[JURIST] The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights [official website; JURIST news archive] said in a report [text] issued Sunday that so-called control orders [BBC backgrounder] issued by the government to limit the movement and conduct of uncharged terror suspects violate the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and should give way to actual criminal prosecutions. In its summary of findings, the report's group of cross-party authors from both the House of Commons and House of Lords said:
The Committee has acknowledged the genuine dilemma of governments facing a threat from international terrorism: what to do about individuals in their country who pose a serious threat but cannot be deported or prosecuted. It has taken the view that the only human rights compatible answer is to find ways of prosecuting such individuals...
In the Committee's view, the Government could do much more to overcome the main obstacles to criminal prosecution, notably by allowing use of intercept material. The Committee also notes [UK independent anti-terror law reviewer] Lord Carlile's emphasis on the need for an exit strategy from control orders and considers that the most effective strategy would be a variety of measures to facilitate criminal prosecution. The Committee is reinforced in this view by the disappearance of three people subject to control orders, which shows their limitations as a means to protect the public. And the Government's claim that these people do not pose a threat to the public because they were not planning to commit terrorist acts in the UK raises questions about whether control orders are being used for the purposes for which Parliament was told they were necessary, namely to protect the public from the risk of harm by suspected terrorists.
Control orders were first brought in [JURIST report] by the Tony Blair government in 2005, and apart from being politically controversial have already run into repeated problems in the courts [JURIST report].
[JURIST] British EU Minister Geoff Hoon [official website] said Sunday that the term "constitution" may be to blame for the slow progress of an official set of EU operating rules. Speaking to ITV, Hoon said "It seems to me much better, instead of talking about details of alleged constitutions, that we actually concentrate on what the European Union does for its citizens and make sure that that is the debate we have." The minister cited the term's overuse as a large reason for the rejection [JURIST report] of an European Constitution [JURIST news archive] by France and the Netherlands in 2005. Britain favors the adoption of a more simple term and a simpler document, such as the treatyproposed [JURIST report] by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French]. Other European leaders have similarly blamed terminology some for the troubles encountered by the proposed European charter; in October European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested in a speech delivered in the UK that a different name be used to enact the proposed institutional reforms, echoing a similar notion advanced last May by EU foreign ministers [JURIST report].
The originally proposed constitution provides for a simpler voting system, a longer term for EU president country, and the appointment of a foreign minister to deal with the newly enlarged union. EU leaders are meeting in Brussels later this week but the revision of the constitution is not slated for discussion. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alemo [official website, in Italian] criticized the US Saturday for failing to claim responsibility for the March 2005 shooting of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The minister's comments called for the US government's intervention in bringing the US soldier accused of the shooting to trial.
Last week, an Italian judge ordered [JURIST report] New York Army National Guard [official website] soldier Mario Lozano [Wikipedia profile] to stand trial on charges of voluntary homicide in connection with the death of Calipari. Calipari was shot to death [JURIST report] while driving to the Baghdad airport after securing the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena [Wikipedia profile] from Iraqi kidnappers. A second Italian agent, Andrea Carpani, was also wounded when US soldiers mistook the car as insurgents speeding through a security checkpoint. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Netherlands Minister of Integration Ella Vogelaar [official profile] told Dutch radio Saturday that she has no plans to implement a ban on the public wearing of the full-length Muslim burqa [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] despite two parliamentary votes supporting the prohibition. She told Netherlands Radio 1 that a ban would be counterproductive and disrespectful of Islam, and that in any case the issue was minor, as only some 150 Muslim women in the country wear burqas.
The idea of a burqa ban was initially floated [JURIST report] in late 2005 by Vogelaar's predecessor Rita Verdonk [personal website] and was eventually adopted as a cabinet initiative, but it faltered late last year after protests [JURIST reports] and a November Dutch election that installed a more liberal coalition that was officially sworn-in [press release] late last month. At least one Dutch lawmaker has said, however, that he will continue to push for a legislative ban. Dutch News.nl has more.
[JURIST] Iraqi special forces and coalition troops Sunday uncovered an Iraqi intelligence facility in Basra in southern Iraq apparently used to torture prisoners and produce bomb-making equipment. The government building, local headquarters of the Iraqi interior ministry's domestic intelligence agency, also housed 37 inmates. The troops arrested five suspects on suspicion of "serious terrorist activity, including involvement with roadside bombs and attacks against both civilians and multinational forces," according to the British military.
Both Iraqi intelligence and police forces have been accused of torture before, with a number of reports [JURIST reports] coming directly from Western military sources. Corruption has been especially rampant in Southern Iraq where many of the local forces have been infiltrated by radical Shiite [Wikipedia backgrounder] factions. AFP has more.
[JURIST] US District Judge Stanley S. Brotman ruled late last week that the US Virgin Islands has inadequate health care available for the territory's mentally ill prisoners awaiting trial. Brotman threatened to find the government in contempt [ACLU press release] if the conditions do not improve within two months. This is the fourth time in 12 years the court has legally warned the Virgin Islands government but it is the first time the judge has ordered daily fines if the government does not meet its deadline.
The squalid condition of the territory's prison mental health system was first brought to the court's attention in 1993 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a class action lawsuit based on the systematic abuse of mentally ill inmates. The reported abuses range from overcrowded facilities to a complete lack of proper mental health policy. AP has more.
[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official profile] Sunday signed into law [press release, in Russian] legislation that removes "reservations to some international treaties" made by the Soviet Union refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the UN's International Court of Justice [official website]. When signing several international treaties concerning anti-terrorism in the 1980s, the Soviet Union included reservations refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ to resolve disputes between treaty signatories over interpretation and application of the treaties.
The new law [summary, in Russian], passed by both houses of the Russian parliament last month, removes these reservations. Itar-Tass has more.
[JURIST] Members of the Cherokee Nation [official website] voted Saturday to adopt an amendment [Cherokee backgrounder] to the tribe's constitution [PDF text], limiting membership in the Cherokee Nation and stripping approximately 2,800 descendants of former Cherokee slaves of tribal membership. Over 76 percent of voters backed the amendment [vote results], which limits citizenship "to those who are original enrollees or descendants of Cherokees by blood, Delawares by blood, or Shawnees by blood as listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation commonly referred to as the Dawes Commission Rolls closed in 1906."
The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court [official backgrounder] ruled last year that descendants of slaves once owned by tribe members were entitled to tribal citizenship under an 1866 treaty [text] ending slavery in the Cherokee Nation. Attempts to block the vote were unsuccessful, but a federal judge has indicated that a challenge could be considered should the tribe vote to revoke membership. A tribal spokesman has said that any court challenges to the results should be filed in tribal courts and that March 12 is the deadline to challenge the vote. The Descendants of Freedmen of Five Civilized Tribes [advocacy website] has promised to protest the results. AP has more.
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