martial on mutiny charges in connection with their alleged involvement in a February coup plot [JURIST report] to overthrow the government of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; JURIST news archive], a general told a news conference on Sunday. The general indicated that the decision to proceed with courts-martial against the officers, a group that includes two generals, is part of a larger Philippine effort to curb so-called "adventurism," the willful disobeyance of official orders, which has characterized the Filipino military's willingness to participate in many coup attempts over the past few decades. Over 100 soldiers were initially under investigation [JURIST report] for possible court-martial charges related to the failed coup attempt.

    In May, a Philippine court dismissed charges [JURIST report] against five lawmakers accused of plotting the coup. Reuters has more. The Manila Times has local coverage.






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    UN rights chief condemns 'intolerable' Gaza violations
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 9:24 AM ET

    [JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] on Monday condemned human rights violations occurring in the Palestinian authorities, saying that violations were "intolerable" and expressing concern for civilians in the area. Arbour is currently visiting the Gaza strip [press release] in order to "examine developments" connected to "the protection of civilians during armed conflict and the entitlement of Palestinians and Israelis equally to enjoy all fundamental freedoms." She told reporters Monday that civilian exposure to shelling is indefensible.

    Earlier this month, the United States vetoed [JURIST report] a UN Security Council resolution [draft text and explanations] that would have condemned an Israeli attack on Beit Hanoun [BBC report] in the Gaza Strip on November 8 that resulted in the deaths of at least 18 civilians and called on Israel "to scrupulously abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949." Last week, the UN Human Rights Council voted to discharge a fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun [AFP report] to investigate the incident. AFP has more.






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    Nicaragua president signs unqualified abortion ban into law
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 8:53 AM ET

    [JURIST] Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos [official website, in Spanish] has signed a law that bans all abortion [JURIST report] and eliminates a longstanding exception for the health of the mother. Abortion has long been illegal in Nicaragua, though tempered by the medical necessity exception. Opponents of the complete abortion ban had hoped that Bolanos would reject the bill because it did not raise criminal penalties for women from six years in prison to the thirty years he had previously sought. Nicaragua now joins Chile, El Salvador, and at least 32 other countries in the world which have adopted similar measures.

    Nicaragua [US State Dept. backgrounder] has a large Roman Catholic population and the church assisted in drafting the bill, which has been criticized by international human rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] and Ipas [advocacy website], which claim the number of illegal abortions in the country will increase. Medical practitioners in Nicaragua have been split on the issue, with some arguing that medical science has progressed to the point where a woman's life will not be harmed if the fetus is brought to term, while others claim the new law will discourage doctors from performing life-saving procedures if they become necessary for the mother. The New York Times has more.






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    Romney may ask court to put same-sex marriage question on Massachusetts ballot
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 8:16 AM ET

    [JURIST] Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney [official website] on Sunday urged state legislators [DOC speech transcript] to vote on a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage ban and said he will petition the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to place the question on the next ballot if legislators fail to vote on the issue before the end of their term on January 2. Earlier this month, legislators postponed [JURIST report] a vote on the proposed constitutional amendment [DOC text] to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The state assembly must approve the amendment before it can be presented to voters for final approval. Although opponents of same-sex marriage had obtained 170,000 signatures in favor of putting the measure before the legislature, they lacked the requisite support of one-quarter of the lawmakers to approve a vote on the issue. In his speech Sunday, Romney said:

    Last week, 109 legislators decided to reject the law, abandon the Constitution, and violate their oath of office. For the Constitution plainly states that when a qualified petition is placed before them, the legislature "shall" vote. It does not say may vote, or vote if its procedures permit a vote, or vote if there are enough of the members in attendance. It says "shall" vote. A decision not to vote is a decision to usurp the Constitution, to abandon democracy and substitute a form of what this nation's founders called tyranny, that is, the imposition of the will of those in power, on the people.

    As I listened to the debate in the legislative session last week, I was struck by the irony, and the hypocrisy. Legislators so energized to protect the newly discovered gay right to marry had no compunction about trammeling the long established, constitutional right of the people to vote. The issue now before us is not whether same sex couples should marry. The issue before us today is whether 109 legislators will follow the Constitution. Tomorrow, I will send these 109 a copy of the Constitution and of their oath of office. And this week, we will file an action before the courts, calling upon the judiciary to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens. Let us not see this state, which first established constitutional democracy, become the first to abandon it.
    Massachusetts [JURIST news archive] is currently the only US state to recognize same-sex marriage, after a November 2003 state high court ruling [JURIST report, background materials]. More than 8,000 couples have subsequently wed in the state, and the precedent has sparked a nationwide debate over gay marriage.

    Earlier this month, Arizona voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages [JURIST report], civil unions and domestic partnerships. At the same time, voters in seven other states - Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin - approved ballot measures supporting traditional marriage. Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples and gave the legislature 180 days to vote on whether to amend the state's marriage laws. Several similar cases have been decided or are pending in other states including California, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut [JURIST reports]. AP has more.





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    Italy removes intelligence chief linked to CIA abduction case
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 7:56 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Italian cabinet met Monday to relieve the head of Italy's intelligence agency of his duties, a move prompted by suspicions that he was involved in the alleged 2003 CIA kidnapping [JURIST news archive; WP timeline] of Egyptian cleric Moustafa Hassan Nasr [Wikipedia profile]. Nicolo Pollari, now the former head of the Italian Intelligence and Security Services (SISMI) [official website], has testified before parliamentary committees, denying the allegations [JURIST report] that he assisted the CIA with the alleged extraordinary rendition.

    Prosecutors said last month that they had completed their investigation [JURIST report] into the incident and are once again pressing for the extradition of 26 Americans [JURIST report] believed to be involved in the alleged extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive]. Nasr was reportedly seized by CIA agents with the help of SISMI on the streets of Milan in 2003 before being taken to an American airbase and on to Egypt. AP has more.






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    Saddam Dujail trial 'fundamentally unfair': HRW
    Joshua Pantesco on November 20, 2006 7:23 AM ET

    [JURIST] Saddam Hussein's trial for crimes against humanity committed in Dujail was "fundamentally unfair" and the guilty verdict lacks legitimacy due to procedural and substantive flaws, according to a report [text; press release] released by advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Monday. Nehal Bhuta, the report's author, said that the Iraqi High Tribunal "squandered an important opportunity to deliver credible justice" and called the court's decision to impose the death penalty in light of the trial's procedural shortcomings "indefensible." Based on 10 months of court observation and interviews with judges and lawyers, the report concludes that:

    Hussein's defense lawyers welcomed the report [AFP report] Monday, saying that HRW's findings "bolster" the defense team's arguments that the trial was "unfair and illegal."

    Last week, defense lawyers accused Iraqi officials of interfering with the appeals process [JURIST report] of the Dujail verdict, where Hussein and two co-defendants received the death penalty [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in Dujail. Hussein was charged [JURIST report] with killing, torturing and illegally detaining Dujail residents, including the execution of 148 Shiites [JURIST report], after an unsuccessful attempt on his life there in 1982.

    Hussein is also currently on trial on genocide charges [JURIST news archive] for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds in the "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] in the late 1980s. That trial was adjourned [JURIST report] last week until mid-December. The Washington Post has more.






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    House Democrat to introduce military draft bill
    Caitlin Price on November 19, 2006 3:49 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) [official website] said Sunday he plans to introduce legislation in the next session of Congress to reinstate the military draft in the United States. Interviewed on CBS TV program Face the Nation [program website; interview video], he said that military conscription would prompt lawmakers to think differently about deploying US troops abroad: "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way." He also pointed to low troop levels as antithetical to long-term US interests: "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft." Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee [official website], nonetheless added that his bill would only require "a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals" and would not necessarily entail combat service for all draftees.

    Rangel, a Korean War veteran, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war from its inception. He has repeatedly pointed to the disparity of the burden of military service, as the armed forces are largely comprised of lower-income citizens. In 2004, he sponsored HR 163 [text], which would have required every US citizen and resident between the ages of 18 and 26, including women, to perform a two-year period of national service. The bill was roundly defeated in the House. Polls suggest that up to 70 percent of Americans oppose a reinstatement of the draft. AP has more.






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    US trade agreement brings Russia closer to WTO membership
    Melissa Bancroft on November 19, 2006 3:43 PM ET

    [JURIST] The United States and Russia signed a landmark trade agreement [press release] Sunday bringing Russia one step closer in its 13-year drive for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) [official website; JURIST news archive]. Under the agreement, Russia [JURIST news archive] will lower import tariffs on American goods while the US pledged to improve its trade relations with Russian companies. The agreement signals an improvement in the recently rocky relations between the US and Russia but the countries still have a way to go before normal trade relations [Moscow Times report] are established between Washington and Moscow.

    Before the WTO will vote on Russia's membership, Russia must complete bilateral trade negotiations [Washington Post report] with Costa Rica, Moldavia, and Georgia. Russia is the largest economy currently outside of the 149 member WTO. Critics have suggested the US may be using the agreement to gain Russian support for a sanctions package against Iran for nuclear activity. AP has more.






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    Iran parliament passes US visitor fingerprinting bill despite Ahmadinejad
    Caitlin Price on November 19, 2006 3:03 PM ET

    [JURIST] Iran's parliament [official website, in Persian] passed a bill Sunday instituting mandatory fingerprinting of all visiting US citizens. The predominantly conservative Majlis passed the bill by a margin of 135 to 26, and will next hand it to the Guardian Council [official website, in Persian] for review before it is written into law. The legislation won approval despite the efforts of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official profile; BBC profile], who spoke out against the bill [JURIST report] in October, emphasizing that Americans are welcome in Iran as Iran only opposes US policy, not US citizens.

    The bill was proposed as a reaction to US regulations, implemented in 2002, requiring every Iranian to be fingerprinted upon arrival in the US. The Iranian proposal reads in part, "the government is obliged to fingerprint all American citizens, in order to reciprocate behavior of American officials towards Iranian citizens." Iranian Vice President for legal and parliamentary affairs Seyyed Ahmad Mousavi said Sunday that Iran's government is still opposed to the measure [IRNA report]. Reuters has more.






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    Mexico report blames government for crimes against humanity in 'dirty war'
    Leslie Schulman on November 19, 2006 12:13 PM ET

    [JURIST] Former Mexican Presidents Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (1964-1970) [Wikipedia backgrounder], Luis Echeverria (1970-1976) [JURIST news archive], and Jose Lopez Portillo (1976-1982) [Wikipedia backgrounder] were responsible for "crimes against humanity" in connection with the massacres and tortures of hundreds of leftist activists during the 1960s and 1970s, according to an official report [PDF] released Saturday by the Mexican government [official website]. The report reflects five years of investigations [JURIST report] by special prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo into Mexico's "dirty war" [National Security Archive backgrounder] and found that government under the three presidents took part in "massacres, forced disappearances, systematic torture and genocide to try to destroy a sector of society that it considered ideologically to be its enemy."

    The worst of the crimes against humanity were allegedly committed during Luis Echeverria's "Friendship Operation," when the military tortured and gunned down villagers in the state of Guerrero and set fire to their homes and property. Carrillo's report also focused on the 1968 massacre [backgrounder; BBC report] during a student-led revolt in Mexico City, thought to be organized by Echeverria, who was Interior Minister for then-President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. The report found that top officials, including the presidents, knew of and authorized these and other crimes against leftist leaders, and did nothing to stop them. AP has more.

    In July, a Mexican judge cleared Echeverria [JURIST report] of genocide charges in connection with his role in repressing the 1968 revolt, ruling that the charges could not stand because Mexico's statute of limitations had run. Echeverria is the only one of the three ex-Presidents still living and has denied his involvement in the massacre.






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    Egypt president calls for amendment of criticized constitution
    Michael Sung on November 19, 2006 11:08 AM ET

    [JURIST] Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak [official website; BBC profile] called for the country's parliament to amend Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution [text] Sunday amid criticism from the opposition that the article effectively protects the ruling party from genuine competition in the 2011 presidential elections. Mubarak made the announcement in a speech [National Democratic Party press release] marking the opening of a new parliamentary session. The current version of Article 76, amended in 2005 [NDP backgrounder, PDF] after a May referendum [JURIST report], prevents political parties with less than five percent representation in the Egyptian parliament from submitting a presidential candidate (the previous version has simply stipulated that Egyptians could vote yes or no on a single presidential candidate). Critics allege that the article was designed to allow Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party [party website] to nominate Mubarak's youngest son, Gamal Mubarak, as the sole candidate next presidential elections.

    Mubarak has won three elections since assuming power in 1981. Egypt has remained under emergency law [JURIST report] through Mubarak's president, giving the government a type of quasi-military control over the population. AP has more.






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    Gonzales attacks domestic surveillance critics
    Leslie Schulman on November 19, 2006 10:47 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] attacked critics of President Bush's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive; US DOJ fact sheet, PDF] in a speech [transcript] at the Air Force Academy Saturday, saying their views are "shortsighted." Critics of the program, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], argue that the program violates both the First and Fourth Amendment because it operates without judicial oversight [ACLU press release]. In Saturday's speech, Gonzales said that a definition of freedom that did not allow for the program is "a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people." AP has more.

    Gonzales' remarks come three months after US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the program is unconstitutional because it violates free speech and privacy rights. The Bush administration has appealed the decision. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] ruled [text, PDF; JURIST report] that the program could continue to operate pending the appeal process. In a Friday address [JURIST report] to the national convention of the Federalist Society, Vice President Cheney slammed [text] the August ruling as "an indefensible act of judicial overreaching." Earlier this month, President Bush urged lawmakers [JURIST report] to pass White House-supported legislation that would clarify the legality of the program; last week outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter introduced a limited bill [JURIST report] to authorize domestic surveillance in a final bid to get a supportive measure passed before the new Congress begins in January.






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    China urged to detail organ harvesting from executed prisoners after admission
    Michael Sung on November 19, 2006 10:11 AM ET

    [JURIST] Humans Right Watch [official website] urged the Chinese government Sunday to be more transparent about its practice of removing transplant organs from executed prisoners after Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu [China Vitae profile] admitted for the first time [UPI report] at a medical conference last week that most organs take from cadavers for transplants come from there "apart from a small portion of traffic victims". Nicholas Bequelin, a HRW researcher based in Hong Kong, told the Associated Press that "we call on China to disclose the number of people executed every year and the number of organ transplants that take place." Chinese authorities insist that all organ donations require informed consent [JURIST report] from the prisoners or their families.

    In March, the Chinese Ministry of Health [official website, in Chinese] issued a general ban on the sale of human organs [JURIST report] that took effect on July 1. The Ministry also issued new regulations [JURIST report] in August intended to counter unauthorized international trade in organs. The policy changes followed international criticism [JURIST report] that human organs taken from executed prisoners were sold to foreigners. AP has more.






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    Congo presidential hopeful files high court election challenge
    Ned Mulcahy on November 18, 2006 4:11 PM ET

    [JURIST] Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile] filed an anticipated challenge [JURIST report] to the results of last month's presidential run-off election [JURIST report] in the country's Supreme Court Saturday. Congolese military personnel and UN peacekeeping forces surrounded the high court building in downtown Kinshasa as a precaution against rioting. Officials announced Wednesday that Bemba lost the election to incumbent Joseph Kabila [BBC profile; PPRD party website, in French] by 16 percentage points. The challenge alleges seven different violations including ballot-box stuffing, irregularities in voter turnout, and the barring of election officials from some polling places.

    Voting fraud [JURIST report] has been an issue [JURIST report] throughout the election. Over 30 people have died [NYT report] in election-related violence since the initial poll July 30. Reuters has more.






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    Ethiopians demonstrate against US female circumcision conviction
    Ryan Olden on November 18, 2006 3:30 PM ET

    [JURIST] About 300 protesters demonstrated Saturday in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia [JURIST news archive], calling for a US retrial of Khalid Adem, a Ethiopian immigrant to the United States who earlier this month was convicted of circumcising his daughter [JURIST report] in 2001. In what was believed to be the first US case of its kind, a Georgia state court [Gwinnett County courts website] sentenced Adem to ten years in prison for sexually mutilating his then-two-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors. The Georgia General Assembly [official website] enacted a bill [text] to specifically criminalize the practice of female genital mutilation [World Health Organization backgrounder] in 2005, as the practice was not technically a crime in Georgia [JURIST news archive] at the time of the incident.

    Female circumcision is performed in various cultures and religions to discourage promiscuity among women and denies women sexual pleasure, causes dangerous infections, creates deep emotional scars, and can even kill, according to opponents and human rights groups. The procedure is not specifically illegal in Ethiopia [US State Dept. backgrounder], but government policy there discourages "harmful traditional practices." Reuters has more.






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    Ex-Enron executives get reduced prison terms after co-operating with prosecutors
    Ned Mulcahy on November 18, 2006 2:55 PM ET

    [JURIST] Texas US District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. sentenced former Enron [JURIST news archive] executives Michael Kopper [BBC profile] and Mark Koenig to 37- and 18-month prison terms [DOJ press release] respectively Friday for their role in the corporate scandal. The sentences for both men were reduced at the request of prosecuting attorneys in return for the defendants' testimony against other former Enron executives [JURIST report]. Kopper, a former Enron managing director and subordinate to former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow [JURIST news archive], pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of money laundering in August 2002 for which he faced up to 15 years in prison. Koenig, Enron's former investor relations chief, pleaded guilty [DOJ press release] to aiding and abetting securities fraud in August 2004. He faced up to 10 years in prison.

    As part of their plea agreements, both Kopper and Koenig agreed to return millions of dollars they had pilfered from the company. That money, along with the court-imposed $50,000.00 fine for each man, will be deposited in a fund for the victims of Enron's collapse. AP has more.






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    Domestic surveillance lawsuit allowed to proceed
    Ryan Olden on November 18, 2006 2:07 PM ET

    [JURIST] US District Judge Vaughn Walker [official profile] of the Northern District of California [official website] ruled Friday that he will allow a class action lawsuit [EFF case backgrounder; JURIST report] filed against the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] to go forward while a prior motion to dismiss the case is on appeal. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] brought the class action wiretapping lawsuit against AT&T [corporate website] in January, alleging that the company had unlawfully provided the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] with access to its facilities and resources to unconstitutionally spy on "millions of ordinary Americans."

    The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] moved to dismiss the case in July, citing "state secrets" among other concerns. But Walker denied the motion [JURIST report] and ruled [order, PDF] instead that the case can proceed safely because broad media coverage of the surveillance program had neutralized any danger of disclosing state secrets. In early November, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] agreed to hear an appeal [JURIST report] of the decision, prompting the DOJ to file a request [PDF] that Walker delay further proceedings on the rest of the case while the motion for dismissal is appealed, potentially all the way to the US Supreme Court. CNET News has more.






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    US frees last Guantanamo detainees deemed not enemy combatants
    Alexis Unkovic on November 18, 2006 1:40 PM ET

    [JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced Friday that it had released three detainees [press release] from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] who Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] had determined not to be enemy combatants [JURIST news archive]. The US Department of State [official website] said [press release] later that the government of Albania has agreed to accept and resettle the three, identified as an Algerian national, an Egyptian national, and an ethnic Uzbek born in the former Soviet Union. The State Department specified that they were "the last remaining Guantanamo detainees determined to be no longer enemy combatants," apparently ending the limbo in which a number of prisoners deemed eligible for release have found themselves. In May, Albania accepted for resettlement [JURIST report] five ethnic Uighurs who had previously been held at Guantanamo Bay but who the US refused to send back to China, their country of citizenship.

    DOD reports that there are still approximately 430 individuals being detained at Guantanamo, including about 110 already been found eligible for transfer or release. AP has more.






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    Cheney signals White House to continue backing conservative judges
    Caitlin Price on November 18, 2006 11:36 AM ET

    [JURIST] Vice President Dick Cheney told [transcript; recorded audio] the Federalist Society [advocacy website] annual meeting in Washington Friday that the Bush administration plans to continue nominating conservative judges to the federal courts notwithstanding new Democratic control of Congress and expectations on both sides of the aisle that more moderate candidates might be put forward [JURIST report] after the mid-term elections. "Federal judges," Cheney declared:

    are appointed for life and serve outside the democratic process. Therefore they have a duty to pursue no agenda or platform -- and to leave politics to those who run for office and answer to the people. As a great American put it, judges are to be "servants of the law, not the other way around." And those are the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the many superb nominees chosen by President George W. Bush...Throughout our time in office, the President has selected judges who understand their role in the constitutional system. And I assure you, nothing that has happened in the last two weeks will change his commitment to nominating first-rate talent like John Roberts and Sam Alito.
    Earlier this week the White House renominated [JURIST report] a slate of six candidates for federal appeals court judgeships, at least four of whom Democrats have already rejected [JURIST report]. Among the renominees are Peter Keisler, a founding member of the conservative Federalist Society put forward for the DC Circuit. AP has more.





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    Chertoff says international law being used as 'rhetorical weapon' against US
    Bernard Hibbitts on November 18, 2006 11:22 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] warned [recorded audio] the national convention of the conservative Federalist Society [advocacy website] in a speech [transcript] Friday that international law was increasingly being used as a "rhetorical weapon" against the United States and urged members of his audience to "confront...the rise of an increasingly activist, left-wing, and even elitist philosophy of law that is flourishing not in the United States but in foreign courts and in various international courts and bodies."

    Chertoff said that objections from privacy advocates, especially in the European Parliament, to proposed American uses of passenger record data [JURIST report] on air travelers coming from Europe to the US had lately prompted him to realize "how much of my ability to do my job in leading a department that protects the American people depends upon constraints that others want to put upon us based on their conception of either international law or transnational law." Citing rulings by the International Court of Justice against the US in 1986 (Nicaragua v. United States) and 1998 (Breard v. Gilmore) and a 2004 advisory ruling against Israel regarding its "security fence", he expressed general concern about what he described as "an increasing tendency to look to rather generally described and often ambiguous "universal norms" to trump domestic prerogatives that are very much at the core of what it means to live up to your responsibility as a sovereign state":

    So what we see here is a vision of international law that if taken aggressively would literally strike at the heart of some of our basic fundamental principles: separation of power, respect for the Senate's ability to ratify treaties, and the Senate's ability to reject treaties, and respect for federalism and the importance of letting the state courts set their own rules to govern what they do....

    [T]he fact is whether we like it not, international law is increasingly entering our domestic domain. The Supreme Court has begun to bring it through cases like Hamdan and Alvarez-MacHain, which allowed a very small opening but still an opening in the door under the Alien Tort Claims Act to international human rights law being a source of direct causes of action here in the United States.

    Through various European and other kinds of domestic protection rules, they're trying -- there's an increasing effort to control our use of information in our own country to determined who comes in from outside, and, of course, international law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us. We are constantly portrayed as being on the losing end, and the negative end of international law developments.
    Reuters has more.





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    Bolivia leftist party gains leverage in constitutional assembly
    Leslie Schulman on November 18, 2006 10:45 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) [party website, in Spanish; Wikipedia backgrounder] party of Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] gained more power to rewrite the country's constitution over the objections of opposing political parties Friday when Bolivia's constitutional assembly [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion to make decisions by majority vote. The measure gives the MAS, which failed to receive [JURIST report] two-thirds of the assembly seats in July's elections, the power to easily adopt populist reforms into the amended constitution [current text], although a two-thirds vote will still be needed to approve the final constitutional draft. The MAS holds 137 of 235 assembly seats. Podemos, the main opposition party, represents wealthy landowners and supports greater state autonomy. AP has more. La Patria has local coverage in Spanish.

    Morales, elected last year [JURIST report] following weeks of protests from leftists demanding constitutional changes, is the first indigenous president to be elected in Bolivia [JURIST news archive], and has been an outspoken advocate for the poor and for policies more favorable to the majority indigenous Indian population [JURIST report]. The constitutional assembly convened [JURIST report] in August and will submit its adopted draft to a nationwide referendum by the end of 2007.






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    UN committee wants 'political' condemnations for rights abuses halted
    Caitlin Price on November 18, 2006 10:40 AM ET

    [JURIST] The UN General Assembly Third Committee [official website] on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs has approved a draft resolution [PDF] calling for an end to politically motivated condemnations of countries for human rights violations. The resolution, adopted Thursday, says that human rights protection should be "guided by the principles of universality, non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity and should be not used for political purposes". The measure was approved by a vote of 77-63 vote and will next be presented to the General Assembly for a final vote.

    The resolution was sponsored by Belarus [JURIST news archive; Foreign Ministry press release] and Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive], both of which been accused of extensive human rights violations in the past. China, Cuba, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe were co-sponsors. The United States along with many European countries oppose the resolution, saying it favors nations that are long-term rights violators. AP has more.






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    Florida authorities launch full criminal investigation of Foley messages
    Geoff Leung on November 18, 2006 10:18 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) [official website] has opened a full criminal investigation into former Republican congressman Mark Foley [Congressional profile] in connection with his sexually explicit computer messages to young male pages disclosed [JURIST report] earlier this year. The FDLE began preliminary investigations shortly after Foley stepped down on September 29 and announced the start of its full probe Thursday. The FBI [official website] has also been examining the emails and IMs for violations of federal law. Foley has denied having any sexual contact with minors [attorney statement, PDF].

    Foley may be criminally liable under Title XLVI, Chapter 847 s. 847.0135(3) [text; legislature website] of the Florida Statutes, which makes seducing a child through the Internet a third degree felony. The US House Ethics Committee [official website] has launched an inquiry [JURIST report] into allegations that senior Republican leaders knew of Foley's conduct as early as 2002 but took no action. BBC News has more. The Miami Herald has local coverage.






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    Dutch government promises burqa ban after election
    Bernard Hibbitts on November 18, 2006 10:11 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Dutch government [official website] announced after a cabinet meeting Friday that it will introduce legislation [press statement, in Dutch] to ban the Muslim full-length burqa [Wikipedia backgrounder] veil as well as other face coverings like ski masks in public places "as soon as possible" after the country votes in a national election scheduled for Wednesday. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk [official profile] told Dutch media that the legislation would be brought in for security reasons and to promote the integration of Dutch society. She has noted in the past that the government cannot enforce a total ban under current law because of religious freedom statutes. No European country currently imposes a comparable total prohibition on Muslim veils, although headscarves and other religious symbols [JURIST news archive] have been banned in French public schools and German public school teachers are prohibited from wearing them. Dutch Muslim leaders immediately criticized the move as promising an unconstitutional act targeting Muslims, with the leader of Dutch Muslim organization CMO [backgrounder, in Dutch] saying it would be a "big law for a small problem" as he estimated that only some 30 Dutch Muslim women wear burqas.

    Verdonk, known domestically as the "Iron Lady" for her tough anti-immigration initiatives, first floated the burqa ban [JURIST report] last year, and a majority of lawmakers endorsed a ban [NOS report] in December. Muslims currently make up about 6 percent of the Dutch population; the country has traditionally been distinguished by its openness, but in recent years it has become much wary of immigrants, setting up detention centers for asylum-seekers, requiring newcomers to learn Dutch, and adopting a more vigorous deportation policy. Tensions rose in 2004 when outspoken Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh [JURIST news archive] was assassinated by a Islamic militant. AP has more.






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    Iraqi PM unaware of plan to arrest top Sunni
    Caitlin Price on November 18, 2006 10:03 AM ET

    [JURIST] A close associate of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic] told AP Friday that al-Maliki was unaware of a controversial plan by Shiite Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [Wikipedia profile] to arrest [JURIST report] Sunni leader Harith al-Dhari [Aljazeera profile], head of the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars [association website, in Arabic; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and a vocal critic of the majority-Shiite government, on charges of incitement of terrorism and violence. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also indicated that the prime minister did not plan to act on the warrant. AP has more.

    Al-Dhari, believed to be in Jordan when the warrant was issued, has declared the warrant illegal [AP report] and encouraged fellow Sunnis to abandon their government posts in protest.






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    ICTY transfers first war crimes case to Serbia
    Alexis Unkovic on November 17, 2006 4:37 PM ET

    [JURIST] The Referral Bench of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website, JURIST news archive] ruled [text, PDF] Friday that the case of former Serbian commander Vladimir Kovacevic [ICTY case backgrounder] should be transferred to Serbia [JURIST news archive] within 30 days. The decision marks the first time the ICTY has sent an indictment to Serbia pursuant to Rule 11 bis of the ICTY's Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text, PDF], though the ICTY has similarly transferred cases to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in the past.

    In April 2006, the ICTY declared Kovacevic unfit to stand trial [JURIST report] on charges of war crimes [second amended indictment] for his part in a 1991 attack [BBC report] on the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. The ICTY said Serbia will now continue to monitor Kovacevic's condition in the hopes he can someday be declared fit to stand trial in Serbia. The Hague-based tribunal is currently trying to bring all its work to completion by 2010. Read the ICTY press release here.






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    New Guantanamo Bay legal compound planned
    Gabriel Haboubi on November 17, 2006 4:11 PM ET

    [JURIST] The US military has preliminary plans to build a new legal compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [JURIST news archive], where trials of detainees [JURIST news archive] may begin to take place as early as June, the Miami Herald reported [registration required] Friday. According to a federal solicitation notice [text] seeking contractors, the compound will include a secure perimeter, a courthouse with two large courtrooms wired with CCTV, a dining facility for up to 800 personnel, housing for up to 1200 personnel, and additional logistical facilities such as interview rooms. The cost of the facility is expected to be between $75,000,000 and $125,000,000.

    Amnesty International [advocacy website] US executive director Larry Cox [AI profile] characterized the facility as a “white elephant,” deriding the Pentagon [Miami Herald article] for wanting to build such an expensive and permanent structure even though the new rules for the proposed military commissions are not yet finalized, and no new charges have yet been filed against detainees. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told the Herald that the Pentagon would likely seek authorization and funding from the current, Republican-controlled congress. A formal proposal for the project has not yet been forwarded. AP has more.






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    Federal judge denies detainee access to civilian legal counsel
    Alexis Unkovic on November 17, 2006 3:40 PM ET

    [JURIST] US District Judge Reggie B. Walton [official profile] ruled Friday in support of a bid [JURIST report] by the US Department of Justice [official website] to bar terrorism suspect Majid Khan from access to a civilian lawyer unless and until the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] resolves the issue of military detainee rights. The government had argued that allowing access to Khan could compromise CIA interrogation tactics and locations. Rights groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website], which filed a habeas corpus petition [press release; petition text, PDF] on Khan's behalf, argue it is unconstitutional to deny detainees access to civilian counsel and courts.

    Khan is one of 14 "high value" terror suspects [DNI profiles, PDF; BBC profiles] recently transferred to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST archive] after being held in CIA secret prisons [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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    Germany worried about fortunes of EU constitution in French presidential race
    Gabriel Haboubi on November 17, 2006 3:20 PM ET

    [JURIST] German officials have expressed some concern about the future of the proposed European Constitution [text; JURIST news archive] in light of positions taken by two leading rivals for the French presidency. Newly-chosen French Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal [BBC profile; advocacy website in French], and conservative aspirant Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile; party website, in French; JURIST news archive] have both shown reservations about approving the charter after French voters rejected it [JURIST report] last May. Royal, an initial supporter of the pact, backtracked on it during the past year and Sarkozy has advocated a weaker version of the treaty.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel [official website, in German; BBC profile] wants to move forward with the treaty when Germany takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency [official materials] in January 2007. Angelica Schwall-Dueren [official website, in German], an EU expert for Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) [party website in German] in parliament, told Reuters that it is hoped the French candidates don’t become too attached to positions that make the treaty impossible to ratify. Since Germany wishes to establish a new proposal and timeline for the constitutional treaty at the two-day European Union summit in Brussels that starts on June 21, only a few days after the French election ends, Germany’s foreign ministry will discuss the treaty with advisors of both French candidates much earlier. Reuters has more.






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    Computer Associates sues former CEO for legal defense costs
    Michael Sung on November 17, 2006 2:57 PM ET

    [JURIST] Computer Associates [corporate website] is seeking repayment of legal defense costs totaling $14.9 million it fronted on behalf of former CEO Sanjay Kumar [Wikipedia profile]. The software maker filed suit against Kumar in New York State Supreme Court [official website] last week. Judge Stephen Bucaria [official profile] granted CA's motion to attach Kumar's house and a collection of luxury cars on Wednesday, which the Wall Street Journal estimated to exceed the $14.9 million dollars sought by CA. The court also attached $9 million dollars owed to Kumar by CA founder Charles Wang [Wikipedia profile].

    Kumar received a 12-year prison sentence and an $8 million fine [JURIST report] in early-November after pleading guilty to charges of security fraud and obstruction of justice [JURIST report] for his role in the company's revenue-swapping of $2.2 billion with another company in 1999 and 2000. Reuters has more.






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    German prosecutors seek arrest of 9/11 suspect after acquittal overturned
    Michael Sung on November 17, 2006 2:16 PM ET

    [JURIST] German prosecutors Friday filed an appeal for the arrest of Mounir al-Motassadeq [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a German 9/11 suspect free on bail following Thursday's overturning of a lower court decision acquitting Motassadeq [JURIST report] of assisting the men who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks [JURIST news archive] on the US. Hamburg's state superior court ruled that despite Motassadeq's conviction, he should remain free on bail until future sentencing hearings, as Motassadeq has never violated his conditions of bail. Frank Wallenta, a spokesperson for the German federal prosecutors in Karlsruhe, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the court would nonetheless "have to realize this is a fairly urgent issue," citing the recent departure of Motassadeq's wife and offspring from Germany.

    Motassadeq was initially convicted in 2003 for his involvement with the Sept. 11 attacks. The conviction was overturned [JURIST report] in March 2004. A second trial led to Motassadeq's August 2005 re-conviction [JURIST report] for belonging to a terrorist organization, but his acquittal on charges of being an accessory to the murder of the over 3,000 people killed in the World Trade Center attacks. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] subsequently ordered Motassadeq's release in February while appeals of his conviction were pending. Motassadeq's lawyer says he will wait to hear Motassadeq's new sentence before determining whether to appeal again to the Constitutional Court. Deutsche Presse-Agentur has more.

    11/18/06 - Motassadeq was taken into custody late Friday after a German high court in Karlsruhe cancelled his bail [Deutsche Welle report].






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    Guantanamo combatant status reviews 'show trials': report
    Kate Heneroty on November 17, 2006 11:40 AM ET

    [JURIST] US military Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] do not offer detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] an adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them or to object to their status as enemy combatants [JURIST news archive], according to a report [PDF text] released Friday. Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux [faculty profile] and Joshua Denbeaux analyzed transcripts and recordings of 393 detainee hearings, some of which were released by the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act [text; DOJ materials] lawsuit. They found that the government had not presented witnesses at the hearings and had denied all detainee requests to examine classified evidence against them and all requests for defense witnesses not housed at Guantanamo Bay. Data analyzed also showed that between 2004 and 2005, the military conducted 558 Combatant Status Review Tribunals, and found that only 38 detainees were not enemy combatants. Detainees failed to present any evidence of their guilt or innocence in 91 percent of the hearings, leading the report to conclude: "No American would ever consider this a hearing... This is a show trial."

    The US government says that the Combatant Status Reviews are detainees' opportunity to contest their detention and has opposed detainees' access to civilian courts. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] strips alien enemy combatants of their right to challenge their detention by a writ of habeas corpus. AP has more.






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    Dutch military interrogators accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners
    James M Yoch Jr on November 17, 2006 11:24 AM ET

    [JURIST] Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende [official profile] said Friday that the government would investigate allegations that Netherlands military personnel abused Iraqi prisoners in 2003 by subjecting them to sleep deprivation, high-pitched noises and bright lights. According to a report [text, in Dutch] Friday in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant [media website], Dutch interrogators carried out the abusive techniques in the southern province of Muthana, where about 1,400 Dutch troops were stationed in 2003. The newspaper reported that the military had already conducted an internal probe, which was not made public because it resulted in no prosecutions.

    The leader of the opposition Green Left party [party website, in Dutch] has accused the military of concealing the incidents and called for the Dutch national assembly to reconvene and investigate the actions of the defense minister. AP has more.






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    South Africa considering pardons for political prisoners
    James M Yoch Jr on November 17, 2006 10:59 AM ET

    [JURIST] The South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development [official website] said Thursday that it is currently considering 1,107 applications for relief from prisoners claiming their incarceration is politically motivated. According to Minister Brigitte Mabandla, the South African constitution [text] gives the president power to pardon the prisoners, many of whom have requested relief through the Inkatha Freedom Party [party website] and the Pan Africanist Congress [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The department has processed the applications but attributes any delay to the seriousness of some of the offenses and their consequently lengthy imprisonment terms. In addition, many of the prisoners would have appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] had their crimes not occurred after the TRC adjourned.

    In January, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority established a policy to prosecute political crimes [JURIST report] committed during apartheid by individuals who were denied amnesty by the TRC, but it did not address how prisoners not appearing before the commission would be treated. From Johannesburg, the Mail & Guardian has more.






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    UK military lawyer approved 'conditioning' of Iraqi detainees: testimony
    Lisl Brunner on November 17, 2006 10:55 AM ET

    [JURIST] A British Army major has testified that a military legal adviser approved techniques for preparing Iraqi detainees for interrogation with techniques that allegedly violated the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials]. Maj. Antony Royce told a court-martial of several other soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi detainees that his superiors ordered him to "condition" the detainees for questioning by putting them in stress positions and requiring them to wear hoods. When he questioned whether the methods were legal, he said barrister Maj. Russell Clifton assured him that they were. Clifton submitted a statement to the court indicating that he could not recall being consulted by Royce, but he added that the techniques may be permissible in some circumstances.

    Seven soldiers [MOD press release; JURIST report] of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment [official website] were initially charged in connection to the abuse of 11 Iraqi detainees after their arrest in Basra in September 2003. One of those detainees, Baha Mousa [BBC report; JURIST report] died while in custody. In September, one of the soldiers charged in the case pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges of inflicting inhumane treatment. The Telegraph has more.






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    US senator proposes amendments to Military Commissions Act restoring habeas
    James M Yoch Jr on November 17, 2006 10:22 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) [official website] introduced legislation [press release] Thursday that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees [JURIST news archive] and make other amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [JURIST news archive]. A key provision in the MCA, which President Bush signed into law [JURIST report] last month, strips US courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. Dodd's bill, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, would restore those protections. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA's habeas restriction. Among other key provisions are the exclusion of evidence acquired by coercion and the exclusion of hearsay evidence that judges deem unreliable.

    Since its passage, the MCA has come under fire not only from Democrats but also from the judiciary, human rights groups and foreign countries. Earlier this month, lawyers representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] petitioned [JURIST report] the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to declare the suspension of habeas rights unconstitutional. In an amicus brief [PDF text] in the case, seven retired federal judges urged the appeals court to rule that parts of the MCA violate the Constitution. Dodd's bill would also provide for expedited review of the MCA to ensure its constitutionality. The Hill has more.

    6:00 PM ET - The National Security Advisors blog has posted a section-by-section comparison [blog post] of key provisions of Senator Dodd's bill and the Military Commissions Act.






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    Texas court rules Bush exceeded authority by ordering new state trials for Mexicans
    Lisl Brunner on November 17, 2006 9:51 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] has ruled [opinion text; case materials] that President Bush "exceeded his constitutional authority by intruding into the independent powers of the judiciary" with an "unprecedented" directive ordering state court rehearings [JURIST report] for 51 Mexican nationals convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum [text] instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 decision [materials] by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In rejecting the appeal of Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL case backgrounder], who was convicted of raping and murdering two teenagers, a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded: "Having acted contrary to the implied will of Congress ... the President has exceeded his inherent constitutional foreign affairs authority by directing state courts to comply with [the ICJ decision]."

    After he was sentenced to death by a Texas court in 1997, Medellin filed a habeas corpus petition arguing that the US had breached his right to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text]. The court held that Medellin raised this claim too late in the proceedings and that the Vienna Convention did not provide rights that individuals could invoke in US courts. While a federal appeal was pending, the ICJ held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their rights under the Vienna Convention and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences. President Bush's 2005 memorandum followed, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Medellin a new hearing. AP has more. The San Antonio Express-News has local coverage.






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    Pakistan president overrules Sharia court, commutes death sentence for UK man
    Lisl Brunner on November 17, 2006 9:11 AM ET

    [JURIST] Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [official website, BBC profile] has overturned a ruling by a Sharia court for the first time [RTTNews report] by commuting the sentence of a man whom the court assigned the death penalty. Mirza Tahir Hussain [Wikipedia profile], a British national, was convicted under Sharia Islamic law [CFR backgrounder] after killing a taxi driver in 1989, which he claims was in self defense. While Hussain was originally acquitted by Pakistan's High Court in 1996, his case was subsequently referred to the Sharia court in 1998 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003. Reuters has more.

    Musharraf commuted the sentence after UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, European politicians and groups such as Amnesty International lobbied [AI campaign] for Hussain to be pardoned. On Friday, one day after Musharraf's decision, Hussain was released from prison after efforts by British MEPs Sajjad Karim [Liberal Democrat Party story] and Edward McMillan-Scott. After spending 17 years in a Pakistani prison, Hussain will now return to Britain. BBC News has more.






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    Bush tells Australia PM Hicks to be tried
    Kate Heneroty on November 17, 2006 8:11 AM ET

    [JURIST] US President George W. Bush assured Australian Prime Minister John Howard Friday that Australian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] would be brought to trial, but refused to give a timetable for the trial. Referring to Hicks' legal team's promise to challenge [JURIST report] the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text], Bush noted that Hicks is "having his day in court in an interesting way."

    Hicks was taken to Guantanamo Bay after he was captured in Afghanistan, where he allegedly had been fighting with the Taliban. He was initially charged [PDF text; JURIST report] in 2004, but his trial was delayed [JURIST reports] while the US Supreme Court considered, and eventually ruled against, the legality of the military commissions system as initially constituted. Congress subsequently passed the MCA to provide statutory authorization for military commissions and new charges will be filed once procedures implementing the MCA are approved. Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock [official profile] said last week that he would seek Hicks' return to Australia [JURIST report] if charges were not initiated by November. AAP has more.






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    Federal judge blocks California city anti-immigrant ordinance
    Kate Heneroty on November 17, 2006 7:46 AM ET

    [JURIST] US District Judge John Houston Thursday temporarily stayed enforcement of an ordinance [2006-38R text, TIF] passed by the city of Escondido, California [official website] which would punish landlords for renting to illegal immigrants [JURIST report]. The ordinance requires landlords to provide evidence of their tenants' immigration status to city officials, who would verify the data with federal government records. Under the measure, landlords are given 10 days to evict illegal immigrants or face the loss of their business license, fines, and misdemeanor charges.

    The ruling came in response to a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] filed by the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website], and other rights groups, who claim the ordinance illegally punishes landlords.

    Earlier this month, in response to another suit by the ACLU, a federal judge in Pennsylvania issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of a similar ordinance enacted by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania [JURIST news archive]. AP has more. The San Diego Union-Tribune has local coverage.






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    US Marine sentenced to 21 months in Hamdania Iraqi civilian murder case
    Kate Heneroty on November 17, 2006 7:22 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson [advocacy website; JURIST report] was sentenced to 21 months [press release] in military custody Thursday for his participation in the kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi man in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] last April. Jackson admitted to assisting eight other servicemen in kidnapping Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia backgrounder] from his home, shooting him, then staging his body to appear that he was an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.

    Jackson pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a plea deal with prosecutors. Murder and kidnapping charges against Jackson were dropped in exchange for his testimony. Of the eight serviceman originally charged [JURIST report] in the case, the four most senior Marines still face courts-martial [JURIST report], including squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III [JURIST report], Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda and Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington. Two Marines and a Navy corpsman have pleaded guilty, and a fourth guilty plea is expected from Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr. next week. In addition to Jackson's sentence, Pfc. John J. Jodka III has been sentenced to 18 months in military custody. AP has more.






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    US soldier sentenced to life imprisonment in Mahmudiya rape-murder case
    Gabriel Haboubi on November 16, 2006 8:57 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Army Spc. James P. Barker, who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] Wednesday for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl [JURIST news archive] and the murder of her family in the Mahmudiya (also "Mahmoudiya") area in March, was sentenced Thursday to no more than 90 years in prison. Barker's effective life sentence, which has the possibility of parole, was in exchange for his testimony against the other soldiers implicated [JURIST report] in the attack, who still face the death penalty.

    Barker has claimed that he and other members of the 101st Airborne Division [official website] were involved with the rape of the girl, while former US soldier Pfc. Steven D. Green [JURIST news archive] raped then shot her, after shooting her father, mother, and sister. Green, who was discharged from the military because of a personality disorder before the allegations arose, has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in his civilian trial in federal court in Kentucky. AP has more.






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    Guantanamo military commissions chief resigns
    Gabriel Haboubi on November 16, 2006 8:05 PM ET

    [JURIST] John Altenburg [official profile, PDF], appointed [DOD press release, PDF] in 2003 by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to oversee the military commissions [official website; JURIST news archive] trying terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], has resigned his post as Appointing Authority [official materials] and returned to full-time civilian legal practice, law firm Greenberg Traurig announced [press release] Thursday. The move comes just weeks after Altenburg submitted a draft manual on the implementation of the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text; JURIST news archive] to top Pentagon and Department of Justice officials. The MCA set the commissions on a new and theoretically more solid legal footing after the US Supreme Court ruled in June that, as initially constituted by the President, they lacked proper legal authorization [JURIST report].

    Under Military Commission Order No. 1 [text] of March 21, 2002, the Appointing Authority is responsible [DOD Directive 5105.70] for approving charges, appointing military commission members, approving plea agreements, deciding whether to open or close trials to media, and determining the possible applicability of the death penalty. Officially retired from the Army in 2002, Altenburg served as Appointing Authority in a civilian capacity. No replacement for him has yet been announced. The Wall Street Journal has more.






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    Iraq Interior Ministry issues arrest warrant for top Sunni
    Gabriel Haboubi on November 16, 2006 7:25 PM ET

    [JURIST] Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [Wikipedia profile] announced on Al-Iraqiya state television [official website] Thursday that an arrest warrant has been issued for Harith al-Dhari [Aljazeera profile], the most prominent leader of Iraq's Sunni minority, and head of the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars [association website, in Arabic; GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The Shiite-led Interior Ministry said that al-Dhari is wanted for incitement of terrorism and violence. Al-Dhari is a vocal critic of the majority Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and recently rejected offers of reconciliation.

    Sunni groups immediately spoke out against the arrest warrant, and although Al-Dhari is a hard-liner, it is possible that moderate Sunnis will retaliate by abandoning the government. Al-Dhari often travels throughout the Middle East, and was believed to be in Jordan when the warrant was issued. The Interior Ministry has said that it is considering asking for international assistance in apprehending him. AP has more.






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    DR Congo vice president plans legal challenge to election results
    Natalie Hrubos on November 16, 2006 4:02 PM ET

    [JURIST] Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba [campaign website, in French; Wikipedia profile] said Thursday that he plans to use legal means to challenge the results from last month's run-off election [JURIST report] after officials announced Wednesday that he lost the presidency to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile; PPRD party website, in French] by 16 percentage points. Bemba's supporters [MLC party website] have alleged voting fraud [JURIST report], which has been an issue [JURIST report] throughout the election. UN troops patrolled the streets of the capital and surrounded Bemba's home Thursday to maintain order. Fighting among supporters of the two candidates broke out in July when results were announced after the first round of the election.

    In April, a Congolese opposition group tried to ban Kabila from running [JURIST report] in the general elections, the first democratic elections in Congo since 1960, because of his ties to the military. Kabila was a major-general in the Congolese army before succeeding his father as president following the latter's assassination in 2001. AP has more.






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    UK anti-terror law watchdog warns on extending 28-day detention without charge limit
    Natalie Hrubos on November 16, 2006 3:11 PM ET

    [JURIST] UK independent anti-terror law reviewer Lord Carlile [party profile] warned British lawmakers Thursday against "rushing" to extend the country's 28-day limit [JURIST report] on police detentions of terror suspects without charge. London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair [official profile] suggested an extension [JURIST report] of the limit in a speech Saturday. Carlile's warning comes as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official profile] is gearing up to push new anti-terror legislation through parliament. Government leaders want to consolidate all emergency anti-terror laws introduced since September 11 and possibly introduce new measures, such as allowing phone-tap evidence in terror trials and banning flag burning [JURIST report].

    The detention limit became contentious late last year during debate on the Terrorism Act of 2006 [Home Office backgrounder], with the prime minister suffering his first parliamentary defeat in November when the House of Commons substituted the 28-day maximum term for the government's initially-proposed 90-day limit [JURIST report]. The House of Lords later rejected a proposed 60-day "compromise" [JURIST report]. The Guardian has more.






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    Rwanda military court convicts priest in genocide case
    Katerina Ossenova on November 16, 2006 1:19 PM ET

    [JURIST] A Rwandan military court Thursday convicted a Roman Catholic Rwandan priest of genocide for rape and assisting the Hutu [Wikipedia backgrounder] massacre of Tutsis [Wikipedia backgrounder] during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; BBC backgrounder]. Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who was sentenced to life in prison, has lived in exile in France since 1995. While French authorities have repeatedly denied requests for extradition, prosecutors plan to petition France once again to bring Munyeshyaka back to Rwanda. Former Rwandan army general Laurent Munyakazi, who was in command of the military in the Nyarugenge district where Munyeshyaka's church was located, was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison. AFP has more.

    Since many countries refuse to extradite suspects who could face the death penalty, a ban on capital punishment in Rwanda would encourage the return of suspects for trial on charges related to the 1994 genocide that claimed about 800,000 lives. Rwanda's ruling party said last month that it has directed its lawmakers to support a forthcoming bill to abolish the death penalty. The bill is expected to be presented in parliament [JURIST report] in December.






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    Annan submits Hariri tribunal proposal to Security Council
    Jaime Jansen on November 16, 2006 1:17 PM ET

    [JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] has submitted to the UN Security Council [official website] a proposal [JURIST report] on establishing an international tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive], a spokesman for Annan said Thursday. Annan submitted the proposal [press release] despite the rejection [JURIST report] of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official profile] of his cabinet's approval [JURIST reports] of the UN draft proposal. Lahoud said the cabinet endorsement was illegitimate and unconstitutional because he had not endorsed the vote [JURIST report]. In a letter to Annan, Lahoud refused to accept the vote as binding on the government of Lebanon. If the Security Council approves the proposal, Lebanon must still enter into a formal agreement authorizing the tribunal.

    Although the UN's plan has not been made public, the tribunal is expected to be based outside Lebanon and will use a combination of Lebanese and international judges. Previous reports by the UN's Hariri investigatory commission [UN materials] implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report] in the assassination. Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive explosion on the Beirut waterfront. The UN's authority to help Lebanon establish the tribunal stems from UN Security Council Resolution 1644 [text]. Reuters has more.






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    Skilling reaches settlement agreement in Labor Department civil lawsuit
    Katerina Ossenova on November 16, 2006 12:54 PM ET

    [JURIST] The US Department of Labor [official website] announced a settlement agreement [press release] Thursday with former Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] CEO Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profile], concluding the DOL's civil suit against him. The agreement provides that Skilling "will drop his opposition to a previous $85 million settlement, waive his right to benefits from Enron's pension plans and be permanently barred from serving in a fiduciary capacity to any employee benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in the future." According to the DOL:

    The settlement acknowledges that Skilling is already subject to an order of forfeiture obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice's Enron Task Force. That order, entered Oct. 23, 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, requires the establishment of a $45 million restitution fund for victims of Enron-related fraud, including plan participants and securities investors. The Labor Department's settlement provides that, if Skilling's convictions are overturned or vacated and the restitution fund is dissolved, Skilling will still pay $2.5 million to the participants and beneficiaries in the company's savings and employee stock ownership plans plus $500,000 in penalties to the department.
    So far, more than $220.8 million has been recovered for the pension plans from Enron, its directors, officers and fiduciaries. The agreement must still be approved by a federal judge before becoming final.

    Skilling, convicted [JURIST report; verdict backgrounder] in May on 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud, was charged [final redacted indictment, PDF] with providing investors with false and misleading financial information from 1999 up until Enron filed bankruptcy in late 2001. He was sentenced [JURIST report] to 24 years in prison in October. AP has more.





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    Australia court rules refugees on temporary visas can be repatriated
    Katerina Ossenova on November 16, 2006 11:26 AM ET

    [JURIST] The High Court of Australia [official website] has held in two separate cases that a "holder of a temporary protection visa is not entitled to further protection in Australia if they are no longer in danger in the country from which they fled" and that the person may not remain a refugee. The cases - NBGM v. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs [text; press release, PDF] and Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs v. Qaah [text; press release, PDF] - were brought by two Afghan men, both Shiite Muslims, who fled from Afghanistan in 1999 and were granted temporary protection visas (TPVs) by Australia. Their claim for permanent protection, based on their assertion that the Taliban would likely return to power, was denied by the Immigration Department [official website] and upheld by the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) [official website]. The Tribunal held that since the Taliban had been removed from power, it "no longer posed a threat to the civilian population" and "was unlikely to re-emerge as a viable political movement in the reasonably foreseeable future." The High Court held in a 4-1 decision that neither the Migration Act [text] nor the Refugees Convention [text] offer any "promise or obligation to continue to afford protection or grant residence, whether permanent or otherwise, in the event that circumstances change."

    Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Amanda Vanstone [official profile] welcomed [press release] the High Court decision, saying:

    The 4-1 majority decision confirms that a refugee under Australia's temporary protection will not be guaranteed continuing protection once conditions in their former country have improved. The High Court found that there is no presumption that once a person has been granted a TPV they continue to be a refugee until the Government proves otherwise. TPVs are a key plank of our border protection measures, and help ensure more of Australia's refugee places are taken by those assessed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as being in most desperate need of resettlement.
    Immigration experts and refugee advocates, however, fear that the court's rulings which shift the burden on asylum seekers to prove it is unsafe to return, rather than the government having to prove it is safe, may make it harder for asylum seekers asking for further protection. It is estimated 1430 holders of temporary protection visas in Australia [JURIST news archive] could be affected by the High Court's ruling. The top five nationalities granted protection visas are Iraqis, Afghanis, Iranians, Sri Lankans and Palestinians. The Age has more. AAP has additional coverage.





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    Thai military council may lift martial law next month
    Jaime Jansen on November 16, 2006 11:09 AM ET

    [JURIST] Senior Thai security officials suggested Thursday that Thailand's Council for National Security [official website, in Thai] may lift martial law [JURIST report] next month after investigators wrap up a corruption probe against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive]. The announcement came two days after Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [official website; BBC profile] held off on plans to lift martial law this month, as had been anticipated [JURIST reports]. Thai Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtas said last week that Surayud was contemplating lifting martial law [JURIST report] before leaving for an international summit in Vietnam on Nov. 18. Surayud said Tuesday that he had been reassured by US diplomats that a continued state of martial law would not be discussed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [official website] summit and that lifting martial law was "not urgent."

    Thailand [JURIST news archive] has been under martial law since the Thai military seized power from Thaksin in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] in September. The defense minister had indicated that Thailand was concerned that key allies, including the US and Japan, would be "more comfortable" if martial law was lifted before the summit. The US urged Thailand to lift martial law [JURIST report] last month, pulling almost $24 million in funding from the Thai government. AFP has more. The Bangkok Post has local coverage.






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    EU threatens more Microsoft fines if antitrust ruling not obeyed soon
    Jaime Jansen on November 16, 2006 10:39 AM ET

    [JURIST] Microsoft [corporate website; JURIST news archive] has handed over only 90 percent of the necessary documentation to comply with a 2004 European Union antitrust ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] and may face added fines [EU press release] unless the company complies by November 23, European Union regulators said Wednesday. The 2004 order required Microsoft to provide technical information that competitors need to develop software compatible with the Windows operating system, and the European Commission [official website] already imposed a $357 million fine [JURIST report] on Microsoft in July for not complying with the ruling. The Commission warned in July that Microsoft may face fines of up to $2.5 million per day for not giving competitors the necessary information and added Wednesday that the daily fines may increase to $3.85 million per day if Microsoft continues to disobey the order, calculating the fines from the date of the July ruling.

    The $357 million fine imposed in July was in addition to the initial $613 million penalty levied by the Commission in 2004. In October, Microsoft filed an appeal [JURIST report] with the European Court of First Instance [official website], challenging the July and 2004 rulings. Microsoft based its appeal on the magnitude of the fine, noting the "lack of clarity in the Commission's original decision" and Microsoft's "good-faith efforts" to comply with the order. AP has more.






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    Saddam lawyer accuses Iraqi tribunal of obstructing appeal efforts
    Katerina Ossenova on November 16, 2006 10:14 AM ET

    [JURIST] Khalil al-Dulaimi, chief defense counsel for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], said Wednesday that the Iraqi High Tribunal is obstructing his efforts to appeal Hussein's death sentence [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive]. Dulaimi reiterated complaints that the trial did not adhere to fair standards and accused the court of "pursuing its continued efforts to obstruct the efforts of the defense to submit a legal cassation appeal against the unjust verdicts." He also said the defense has not yet received copies of the verdict. Under the Iraqi Code of Criminal Procedure No. 23 of 1971 [text, PDF] appeals must be filed within 15 days of the trial decision, Dulaimi said he believes the court has "deliberately and intentionally wasted and exhausted" the efforts of the defense team by withholding an official copy of the verdicts for more than 10 days. Article 27 of the statute of the Iraqi High Tribunal [text, PDF] requires a sentence to be carried out within 30 days of an appellate judgment. AFP has more.

    Hussein and two co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging [AP recorded video; JURIST report] earlier this month for crimes against humanity [charging instrument, PDF] committed in Dujail. Hussein was charged [JURIST report] with killing, torturing and illegally detaining Dujail residents, including the execution of 148 Shiites [JURIST report], after an unsuccessful attempt on his life there in 1982. The genocide trial [JURIST news archive] of Saddam for allegedly killing 100,000 Kurds in the "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] in the late 1980s was adjourned [JURIST report] last week for three weeks.






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    Specter introduces new domestic surveillance bill
    Katerina Ossenova on November 16, 2006 9:17 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website; JURIST news archive], outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], has introduced a new bill, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act of 2006 [PDF text], that would authorize domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive] of suspected terrorists. Specter's new proposal is a last-ditch attempt to push through legislation [JURIST report] during the current lame-duck session of Congress allowing a form of the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program to continue. While the House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act [HR 5825 text, PDF] in late September, the Senate version, the National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 [S 3876 materials], the product of a compromise between the White House and Specter [JURIST report], stalled [JURIST report] in Congress.

    Specter's new bill would make some changes in existing law but would not grant as much latitude to the government as the House version. Specter has proposed:

    Last week, Bush urged lawmakers [transcript] to pass the Terrorist Surveillance Act, which he called an "important priority in the war on terror." Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website; JURIST news archive], who is expected to take over as Judiciary Committee chairman, has said that any legislation that would authorize domestic surveillance of terrorists must contain "adequate checks and balances."

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has urged the Senate to reject [press release] legislation authorizing warrantless domestic wiretaps. Earlier this week, the group asked [JURIST report] a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court ruling [brief, PDF; press release] that the surveillance program is unconstitutional. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said Tuesday that the various legislative proposals would put "the privacy of innocent Americans at great risk. Senators must remember: Americans are not the enemy. This is one issue on which the lame-duck Congress should 'Just Say No!' " CNET News has more.





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    Former HP head pleads not guilty in 'pretexting' case
    Holly Manges Jones on November 16, 2006 8:40 AM ET

    [JURIST] Former Hewlett-Packard [corporate website] chairwoman Patricia Dunn [Forbes profile] pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four felony charges [felony complaint, PDF; JURIST report] stemming from her role in the corporate spying scandal [JURIST news archive]. Dunn is one of five people charged in the case involving company investigators using "pretexting" by impersonating board members, employees and reporters in order to gain their phone records and potentially uncover who was leaking confidential information from board meetings. She resigned [JURIST report] in September before testifying at a hearing [JURIST report] held by a US House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website], during which she admitted that she was aware of the plan, but was also told the actions were legal by corporate attorneys.

    Along with Dunn, the company's former ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker [BusinessWeek backgrounder] and three investigators were also charged with identity theft, unauthorized access to computer data, use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility, and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. If convicted, the defendants could each face a maximum of 12 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Hunsaker, who surrendered to authorities [JURIST report] with Dunn last month, has also pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. AP has more.

    ALSO ON JURIST

     Op-ed: 'Piling On' at Hewlett-Packard? | Op-ed: Built to Last? Corporate Governance at Hewlett-Packard





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    German appeals court finds Moroccan guilty of aiding 9/11 attacks
    Holly Manges Jones on November 16, 2006 7:22 AM ET

    [JURIST] The German Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] Thursday found Moroccan-born Mounir al-Motassadeq [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] guilty of assisting the men who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks [JURIST news archive] on the US. The appeals court overturned a lower court decision acquitting Motassadeq, avoiding a third trial [JURIST report] against him. Motassadeq was originally convicted in 2003 on charges that he gave financial backing and other support to the hijackers, but Germany's Supreme Court overturned the verdict [JURIST report] and ordered a new trial. Last year, a German court determined that there was not enough evidence [JURIST report] showing Motassadeq actually knew of the Sept. 11 plot, but did find him guilty of being a member of a terrorist organization and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Thursday's ruling that Motassadeq is guilty of 246 counts of accessory to murder is in response to the prosecution's appeal of the not guilty ruling and sentence. Motassadeq had also appealed [JURIST report] the seven-year sentence, seeking a shorter term.

    The appeals court sent its verdict back to a lower court to sentence the Moroccan, who is expected to receive up to 15 years in jail. Motassadeq has admitted to attending an al Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and being friends with some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, but claims he had no knowledge of their plans to carry out the attacks. Motassadeq's lawyer said he would wait to hear the lower court's sentence before determining whether to appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, English version], the country's highest court. BBC News has more; IOL has additional coverage.






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    Bush renominates controversial appeals court candidates
    Holly Manges Jones on November 16, 2006 7:20 AM ET

    [JURIST] US President George Bush on Wednesday renominated [WH list] six candidates for federal appeals court judgeships, at least four of whom Democrats have already rejected [JURIST report]. Senate rules [text] require nominations to be resubmitted after a recess longer than 30 days, and the judicial nominations [JURIST news archive] will expire if not approved during the current lame-duck session of Congress. When Congress reconvenes in January, new nominees will face a Senate Democratic majority.

    Democratic senators see the President's actions as a reversal of his recent promise for bipartisanship in the wake of the mid-term elections. US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], expected to take over as Judiciary Committee chairman, expressed his disappointment [press release] Wednesday:

    With these renominations, the President is choosing partisanship over progress and division over unity, at the expense of a fair and independent judiciary. This is exactly the kind of political game-playing that prompted Americans to demand change and a new direction in Washington. The signal the President is sending by renominating these controversial candidates is regrettable. But I hope the President will work with us in charting a new direction in the next congressional session, by choosing consensus nominees who unite instead of divide America.
    The names on President Bush's list include Michael Wallace [WH profile], an attorney deemed to be "unqualified" according to a rating by the American Bar Association [official website]; William Haynes II [DOD profile], current General Counsel for US Department of Defense [official website] who had a hand in allowing many of the current interrogation methods for detainees; Terrence Boyle [WH profile], a federal district court judge from North Carolina; William Myers III [DOJ profile], who opposes environmental regulations and lobbies for the mining and ranching industries; Peter Keisler [DOJ profile], current Assistant Attorney General for the US Department of Justice Civil Division [official website]; and N. Randy Smith [WH profile], a district judge in Idaho. The first four candidates have already been strongly criticized by the Democratic party, while Keisler and Smith have largely avoided opposition to date. AP has more. Earlier in the week, outgoing Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) indicated that Bush would likely need to nominate more moderate judges [JURIST report] given the results of the midterm elections. Specter also speculated that Democrats may restrict or even halt judicial confirmations until the 2008 presidential elections. Thursday's New York Times has additional coverage.





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    US Marine sentenced to 18 months in Hamdania murder of Iraqi civilian
    Brett Murphy on November 15, 2006 9:44 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Marine Corps Pfc. John J. Jodka III [advocacy website] was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in military custody for his role in the murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] last spring. Jodka, one of eight servicemen originally charged in connection with the killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile], pleaded guilty last month to assault and obstruction of justice charges [JURIST reports]. Awad was shot and his body left by the side of the road with a shovel and an AK-47, making him look like an insurgent. AP has more.

    Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson and US Navy Petty Officer Melson Bacos [JURIST reports] have also pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the Hamdania incident. On Tuesday, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of murder, kidnapping, and other offenses related to the death. A fourth serviceman, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., is expected to plead guilty [JURIST report] to assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice at an arraignment hearing scheduled for Monday.






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    Merck avoids liability in latest Vioxx trial
    Robert DeVries on November 15, 2006 7:46 PM ET

    [JURIST] A federal jury sitting in New Orleans ruled Wednesday that Merck & Co. [corporate website], makers of the painkiller Vioxx [JURIST news archive] that was withdrawn from the market [Merck announcement] after it was found to expose users to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, was not liable for damages [Merck press release] allegedly caused by the heart attack of a Utah man. Charles Laron "Ron" Mason, 64, had taken the painkiller for a 10 1/2 month period. Mason surprisingly revealed under cross-examination that he had actually stopped taking the drug four days before he suffered his heart attack.

    This was the eleventh Vioxx-related case tried in US courts, and the fourth tried in federal courts. Three of the four federal cases have now gone Merck's way, although it has lost half of the state suits decided so far. More than 24,000 cases have been filed regarding Vioxx with another 15,000 possible plaintiffs who have temporarily agreed to postpone their suits. Merck intends to try each case separately. US District Judge Eldon Fallon [official profile] has presided over all of the federal Vioxx cases, and will continue to handle all pretrial matters for future cases. Mason has not yet decided whether to appeal. AP has more.






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    Ex-Enron accounting chief gets 5 1/2 year prison sentence
    Robert DeVries on November 15, 2006 7:12 PM ET

    [JURIST] Former Enron [JURIST news archive] accounting chief Richard Causey [CBS profile] received a 66-month prison sentence Wednesday for authorizing bookkeeping practices that allowed Enron to defraud investors of billions of dollars. Under the original slate of 35 charges against him, Causey had faced up to 20 years in prison. In December he accepted [JURIST report] a plea deal [PDF text] offering a maximum seven-year prison term for pleading guilty to one count of fraud and forfeiting $1.25 million. His plea deal and agreement to co-operate with prosecutors came just days before the scheduled trial [JURIST report] of fellow ex-Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archives], who were later both found guilty of fraud.

    Causey was the key figure responsible for getting Arthur Andersen LLP to sign off on off the book partnership deals that allowed Enron to disguise billions of dollars in debt. In his plea he admitted to conspiring to deceive investors and artificially inflate Enron stock value. Reuters has more.






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    Guantanamo detainee asks court to block medical procedure
    James M Yoch Jr on November 15, 2006 3:15 PM ET

    [JURIST] Lawyers for Saifullah Paracha [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], a multimillionaire from Pakistan in US custody at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], petitioned a federal court Wednesday to enjoin the US military from performing a cardiac catheterization [AHA backgrounder] because the facility there lacks sufficient medical equipment and the backup to ensure his health if something goes wrong. Paracha, who suffered a heart attack while in US custody in Afghanistan, claims the complex procedure will endanger his life, and his lawyer argued that he should be transferred to a medical facility in the US or Pakistan. US Navy officials, however, have asserted that Guantanamo facilities and doctors are adequately prepared to handle the procedure and noted that special equipment and practitioners can be brought in if needed.

    US authorities captured Paracha in 2003 on his way to Thailand, where he was detained until October 2004 when he was moved to Guantanamo. AP has more.






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    Ireland High Court rules frozen embryos not 'unborn' with right to life
    Brett Murphy on November 15, 2006 3:09 PM ET

    [JURIST] The High Court of Ireland [official website] held Wednesday that the protection of an unborn's right to life under Article 40 of the Irish Constitution [PDF text] does not include the preservation of embryos frozen as a part of infertility treatment. Article 40, Section 3.3 says:

    The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
    According to Justice Brian McGovern, "frozen embryos are not 'unborn'" and therefore the petitioner had no right to have the embryos implanted in the face of objections from her estranged husband.

    In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] announced that on November 22 it will hear the appeal [JURIST report] of a British woman trying to use frozen embryos despite objections from her former partner who fertilized the eggs. The ECHR ruled in March [JURIST report] that the woman could not use the embryos resulting from a 2001 IVF program, upholding the judgment of the UK Court of Appeal [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.





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    Pakistan assembly approves Sharia rape laws change
    James M Yoch Jr on November 15, 2006 2:35 PM ET

    [JURIST] Pakistan's National Assembly [official website], the lower house of parliament, passed the 2006 Protection of Women Bill [BBC report] Wednesday, transferring rape case jurisdiction from religious Sharia [Wikipedia backgrounder] courts to civil courts. The bill also classifies rape under the penal code and makes it easier for women in Pakistan [JURIST news archive] to prove rape allegations. Religious leaders decried the legislation, saying it will lead to an increase in adultery, while other conservatives expressed fear that it will "westernize the country." Women's and human rights groups praised the bill, noting the inherent discrimination and the inadequacy of the Sharia system in a country where, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [official website], rapes are perpetrated every two hours and gang rapes every eight hours. If the upper house of parliament and President Pervez Musharraf [official website; BBC profile] approve the bill, Sharia law will no longer apply to rape cases, but civil and Sharia courts will share jurisdiction over adultery claims.

    Currently, rape and adultery are both prosecuted under the Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan government backgrounder], requiring rape victims to present at least four male witnesses to evade prosecution for adultery, which can be punished with lashing, stoning, and death. Parliament had postponed consideration [JURIST report] of a revised version of the bill in September due to opposition. BBC News has more.






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    Telemarketer pleads guilty in 2002 GOP phone jamming plot
    Brett Murphy on November 15, 2006 2:23 PM ET

    [JURIST] Shaun Hansen, former owner of the telemarketing firm Mylo Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to two federal counts of conspiracy to commit interstate telephone harassment on Wednesday for his involvement in the New Hampshire GOP's 2002 phone jamming plot [Wikipedia backgrounder] against the state's Democratic Senate candidates. Prosecutors alleged that Hansen was paid $2,500 to make phone calls to jam Democratic phone lines meant to encourage voters to turn out and help voters get rides to polls on Election Day 2002. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

    Earlier this year, James Tobin [SourceWatch profile], President Bush's 2004 campaign chairman for New England, was sentenced to 10 months in prison [US DOJ press release] after being convicted [US DOJ press release] in December for his involvement in jamming phone lines [JURIST report] to block Democratic voting drives. In June, a New Hampshire judge dismissed five of the eight counts [JURIST report] in a lawsuit brought by Democrats against Republicans in a civil lawsuit concerning the phone jamming plot. AP has more. The Manchester Union Leader has local coverage.






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    US soldier pleads guilty in Mahmudiya rape-murder case
    James M Yoch Jr on November 15, 2006 2:14 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Army Spc. James P. Barker pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges stemming from the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl [JURIST news archive] and the murder of her family in the Mahmudiya (also "Mahmoudiya") area in March. Barker, who will be spared from capital punishment as a result of the plea, agreed to testify against the other soldiers implicated in the incident. According to Barker, Sgt. Paul E. Cortez and Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, who still face the death penalty in their courts-martial [JURIST report], participated in the planning of the incident and the rape of the girl. Also, Barker's account of the incident identifies former US soldier Steven Green [JURIST report] as the murderer of the girl and her family. Green, who was discharged for a personality disorder and consequently faces non-military criminal prosecution, pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] earlier this month to charges of murder and sexual assault. If convicted, Green could be sentenced to a minimum of life imprisonment or even a death sentence for his involvement.

    The Mahmudiya case has outraged Iraqi leaders [JURIST report], prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website] to launch an independent investigation [JURIST report] by Iraqis into the crimes allegedly committed by US troops. AP has more.






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    Lebanon president rejects Hariri tribunal approval
    Holly Manges Jones on November 15, 2006 12:20 PM ET

    [JURIST] Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official profile] Wednesday rejected his cabinet's approval [JURIST report] of a UN draft proposal [JURIST report] for an international judicial tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Lahoud said the measure was invalid because in the midst of other domestic political turmoil all five Shiite ministers had resigned prior to the vote and the Lebanese constitution [text] requires that the cabinet include representatives from all religious groups in the country. Lahoud also called the approval unconstitutional because he had not endorsed the vote [JURIST report], and sent a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile] refusing to accept the outcome as binding on the government of Lebanon.

    The UN's most recent plans for the tribunal have not been released to the public, but the tribunal is expected to be based outside Lebanon and will use a combination of Lebanese and international judges and law to make its decision. Previous reports by the UN's Hariri investigatory commission [UN materials] implicated Syrian officials [JURIST report] in the assassination, accomplished in a massive explosion on the Beirut waterfront that killed Hariri and 22 others. The UN's authority to help Lebanon establish the tribunal comes from UN Security Council Resolution 1644 [text]. BBC News has more.






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    Criminal justice reform tops new UK legislative agenda
    Holly Manges Jones on November 15, 2006 11:16 AM ET

    [JURIST] The Labour Party government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged Wednesday to "put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system [and] support the police and all those responsible for the public's safety" in its new legislative agenda [PM materials; BBC backgrounder] for the 2006-2007 session of Parliament. In the Queen's Speech [text; PM materials; BBC backgrounder], read by Queen Elizabeth II [recorded video] at the annual ceremonial opening of Parliament [British Monarchy backgrounder], the government announced proposals to eliminate jury trials in difficult fraud cases [BBC bill backgrounder], give the immigration service more power to tackle immigration crime and deport offenders, improve the administration of justice, and crack down on organized crime [BBC bill backgrounder] by, among other things, giving police expanded authority to seize criminal assets. Mention was also made of revising the qualifications for judicial appointees and developing a better method to enforce judgments.

    Altogether, the government laid out eight individual bills for this session of Parliament, which will end in November 2007. Blair is expected to leave office by September 2007 to make way for a successor, most likely Chancellor Gordon Brown. BBC News has more.






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    Vatican calls US plans for Mexican border fence 'inhumane'
    Holly Manges Jones on November 15, 2006 10:46 AM ET

    [JURIST] The US decision to build a 700-mile fence along the US-Mexican border [JURIST news archive] is "inhumane," a senior Vatican [official website] official said Tuesday while delivering Pope Benedict XVI's yearly message on migrants [text]. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Council on Migrant and Itinerant People [official website], compared the proposal in the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; HR 6061 summary] to the creation of the Berlin Wall, and encouraged the US to instead allow more immigrants to enter the country legally. Martino also expressed his approval for the voiced opposition to the fence by US and Mexican bishops.

    President Bush signed [JURIST report] the controversial fence bill in late October. The Mexican government has voiced strong opposition [JURIST report] to the law, saying it will complicate US-Mexican relations [Mexican MFA press release]. Last week, US Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) [official website] said the incoming 110th Congress will review the act [JURIST report] and may scrap the plan after the new Democrat-controlled Congress convenes on January 3, 2007. AP has more.

    ALSO ON JURIST

     Topic: Immigration | Op-ed: Fences and Mushrooms Along the Border





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    CIA admits existence of Bush secret prisons authorization memo
    Joshua Pantesco on November 15, 2006 10:08 AM ET

    [JURIST] The US Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged the existence of a memorandum, signed by President Bush, that authorizes the detention and interrogation of terror suspects overseas [ACLU press release] in a letter [PDF text] sent to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU requested the memo in a FOIA request [ACLU list], sent to the CIA in 2004 [JURIST report], that specifically requested, among 69 other documents, a "[d]irective signed by President Bush that grants the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and/or outlining interrogation methods that may be used against Detainees." The CIA also acknowledged the existence of Justice Department legal analysis of specific interrogation techniques considered for use against top al Qaeda officials. The CIA letter, sent by CIA General Counsel John McPherson, acknowledges the existence of the documents but argues that they need not be released under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act [text; DOJ materials].

    President Bush finally acknowledged the existence of US secret prisons [JURIST report] for terror detainees in September. Incoming US Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) on Tuesday indicated willingness to investigate CIA extraordinary rendition practices [JURIST report] and the use of secret prisons. Wednesday's New York Times has more.






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    Nepal rights commission blames King for police violence in democracy protests: report
    Joshua Pantesco on November 15, 2006 9:26 AM ET

    [JURIST] A Nepal newspaper reported Tuesday that a blue-ribbon panel investigating possible human rights violations in the police response to anti-democracy protests [JURIST news archive] last spring that left 22 dead and more than 5,000 wounded will blame King Gyanendra for the crackdown. The report may undergo revisions before it is presented to the government Friday, but the current version reasons that because King Gyanendra chaired Nepal's council of ministers, he was legally responsible for the actions of the cabinet. Nepal's High Level Probe Commission [JURIST report], which was formed [JURIST report] by the interim government in Nepal [JURIST news archive], is led by a former supreme court justice and has the authority to interrogate officials, issue warrants, and make recommendations regarding actions which should be taken against rights abusers. King Gyanendra was stripped of control over the military [JURIST report] in September, after he was stripped of veto power [JURIST report] in June.

    After the protests forced Gyanendra to cede control to a civilian government, Nepal's Interim Constitution Drafting Committee (ICDC) in August presented a draft constitution [JURIST report; PDF text, in Nepali] to government officials and Maoist rebel representatives participating in the negotiations. The interim draft encompassing 172 articles is designed to replace the current constitution [text] until a new representative body is elected and drafts a permanent constitution. Reuters has more. The Himalayan Times has local coverage.






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    Cheney, Libby request dismissal of Plame lawsuit in CIA leak case
    Joshua Pantesco on November 15, 2006 8:48 AM ET

    [JURIST] US Vice President Dick Cheney and his former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [defense profile; JURIST news archive] asked a federal court Tuesday to dismiss the civil lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] brought against them and other current and former administration officials by Valerie Plame, the undercover operative whose revealed identity precipitated the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive]. Cheney argued that his office provides him with complete immunity from civil lawsuits and that the statute of limitations bars the lawsuit. Valerie Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, filed the lawsuit in federal court in July against Cheney, Libby, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove [official profile] for their alleged roles in revealing her CIA status. Plame and Wilson also later sued [JURIST report] the former State Department official who admitted disclosing her name to the press.

    In the suit, Plame asserts that the defendants violated her rights to privacy, free speech, and equal protection under the US Constitution, claiming that the defendants conspired to expose Plame, threatening her career and endangering her family. Plame contends that the defendants revealed her identity as an undercover CIA operative in retaliation for the statements made by her husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson, in which he denied that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase materials for a nuclear weapon in Niger, as the Bush administration had claimed. In his motion to dismiss, Cheney also argued that Plame's lawsuit requests impermissible judicial scrutiny into executive branch operations, as the wrongful act allegedly committed by Cheney was his communication of her CIA status to other members of the administration. MSNBC has more. AP has additional coverage.






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    ACLU asks federal appeals court to block domestic spying
    Joshua Pantesco on November 15, 2006 8:04 AM ET

    [JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to uphold a lower court ruling [brief, PDF; press release] that the NSA domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] is unconstitutional, arguing that the program is an unconstitutional intrusion on privacy and free speech and oversteps the limits of executive power. In August, US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the program unconstitutional [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] as a violation of privacy rights, and in October, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the US government can continue to operate the program pending appeal.

    In its brief, the ACLU argued:

    The Program violates the principle of separation of powers because it involves surveillance that Congress, in a valid exercise of its own constitutional power, has expressly prohibited. The President has no authority to violate the law. Because it operates entirely without judicial supervision, the Program also violates the Fourth Amendment. No exception to the First Amendment's warrant requirement is applicable here, and the government's disregard of FISA - a statute that has proved workable for almost thirty years - is manifestly unreasonable. Because the Program intercepts protected communications without judicial oversight, the Program also violates the First Amendment. ...

    The government seeks not simply to dismiss this case but to prevent any court from reviewing the legality of the Program. Its view of the standing doctrine would prevent anyone from ever challenging the Program. Its view of the Fourth Amendment would give carte blanche to the President not only to wiretap telephones and comb through e-mails but also to search homes. Its view of the state secrets privilege could shield virtually any national security policy from judicial scrutiny. And, perhaps most disturbingly, the government's sweeping theory of executive power would allow the president to violate any law passed by Congress. This theory presents a profound threat to our democratic system.
    Another lawsuit, a class action brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T [JURIST report], alleges that AT&T violated US citizens' rights to privacy and several federal statutes when it permitted the NSA to use its infrastructure to wiretap individuals without first obtaining warrants. The Ninth Circuit agreed last week to consider an appeal in that case. AP has more.








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    Abramoff begins six-year prison sentence
    Joshua Pantesco on November 15, 2006 7:30 AM ET

    [JURIST] Lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday began serving his six-year prison sentence on fraud and conspiracy charges. Abramoff will serve his sentence at a minimum-security facility in Cumberland, MD, a location close to the Washington, DC prosecutors who are using Abramoff's testimony to bring a corruption case against members of Congress and others. Abramoff was sentenced to six years in prison after he pleaded guilty [JURIST reports] to fraud and corruption charges stemming from a 2000 casino purchase. Prosecutors had moved to delay Abramoff's sentence pending his assistance with the corruption probe, but a Miami judge in March refused to delay Abramoff's sentencing [JURIST report] for longer than two weeks.

    Others involved in the Abramoff scandal include former Rep. Bob Ney, who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in October to charges of conspiracy and making false statements after accepting money and gifts from Abramoff [JURIST report], and Former White House official David Safavian [Wikipedia profile], who was sentenced to eighteen months after his conviction for lying and obstructing justice [JURIST reports]. Abramoff is also awaiting sentencing on separate corruption charges.

    In response to the Abramoff and other lobbying scandals, the US House of Representatives passed a lobbying reform bill in May, and in September, adopted a new ethics rule [JURIST reports] requiring lawmakers to disclose their sponsorship of so-called "earmarks" inserted into bills to fund special spending projects. AP has more.

    ALSO ON JURIST

     Op-ed: Abramoff and Congressional Reform | Video: The Abramoff scandal [Harvard IOP]





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    Court-martial ordered for last accused in Hamdania Iraqi civilian murder case
    Jeannie Shawl on November 14, 2006 8:46 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Marines Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III will face court-martial [USMC press release] for his role in the April kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], the US Marine Corps announced Tuesday. Hutchins faces charges [DOC text] of murder, kidnapping, larceny, assault, housebreaking, conspiracy, making a false official statement in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text]. Hutchins and seven other military personnel were originally charged [JURIST report] in June in the Hamdania incident, where military personnel allegedly left Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] by the side of the road with a shovel and AK-47 after they shot him, making Awad look like an insurgent. Military prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case.

    Two Marines and a US Navy corpsman have already pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in the case, and a third Marine is expected to enter a guilty plea [JURIST report] next week. Marine Cpl. Marshall Magincalda has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges against him and a second Marine, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, entered a not guilty plea Tuesday. Those who have already pleaded guilty have named Hutchins as the mastermind [JURIST report] of the plan.






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    Federal judge decries disparate impact of cocaine sentencing laws on minorities
    Robert DeVries on November 14, 2006 7:23 PM ET

    [JURIST] US District Judge Reggie B. Walton [official profile] denounced [PDF transcript] the disparity in federal sentencing requirements for possession of crack cocaine and cocaine powder in testimony Tuesday before the US Sentencing Commission [official website]. Citing the 100-1 differential (5 grams of crack carry a mandatory 5 year sentence while it takes 500 grams of cocaine to get that same sentence), Walton stated that "the current sentencing structure is not fair, nor does it have the appearance of fairness" and it is eroding minority groups' faith in the equity of the legal system. Walton acknowledged that as Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy [official website] in the 1980s, he had approved stricter sentencing standards for crack-related crimes. However, the disparate impact of these standards on minorities has led him to change his position. He called for "a re-evaluation of the policy," stating:

    The failure to do so has left many to believe that there is an indifference to the real and perceived unfairness of the policy because of the population is disproportionately impacted by it. As a nation that prides itself on treating all who appear before our courts of law with fairness and equality, the time has come to address a vexing problem for those of us who are entrusted to administer the system and those who suffer the consequences of the policy.
    Although the two drugs [NIDA backgrounder] are nearly identical, crack cocaine is more dominant in lower income urban areas. On three prior occasions, the Sentencing Commission has recommended that Congress adjust the sentencing disparity. AP has more.





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    Another Marine pleads not guilty in Hamdania Iraqi civilian murder case
    Ned Mulcahy on November 14, 2006 6:31 PM ET

    [JURIST] US Marine Cpl. Trent D. Thomas pleaded not guilty Tuesday at his arraignment hearing [USMC press release] to charges of murder, kidnapping, and other offenses related to the death of an Iraqi man in Hamdania [USMC timeline; JURIST archive]. Thomas is among several servicemen accused of kidnapping Hashim Ibrahim Awad [Wikipedia profile] and leaving him by the side of the road with a shovel and AK-47 after shooting him, making Awad look like an insurgent. Thomas also pleaded not guilty to assaulting an Iraqi citizen in a separate incident on April 10 near Hamdania. A Purple Heart winner who was serving his third tour in Iraq when the incidents occurred, Thomas will go to trial in March 2007.

    Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson, Pfc. John J. Jodka, and US Navy Petty Officer Nelson Bacos [JURIST reports] have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the Hamdania incident. Jodka will face a sentencing hearing [USMC press release] Wednesday, where he faces up to 15 years of confinement, reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps. A fourth serviceman is expected to plead guilty [JURIST report] at an arraignment hearing scheduled for Monday. Reuters has more.






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    Senate committee to investigate CIA rendition flights
    Katerina Ossenova on November 14, 2006 4:23 PM ET

    [JURIST] Incoming US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) [official website] said Tuesday that his committee's priorities will include an investigation into CIA extraordinary rendition flights [JURIST news archive]. In an interview with the Financial Times, Levin said he was uncomfortable with the system and believes "that there's been some significant abuses which have not made us more secure but have made us less secure and have also, perhaps, cost us some real allies, as well as not producing useful information. So I think the system needs a thorough review and, as the military would say, a thorough scrubbing."

    Both the European Union and the Council of Europe began their own investigations into the CIA's alleged use of illegal rendition flights throughout Europe and an associated system of secret prisons [JURIST news archive] after their existence was first disclosed in media reports [JURIST report] in November 2005. In June 2006 the Council of Europe passed a resolution [JURIST report] condemning alleged collusion between some European governments and the CIA after a probe [JURIST report; PDF text report] by Swiss legislator Dick Marty concluded that illegal US detention centers in Europe existed and that 14 European nations, including Britain, had allowed extraordinary rendition flights to travel through their airspace. President Bush finally acknowledged the existence of US secret prisons [JURIST report] for terror detainees in September. The Guardian has more.






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    Bosnia war crimes court sentences first suspect transferred from ICTY
    Katerina Ossenova on November 14, 2006 3:54 PM ET

    [JURIST] Bosnia's national war crimes court sentenced [press release] a former Bosnian Serb soldier to 16 years in prison Tuesday in the first judgment handed down against a defendant transferred [ICTY press release] to Bosnia from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] in The Hague. The War Crimes Chamber [JURIST report] of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website] convicted and sentenced Radovan Stankovic [State Court case backgrounder; BBC report] for rape, enslavement and torture for crimes committed in the Bosnian town of Foca from 1992 to 1995. Stankovic was charged [indictment, PDF] with running a detention house where women and mostly young girls were held so Serb soldiers could sexually assault them.

    The ICTY has already convicted three former Bosnian Serb commanders for war crimes in Foca. Supporters of the decision to transfer Stankovic [JURIST report] say it bolsters the credibility of the Bosnian court system and helps to reduce the caseload of the ICTY, which is expected to wrap up its work in 2010. The ICTY said Tuesday that the judgment justifies the court's strategy [press release] of "transferring cases, expertise and know-how to the judiciaries in the region." Reuters has more.






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    UK AG examining whether new hate law will fill 'gap' exposed by BNP acquittals
    Brett Murphy on November 14, 2006 3:19 PM ET

    [JURIST] UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith [official profile] said Tuesday in an interview [recorded audio] on BBC Radio 4 that he wants to examine whether new religious hate legislation [JURIST report] passed in Parliament earlier this year and scheduled to come into force in February could fill a "gap" in existing law supposedly pointed up by Friday's acquittals of two British National Party officials [JURIST report]: "...it's absolutely right that we should be looking at that new law, but it's important to recognize that this wasn't the law that was being used in this prosecution. I think this prosecution shows that there is a gap in the law and we need to look to see whether the new law is going to fill that gap or not." Over the weekend, British Chancellor Gordon Brown [official profile], seen as likely to succeed current prime minister Tony Blair, also called for broader race hate laws in response to the acquittals.

    The original charges stemmed from 2004 speeches in West Yorkshire, taped by the BBC, in which BNP leader Nick Griffin [BBC profile] called Islam a "wicked, vicious faith" and senior aide Mark Collate [Wikipedia profile] referred to people who seek asylum as "a little bit like cockroaches." In February, the two men were cleared of similar charges, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on all charges [BBC report], which led to a second trial [JURIST report]. The 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act [text] makes it an offense to stir up hatred on religious grounds, but prosecutors must prove criminal intent rather than simply "recklessness." BBC News has more.






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    UK parliament panel says Human Rights Act 'used as scapegoat'
    Katerina Ossenova on November 14, 2006 3:15 PM ET

    [JURIST] The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights [official website] has said that Britain's Human Rights Act [text; backgrounder; JURIST news archive] has "been used as a convenient scapegoat for unrelated administrative failings within government," in a new report [PDF text] released Tuesday. Several members of the British government, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, have lately called for possible revisions to the Act [JURIST report], Britain's codification of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], after growing tension between the British government and judiciary [JURIST report] over human rights issues in the war on terror. The controversy was ignited by a court decision allowing nine Afghani airplane hijackers to remain in the UK [JURIST report] for fear they would be tortured in their home country.

    In June, Conservative Party leader David Cameron proposed a US-style bill of rights [JURIST report] to replace the Human Rights Act to balance the protection of civil rights and defense of the country against terrorism and other threats. Cameron initially called for revisions to the Act [JURIST report], or for the Act to be scrapped altogether, after the Afghan hijackers won their appeal against deportation. In May, UK Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer [official profile] told the BBC [recorded audio] that the government might introduce legislation [JURIST report] that would prevent the Act from interfering with public safety matters. While the law was not amended, Falconer said the government wants to dispel "myths" surrounding the Act [JURIST report] so that public officials do not tilt the balance too far in favor of the rights of criminals against the rights of victims. The Human Rights Committee agreed, saying, "We are convinced that more needs to be done to explain that the act can be a force for good for the people of this country, as well as debunking negative myths about it." The Independent has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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    Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee describes systematic torture
    Brett Murphy on November 14, 2006 2:44 PM ET

    [JURIST] Recently released Turkish-German Guantanamo Bay detainee Murat Kurnaz [Amnesty profile] has told Turkey's CNN Turk [media website, in Turkish] that while he was at the US military prison he was subjected to systematic torture at the hands of US personnel, including electric shocks, having his head submerged in water and being shackled to the ceiling for days at a time. Kurnaz also alleged Monday that guards sometimes refused to feed him, once for 20 days. He made similar claims [JURIST report] through his lawyer while still a prisoner at the US detention facility.

    Kurnaz spent almost five years at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] before being returned to Germany [JURIST report] in August after German authorities pressed for his release [JURIST report]. In October, Germany began a probe [JURIST report] into whether Kurnaz was abused by German soldiers in Afghanistan before he was transferred to Guantanamo. The German Defense Ministry has denied the allegations [JURIST report]. AFP has more.






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    Federal judge orders Michigan prison to end use of non-medical restraints
    Brett Murphy on November 14, 2006 1:30 PM ET

    [JURIST] A federal judge ruled Monday that officials at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility [official website] must stop using non-medical restraints on prisoners because the "practice constitutes torture and violates the Eighth Amendment." Judge Richard Enslen of the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued the opinion [PDF text] in the case of Timothy Souders, a mentally ill detainee who died Aug. 6 after spending four days nude and restrained in an isolated cell. The judge said the death was "attributable to delays or malfeasance in the provision of mental health care." Specifically, Judge Enslen ordered [PDF text] that the prison "shall immediately cease and desist from the practice of using any form of punitive mechanical restraints... [and] shall timely develop practices, protocols and policies to enforce this limitation."

    According to testimony [Grand Rapids Press report] at trial in October, the use of the restraints on Souders met the American Medical Association's definition of torture. AP has more.






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    DOJ asserts MCA bars enemy immigrants, Gitmo detainees from judicial review
    Holly Manges Jones on November 14, 2006 11:25 AM ET

    [JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] argued Monday that immigrants arrested while in the US and labeled as enemy combatants [JURIST news archive] under an expansive definition [WP report] in the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text; JURIST news archive] can be indefinitely detained and are prohibited from challenging their detention in civilian courts. In a motion to dismiss [PDF text] filed Monday in the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a Qatari citizen detained while studying in the US, the DOJ argued:

    the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), Pub. L. No. 109-366 (see Attachment 1), which took effect on October 17, 2006, removes federal court jurisdiction over pending and future habeas corpus actions and any other actions filed by or on behalf of detained aliens determined by the United States to be enemy combatants, such as petitioner-appellant al-Marri, except as provided in Section 1005(e)(2) and (e)(3) of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). In plain terms, the MCA removes this Court's jurisdiction (as well as the district court's) over al-Marri's habeas action. Accordingly, the Court should dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remand the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction.
    Al-Marri is accused of being a sleeper agent for al Qaeda, and his case represents the first time the Bush administration has argued that the MCA strips a detainee held in the United States of habeas rights. Al-Marri's lawyers have said that his detention in a South Carolina prison allows him to challenge his detention in a civilian court like any other alien held for alleged immigration [JURIST news archive] or other legal violations, but the Justice Department said the anti-terrorism law applies to all enemy combatants no matter where they are held. AP has more.

    The DOJ motion comes in al-Marri's appeal [brief, PDF] challenging the president's authority to designate civilians arrested in the US as enemy combatants and what level of due process a detainee should be afforded to challenge the enemy combatant designation. Jonathan Hafetz, counsel for al-Marri, told JURIST Tuesday that:
    the President has announced that he can sweep any of the millions of non-citizens off the streets of America and imprison them for life in a military jail without charge, court review, or due process. It is unprecedented, unlawful, and un-American.
    Also Monday, the Bush administration filed a brief [PDF text] Monday with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, petitioning the court to dismiss lawsuits brought by detainees [JURIST report] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. In the most detailed argument filed since President Bush signed [JURIST report] the MCA into law last month, the Justice Department argued that the MCA "unambiguously eliminated district court jurisdiction over these cases" and asserted that the detainees' arguments that the MCA is unconstitutional are "without merit." The government wrote:
    First, as we have explained at length in our previous filings, petitioners, who are all aliens outside the United States, have no constitutional habeas rights to assert, and thus the elimination of the statutory right to seek habeas review does not implicate the Suspension Clause. Second, even if petitioners possessed constitutional habeas rights, given the review afforded, there is no suspension in this context because Congress has provided an adequate substitute. As set out in our prior briefs, the review afforded by Congress of the enemy combatant determinations by the Combatant Status Review Tribunals ("CSRTs") is greater than that afforded in habeas for alien enemies facing military criminal proceedings. ... Even outside of the military context, under traditional habeas review, "other than the question whether there was some evidence to support the order, the courts generally did not review the factual determinations made by the Executive." ... Petitioners' insistence that enemies captured during armed conflict, and detained by the military as enemy combatants have a right to de novo review of the ruling of the governing military tribunal is wholly unfounded, contrary to Supreme Court precedent, and would severely impair the military's ability to defend this country.
    AP has more.





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    South Africa assembly passes civil unions bill
    Jeannie Shawl on November 14, 2006 10:33 AM ET

    [JURIST] The South African National Assembly [official website] passed the Civil Unions Bill [JURIST report] Tuesday by a 230-41 vote, becoming the first African nation to recognize same-sex unions [JURIST news archive]. The bill, without specific reference to heterosexual or same-sex couples, recognizes the "voluntary union of two persons, which is solemnized and registered by either a marriage or civil union." It also includes an opt-out clause, which allows officiants to refuse to perform a same-sex ceremony if it conflicts with his or her "conscience, religion and belief." The bill must be approved by the National Council of Provinces [official website], the upper house of parliament, and signed by President Thabo Mbeki before it becomes law.

    The legislation was drafted in response to an October 2005 ruling [judgment,PDF; summary; JURIST report] of the South African Constitutional Court holding that the 1961 Marriage Act [1997 extension text, PDF] effectively precluding same-sex marriages violates the South African Constitution [text]. The court gave the government until December 1, 2006 to draft new legislation. BBC News has more. SAPA has local coverage.






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    Rumsfeld war crimes complaint filed in Germany
    Holly Manges Jones on November 14, 2006 10:01 AM ET

    [JURIST] Eleven former Abu Ghraib detainees and one Guantanamo detainee all claiming to have been victims of US torture initiated a criminal complaint [introduction in English, PDF; full complaint text in German, part one and part two, PDF] in Germany Tuesday asking that the German Federal Prosecutor [official website] investigate and ultimately prosecute former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top US officials and advisors [CCR list] for authorizing the commission of war crimes in the US "war on terror." As anticipated [JURIST report], the complaint was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by a coalition of US and international rights groups - among them the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the German Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV) [advocacy websites] - invoking Germany's universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] law, which allows the prosecution of war crimes no matter where they were carried out.

    US and German lawyers jointly allege that Rumsfeld personally ordered harsher torture methods against Mohamed al-Qahtani [Wikipedia profile], the so-called "20th hijacker" from the Sept. 11 attacks being held at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], when he did not confess to terrorist activities under initial interrogation sessions. It additionally cites alleged orders to commit or failures to prevent torture by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile], former CIA director George Tenet [official profile], and recently retired [JURIST report] US Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez [Wikipedia profile], the former commander of all US forces in Iraq. CCR provides additional background materials.

    CCR and four Iraqi citizens initially filed [JURIST report] a war crimes complaint [English translation, PDF] in Germany against Rumsfeld and seven other high-ranking US officials in October 2004, seeking to hold them accountable for acts of torture allegedly carried out at Abu Ghraib. That complaint was rejected [JURIST report] by a German prosecutor in February 2005 and a German court later upheld [JURIST report] the prosecutor's dismissal of the complaint. Attorneys representing the 12 detainees in the current suit believe they have a better chance this time because they have obtained records from the 2005 congressional hearings on al-Qahtani's case, and because Rumsfeld's recent resignation [JURIST report] may alleviate political pressure on German prosecutors to dismiss the challenge. AP has more. From Germany, Der Spiegel has local coverage.

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     Op-ed: Donald Rumsfeld: The War Crimes Case





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    Libby judge rejects prosecution effort to limit classified evidence
    Jeannie Shawl on November 14, 2006 9:45 AM ET