April 2008 Archives


Pakistan leaders extend talks on restoring ousted judges as pledged deadline passes
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 3:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Top members of Pakistan's government coalition Wednesday failed to reach an agreement on restoring judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last year after he declared emergency rule [PDF text; JURIST report], but vowed to continue discussions Thursday. The two leading coalition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People's Party [party websites], reportedly disagree [JURIST report] on the amount of power that the restored judges should wield, whether judges should be subject to term limits, and whether ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] should be among the judges reinstated. The coalition government had earlier pledged to reach an agreement on restoring the judges by the end of April.

The coalition government, sworn in last month after parliamentary elections earlier this year, has vowed to establish a fully independent judiciary [JURIST reports]. One of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's first actions upon taking office was seeking Chaudhry's and other ousted judges' immediate release from house arrest [JURIST report]. Pakistan's attorney general has said that reinstating the ousted judges would require a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] with a two-thirds majority vote in parliament. AP has more.

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Military judge sets terms for Hamdan questioning of Guantanamo detainees
Jeannie Shawl on April 30, 2008 3:34 PM ET

[JURIST] US military judge Navy Capt. Keith Allred Wednesday set down terms under which Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] can question suspected al Qaeda leaders currently in US custody at Guantanamo as part of his defense effort. Hamdan's defense team had asked for "two-way" communications to be allowed between Hamdan and several other detainees, but the government argued that allowing such a communication would jeopardize national security. Allred ruled that Hamdan's signature could be included on requests for information drafted by the government, and that any responses to Hamdan's questions would be screened by the government before being turned over to the defense team. Hamdan's defense lawyers hope to show that he was merely an employee of Osama bin Laden, and not a high-level al Qaeda terrorist. Wednesday's decision follows an earlier ruling [JURIST report] allowing questioning of certain Guantanamo detainees.

Allred said Wednesday that he hoped the ruling would encourage Hamdan to resume an active role in his defense. As pre-trial hearings in his case got underway this week, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial [JURIST report]. During a Tuesday hearing, he appeared apologetic for the decision, but said that he did not believe the military commission system would bring justice [Miami Herald report]. Hamdan did not attend Wednesday's hearing. His trial by military commission is set for June 2, and Allred said Wednesday that it would proceed whether or not Hamdan participates. AP has more.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.

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Vote for JURIST in the 2008 Webby Awards... polls close May 1!
Bernard Hibbitts on April 30, 2008 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] JURIST has been nominated in New York for a prestigious Webby Award as the best Law website of 2008, and with online polls for the Webby People's Voice competition closing late on Thursday, May 1, we hope you'll support JURIST and our staff of dedicated law students by voting for us!

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Federal judge sets 2009 date for third trial in Sears Tower terror case
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge Wednesday set January 6, 2009 for the third terrorism prosecution [JURIST report] of six men charged with conspiring [DOJ press release] to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami after two previous prosecutions ended in mistrials. Earlier this month, US District Judge Joan A. Lenard declared the second mistrial [JURIST report] after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations. In December 2007, Lenard declared an initial mistrial [JURIST report] when the jury was deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. A seventh man was acquitted in that proceeding.

The seven were indicted [JURIST report] in 2006 on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleged that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other initial defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men have said that their clients were entrapped [JURIST report] by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. AP has more. The Sun-Sentinel has local coverage.

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Federal appeals court dismisses New York City lawsuit against gun manufacturers
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 2:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit filed by the city of New York against gun manufacturers, ruling that gun makers were immune from suit under a 2005 federal law [JURIST report] that shields the firearms industry from civil lawsuits brought by cities, municipalities and victims of gun crimes. The ruling overturns a decision by a lower court that found the court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

New York originally filed the lawsuit in 2000, arguing that gun makers and dealers should be more closely regulated to stem the flow of illegal guns into the city. In 2006, New York City filed another lawsuit [JURIST report] against 15 rogue out-of-state gun dealers; that suit sought to compel the dealers to undergo mandatory training and to pay compensatory damages to the city and punitive damages to victims. Reuters has more.

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Zimbabwe police probing at least 100 cases of alleged vote fraud in disputed election
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police have launched investigations into at least 100 cases of alleged fraud in the March 29 contested presidential election [JURIST report], officials said Wednesday. Police have arrested voters accused of voting multiple times in the election, as well as several Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) [official website] officials accused of accepting bribes to miscount votes in favor of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile]. The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has pledged to root out the alleged fraud, but opposition supporters say the allegations are an attempt by Mugabe to hold onto power. AFP has more.

Official results of the presidential race have long been delayed, but a government official told CNN Wednesday that Tsvangirai had won 47 percent of the presidential vote and Mugabe had won 43 percent, forcing a runoff election [CNN report]. An MDC spokesman rejected the need for a runoff [AP report], saying that only a rigged election would produce the results that would necessitate one. Violence has wracked the country since the March election, with frequent clashes between opposition forces and government supporters. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] Wednesday accused the Zimbabwean army of working with the ruling party [HRW report] to detain, torture, and murder political opponents, and urged the African Union and the UN Security Council to push for an end to the violence. AP has more.



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UK PM Brown presses for 42-day terror detention without charge limit
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown Wednesday vowed to push for the passage of a new anti-terror bill [BBC Q/A] that would allow British authorities to detain terror suspects up to 42 days without charge. Current law only authorizes detention without charge for 28 days [JURIST report], but bill proponents have argued that this time limit endangers national security. The Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 [draft text, PDF; bill materials] also includes provisions creating a registry of convicted terrorists and making terrorism an "aggravating factor" in sentencing for non-terrorism offenses. Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs have opposed the legislation, fearing it could infringe on civil liberties. The Guardian has more.

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December 2007. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by former UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits, and a proposal [JURIST reports] floated last July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and permitted judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification.

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US military judge rules Khadr not a child soldier
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 30, 2008 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge Wednesday rejected arguments that Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] was a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan and that the US military commission responsible for his trial lacks jurisdiction over the case. In a motion filed with US military judge Col. Peter Brownback in January, Khadr's lawyers had asked for the case to be dismissed [JURIST report] saying that it violated the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which gives special protection to children under 18 involved in armed conflicts. Khadr's lawyers had also argued that the US Congress did not grant Guantanamo Bay military commissions the authority to hear cases involving child soldiers charged with juvenile crimes. UN officials and rights groups have also argued against Khadr's prosecution [JURIST report], saying it violated the protocol.

On Tuesday, Khadr military lawyer Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler asserted before a Canadian parliamentary committee [CBC report] that the Guantanamo tribunal is determined to find Khadr guilty despite what he said was a lack of evidence, and urged the Canadian government to press the US to extradite Khadr. Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes allegedly committed at the age of 15 when he supposedly threw a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Earlier this week, former Guantanamo Bay chief military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF] testified [JURIST report] at a pre-trial hearing for another detainee that top US Department of Defense officials said that there could be no acquittals at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military commissions.

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Australia to amend laws to end same-sex discrimination
Katerina Ossenova on April 30, 2008 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The Australian government will introduce legislation to amend over 100 federal laws [press release] to remove discrimination against same-sex couples [JURIST news archive], Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland [official profile] said Wednesday. The legislation, which will be introduced during the winter sitting of parliament and is expected to be implemented by mid-2009, will not allow same-sex marriages. Many of the amendments to be proposed are based on a June 2007 report [text] by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [official website], recommending legislative changes to 58 federal laws [JURIST report] to end discrimination against same-sex couples in areas such employment, workers' compensation, veterans' entitlements, health care subsidies, family law, senior care and immigration law. AP has more.

A national poll also released in June 2007 found that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The poll, conducted by Galaxy Research [corporate website] and reported by political group GetUp! [advocacy website] found that in a sample of 1100 Australians over the age of 16, 57 percent support same sex marriage [press release and results, PDF], while 71 percent support giving same-sex couples identical legal rights as "those in a heterosexual de facto relationship."

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Senate committee backs measure to block CIA use of waterboarding
Katerina Ossenova on April 30, 2008 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] voted Tuesday to restrict Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] interrogators to techniques explicitly authorized by the military, approving a measure that would effectively prevent the CIA from using waterboarding [JURIST news archive] during interrogations. The vote came during markup of a bill authorizing intelligence expenditures for the 2009 fiscal year. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website] introduced the measure [press release], which would require the CIA to follow the interrogation rules included in the 2006 Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations [PDF text; press release]. The Field Manual explicitly prohibits the use of waterboarding, electrocution, sensory deprivation, inducing hypothermia, or depriving the subject of food, water or medical care.

This is the second time Congress will attempt to ban waterboarding. In March, President George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008 [HR 2082 materials], which included a similar provision limiting CIA interrogators to interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual, and an attempt to override the veto failed [JURIST report]. In announcing his veto, Bush said [radio address transcript; recorded audio] that techniques outside those allowed in Army Field Manual were crucial to the effective interrogation of terror suspects, and that banning them would put the country at higher risk of attack. CIA Director Michael Hayden told the House Intelligence Committee in February that he had officially prohibited CIA agents from using waterboarding in 2006 [JURIST report], but that the technique has not been used in almost five years. AP has more.



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NY appeals court upholds Port Authority negligence verdict in 1993 WTC bombing
Jeannie Shawl on April 30, 2008 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] A New York appeals court has upheld [opinion text] a jury's finding that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was negligent [JURIST report] in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center [BBC backgrounder] by Islamic radicals that killed six and injured 1,000. The jury found in 2003 that the Port Authority [official website], which owned the World Trade Center, did not properly maintain the building's garage, where terrorists detonated an explosives-laden van.

The appellate court on Monday affirmed the trial judge's decision not to grant the Port Authority's request to set aside the jury verdict [JURIST report], concluding:

The verdict we now uphold is neither properly nor intelligently understood as absolving the terrorists. The issue before the jury in this civil action was not whether the terrorists had committed the bombing - obviously they had - or whether they should be severely penalized - most of them were - but whether their heinous conduct was foreseeable and avoidable by defendant in the discharge of its proprietary responsibilities. Terrorism has for decades posed a dire threat to ordered life in free and open societies, but certainly its specter cannot justify the view that performance of the duties we have traditionally relied upon as essential to the preservation of our security may be generally excused as futile. It is, of course, entirely possible that terrorists will employ means that not even the conscientious performance of duty would deter and, where that is established, the absence of a causal nexus between the harm and any default by a defendant in the performance of its duty will preclude the imposition of civil liability. But, as this jury recognized, this was not such a case. Here, the evidence overwhelmingly supported the view that the conscientious performance of defendant's duty reasonably to secure its premises would have prevented the harm. This civil jury had no power to decide whether the terrorists should in any meaningful sense be "absolved" of their murderous acts. What it could and did decide was rather that the acts of these terrorists, even while obviously odious in the extreme, were not a cause for the easy absolution of this defendant from its civil obligations.
The New York Law Journal has more.

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Turkish parliament amends state slander law
Katerina Ossenova on April 30, 2008 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Grand National Assembly of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] voted Wednesday in favor of restricting the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of the country's penal code [text, in Turkish], which makes "insulting the Turkish identity" a crime. Lawmakers voted 250-65 in favor of amending Article 301 by reducing the minimum sentence for denigrating Turkish identity from three years to two, allowing for the suspension of sentences for first-time offenders and requiring the approval by the justice minister of all investigations. The amended provisions, which were proposed [JURIST report] by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] in early April, also prohibit insults to the "Turkish nation" rather than "Turkishness."

Many prominent Turkish journalists, authors, and academics have been tried for insulting "Turkishness" [JURIST report] under Article 301. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk [JURIST news archive] is among the 745 convicted since 2003 for violating the law. Critics accuse Turkey of using the law to silence government critics, making it a major stumbling block [JURIST report] to Turkey's accession to the European Union. On April 11, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile], in a speech [PDF text; JURIST report] before the Turkish parliament, urged Turkey to speed up political and social reforms to meet the criteria for accession into the European Union [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

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Milberg LLP in settlement talks over kickback scheme charges: report
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 29, 2008 5:37 PM ET

[JURIST] US law firm Milberg LLP [firm website], formerly Milberg Weiss, is in negotiations with federal prosecutors to settle accusations related to an alleged kickback scheme, sources told Reuters on Tuesday. The firm pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in 2006 to fraud and conspiracy charges for allegedly paying up to $11.3 million since 1984 to individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs in class-action and shareholder derivative lawsuits. The lead plaintiffs were allegedly promised 10 percent of the attorney fees eventually gathered by the firm.

Earlier this month, firm partner and co-founder Melvyn Weiss pleaded guilty [agreement, PDF; JURIST report] to one count of racketeering conspiracy in connection with the kickback scheme. Weiss' sentencing is scheduled for June 2; he faces up to 33 months in prison. In February, former partner William Lerach was sentenced to two years in prison for his part in the scheme; he pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to obstruct justice after reaching an agreement [JURIST reports] with prosecutors in September. Three individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme in May 2006 after the firm was indicted [JURIST reports]. Partner David J. Bershad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy charges in July 2007. Reuters has more.

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Zimbabwe police release opposition activists detained after raids
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 29, 2008 4:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police Tuesday released several hundred opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] supporters detained after police raids [JURIST report] last week. Twenty-nine women and children were released almost immediately last week, while the rest were released Tuesday pursuant to a court order [JURIST report].

Witnesses say that police were searching for vote counting materials that might show that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won the contested March 29 presidential election [JURIST report]. Official results of the presidential race have still not been released, but Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) [official website] officials said Monday that a partial recount had been completed [Reuters report] and that the ZEC would begin scheduling meetings with the candidates to "verify figures," though those meetings were postponed [IHT report] on Tuesday. AP has more.






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Federal judge promises to set dollar figure on US mismanagement of Indian trust
Brett Murphy on April 29, 2008 2:45 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge James Robertson said Monday in a court hearing that he would set a dollar figure [plaintiffs press release] on the US government's alleged mismanagement of trust funds for a group of some 500,000 Native Americans in a 12-year class action lawsuit [plaintiffs website; JURIST news archive] against the US Department of the Interior [official website]. Plaintiffs led by Eloise Cobell have argued that federal government owes them $58 billion, representing its profits from land use violative of trust terms. Congress established the Indian trust in 1887 to hold proceeds from government-arranged leases of Indian lands. Lawyers for the US government have argued that little trust monies are missing from its accounts and have discouraged Robertson from setting any kind of figure. Robertson has scheduled additional hearings for June, telling the parties in the meantime that "My stewardship of this case will be something with a dollar sign." AP has more.

In an incendiary opinion [text] in 2005, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth required the Interior Department to apologize to the plaintiffs [JURIST report] for its handling of the trust, and to admit that information being provided to them regarding outstanding lost royalties on earnings from Indian land may be unreliable. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit removed Lamberth [JURIST report] and reassigned the case to Robertson.

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China lawyers subject to official harassment: HRW
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 29, 2008 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers in China are subject to increasing persecution and intimidation by the Chinese government, according to a report [text; press release] released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report found that rights lawyers working on cases involving sensitive issues, including land evictions [JURIST report], face the greatest opposition from authorities. According to the report's summary:

Over the past two decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has progressively embraced the rule of law as a key part of its agenda to reform the way the country is governed. Importing entire pieces of Western-style legal institutions, the CCP is in the process of establishing a modern court system, has enacted thousands of laws and regulations, and has established hundreds of law schools to train legal professionals. It has publicized through constant propaganda campaigns the idea that common citizens have basic rights, elevated the concept of the "rule of law" to constitutional status, and recognized the validity of human rights norms with a new constitutional clause stipulating that "the state respects and protect human rights."

Yet, Chinese lawyers continue to face huge obstacles in defending citizens whose rights have been violated and ordinary criminal suspects. This report shows that lawyers often face violence, intimidation, threats, surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detention, prosecution, and suspension or disbarment from practicing law for pursuing their profession. This is particularly true in politically sensitive cases. Lawyers are often unable to seek redress for these threats and attacks as law enforcement authorities refuse to investigate abuses, creating a climate of lack of accountability for actions against members of the legal profession.

Instances of abuse by the national government or local authorities against lawyers have disproportionately affected lawyers who are part of the weiquan, or "rights protection" movement, a small but influential movement of lawyers, law experts, and activists who try to assert the constitutional and civil rights of the citizenry through litigation and legal activism. Weiquan lawyers represent cases implicating many of the most serious human rights issues that beset China today: farmers whose land has been seized by local officials, urban residents who have been forcibly evicted, residents resettled from dam and reservoir areas, victims of state agents' or corrupt officials' abuses of power, victims of torture and ill-treatment, criminal defendants, victims of miscarriage of justice, workers trying to recoup unpaid wages and rural migrants who are denied access to education and healthcare.
HRW also expressed concern that the judiciary or bar associations have neither "formal or functional independence" and noted that this makes lawyers "reluctant to work on politically sensitive cases, in particular human rights cases." HRW urged the Chinese government to ensure greater autonomy for lawyers:
Lawyers are playing a greater role than ever in resolving ordinary disputes and representing victims of human rights abuses. They have helped gain recognition of grievances, promoted legal awareness among victims of abuses, advanced consumer rights, provided legal aid and counsel in both judicial and non-judicial settings, fostered better compliance with statutory requirements from law enforcement agencies and courts, and monitored the enforcement of judicial decisions.

If China's legal reform is to reach the next level, however, authorities need to act much more decisively to remove the obstacles that continue to prevent lawyers from playing their proper role. Lawyers' exercise of their profession - including their vigorous defense of controversial clients and causes - requires increased professional autonomy and protection against arbitrary interference by other judicial system actors, particularly though not exclusively in politically sensitive cases. As this report demonstrates, China still has a long way to go to lift arbitrary restrictions on lawyers and establish genuine rule of law.
Several rights lawyers have been detained or prosecuted for suspected "subversion of state power" or other dissident activities during the past several months, including Yang Maodong and Gao Zhisheng [JURIST reports]. Last month, Teng Biao, a lawyer who has defended political dissidents, was released by the Chinese government after spending two days in custody [JURIST report]. China has been harshly criticized in recent months for cracking down on human rights activists and political dissidents [JURIST report] ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. AP has more.






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Iraqi High Tribunal opens trial of Saddam-era former deputy PM
Jeannie Shawl on April 29, 2008 1:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The trial of former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and seven co-defendants began at the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] in Baghdad on Tuesday. Aziz, deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein's regime, and his co-defendants are charged in connection with the 1992 execution of 42 merchants accused by Hussein's government of causing a sharp increase in food prices at a time when the United Nations had placed Iraq under strict sanctions. The opening session was delayed for several hours, but Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman [BBC profile] eventually presided over a brief session before adjourning proceedings until May 20. One of the defendants - Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali" - was not present at Tuesday's trial session due to medical reasons [JURIST report]. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

This is the latest in a series of trials at the Iraqi High Tribunal involving Hussein-era officials. The first - the so-called Dujail case [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive] - resulted in Hussein's execution after he was found guilty [JURIST reports] of crimes against humanity. Five defendants were later convicted in the Anfal case [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive], and three defendants were sentenced to death in that case, including al-Majid. The Anfal death sentences have not yet been carried out [JURIST report]. A third crimes against humanity case against al-Majid and several co-defendants is ongoing [JURIST report]; the charges in this case are connected to the defendants' alleged role in the violent suppression of a predominately Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.






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China court jails 30 for involvement in Tibet pro-independence protests
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 29, 2008 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese court sentenced 30 people to prison Tuesday for their roles in protests against Chinese rule in Tibet [BBC backgrounder] last month. Three men received life sentences, including a Buddhist monk accused of destroying government property and leading attacks on police, while others were sentenced to terms ranging from three to 20 years. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests by Buddhist monks in the capital of Lhasa last month. AP has more. Xinhua has local coverage.

Earlier this month, Tibetan courts promised to swiftly prosecute demonstrators [JURIST report] involved in the protests, with a top Chinese official in Tibet saying that over 1,000 protesters will face prosecution before May 1. China says that 19 people died after skirmishes between pro-Tibet protesters and Chinese authorities last month, but the Tibetan government-in-exile [official website] said that over 100 had died [JURIST report]. The Dalai Lama has denied accusations that he was behind the riots and has said that he supports true autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence.






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Wife of Thailand ex-PM denies corruption charges
Alexis Unkovic on April 29, 2008 12:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Pojamarn Shinawatra, the wife of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], on Tuesday entered a written plea of not guilty to corruption and fraud charges before the Thai Supreme Court. Pojamarn challenged the legitimacy of the anti-graft Assets Examination Commission in her pleading and argued that she cannot be charged with corruption because she is not a state official. Pojamarn returned to Thailand from self-imposed exile in January, while her husband returned in February [JURIST reports]. Thaksin pleaded not guilty last month to corruption and abuse of power charges laid against him after he was ousted in a military coup [JURIST reports] in September 2006.

A Thai court issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin and his wife last August and a second warrant in September [JURIST reports]. Thaksin and Pojamarn have been accused of abuse of power for personal gain [JURIST report], conflict of interest violations, and dereliction of duty for personal gain in charges stemming from a 2003 land purchase by Pojaman from the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website]. AP has more.






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Federal lawsuit filed over Philadelphia jail overcrowding
Alexis Unkovic on April 29, 2008 11:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Civil rights lawyer Jonathan Feinberg [firm profile] filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of 11 inmates challenging the "unconstitutional conditions" in which inmates are currently being held at four Philadelphia jails. US District Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] last January that overcrowded Philadelphia jails violate inmates' constitutional rights and therefore require court monitoring. Surrick's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Feinberg's partner, University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky [faculty profile], in 2006 and ordered the City to immediately rectify conditions including "the failure to provide beds and bedding, ... material for personal hygiene including soap, warm water, toothpaste, toothbrushes and shower facilities." Suffolk's temporary injunction expired several months ago, and the new lawsuit now seeks class certification on behalf of all Philadelphia inmates.

A similar lawsuit filed by Rudovsky 35 years ago resulted in court oversight of Philadelphia jails from 1971 to 2001. AP has more.






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ICC unseals arrest warrant for Congo militia leader suspected of enlisting child soldiers
Jeannie Shawl on April 29, 2008 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court [official website] on Tuesday made public an arrest warrant [PDF text, in French] for Bosco Ntaganda, who is accused of committing war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [ICC materials]. The arrest warrant was issued in August 2006, but an ICC pre-trial chamber unsealed the warrant [decision, PDF] on Monday. According to an ICC press release [text]:

[Ntaganda] is alleged to have committed war crimes of enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15 and of using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from July 2002 until December 2003. ...

The Chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC) repeatedly carried out, from July 2002 to December 2003, acts of enlistment, conscription and active participation in hostilities of children under the age of fifteen, who were trained in the FPLC training camps of Bule, Cantrale, Mandro, Rwampara, Irumu, Bogoro and Sota.

The Chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Ntaganda, as former Deputy Chief of General Staff for Military Operations of the FPLC, had during the mentioned period of time, de jure and de facto authority over the FPLC training camp commanders and used his authority to actively implement the policy adopted at a higher level of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC)/FPLC of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities.
The arrest warrant was issued under seal because "public knowledge of the proceedings in this case might result in Bosco Ntaganda hiding, fleeing, and/or obstructing or endangering the investigations or the proceedings of the Court," but ICC judges determined that those circumstances have since changed.

In a statement [text] released by the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called for Ntaganda's arrest and surrender to the court:
Bosco NTAGANDA is at large and allegedly continues to be implicated in the commission of crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is reported to have moved from the District of Ituri to the Province of North Kivu, into the Masisi area, where he has reportedly taken the position of Chief of Staff within the political-military group CNDP. The CNDP is a group under the command of Laurent NKUNDA.

The CNDP is one of the groups against which there are credible reports of serious crimes committed in the two Kivu provinces - including sexual crimes of unspeakable cruelty - as well as the FDLR forces, local armed groups and individual members of the regular army.

"Bosco NTAGANDA committed crimes in Ituri; he is today in the Kivus. He must be arrested. Like all the other indicted criminals in Uganda and in the Sudan, he must be stopped if we want to break the system of violence. For such criminals, there must be no escape. Then peace will have a chance. Then victims will have hope" said the Prosecutor.

Today, it is for the relevant authorities in the DRC, and other countries as appropriate, with the support of the international community, to arrest him and facilitate his surrender to the ICC.
As part of the ICC's investigation into the situation in the DRC, cases have been initiated against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui [ICC materials]. Lubanga [BBC profile], leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese militia, became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into ICC custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. His trial is scheduled to begin in June [JURIST report]. The case against Katanga and Chui is still in a preliminary stage; a hearing to confirm the charges against them was delayed [decision, PDF; press release] on Monday to allow the defense more time to prepare. The hearing will take place at the end of June.





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Guantanamo ex-prosecutor testifies on political influence in commission cases
Alexis Unkovic on April 29, 2008 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Top US Department of Defense officials said that there could be no acquittals at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military commissions and pressured prosecutors to bring charges against detainees, according to Monday testimony by former Guantanamo Bay chief military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF] at a pre-trial hearing for detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. Davis resigned [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] his position in October 2007, saying that politics were interfering with the prosecutions process. Army Col. Lawrence J. Morris [official profile] cross-examined Davis, who testified that the legal adviser to the Convening Authority [official backgrounder] for Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann [official profile], pressured him to move forward with military commissions quickly "before the election" or else "this thing's going to implode."

Davis also testified Monday that he was pressured to prosecute former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] when he would have personally preferred to focus on more serious cases. Davis has previously asserted on numerous occasions that alleged political interference [JURIST report] with the tribunal process implies the entire system may be rigged. Hamdan's hearing is set to continue Tuesday though Davis is not expected to testify further. The New York Times has more. AAP has additional coverage.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Hamdan said Monday that he plans to boycott [JURIST report] his trial by military commission.

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Former Serb paramilitary commanders go on trial at ICTY
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 29, 2008 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] began the war crimes trial of two former Serb paramilitary commanders Monday. Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic [indictment, PDF] are charged with murder, persecution, forced deportations and inhuman acts during the 1991-95 Balkan wars. Both men have pleaded not guilty and face life sentences if convicted.

Their trial had previously been delayed several times amid worries that Stanisic would not be able to attend due to failing health, until the trial chamber ruled [text; press release] that Stanisic could remain in his cell and watch the proceedings via video. Stanisic's lawyer argued Monday that not having his client present at trial impaired his ability to mount an effective defense. AP has more.






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US House panel threatens to subpoena Ashcroft on DOJ interrogation memo
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 5:37 PM ET

[JURIST] US House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) [official website] Monday threatened to seek subpoenas [materials] to compel three current and former administration officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile], to testify about a recently released Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum [text; JURIST report] that advised the US Department of Defense that military interrogators could employ a wide range of interrogation methods when questioning foreign detainees outside the United States without fear of criminal liability or constitutional sanction. In letters sent to Ashcroft, former Assistant Deputy Attorney General John Yoo [academic profile], and Vice President Chief of Staff David Addington [US News profile], Conyers said he would seek subpoenas if he does not receive a response by Friday. Yoo and Ashcroft have both previously declined invitations to testify at the upcoming May 6 hearing, while a lawyer for the office of the Vice President said that Addington would not appear. The memo in question has since been repudiated by the DOJ. AP has more.

This would not be the first time that the House Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas against administration officials. Last month, the committee filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] to enforce subpoenas seeking information from former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten [official profiles] regarding the US Attorneys firing scandal [JURIST news archive]. In February, US Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey urging him to begin a grand jury investigation [JURIST report] into the conduct of the two White House aides and saying that the House would initiate a civil lawsuit if she did not receive a response within one week. Mukasey refused to present the contempt citations to a grand jury [JURIST report] in a response the following day.

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Pakistan coalition government continues talks on restoring ousted judges
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 3:54 PM ET

[JURIST] Top members of Pakistan's government coalition have met to continue their discussion of proposals for restoring judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last year after he declared emergency rule [PDF text; JURIST report], according to Monday media reports. The two leading coalition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People's Party [party websites], reportedly disagree [JURIST report] on the amount of power that the restored judges should wield, whether judges should be subject to term limits, and whether ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] should be among the judges reinstated. BBC News has more.

The coalition government, sworn in last month after parliamentary elections earlier this year, has vowed to establish a fully independent judiciary [JURIST reports]. One of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's first actions upon taking office was seeking Chaudhry's and other ousted judges' immediate release from house arrest [JURIST report]. Pakistan's attorney general has said that reinstating the ousted judges would require a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] with a two-thirds majority vote in parliament. The coalition government has pledged to restore the judges by the end of the month; Amnesty International Monday urged the government to meet that deadline [AI statement].






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Pfizer resumes settlement talks with Nigeria state over drug trial lawsuit
Brett Murphy on April 28, 2008 3:26 PM ET

[JURIST] US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer [corporate website] resumed settlement negotiations with the Nigerian state of Kano for allegedly illegal clinical trials conducted by the drug company, Kano state Justice Commissioner Aliyu Umar said Monday. Pfizer is accused of administering 200 Nigerian children with meningitis medication - including 100 with the then-experimental anti-biotic Trovan [FDA backgrounder] - without the authorization of the Nigerian government or the consent of the patients' guardians. Umar said that the government has made a counter-offer to settle the lawsuit after the state rejected Pfizer's initial offer, and now awaits a response from the drug company.

Pfizer faces 31 criminal charges and civil lawsuits [BBC backgrounder] totaling $8.5 billion for its alleged wrongdoing during a 1996 meningitis outbreak in Kano. Pfizer claims that it obtained parental consent orally and reduced the dosage of the comparison drug used in the clinical trial to reduce the level of pain for the patients. Last year, a Nigerian court rejected a request by Pfizer [JURIST report] to dismiss the civil lawsuit on technical grounds. Also last year, criminal court proceedings against Pfizer were suspended [JURIST report] at the request of prosecutors who needed more time to prepare for trial. AFP has more.

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Hamdan plans boycott of Guantanamo military commission trial
Brett Murphy on April 28, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] said Monday that he will join fellow detainees in a boycott of his upcoming military commission trial. Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who has been in US custody since 2001, said at a pre-trial hearing that he will not participate in the trial and will refuse any aid from lawyers.

Hamdan is now the fourth Guantanamo detainee to announce plans to boycott their military commissions. In mid-April, Sudanese Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi [DOD materials] said at a pre-trial hearing that he also planned to boycott his upcoming trial. Prior to that, Saudi Arabian detainee Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi [DOD materials; JURIST report] and Afghan detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST report] stated that they would boycott their trials as well. AP has more.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law.

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UN Security Council should address MNF-Iraq detainee policies: HRW
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council should push the US [press release] to address human rights concerns over policies governing detainees held by US-led coalition forces in Iraq, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a Monday letter [text] to Council representatives. HRW accused the Multi-National Force-Iraq of holding thousands of detainees without proper judicial review, and said that MNF-I is improperly relying on Council Resolutions to justify holding them indefinitely:

[The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq] cited [in its most recent human rights report] correspondence with the US embassy in Baghdad to the effect that internationally recognized standards of due process are inapplicable to MNF security detentions in Iraq. Letters attached to Security Council resolutions 1546, 1637 and 1723 allow for "internment where this is necessary for imperative reasons of security." The United States has maintained that this language, which mimics language in the Fourth Geneva Convention, is the basis for the MNF applying the Fourth Geneva Convention more generally to the treatment of detainees in Iraq.

This expansive reading of resolution 1546 is contrary to the requirement under international law to interpret Security Council resolutions as being consistent with existing international norms. The Fourth Geneva Convention has not been applicable to Iraq since the declared end of the belligerent occupation. The detention of individuals pursuant to resolution 1546 and successive resolutions must be read in light of the currently applicable international law in Iraq.
HRW also said that some detainees may be subject to torture in custody. BBC News has more.





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Spain court rules against extraditing Peron to face Argentina 'Dirty War' charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Spain's National Court on Monday ruled that former Argentinean President Isabel Peron [BBC profile] would not be extradited to face charges in Argentina related to her alleged role in "Dirty War" disappearances before she left office in 1976. The court found that the charges against Peron did not amount to crimes against humanity and that therefore the statute of limitations had expired. In January 2007, Argentinean judges issued two separate warrants for Peron, and in February 2007 Argentina made a formal request that Spain extradite Peron [JURIST reports]. The Canadian Press has more. El Mundo has local coverage, in Spanish.

After a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that struck down amnesty laws adopted in the 1980s, the Argentinean government has reopened hundreds of human rights cases, including one against former president Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST report] for his alleged role in disappearances and human rights abuses during Argentina's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive].






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Kenya rights group accuses military of torture during rebel crackdown
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenyan military forces tortured over 4,000 suspected rebels in a recent crackdown against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), according to a report released Monday by human rights group Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) [advocacy website]. The group accused soldiers of crimes against humanity in a campaign against the SLDF, a guerrilla militia along the Uganda-Kenya border, and accused top state officials, including Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and Prime Minister Raila Odinga [BBC profile], of being complacent in allowing torture of civilians to occur.

The SLDF is an armed resistance movement that has operated since 2005 in response to government resettlement plans that moved the Sabaot tribes from their ancestral land. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch also accused the Kenyan military of human rights abuses [HRW report] in its campaign against the group. AFP has more.






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Zimbabwe lawyers press for release of opposition activists detained after raids
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 28, 2008 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean lawyers Monday appealed for the release of several hundred opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] members detained after police raids [JURIST report] on Friday, saying that the the MDC members were being held in defiance of a court order. Witnesses say that police were searching for vote counting materials that might show that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won the contested March 29 presidential election [JURIST report].

Official results of the presidential race have still not been released, but Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) [official website] officials said Monday that a partial recount had been completed [Reuters report] and that the ZEC would begin scheduling meetings with the candidates to "verify figures" on Tuesday. The ZEC released the results of the parliamentary elections over the weekend. The Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website], party of current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], lost its majority in parliament for the first time since the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1980. On Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour condemned political violence [statement] in the country and urged all sides to practice restraint. AFP has more.






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Supreme Court allows Indiana voter photo ID law
Jeannie Shawl on April 28, 2008 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday let stand Indiana's controversial voter identification statute [Indiana SOS backgrounder, PDF], which requires voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. The decision comes in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [LII case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the law in 2007, ruling that it does not put an undue burden on the right to vote and therefore does not violate the US Constitution. Supporters of the law have said that voter identification can be used to deter voter fraud, but its critics have argued that the legislation makes it difficult for minorities, the elderly and the impoverished to participate in elections.

In affirming the federal appeals court ruling, Justice Stevens wrote:

We are, however, persuaded that the District Court and the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the evidence in the record is not sufficient to support a facial attack on the validity of the entire statute, and thus affirm.
In a separate concurrence in the judgment, Justice Scalia wrote:
The lead opinion assumes petitioners' premise that the voter-identification law "may have imposed a special burden on" some voters, ... but holds that petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny.... That is true enough, but for the sake of clarity and finality (as well as adherence to precedent), I prefer to decide these cases on the grounds that petitioners' premise is irrelevant and that the burden at issue is minimal and justified.
Scalia concluded:
The universally applicable requirements of Indiana's voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing, and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not "even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting." ... And the State's interests ... are sufficient to sustain that minimal burden. That should end the matter. That the State accommodates some voters by permitting (not requiring) the casting of absentee or provisional ballots, is an indulgence - not a constitutional imperative that falls short of what is required.
Justice Stevens announced the judgment of the Court; his opinion [text] was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment [text], which was joined by Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Souter wrote a dissent [text] and Justice Breyer filed a separate dissent [text]. AP has more.

In October 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in a per curiam opinion [PDF text] that Arizona could enforce its voter ID law [JURIST report], which requires voters to show government-issued voter ID cards [JURIST news archive] at the polls. Voter ID laws have been also been upheld in Georgia and Michigan, but struck down in Missouri. Currently, more than 20 states require some form of voter identification at the polls.



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DOJ says terror threat could excuse abusive interrogation
Bernard Hibbitts on April 27, 2008 7:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department told a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee [offical website] that abusive or humiliating interrogations of terror suspects ostensibly prohibited by the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on "outrages upon personal dignity" might be permissible if "undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse," the New York Times reported Sunday. The newly-released letters [letter 1, PDF; letter 2, PDF] to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) [official website], written in September 2007 and March 2008 in response to questions filed with the Department, addressed apparent limitations set down in an executive order issued by President Bush in 2007 directing the CIA to comply with international rules protecting detainees [JURIST report]. The letters suggest that the Department is not taking a broad view of the limits, but is rather addressing them in context, raising the possibility that the motive of an interrogator in the face of specific threat may be relevant to a determination of an interrogation's legality. The New York Times has more. The terrorist threat discussion in the March 2 letter evokes, but does not explicitly cite, the classic and highly controversial "ticking-bomb" torture hypothetical made famous by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz in a November 2001 Los Angeles Times op-ed.

Last week FBI Director Robert Mueller told the US House Judiciary Committee [JURIST report] that he had advised officials at the Departments of Justice and Defense that some interrogation tactics employed by US personnel against terror suspects might be illegal. Mueller said that the FBI had first raised concerns about the use of harsh interrogation methods in 2002, when CIA interrogators used waterboarding [JURIST news archive] on several alleged al Qaeda leaders, but declined to say how other agencies had reacted to FBI concerns. Last month the Senate failed to override a presidential veto [JURIST report] of a measure [HR 2082 materials] restricting CIA interrogators to using only those interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual, which specifically prohibits the use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics.






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ICC urges Sudan to surrender Darfur war crimes suspects
Jeannie Shawl on April 26, 2008 1:35 PM ET

[JURIST] ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Saturday called on the government of Sudan to arrest and surrender two war crimes suspects wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In a statement [text] noting that arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the two suspects - former Sudanese Minister of the Interior Ahmed Muhammad Harun and former militia leader Ali Kushayb [Trial Watch profiles] - were issued a year ago, the prosecutor's office said:

The Court transmitted the warrants to the Government of the Sudan on 16 June 2007. The Government of the Sudan has not responded; the GoS is not cooperating. The GoS has not complied with the UN Security Council Resolution 1593.

One year after the issuance of the warrants, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb are free in the Sudan. Ahmad Harun is today Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs. "He attacked Sudanese people, his people, those he vowed to protect as Minister; he is an indicted minister, he is a fugitive" said the Prosecutor, adding "he will end up in Court."

In Darfur today, 2.5 million people displaced in camps are under attack; women are raped, leaders are eliminated. "Crimes are thoroughly organized. Destitution is organized. Insecurity is organized. The mobilization of the state apparatus to plan, commit and cover up the crimes is the focus of our second investigation. I will report the progress of my investigation to the United Nations Security Council on 5 June. Then I will proceed to the Judges, presenting my evidence on who is bearing today the greatest responsibility for the ongoing attacks against civilians; who is maintaining Harun in a position to commit crimes, and who is instructing him and others", stated the Prosecutor.

Today, he added, "I urge the international community to send a strong and unanimous message to the Government of the Sudan, requesting the execution of the arrest warrants. The GoS, as the territorial State, has a responsibility to do so. They can, they must surrender the two indicted criminals now, and break the system of violence and impunity in Darfur."
Late last year, Moreno-Ocampo urged the UN Security Council to push for the two suspects' arrests, saying that the Sudanese government has not cooperated with efforts to arrest the men [JURIST report] and accusing the government of continuing to commit crimes in Darfur [JURIST news archive]. Sudan dismissed Moreno-Ocampo's statements as biased [JURIST report].

Sudan has not signed the ICC's Rome Statute [PDF text] and has repeatedly rejected the ICC's jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the Darfur situation [ICC case materials].





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Uganda journalists arrested after publishing criticisms of military: lawyer
Jeannie Shawl on April 26, 2008 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Ugandan police arrested three journalists Saturday as part of an investigation into suspected sedition, according to the journalists' lawyer. The journalists worked on two articles published in the Independent magazine [media website] that were critical of the Ugandan military. Formal charges have not yet been filed, but the journalists' lawyer said that they have been accused of possessing seditious material and defamation. The articles highlighted alleged corruption within the Ugandan army and also accused the military of covering up past atrocities.

One of the men arrested is the Independent's editor, Andrew Mwenda. Mwenda was charged with sedition [JURIST report] in 2005 for comments made on his radio show about the death of a Sudanese leader. At the time of the most recent arrest, he had been on bail for the 2005 charges. AP has more. BBC News has more.






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Mexico lawmakers end protests against proposed energy bill
Jeannie Shawl on April 26, 2008 12:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Opposition members of the Mexican Congress have ended their protest against a proposed energy reform bill backed by Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official websites, in Spanish], after the ruling party agreed to allow further debate on the bill. Members of Mexico's Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) [party website, in Spanish] and several smaller parties had staged a 15-day sit-in over their objections to certain provisions of the proposed oil bill, including one that would allow state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos [official website, in Spanish] to work with private companies, a move they say is tantamount to privatization. PRD leader Carlos Navarrete told reporters Friday that the ruling party had agreed to schedule a national debate on the bill.

The protests [JURIST report] began earlier this month, when demonstrators in Mexico's lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], put up barricades around their encampment by the speaker's podium. Their colleagues in the Mexican Senate [official website, in Spanish] also reportedly began a fast. Bloomberg has more.






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Senate judiciary panel advances bill curbing state secrets privilege
Jeannie Shawl on April 26, 2008 12:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the State Secrets Protection Act [S 2533 materials; CRS summary], sending the legislation to the Senate floor for consideration. The legislation, approved by a 11-8 vote on Thursday, would place restrictions on when the executive can assert the so-called state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] in lawsuits involving the federal government. According to the Congressional Research Service summary of the bill, the legislation:

Amends the federal judicial code to: (1) require a federal court to determine which filings, motions, and affidavits (or portions) submitted under this Act shall be submitted exparte; (2) allow a federal court to order a party to provide a redacted, unclassified, or summary substitute of a filing, motion, or affidavit to other parties; and (3) require a federal court to make decisions under this Act, taking into consideration the interests of justice and national security. ...

Authorizes the United States to intervene in any civil action in order to protect information that may be subject to the state secrets privilege. Declares, however, that the state secrets privilege shall not constitute grounds for dismissal of a case or claim.

Prescribes procedures for: (1) determining whether evidence is protected from disclosure by the state secrets privilege; and (2) when evidence protected by the state secrets privilege is necessary for adjudication of a claim or counterclaim.

...

Requires the Attorney General within 30 days to report in writing to Congress on any case in which the United States invokes the state secrets privilege. ...
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a co-sponsor of the legislation and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, welcomed the committee's advancement of the bill [press release], saying Thursday:
The Senate should consider this carefully crafted legislation quickly. This administration continues to show unprecedented deference to secrecy rather than transparency. The State Secrets Protection Act clarifies that no one, not even a president, is above the law. We can have security while preserving the Constitution's system of checks and balances and the important role of the courts. This legislation is a step to ensure that our laws protect both.
The administration is opposed to the legislation, and US Attorney General Michael Mukasey sent a letter [PDF text; JURIST report] to Leahy earlier this month noting that the bill:
needlessly and improperly interfere with the appropriate constitutional role of both the Judicial and Executive branches in state secrets cases; would alter decades of settled case law; and would likely result in the harmful disclosure of national security information that would not be disclosed under current doctrine.
Mukasey indicated that President George W. Bush would likely veto the bill in its present form. AP has more.





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US Army sergeant found not guilty in Kirkuk Iraqi civilian murder
Jeannie Shawl on April 26, 2008 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] US Army Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales [advocacy website] was acquitted by a military jury on Friday of charges connected to the 2007 killing of an unarmed Iraqi civilian near the city of Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Corrales was cleared of all charges [JURIST report] against him, including premeditated murder, wrongful solicitation of another soldier to shoot an unarmed, wounded Iraqi, and planting an AK-47 rifle next to the victim after the shooting. His court-martial [JURIST report] began in Hawaii earlier this week, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges [AP report]. AP has more.

In February, US Army Specialist Christopher P. Shore was convicted of aggravated assault [JURIST report] in the incident, but acquitted on third-degree murder charges. During his Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder; KHNL report] last year, Shore's lawyer painted Corrales as sadistic and out of control. Shore testified that when Corrales ordered him to shoot the unarmed Iraqi civilian, he intentionally missed.






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Federal appeals court reinstates class action against credit card arbitration
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 25, 2008 5:35 PM ET

[JURIST] A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Friday overturned [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling dismissing an antitrust class action lawsuit against a group of banks that require credit cardholders to use arbitration to settle disputes. The cardholders argue that the banks, which include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup [corporate websites], violated federal antitrust law by colluding to force cardholders to use arbitration instead of the courts.

In 2006, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the antitrust suit for lack of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution. Reuters has more.






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ECCC cleared of mismanaging funds in independent audit
Nick Fiske on April 25, 2008 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] was cleared of financial mismanagement in an independent audit [PDF text; summary, PDF] released Friday. The review was ordered by the ECCC Project Board in hopes that it would quell concerns raised by some foreign donors after the court made a formal request for an additional $114 million [JURIST report] last month that would increase the court's budget from $56.3 million to $170 million and allow it to continue operations until March 2011, past its originally scheduled completion date in 2009. The audit found:

Combating the dual challenges of a past which has left behind a nation still struggling to achieve modern management practices and the daunting task of meeting the expectations of the international community has been an uphill task for the ECCC.

In this critical phase of its operations it was encouraging see that there is a willingness and commitment to meet the expectations of the international community. A great deal of standardization has happened over a very short period which has replaced the ad hoc arrangements that used to be the norm when ECCC commenced its operations. The recent reviews and audits have also helped in highlighting areas of weaknesses which have been improved upon.

Robust HR systems have been developed and implemented to address previous shortcomings, to give effective support to the judicial process and to minimize the risk of questionable HR practices occurring in the future. There is however a degree of hand-holding and capacity building necessary to support ECCC to continue to meet expected international standards. Zero tolerance for non-compliance with HR systems and the Code of Conduct will also support ongoing improvement in the performance of the ECCC.
The ECCC currently has five former Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] leaders in custody charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the Communist regime of the 1970s, but to date, no top officials have faced trial. AFP has more.

The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended in 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. In December 2007, Cambodian students and Buddhist monks held protests [JURIST report] over concerns that the trials were moving too slowly and that many former Khmer Rouge leaders in UN custody could die before facing justice.






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Zimbabwe police raid offices of opposition party, election observers
Nick Fiske on April 25, 2008 3:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police Friday raided the offices of independent election observers and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], arresting hundreds in an alleged crackdown on anti-government subversives. Witnesses say that police were searching for vote counting materials that might show that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won the contested March 29 presidential election [JURIST report]. The raids come just one day after US Envoy Jendayi Frazer announced that the US believes Tsvangirai won the election outright [AP report] and called for Mugabe to step down. Official results of the election have still not been published.

Last week, current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] accused [JURIST report] Tsvangirai of treason, saying that Tsvangirai and Britain are conspiring to overthrow Mugabe. MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said Sunday that more than 400 supporters of the MDC have been detained [JURIST report] and more than 3,000 families displaced since the March 29 election. AP has more. From Zimbabwe, the Herald has local coverage.






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Over 3,000 sentences reduced under retroactive drug penalties amendment
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 25, 2008 3:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Over 3,000 prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses have had their sentences reduced under an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [USSC materials], according to a study [PDF text] released Thursday by the US Sentencing Commission [official website]. Of the 3,647 applications for early release, 3,075 have been granted and 572 denied, but most prisoners denied turned out to not actually be eligible for sentence reductions under the amendment. AP has more.

In December, the Sentencing Commission voted unanimously [JURIST report] to give retroactive effect to an earlier amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces penalties for crack cocaine offenders [press release]. The amendment, which took effect November 1, was intended to narrow the disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine offenses. Under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 [text], the Sentencing Commission is authorized to retroactively apply amendments to the Guidelines that reduce penalties for classes of offenses or offenders. The final decision whether and how much to reduce a crack cocaine offender's sentence will rest with a federal sentencing judge, who will weigh public safety concerns. Retroactivity took effect on March 3, 2008. US Attorney General Michael Mukasey urged the Senate in February to block the amendment's retroactive effect, but his efforts were rejected [JURIST reports].






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US Marine charged in Fallujah murder should face court-martial: hearing officer
Nick Fiske on April 25, 2008 2:57 PM ET

[JURIST] US Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson should face court-martial for the November 2004 murder of an Iraqi detainee in Fallujah [JURIST news archive], a US Marine hearing officer found following an Article 32 pretrial hearing [JAG backgrounder]. Nelson was charged [JURIST report] in December with murder and five counts of dereliction of duty after allegedly killing an unarmed captive during a bloody battle [CNN report] between US troops and Iraqi insurgents over the city of Fallujah. He faces life imprisonment if convicted. The final decision of whether to proceed to trial rests with Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland who oversees the case as commander of Camp Pendleton's 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

In July, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website] announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] in connection with the Fallujah offensive after former Marine Corporal Ryan Weemer admitted during a polygraphed job interview with the US Secret Service that he had witnessed indiscriminate killings in Fallujah. Military journalist Nathaniel Helms later corroborated that account, reporting that he witnessed Marines execute subdued Iraqi prisoners, whose bodies were later buried under rubble from an air strike. Weemer was charged last month with murder and dereliction of duty in March and former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario was charged last year with voluntary manslaughter [JURIST reports]. AP has more.






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ICTY transfers Bosnian Croat leader to serve war crimes sentence in Italy
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 25, 2008 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] said Friday that it has transferred [press release] a former Bosnian Croat leader who was convicted of war crimes related to the torture and persecutions of Muslims during the Bosnian War [JURIST news archive] to an Italian prison to serve out his sentence. In 2003, the ICTY convicted Mladen Naletilic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; TrialWatch profile] of torture, wanton destruction and plunder, among other charges, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

ICTY suspects are held at a detention unit [ICTY backgrounder] in The Hague during trial, and are then after conviction are moved to one of 15 countries that have agreed to take custody of ICTY defendants. The UN News Centre has more.






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ECHR rules Russia violated rights of 13 detained Andijan uprising suspects
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 25, 2008 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday ruled [judgment text; press release] that Russia violated the civil rights of 13 men accused of terrorism in Uzbekistan by detaining them without trial for 20 months. In 2006, Russia agreed to extradite [JURIST report] the 13 men to Uzbekistan to face charges connected with a 2005 uprising in Andijan [JURIST news archive] that resulted in the massacre of unarmed Uzbek civilians [BBC backgrounder], but the ECHR Thursday ruled that deporting the men to Uzbekistan would further violate their rights. AP has more.

Memorial [advocacy website], a Moscow-based human rights group, has said the cases against the 13 men are false and that they may face torture if they return to Uzbekistan. Memorial has also asserted that the men have been determined to be refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website], but that the Russian government has refused to recognize their refugee status. The Russian Prosecutor General's office [official website, in Russian] had temporarily halted the extradition [JURIST report] of the 13 men while the case was pending before the ECHR.






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Argentina police arrest former police chief 'Dirty War' suspect
Leslie Schulman on April 25, 2008 9:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Argentinean politician and former police chief and mayor Luis Abelardo Patti, wanted by Argentina [JURIST news archive] for allegedly torturing and killing several people during Argentina's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder; JURIST news archive], was arrested in Buenos Aires Thursday. Patti, who was elected to Argentina's lower Congressional house in 2005, had just this month received approval by the Supreme Court to take up his seat. Congress, however, voted Thursday to deny him his seat, which would have granted him immunity from any charges, citing his alleged connections to the "Dirty War" campaign. He was arrested hours later.

Argentina has recently stepped up investigations into hundreds of human rights cases stemming from the "Dirty War," during which at least 9,000 Argentinians were tortured and "disappeared" by the Argentinean military government in an attempt to silence leftist criticism of the military regime. Some human rights groups say the death toll was closer to 30,000. In 2006, a key witness testifying against "Dirty War" suspects disappeared [IPS/GIN report] after implicating Patti with torturing him in the 70's. The testimony by Luis Gerez contributed to the delay to Patti taking up his Congressional seat. Gerez was the second of two "Dirty War" witnesses to disappear around the end of 2006, but he reappeared [BBC report] three days after his disappearance. AP has more.






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US Senate passes legislation to bar discrimination based on genetic testing
Leslie Schulman on April 25, 2008 9:24 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate on Thursday voted 95-0 [roll call] in favor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) [HR 493 materials], legislation aimed at preventing employers and health insurers from discriminating against people who have a genetic predisposition to disease. Employers would be barred from basing hiring and firing decisions on genetic risk or predisposition to disease, while health insurers would not be permitted to deny coverage based on genetic information. Called "the first civil-rights bill of the new century of life sciences" [press release] by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] and other senators, the bill was praised by President Bush [speech text; JURIST report] earlier this year, who said "we want medical research to go forward without an individual fearing of personal discrimination." The House is expected to pass the bill soon, and Bush has already promised to sign it.

Genetic nondiscrimination legislation was passed unanimously by the Senate in 2003 but failed in the House of Representatives. US Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) [official website] reintroduced the latest bill in January 2007. If it becomes law, according to the bill's findings, the law will establish "a national and uniform basic standard ... necessary to fully protect the public from discrimination and allay their concerns about the potential for discrimination, thereby allowing individuals to take advantage of genetic testing, technologies, research, and new therapies." The Los Angeles Times has more.






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Military defense lawyer for alleged 9/11 mastermind worried about trial fairness
Leslie Schulman on April 25, 2008 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Navy Captain Prescott Prince [Miami Herald profile, PDF], the military-appointed lawyer [JURIST report] for confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], has expressed concern over the fairness of his client's upcoming military commission trial. In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Prince said that the possibility that the government will introduce as evidence statements made by Mohammed obtained by harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], could undermine the legitimacy of the trial. Prince noted that in civilian courts statements made to officials while under coercion are not admissible, but that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text] allows admission of such statements during military commission trials. Prince also expressed concern in the interview that he would be prevented from cross-examining the witnesses against Mohammed and from reviewing all the evidence brought by the government. A trial date has not yet been set.

Mohammed admitted under oath during his first hearing [JURIST report] before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) [DOD backgrounder] in March 2007 that he masterminded the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report]. In February, the US government said it would seek the death penalty [JURIST report] for Mohammed and five other Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. CNN has more.






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Austria, Denmark parliaments approve EU reform treaty; Czech vote delayed
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 5:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The upper house of the Austrian parliament [official website, in German] Thursday voted 151-27 [press materials, in German] to approve the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text]. The treaty now goes to Austrian President Heinz Fischer for signature. Also Thursday, the Danish national parliament [official website, in Danish] voted 90-25 to approve the document, while the upper house of the Czech parliament voted to delay its vote on the treaty until the country's constitutional court can rule on whether it is consistent with Czech law. The lower house of the German parliament also voted to approve the treaty [JURIST report].

Leaders from the 27 countries that make up the European Union signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] in December, but all member countries must ratify the document before it can take effect. Eight countries, including Slovakia, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, and Slovenia [JURIST reports] have ratified the reform treaty so far. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.






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Myanmar to allow voters to observe ballot count in constitutional referendum
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 5:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Myanmar voters will be permitted to observe ballot counting in a scheduled May national referendum [JURIST report] on a draft constitution [JURIST news archive] put forth by the country's ruling junta, according to Thursday state media reports. Government officials said that this would ensure that the referendum was fair, but opposition groups like the National League for Democracy (NLD) have expressed skepticism and urged citizens to reject [JURIST report] the proposed constitution, labeling the referendum a "sham" to legalize military rule. The draft constitution reportedly reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military [AP report; JURIST report] and would also block pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from seeking office. AP has more.

Myanmar [JURIST news archive] has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988 and talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. The last general elections in Myanmar were held in 1990. The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won that election easily, but the ruling military government did not recognize the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.






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ECCC aiming to end investigation into ex-Khmer Rouge prison chief by July
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 3:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] said Thursday that the court expects to complete an investigation into former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], also known as Duch, by July. In a statement [PDF text], the court said:

Indeed, the [Co-Investigating Judges] intend to notify the parties that they have finished their investigations in the first case file in early May 2008 (this is the formal notification under Rule 66(1) of the Internal Rules). Thereafter, the CIJ will work towards issuing a formal Closing Order relating to Duch in early July 2008 on whether and, if so on what charges, to send Duch forward for trial. However, the procedures between early May and final closure in July 2008 do not depend on the CIJ, but rather on the exercise by the parties of their procedural rights. The CIJ have therefore taken certain initiatives to ensure that all parties understand the projected proceedings and timetable, and work in the same direction to maintain the objective of closure in July 2008.

On that basis, it is hoped that any trial of Duch on charges raised in the Co-Prosecutors' Initial Submissions could commence at the beginning of the last quarter of 2008.
Duch, who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, is one of five top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] currently in ECCC custody. So far no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced justice, although the ECCC said Thursday that Duch may become the first to go to trial later this year. AP has more.

Duch was arrested in 1999 on genocide charges and was subsequently charged with war crimes by a military court in March and with crimes against humanity [JURIST reports] by the ECCC in July. Those charges were primarily brought to keep Duch in custody while the ECCC started operations. A panel of ECCC judges ruled late last year that Duch should not be granted bail [JURIST report] while preparations for his trial continue.






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Indonesia police arrest another suspect in East Timor assassination attempts
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 2:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Indonesian police Thursday arrested a fourth man suspected of involvement in February assassination attempts against East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao [BBC profiles]. Last week, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that police had arrested three other suspects in the attacks. Last month, another suspect in the assassination attempt surrendered [JURIST report] to East Timorese authorities; an additional four suspects [ABC Australia report] surrendered shortly thereafter.

Horta was critically wounded and rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed during the attacks, but Gusmao escaped unharmed. The National Parliament of East Timor [official website] subsequently declared a national state of emergency [AP report], prohibiting public gatherings and establishing a curfew. The parliament initially extended the state of emergency for one month [JURIST report] at the end of February, but extended it further [JURIST report] late last month, saying some parts of the country remained unstable following the assassination attempts. Australia's ABC News has more.






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Taiwan Supreme Court upholds president-elect acquittal on corruption charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 1:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Taiwan [official website] Thursday upheld a December 2007 ruling [JURIST report] by the Taiwan High Court acquitting Taiwanese President-elect Ma Ying-jeou [personal website, in Chinese] on graft charges. Prosecutors had filed an appeal [JURIST report] of the High Court decision, asking the Supreme Court to clarify the legality of the Taiwanese system that allows high-ranking public officials access to special funds. Ma had denied wrong-doing [JURIST report], arguing that the practice was legitimate because he used the money to fund municipal events and pay city employees.

In August 2007, Ma was acquitted by the lower court on charges [JURIST reports] that he diverted $333,000 of public money into his private back account. Prosecutors appealed the verdict and brought an additional breach of trust charge against Ma, but were unsuccessful in both efforts. Ma is due to take office next month. AFP has more.






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Germany lower house approves EU reform treaty
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The German Bundestag [official website, in German], the lower house of parliament, voted 515-58 [press materials, in German] Thursday to approve the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text]. The upper house is expected to ratify the treaty next month.

Leaders from the 27 countries that make up the European Union signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] in December, but all member countries must ratify the document before it can take effect. At least eight countries, including Slovakia, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, and Slovenia [JURIST reports] have ratified the reform treaty so far. AP has more.






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Georgia schedules execution after high court lethal injection ruling
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 24, 2008 12:25 PM ET

[JURIST] A Georgia court has scheduled the execution [press release] of a convicted killer after the US Supreme Court last week upheld Kentucky's lethal injection protocol [JURIST report], ending a de facto national moratorium on the death penalty. William Earl Lynd, who was convicted of the 1988 murder of his girlfriend, is scheduled to be executed during on May 6, according to Wednesday media reports. If the execution takes place as scheduled, it will be the first execution since the Supreme Court's ruling. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

In September 2007, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Baze v. Rees [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], allowing it to consider whether the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. This led to an effective moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty in the United States as many federal courts, state courts, and state governors put executions on hold pending the high court's ruling. Several other US states have already announced that they will resume executions by lethal injection [JURIST report]. The Georgia Supreme Court had previously stayed the execution of another condemned inmate [JURIST report] while Baze v. Rees was pending before the US Supreme Court.






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UK High Court rules terror suspect asset freeze orders unlawful
Jaime Jansen on April 24, 2008 10:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The High Court in London ruled [text] Thursday that the British Treasury Department [official website] may not freeze the assets of suspected terrorists without going through Parliament first. Five UK terror suspects who had their assets frozen [BBC report] pursuant to two Orders in Council [backgrounder], the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures] Order 2006 [texts], challenged the financial sanctions.

The Orders implemented for the UK UN resolutions requiring UN member states to freeze the assets of people on a UN list of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban associates [materials]. The High Court rejected the Orders because they were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they came into force. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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Rove accused of involvement in scheme to fire US Attorney: federal prosecutor
Jaime Jansen on April 24, 2008 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Former White House advisor Karl Rove [official profile] was allegedly involved in a 2004 scheme to have Chicago-based US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald [official website] fired, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday. According to the prosecutor, a witness at the corruption trial of political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko [Chicago Tribune backgrounder] will testify that Rove, Rezko and Republican national committee chairman Robert Kjellander had conversations about removing Fitzgerald from his job.

Rezko faces charges of using his position with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's administration to launch a $7 million kickback scheme. At the time of the alleged conversations, Fitzgerald had been appointed as Special Counsel in the CIA leak investigation [JURIST news archive]. The Bush administration came under fire last year for the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archive] for alleged political reasons, and the ensuing scandal was one factor contributing to the resignation [JURIST report] of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. CBS News has more.

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Trial of Saddam-era former Iraq deputy PM to begin next week
Jaime Jansen on April 24, 2008 9:11 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of former Saddam Hussein-era Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and six others will begin next week, an Iraqi judicial official said Wednesday. The seven former officials face charges related to the 1992 execution of 42 merchants accused by Hussein's government of causing a sharp increase in food prices at a time when the United Nations had placed Iraq under strict sanctions. Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman [BBC profile], who presided over Hussein's 2006 trial [JURIST news archive] and sentenced Hussein to death [JURIST report], will preside over the trial of Aziz and his co-defendants. AP has more.

Last July, Aziz threatened to go on a hunger strike [JURIST report] if Iraqi authorities did not allow Aziz's preferred lawyer, Badih Aref Izzat, to enter Iraq and be present during interrogations. Aziz has had several health problems [JURIST report] while in US and Iraqi custody, the most recent of which took him to a US military Hospital last July. In March 2007, Aziz was brought before the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] to testify against six defendants accused of genocide in the Anfal trial [BBC trial timeline; JURIST news archive]. He instead denied [JURIST report] that Hussein's government had ever carried out any attacks.






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Federal judge rules Bible distribution in Louisiana school unconstitutional
Jeannie Shawl on April 24, 2008 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge has ruled [PDF text] that a school district in Louisiana must stop allowing the distribution of Bibles in schools, saying that the distribution is "a religious activity without a secular purpose" in violation of the First Amendment. The Tangipahoa Parish School System [official website] allowed The Gideons International to visit one of the district's schools to distribute Bibles in May 2007. The Bibles were not distributed in classrooms and students were not required to take a Bible, but US District Judge Carl J. Barbier ruled Tuesday that:

this Court determines that the distribution of Bibles was ultimately coercive as Jane was pressured to accept a Bible in violation of Lee; that distribution of Bibles is a religious activity without a secular purpose in violation of Lemon; and that the distribution by the Gideons amounted to promotion of Christianity by the School Board in violation of County of Allegheny. As a result, the distribution of Gideon Bibles to elementary school children at Loranger Middle School violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, specifically, the Establishment Clause.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the family of a fifth grade student, welcomed the ruling [press release], noting that "We couldn't find a single case from any court in this country holding that Bible distribution to grade school students is constitutionally permissible." A lawyer representing the school board indicated that he expected an appeal to be filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, though he told AP that he had not yet consulted with the board on a possible appeal. AP has more.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Missouri issued a similar ruling [JURIST report], finding that the distribution of Bibles at elementary schools by religious organizations is unconstitutional.





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FBI chief testifies he warned DOJ, DOD harsh interrogation tactics may be illegal
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 23, 2008 7:35 PM ET

[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller testified [recorded video; prepared statement, PDF] before the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] Wednesday that he had advised officials at the Departments of Justice and Defense that some interrogation tactics employed against terror suspects might be illegal. Mueller said that the FBI had first raised concerns about the use of harsh interrogation methods in 2002, when CIA interrogators used waterboarding [JURIST news archive] with several alleged al Qaeda leaders, but declined to say how other agencies had reacted to FBI concerns. AP has more.

In February, acting head of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel [official website] Steven G. Bradbury testified [JURIST report] at a US House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing [subcommittee materials] that the use of waterboarding has been barred by measures enacted since the interrogation technique was used on three terror detainees in 2002 and 2003. That testimony came a day after the US Senate approved [JURIST report] a measure [HR 2082 materials] restricting CIA interrogators to using only those interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual, which specifically prohibits the use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics. The measure was also approved by the House of Representatives, but was vetoed [JURIST report] by President Bush. An attempt to override the veto failed [JURIST report] last month.






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ECCC delays hearing for ex-Khmer Rouge chief after lawyer refuses to participate
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 23, 2008 5:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday adjourned a hearing to consider an appeal by former Cambodian head of state Khieu Samphan [JURIST news archive] against his detention after Samphan's French lawyer Jacques Verges [BBC profile] refused to participate, saying that documents necessary for Samphan's defense had not been translated into French. In the decision [PDF text] issued Wednesday to adjourn the proceedings, the court said that French copies of all relevant documents were available and issued a warning to Verges for not indicating sooner that language difficulties existed. Also Wednesday, Verges told reporters that Samphan's detention was "illegal," as it was based on untranslated documents. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.

Khieu Samphan was the fifth senior Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] leader to be detained by the ECCC when he was arrested last year. The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials, but to date, no top officials have faced trials. Verges has previously said that his client would not speak with court officials [JURIST report] until court documents and pages of evidence against his client were translated into French.






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Federal prosecutors to seek third trial in Sears Tower terror case
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 23, 2008 5:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors said at a hearing Wednesday that they would press for a third terrorism prosecution [JURIST report] of six men charged with conspiring [DOJ press release] to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami after two previous prosecutions ended in mistrials. US District Judge Joan A. Lenard declared the second mistrial [JURIST report] last week after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations. In December 2007, Lenard declared an initial mistrial [JURIST report] when the jury was deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. A seventh man was acquitted in that proceeding.

The seven were indicted [JURIST report] in 2006 on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleged that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other initial defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men have said that their clients were entrapped [JURIST report] by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. AP has more.






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UK court rejects appeal by convicted London bombing plotters
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 23, 2008 4:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeal Wednesday rejected an appeal [text] by four men convicted for plotting the failed bomb attacks on London's subway and bus systems [JURIST news archive] on July 21, 2005, two weeks after a similar attack [JURIST news archive] killed 52 people. In 2005, Hussein Osman, Muktar Said Ibrahim, Yassin Omar, and Ramzi Mohamed were all found guilty [JURIST report] of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The men said that the failed bomb plot had actually been a hoax, an argument rejected by the judges.

In November 2007, a UK judge sentenced [JURIST report] a fifth man, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu [BBC profile], to 33 years' imprisonment for his role in the failed bomb attacks. Asiedu pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to a charge of conspiracy to cause explosions and the prosecution agreed to drop the charge of conspiracy to murder. In a 2006 trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict against Asiedu [JURIST reports]. During the trial, Asiedu testified against his co-conspirators, undermining their defense that the plot was a hoax. Reuters has more.






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Australia Federal Court orders new trial in Perth native title case
Jeannie Shawl on April 23, 2008 3:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Court of Australia [official website] on Wednesday ruled that a lower court made several errors of law in its 2006 decision [text] giving Aborigines native title [NNTT backgrounder] to land in the Australian city of Perth, and said that the case must be reheard. The Australian government appealed the decision [JURIST report] in October 2006, arguing that the ruling could prevent non-indigenous people from having access to public parks and benches in the area. The government also asserted that the ruling created uncertainty in other native title determination cases pending at the time.

The Federal Court did not rule that Aborigines do not hold native title over Perth, but instead referred the issue back to the lower court. The South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council [advocacy website] represented the Noongar people [SWALSC backgrounder] in the case. Council Chairman Ted Hart said Wednesday that the Noongar people were disappointed with the ruling, but that they would continue to press the case. AFP has more.






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Homeland Security abandons 'virtual fence' prototype along US-Mexico border
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 23, 2008 2:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The US government has abandoned a prototype "virtual fence" [JURIST report] along the US-Mexico border [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] after the system failed to perform up to expectations, according to Wednesday media reports. The prototype fence, which consists of nine unmanned towers equipped with radar, sensors and cameras along a 28-mile stretch of the US-Mexico border, was too slow in alerting border agents to illegal crossings. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Officials said that Boeing [corporate website], the technology's creator, will replace the fence with a series of towers outfitted with new cameras and enhanced radar capability. AP has more.

The virtual fence was part of the Secure Border Initiative [DHS fact sheet] developed to control illegal immigration and drug smuggling. DHS laid out its plans to put up a virtual fence [JURIST report] along the US borders with Canada and Mexico in September 2006 and announced that Boeing had been awarded a $67 million contract [Boeing press release] to begin the project. Computer software glitches had delayed the testing and use of the fence [AP report] until Boeing largely fixed the problems [DHS press release] in early December 2007; DHS gave final approval [JURIST report] to the prototype in February.






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San Francisco Bay oil spill ship pilot faces new felony charges
Jeannie Shawl on April 23, 2008 1:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors filed felony charges [indictment, PDF; press release] Tuesday against Capt. John Joseph Cota, the California maritime pilot accused in the November 2007 spill of approximately 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil in the San Francisco Bay. Cota, who was piloting the M/V Cosco Busan when it collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge last year, was also charged [JURIST report] last month with misdemeanor environmental charges under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act [texts] for his alleged negligent behavior.

According to the US Attorney's press release:

The new charges include two counts of making false statements to the Coast Guard on required annual medical forms. Coast Guard regulations require that pilots have an annual physical examination that results in the completion of a medical evaluation form. The form must be completed by a licensed physician or physician assistant, and signed by the pilot. The grand jury's indictment charges that Cota knowingly and willfully made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations on the required medical forms in that he certified that all the information he provided was complete and true to the best of his knowledge. The indictment alleges that in fact, Cota knew that the information he provided was neither complete nor true, including information regarding his current medications, the dosage, possible side effects and medical conditions for which the medications were taken.
The US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched investigations [JURIST report] last November following the accident. A Coast Guard captain said that a preliminary investigation indicated that the ship collided with the Bay Bridge due to human error. AP has more.





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'Chemical Ali' released from hospital after heart attack from hunger strike
Jeannie Shawl on April 23, 2008 12:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali," has been released from the hospital and returned to a US detention facility in Baghdad, US military officials said Tuesday. Al-Majid was hospitalized [JURIST report] earlier this week after launching a hunger strike over his detention conditions. US officials said that al-Majid suffered a heart attack as a result of the hunger strike, but that he was now in stable condition. The hunger strike was joined by 14 other detainees in protest of their court-ordered transfer to the detention facility at the Iraqi High Tribunal, the court which convicted al-Majid and several co-defendants on genocide and war crimes charges for their roles in the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] of 1988. Al-Majid and the detainees who went on hunger strike are also on trial [JURIST report] on separate crimes against humanity charges for their alleged role in the violent suppression of a predominately Shi'a uprising [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. After his release from a US medical facility, al-Majid was transferred back to Camp Cropper, rather than the Iraqi courthouse, and a defense lawyer indicated that the other detainees would also be transferred back to Camp Cropper. AP has more.

Al-Majid's death sentence in the Anfal case was upheld on appeal last September, but Iraq's Presidency Council did not approve the execution [JURIST reports] until late February. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government said in early March that al-Majid would not be executed [JURIST report] until the Presidency Council approved the death sentences of al-Majid's two co-defendants.






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Supreme Court rules in Fourth Amendment case
Jeannie Shawl on April 23, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down its decision Wednesday in Virginia v. Moore [Duke Law case backgrounder], where the Court ruled that Virginia police did not violate Moore's Fourth Amendment right when they arrested him based on probable cause and performed a search incident to arrest, even when the arrest was prohibited by Virginia law. Moore was arrested for driving with a suspended license, even though the Virginia code directs that a police offer should issue a summons and release the suspect from custody for such an offense. A subsequent search turned up crack cocaine and Moore was convicted on drug charges. Lower courts in Virginia allowed the drug evidence, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the evidence should have been suppressed [PDF text].

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that even though state arrest law may have been violated, the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were not:

We reaffirm against a novel challenge what we have signaled for more than half a century. When officers have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest, and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety.
Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Scalia, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Ginsburg.

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Federal judge sentences China television exec to 10 years in espionage case
Leslie Schulman on April 23, 2008 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Cormac J. Carney of the Central District of California on Monday sentenced former Chinese television executive Tai Wang Mak [CI Centre backgrounder] to 10 years in prison for conspiring with his brother, Chi Mak, to smuggle sensitive naval intelligence data to China [JURIST news archive]. The US government indicted [text, PDF] Tai Mak, along with his brother and brother's wife, in November 2005 for both acting as, and failing to register as, an agent of a foreign government in violation of 18 USC 951 [text]. Chi Mak and his wife allegedly stole computer disks from his employer, defense contractor Power Paragon [corporate website], and copied sensitive information that Tai Mak and his wife were then to deliver to a contact in China. All four suspects were arrested on October 28, 2005, Tai Mak and his wife at Los Angeles International Airport and Chi Mak and his wife at their home in California.

Chi Mak was sentenced [JURIST report] last month to more than 24 years in prison [press release]. Tai Mak, his wife Fuk Li, and their son Billy Mak all pleaded guilty to charges [JURIST report] as part of a plea agreement [New York Sun report] in June 2007. Billy Mak and Fuk Li were sentenced to time served and face deportation back to China. Chi Mak's wife, Rebecca Laiwah Chiu, is scheduled to be sentenced in May. The New York Sun has more.






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US leads world in prison inmate numbers: NYT
Leslie Schulman on April 23, 2008 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] US prisons currently house the world's largest inmate population, according to a Wednesday New York Times report [text] citing data provided by the International Center for Prison Studies [organization website]. The US currently holds 2.3 million inmates, far more than second-in-line China [JURIST news archive], which holds only 1.6 million inmates even though its population is four times that of the US. On a per capita scale, the US also leads worldwide inmate populations, with 751 people imprisoned for every 100,000 in population, compared with 627 inmates for every 100,000 people in Russia, 151 for every 100,000 in England, and 88 for every 100,000 in Germany [JURIST news archives]. The report attributes the high inmate numbers to several factors, including the prevalence of prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, rigorous anti-drug campaigns, and the ready availability of guns.

In February, a report [PDF text; JURIST report] by the Pew Center on the States (PCS) [organization website] found that one in every 100 US adults is currently in prison.






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Former DOJ official pleads guilty to Abramoff conflict of interest
Jeannie Shawl on April 23, 2008 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Former US Justice Department official Robert Coughlin II pleaded guilty [press release] Tuesday to one count of criminal conflict of interest in connection to his relationship with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive]. Coughlin, charged [JURIST report] on Monday, served as the deputy chief of staff of the DOJ's Criminal Division [official website] before resigning last year. He has admitting to accepting tickets to sporting events and other gifts from Abramoff's lobbying firm between 2001-2003 while working in legislative affairs for the Justice Department. According to the DOJ's press release, Coughlin could be sentenced to a maximum five years and prison and be fined $250,000. AP has more.

Abramoff pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in January 2006 to two conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casino as part of a plea agreement [PDF text] with federal prosecutors that would reduce his punishment in exchange for favorable testimony in future DOJ corruption cases.

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2006 Oaxaca uprising leader released from Mexico jail
Leslie Schulman on April 23, 2008 9:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Flavio Sosa, a leader of the 2006 popular uprising in the Mexican state of Oaxaca [BBC backgrounder], was released from jail this weekend after prosecutors failed to convict him of any charges related to the uprising. Sosa, a prominent figure in the People's Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) [coalition website, in Spanish], had allegedly led a five-month protest demanding the resignation of Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and other members of the Oaxacan government. Sosa was arrested [JURIST report] in December 2006 and jailed [APPO press release, in Spanish] in a maximum-security facility on five charges, including kidnapping and robbery. The Mexican attorney general's office had said [press release] that Sosa "is known for his use of violence, damaging private property and public byways, and also burning vehicles and buildings in Oaxaca City." Sosa, however, has maintained that his supporters acted peacefully.

The protests were sparked by a teachers strike in May 2006. In August 2007, Amnesty International urged the Mexican government [JURIST report] to initiate a probe into alleged abuses by government authorities during the uprising, saying that "ensuring that impunity for human rights violation is not allowed to prevail" will help to deter future abuses and be an opportunity for Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, in Spanish] to demonstrate that he is "committed to protecting, ensuring and fulfilling human rights." AP has more.






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DOJ charges retired US Army engineer in Israel spy conspiracy
Caitlin Price on April 22, 2008 5:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal authorities have arrested and charged [DOJ press release] 84-year-old American citizen Ben-Ami Kadish on four counts of conspiracy to disclose US defense and nuclear weaponry documents to Israel and to act as an Israeli agent, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Tuesday. The complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] alleges that from 1979-1985, the former US Army engineer took classified documents from a library at the Army’s New Jersey Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center [official website] to his private home to be photographed by an unnamed Israeli co-conspirator. He has acknowledged his participation in the scheme to FBI officials, stating that he believed to be acting in the interest of Israel. Kadish was also charged with conspiring to hinder a communication to a law enforcement officer and to make a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer, stemming from a March 2008 interview with the FBI in which he denied having a telephone conversation with his unnamed Israeli liaison.

The case's unnamed co-conspirator is reportedly linked to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard [advocacy website], another American charged with spying for Israel. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for selling classified documents to Israel while working as a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy; in 2005, a federal court rejected his appeal [JURIST report] to reduce his sentence. That case has been a source of friction in US-Israeli relations as Israel has repeatedly urged Pollard's release. Reuters has more.






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ICTY partially overturns war crimes convictions of Bosnian Muslims
Caitlin Price on April 22, 2008 3:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday partially overturned [judgment summary; ICTY press release] the convictions of former Bosnian Muslim General Enver Hadzihasanovic and former Brigadier Amir Kubura, reducing sentences issued for failure to check or punish war atrocities [ICTY case backgrounder] committed against Bosnian Croat and Serb civilians by troops under their command during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war [OnWar backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The tribunal reversed [judgment text, PDF] Hadzihasanovic's convictions on several counts of failure to discipline his troops in connection with two murders as well as the cruel treatment of prisoners; his sentence was reduced from five years to three years and six months in jail. Kubura, Hadzihasanovic's deputy, was acquitted on charges of failure to prevent plunder in Varešcut; his sentence was reduced from two years and six months to two years.

The ICTY appeals panel said it could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Hadzihasanovic had effective control over volunteer Mujahedin forces who committed the underlying war crimes. The court also said that prosecutors failed to fully persuade it that the men had complete knowledge of the abuses and retained effective control over all perpetrators, who, in many cases, were non-Bosnian fighters. The UN News Centre has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Supreme Court hears Sixth Amendment, campaign finance cases
Michael Sung on April 22, 2008 2:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in Giles v. California [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-6053, where the Court considered whether a criminal defendant can block the testimony of the person he allegedly killed if he did not kill her with the specific intent of preventing the witness from testifying. Dwayne Giles was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of his ex-girlfriend. He asserted that the killing was committed in self-defense, but the California court trying him admitted as evidence statements that the victim had previously given police that Giles had threatened to kill her. Giles is arguing that allowing the previous statements as evidence violated his constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause [LII backgrounder]. Giles' lawyers maintain that a defendant only forfeits his right to confront a deceased witness if the prosecution shows the defendant killed the witness with the specific intent of preventing their testimony. State prosecutors counter that the statements should be admissible under equitable principles of the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine if the defendant murdered the victim. Several Supreme Court justices seemed reluctant to grant such a broad exception to a defendant's right to confront his or her accuser. AP has more.

The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in Davis v. Federal Election Commission [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-320, on the constitutionality of the so-called millionaire's amendment [FEC backgrounder], part of a 2002 campaign finance law that allows political candidates to accept larger contributions from supporters if an opponent is able to finance his campaign with his own money. New York Democratic Congressional candidate Jack Davis [campaign website] challenged the law, saying it violates his First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [PDF text] in August 2007 that the law, which is intended to ensure that independently wealthy candidates do not unfairly dominate elections, did not infringe Davis' right to free speech. AP has more.

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New No Child Left Behind regulations proposed
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 22, 2008 2:38 PM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings [official profile] Tuesday unveiled new proposed regulations [materials; press release] to implement the federal No Child Left Behind Act [official website]. At a meeting of the Detroit Economic Club, Spelling said [text]:

Today, more than 50 years after Brown v. the Board of Education, 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and 25 years after A Nation at Risk, do we finally have the willpower to achieve equal opportunity in education? Do we have the courage to aim higher, and prepare every student for today's global economy?

I believe we do. Everywhere I go, I meet parents who are demanding change and hardworking educators who are wholeheartedly committed to achieving it. They need and deserve all the leverage we can give.

That's why today, I'm proposing new policy tools that will give families lifelines — and empower educators to create dramatic improvement. Many are actions that have gained broad support through conversations on how to strengthen No Child Left Behind. While I will continue working with legislators to renew this law, I also realize that students and families and teachers and schools need help now.

So, at the President's request, I'm moving forward to empower educators to take actions that families have been waiting for. The Detroit News has called for "bulldozers" to tear down barriers to reform. Today, I'm delivering policy bulldozers that will do just that.
The proposed regulations would require states to use a standardized system to calculate their graduation rates, but would still allow schools leeway on how to improve graduation rates. The new regulations will also require schools to make reasonable efforts to notify parents of available tutoring programs or possibilities for switching to higher performing schools. AP has more.

Last month, Spellings announced [speech text; JURIST report] a new pilot program [press release] under the Act aimed at narrowing statewide education reform to focus on schools most in need of "dramatic intervention."





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US appeals court rules EPA ex-chief not liable for post-9/11 air quality statements
Caitlin Price on April 22, 2008 1:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [PDF text] Tuesday that Christine Todd Whitman [official profile], former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website], cannot be sued for making allegedly misleading reassurances about the air quality in New York after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2004, residents and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn filed a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report; NYELJP materials] against Whitman and the EPA, arguing that people should not have been allowed to go back to the area so soon after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, which spread soot, dust and other debris for miles, and that residents and workers had their health seriously harmed as a result. Tuesday's ruling reverses a February 2006 district court ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] denying the EPA's motion to dismiss and allowing the case to proceed against Whitman personally.

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs, alleging that the EPA issued misleading statements that the air quality was safe enough to permit return to homes, schools, and offices. Those statements attesting to the safety of the air quality were later refuted [NYELJP health studies]. AP has more.






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Iraq officials release 122 detainees under new amnesty law
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 22, 2008 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi government on Monday released 122 detainees from a prison in Sulaimaniyah under an amnesty law [JURIST report] passed in February as part of the national reconciliation effort. The release was part of an effort to ease crowding in Iraqi prisons and reintegrate people convicted of minor crimes back into society; most of the released detainees were low-ranking army officers or minor members of Saddam Hussein's defunct Baath Party [BBC backgrounder]. Iraqi officials plan to release more detainees in Baghdad on Thursday.

The amnesty law does not apply to Iraqis held in US custody, but a spokesperson for coalition detainee operations said that almost 8,000 detainees held at coalition detention centers have been released since September. USA Today has more.






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Detainees allege forced drugging during US interrogations
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 22, 2008 12:03 PM ET

[JURIST] At least two dozen former and current detainees have alleged that they were either forcibly administered drugs or witnessed the forceful administration of drugs on other detainees while in US custody, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The detainees, held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] and other sites, said in interviews and court documents that they did not know what drugs they were given, but that they believed they were intended to make detainees more pliant during interrogation. The Pentagon and the CIA have both denied using drugs for that purpose, but accusations have been fueled by the release of a 2003 DOJ memorandum [PDF text; JURIST report] earlier this month endorsing the use of drugs in interrogations. The Washington Post has more.

The DOJ memo showed that the department approved a wide range of interrogation methods for the military to use - the same broad limits that the DOJ had earlier approved for the CIA. The 81-page memo was later rescinded.






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Former China Communist Party official convicted of corruption drops appeal
Jeannie Shawl on April 22, 2008 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Convicted former top Chinese Communist Party official Chen Liangyu [People's Daily profile] has decided not to appeal his corruption conviction [JURIST report], Chinese media reported Tuesday. Chen was found guilty earlier this month of accepting bribes and abuse of power, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. His lawyer had previously indicated Chen would appeal the conviction and sentence, but a Monday deadline passed without an appeal being filed. AP has more.

Chen was fired [JURIST report] in 2006 after being accused of involvement in a pension plan scandal, in which some $4.8 billion was illegally siphoned from Shanghai's pension fund. China has taken a hard line on corruption recently, punishing several officials with lengthy prison terms and the death penalty [JURIST report]. In January, the Communist Party of China [official backgrounder] issued a list of "10 taboos" [JURIST report] for public officials as part of the government's attempt to fight corruption ahead of a reshuffling of provincial leadership posts. Chinese prosecutors said last month that the number of corruption convictions against government officials has increased by 30 percent in the last five years [JURIST report].






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Federal judge dismisses Hurricane Katrina fraud claim against State Farm
Jeannie Shawl on April 22, 2008 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday dismissed claims of fraud [ruling, PDF] against State Farm Insurance by a Mississippi couple who claimed that the company denied their insurance claim for damage from Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] based on bad faith and fraud. US District Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. rejected the claim, writing:

Plaintiffs allege that State Farm committed actionable fraud in the handling of the plaintiffs' claim. Plaintiffs primarily rely on their contention that State Farm ordered two engineering reports from Forensic in an effort to dishonestly minimize its liability to the plaintiffs rather than for any legitimate reason. ...

Plaintiffs contend that State Farm, acting through Renfroe and Forensic, deliberately underestimated the amount of wind damage the insured property sustained in order to minimize its liability under the plaintiffs' homeowners policy. While this allegation, if sustained, would support a finding of bad faith, it is not sufficient to support an allegation of fraud. Fraud requires reasonable reliance on a misrepresentation, and the plaintiffs have not relied upon State Farm's evaluation of their claim. Indeed plaintiffs have brought this lawsuit in an effort to establish that State Farm has underestimated the wind damage to the insured property. Although plaintiffs may prevail on the merits of their claims for additional policy benefits and other extracontractual damages, including punitive damages if they establish bad faith on the part of State Farm or its agents, in the absence of any evidence that the plaintiffs relied upon State Farm's damage assessment I can see no basis for a claim of fraud.
Thomas and Pamela McIntosh filed the lawsuit against State Farm after the company refused to pay for most of the damage to their home, which State Farm concluded was caused mostly by flood damage from the storm surge.

State Farm used E.A. Renfroe & Co. to inspect the McIntosh's home, and the couple also alleged that Renfroe aided and abetted State Farm's fraudulent misconduct and that the company breached its duty of loyalty to the plaintiffs. Senter dismissed the aiding and abetting claim as he concluded there was no underlying fraud, and also dismissed the breach of duty claim. AP has more. The US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has a collection of Hurricane Katrina insurance orders and opinions.






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No agreement yet on restoring Pakistan judges: coalition party leader
Jeannie Shawl on April 22, 2008 9:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's coalition government has not yet reached a specific agreement on restoring judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last year after he declared emergency rule [PDF text; JURIST report], former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Tuesday. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wrapped up a fresh round of discussions with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] Tuesday, and though Sharif said that the judges would be reinstated "soon," PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari indicated that the process would not be rushed. Zardari said that the PPP is in favor of a "broad-based" course of action that would allow the judiciary to be restored "without any agitation." Sources told AFP that a main point of disagreement between the two parties is whether to include ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] among the judges to be reinstated. AFP has more.

The coalition government, sworn in last month after parliamentary elections earlier this year, has vowed to establish a fully independent judiciary [JURIST reports]. One of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's first actions upon taking office was seeking Chaudhry's and other ousted judges' immediate release from house arrest [JURIST report]. Pakistan's attorney general has said that reinstating the ousted judges would require a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] with a two-thirds majority vote in parliament.






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Zimbabwe opposition supporters charged in post-election strike violence
David Frueh on April 21, 2008 7:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Twenty-eight anti-government activists were indicted in Zimbabwe on Monday on public disorder charges related to a strike [JURIST report] organized by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] last week to protest the nondisclosure of the results in the March 29 presidential election [JURIST report]. All the defendants pleaded not guilty during a court hearing Monday, during which defense lawyers alleged that police and soldiers had beaten some of the activists in custody to extract confessions. The MDC accused authorities of only prosecuting government critics, while ignoring violence it says has been perpetrated by pro-government militias.

On Thursday, current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] accused [JURIST report] MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] of treason, saying that Tsvangirai and Britain are conspiring to overthrow Mugabe. MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said Sunday that more than 400 supporters of the MDC have been detained [JURIST report] and more than 3,000 families displaced since the March 29 election, in which Tsvangirai claims to have won more votes than Mugabe. AFP has more.






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Serbia ex-militants charged with war crimes in Kosovo massacre
Andrew Gilmore on April 21, 2008 7:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Serbia's war crimes court has charged four former members of a notorious Serbian paramilitary organization with war crimes stemming from their alleged involvement in a 1999 massacre of ethnic Albanian civilians in the Kosovar village of Podujevo, the Serbian prosecutor's office said Monday. The four suspects, alleged to be members of the Scorpions, were arrested [JURIST report] in October 2007. AP has more. TurkishPress.com has additional coverage.

Four Scorpions members have already been convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] for their role in the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica [JURIST news archive]. Another member has been convicted of killing ethnic Albanians in Kosovo [JURIST news archive].






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Former DOJ official charged in connection with Abramoff scandal
Andrew Gilmore on April 21, 2008 6:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors on Monday accused the former deputy chief of staff of the Department of Justice Criminal Division [official website] of criminal conflict of interest charges connected to his relationship with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive]. Robert Coughlin is accused of accepting gifts from Abramoff's lobbying group, as well as discussing future employment at the firm where Abramoff worked. In April 2007, the Washington Post reported that Coughlin accepted tickets to sporting events paid for by Abramoff's lobbying firm. AP has more.

Abramoff pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in January 2006 to two conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from the 2000 purchase of the SunCruz Casino [corporate website] as part of a plea agreement [PDF text] with federal prosecutors that would reduce his punishment in exchange for favorable testimony in future DOJ corruption cases.






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New Jersey high court rules subpoena needed to obtain Internet user records
David Frueh on April 21, 2008 6:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] Monday ruled [PDF text] that Internet service providers may not turn over users' personal information to police or other agencies unless they obtain a valid grand jury subpoena when the information sought relates to an indictable offense. The court held that the New Jersey constitution [text] affords greater protections than the US Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The unanimous decision upheld a lower court's ruling suppressing information obtained from Internet provider Comcast [corporate website] identifying a woman who changed access codes on her employer's account with a supplier. The court found the municipal court subpoena for the data obtained by police inadequate because an indictable offense was at issue. AP has more.






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'Chemical Ali' hospitalized in Iraq following hunger strike
Alexis Unkovic on April 21, 2008 5:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali," was admitted to a US medical facility in Iraq on Sunday, the US military said Monday. Al-Majid had reportedly been on a hunger strike since Friday, but is now in stable condition after passing out Sunday. One of al-Majid's co-defendants has also been hospitalized in connection with the hunger strike. AP has more.

The Iraqi High Tribunal sentenced [JURIST report] al-Majid and his co-defendants to death in June 2007 on genocide and war crimes charges for their roles in the deaths of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] of 1988. Iraq's Presidency Council, consisting of Kurdish President Jalal Talibani, Shi'ite Vice-President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, approved al-Majid's execution [JURIST report] on February 29. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government said in early March that al-Majid would not be executed [JURIST report] until the Presidency Council approved the death sentences of al-Majid's two co-defendants.

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Supreme Court to hear tariff, 'violent felony' sentencing cases
Alexis Unkovic on April 21, 2008 4:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday agreed to hear three cases [Order List, PDF], including the consolidated cases of US v. Eurodif (07-1059) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and USEC v. Eurodif (07-1078) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] where the Court will consider whether the federal government can impose anti-dumping tariffs on contracts for uranium enrichment services. The key issues in the cases center on whether raw materials from the United States that are reprocessed abroad constitute a "good" or a "service." US law does not allow tariffs to be imposed on "services." AP has more.

The Court also granted certiorari Monday in Chambers v. US (06-11206) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] where the Court will consider whether a conviction for "escape" after a defendant fails to report for confinement qualifies as a "violent felony" within the meaning of the Armed Career Criminal Act [18 USC § 924(e) text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [PDF text] last year that all escapes are violent crimes. A Supreme Court ruling in the case could resolve a current 10-2 split among the circuit courts of appeals. SCOUTSBLOG has more on both certiorari grants.

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Treasury Department issues new security review regulations for foreign investments
Alexis Unkovic on April 21, 2008 3:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of the Treasury issued proposed regulations [PDF text; press release] Monday designed to implement the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 [PDF text; HR 556 materials]. In January, US President George W. Bush issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] similarly designed to implement the Act, which expands the investigative scope of the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) [official website] to include foreign infrastructure and energy investments and adds an additional 45-day review of proposed acquisitions from foreign state-owned entities. A 45-day public comment period on the proposed regulations will begin later this week after the regulations are officially published in the Federal Register.

The law, passed by Congress [JURIST report] in July 2007, stems from congressional criticism [JURIST report] of a proposed acquisition by United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World [corporate website] that would have allowed the company to manage six major US ports in early 2006. The deal eventually fell through [JURIST report], but prompted Congress to pass the legislation to increase scrutiny of foreign investment proposals. AP has more.






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White House urges federal appeals court to rule visitor logs not public records
Joshua Pantesco on April 21, 2008 2:54 PM ET

[JURIST] White House lawyers argued on Monday before a federal appeals court that White House visitor logs maintained by the Secret Service are executive branch documents and thus not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] requests. The appeals court judges hearing the case seemed skeptical of the administration's arguments that the visitor logs should be privileged and not publicly released, but also seemed to indicate that a balance must be struck to allow the president to keep private some information about who is visiting the White House.

Public interest group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) initially sought the visitor logs to support its contention that conservative evangelicals exert an undue influence over the White House, but the White House resisted, ordering the logs submitted directly to the White House rather than to the Secret Service so that they would fall outside the scope of FOIA. In December 2007, a federal district judge ruled [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] that the White House visitor logs are public documents [press release; JURIST report] under the meaning of FOIA. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considering an appeal of that ruling. AP has more.






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Supreme Court rejects death penalty appeals after lethal injection ruling
Alexis Unkovic on April 21, 2008 2:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday denied [order list, PDF] without comment petitions for certiorari filed by 10 death row inmates seeking to have their executions blocked. Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that lethal injection [JURIST news archive] does not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Three of the inmates whose petitions were denied Monday were previously granted last minute stays of execution, including Earl Wesley Berry and Carlton Turner, Jr. [JURIST reports]. The petitioners may soon be executed as their stays of execution terminated automatically when their appeals for certiorari were denied. AP has more.

Last week's Supreme Court ruling came in Baze v. Rees [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where lawyers for Kentucky death row inmate Ralph Baze argued that the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states violates the US Constitution because the first drug administered can fail to make the subject fully unconscious, thereby making the subject suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. Also last Wednesday, several US states, including Virginia and Oklahoma, announced that they would resume executions by lethal injection [JURIST report] after the Supreme Court's decision.

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Australia control over continental shelf expanded by UN ruling
Joshua Pantesco on April 21, 2008 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Australia has acquired exploration and drilling rights to an additional 2.5 million square kilometers of ocean shelf after a UN commission ruled that Australia's continental shelf extends farther than previously defined, the Australian government said Monday. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) [official website] is the body charged with administering the 1994 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [UN materials], under which countries have 10 years after their ratifications of that treaty to make extended continental shelf claims; Australia made its submission [materials] in 2004. The CLCS ruling does not give Australia rights to control shipping or whaling activities that take place in the ocean above the continental shelf. Australia's ABC News has more.

Several countries, including the UK and Chile, have petitioned the CLCS [JURIST report] in recent years to stake claims to portions of Antarctica ahead of claim deadlines. It is unclear, however, how the 1994 treaty interacts with the 1959 Antarctic Treaty [text; ATS materials], which specifically prohibits its signatories from asserting new land claims in Antarctica. The Antarctica Treaty gives countries with valid Antarctic claims the right to search for oil and natural gas beginning in 2048.






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Afghan president rejects death penalty moratorium
Michael Sung on April 21, 2008 9:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; BBC profile] rejected calls for the reinstatement of a moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty Monday, saying that while he prefers life sentences, he will abide by Islamic law's sanctioning of the death penalty for certain crimes, including the kidnapping and murder. Under Afghan law, President Karzai is required to sign execution orders after courts issue the sentences.

Last week, the Afghan Supreme Court approved death sentences issued by lower courts for 100 prisoners convicted of kidnapping, hostage taking, armed robbery, murder, and rape. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Karzai to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty, noting that Afghan legal experts had reservations in a number of criminal trials [press release], citing incomplete investigations and the failure of courts to disclose crucial evidence leading to convictions. Last October, Afghanistan abruptly lifted its moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report], executing 15 prisoners by firing squad. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has also urged Afghanistan to reinstate the ban [JURIST report] on the death penalty. AP has more.






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UN official calls for enhanced arms control to advance human rights
Michael Sung on April 21, 2008 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Sergei Ordzhonikidze, director-general of the UN Office at Geneva [official websites], on Monday urged UN member states to advance the cause for human rights by increasing arms control efforts, saying that the improvement of human rights in developing regions will enhance long-term peace, stability, and contribute to sustainable development. Ordzhonikidze comments came during the inaugural Beijing Forum on Human Rights; he said that increased arms control will free up additional resources, which should instead be allocated for the advancement of human rights.

The Beijing Forum on Human Rights is commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) [text] in 1948. The UDHR declared that every person has the right to life, and disavows slavery, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Xinhua has more.






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Indonesia judge sentences Jemaah Islamiyah leaders to 15 years
Joshua Pantesco on April 21, 2008 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] An Indonesian judge handed down 15-year sentences to two leaders of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], after convicting them on terrorism charges. The judge also ruled that JI is a terrorist organization, the first time an Indonesian court has recognized JI as such. The two JI leaders, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana [BBC profiles], went on trial [JURIST report] in December, charged with training and equipping JI members as well as conspiracy to commit terrorism. Prosecutors had previously demanded life sentences [JURIST report] for the two.

Abu Dujana, arrested [JURIST report] in June, has confessed to leading JI's military wing, which has claimed responsibility for the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy [BBC report] in Jakarta and a series of 2005 Bali bombings [BBC report]. He was charged with possessing explosives as well as assisting and harboring two men wanted in connection with the 2002 Bali night club bombings [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. BBC News has more.

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India PM backs special courts for corruption cases
Devin Montgomery on April 20, 2008 2:53 PM ET

[JURIST] Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] has called for the establishment of special courts to deal specifically with corruption charges, telling a convention of high-ranking justices and government ministers on Saturday that "apart from pendency and delayed justice, corruption is another challenge we face both in government and the judiciary." Singh said addressing these problems would increases both domestic and foreign confidence in the court system. Following the prime minister's remarks, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan [official profile] told reporters that Singh did not mean that the judiciary itself was corrupt, but rather that it has to deal with a large number of cases brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation [official website] which alleged government corruption. Balakrishnan went on to say that allegations of judicial corruption were rare and dealt with swiftly when they did arise.

In response to questions about what checks exist against possible judicial corruption, Balakrishnan told reporters that Supreme Court [official website] justices are required to submit an accounting of their assets when they assume their post and to amend that accounting when they acquire new property. He also said that the because justice positions were constitutional rather than governmental, that this asset list and some other information on the justices were not publicly available through India's Right to Information Act [RTI materials], but that the Indian Parliament [official website] did have the power to enact laws requiring more judicial accountability if they chose to. The Hindustan Times has more. The Hindu has additional coverage.






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Over 400 Zimbabwe opposition supporters arrested since disputed election: MDC
Eric Firkel on April 20, 2008 1:17 PM ET

[JURIST] More than 400 supporters of the Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] have been detained and more than 3,000 families displaced since the March 29 election [JURIST report], MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti said Sunday. Biti also said that more than 10 people have been killed in post-election violence and that another 500 supporters have been hospitalized since the election, in which MDC opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] claims to have won more votes than current president Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Mugabe has demanded a recount, which Tsvangirai condemned as "illegal" [JURIST reports] after it began Saturday. The MDC won 109 seats in the country's 210-seat assembly in the original count.

On Thursday, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF accused [JURIST report] Tsvangirai of treason, saying he was conspiring with Britain to overthrow Mugabe. Zimbabwean police arrested at least 30 MDC members [JURIST report] this week after the party called for a strike to protest the nondisclosure of the presidential election results. The police said that the MDC supporters were arrested for blocking roads and traffic and attempting to intimidate people from going to work after police announced a ban on all political rallies [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Niger parliament passes new anti-terror law to counter Tuareg rebels
Eric Firkel on April 20, 2008 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The National Assembly of Niger [official website, in French] passed new anti-terrorism legislation Saturday aimed at helping security forces combat the resurgence of an ethnic Tuareg rebellion [BBC backgrounder] that has thrown the West African country into in a state of disarray. The new law passed by parliament increases penalties for possession of explosive devices, attacks on transport vehicles, hostage-taking, and unlawful possession of radioactive materials. Additionally, the legislation punishes financing and recruitment for terrorism and allows authorities to hold suspects for a longer period of time before filing formal charges.

Leaders of the rebel group, the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) [group website, in French], have been conducting guerrilla attacks on the central government since early 2007, in an effort to achieve self rule and a greater share of the wealth from uranium exports. Earlier this month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [text] alleging extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances committed by the Nigerien army against civilians during clashes with Tuareg rebels. The Nigerien government has denied the report. Reuters has more.






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Zimbabwe opposition leader challenges recount legality
David Frueh on April 19, 2008 5:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] has condemned as "illegal" a process of recounting votes in 23 constituencies that began Saturday after a judge dismissed an opposition appeal [JURIST report]. The MDC won 109 seats in the country's 210-seat assembly in the original count. Tsvangirai told Al Jazeera television that "as far as we are concerned, we have won the election, the people of Zimbabwe have spoken and their vote must be respected." Tsvangirai also referenced a shipment of weapons that was turned away to support his allegations the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] was preparing for a 'war' against the people. Al Jazeera has more.

On Thursday, Mugabe and the ZANU-PF accused [JURIST report] Tsvangirai of treason, saying he was conspiring with Britain to overthrow Mugabe. Zimbabwean police arrested at least 30 MDC members [JURIST report] this week after the party called for a strike to protest the nondisclosure of the presidential election results. The police said that the MDC supporters were arrested for blocking roads and traffic and attempting to intimidate people from going to work after police announced a ban on all political rallies [JURIST report].






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UK ex-Guantanamo prisoners suing British intelligence services: report
Steve Czajkowski on April 19, 2008 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Eight former British Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees are suing the UK's MI5 (domestic) and MI6 (foreign) [official websites] intelligence services over alleged complicity with the US in their illegal abduction, treatment and interrogation at the prison, according to a report [text] Saturday in London's Daily Mail. Two separate writs have been issued at the High Court in London, although neither has yet been served. The first writ was issued by lawyers for three British foreign nationals - Omar Deghayes from Libya and Jamil el-Banna from Jordan, who were released from Guantanamo last December, and Bisher al Rawi, an Iraqi who was released [JURIST reports] in April 2007. The second writ was issued on behalf of five British citizens Moazzam Begg, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Richard Belmar.

Rasul, Iqbal, Ahmed and another former detainee, Jamal Al-Harith filed a US lawsuit [case backgrounder; JURIST report] in 2004 against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers, and others for alleged torture and infringement of religious practice during their captivity. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] the lawsuit, ruling [PDF text] that detainees do not have the right to sue high-ranking government officials for such allegations. Lawyers for the men are taking the case to the Supreme Court. AFP has more.






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Bush lawyers 'hoodwinked' military chief into allowing Guantanamo torture: book
David Frueh on April 19, 2008 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Retired Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers [official profile] was 'hoodwinked' into believing aggressive interrogation techniques used on Guantanamo detainees were taken from the army's field manual, University College London law professor Philippe Sands [official profile] claims in his new book, Torture Team [book website], scheduled for release in May. Excerpts from the book were published by the UK Guardian newspaper Saturday. Sands alleges the new techniques, approved by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile], were actually developed by inexperienced Guantanamo lawyers and pushed through by senior Bush administration lawyers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and William Haynes.

Myers reportedly believed the prisoners were protected against torture by the Geneva conventions' Common Article 3 [text] even though a memo [text] written by Haynes made it clear the Guantanamo detainees could not rely on the protections. According to former chief of staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, Larry Wilkerson, Rumsfeld recommended Myers for the job because he 'was not a very powerful chairman' and was easily cut out of important meetings and plans. The Guardian has more.






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Chile court indicts retired navy officers for Pinochet-era killing of priest
Steve Czajkowski on April 19, 2008 2:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chilean court indicted five navy officers and a navy doctor Friday for their role in the kidnapping, torture, and killings of British-Chilean priest Micheal Woodward [profile] and other political dissidents. Retired admirals Sergio Barros, Guillermo Aldoney and Adolfo Walbaum and retired navy captains Sergio Barra and Ricardo Riesgo, were all indicted on kidnapping and torture charges and are being held at military barracks in Valparaiso. Carlos Costa, a navy doctor, was also charged. According to Judge Eliana Quezada, all men are maintaining their innocence.

Woodward, who had joined Christians for Socialism after being suspended by the Roman Catholic church, was taken into custody by security forces on September 16, 1973, shortly after the military coup against Chilean Socialist president Salvador Allende that brought General Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive] to power. He was alleged to have been tortured, along with other dissidents, aboard naval ships used as detention centers. He died six days later, and his family was told that he died of cardio-respiratory problems. The indictments follow the sentencing [JURIST report] of Pinochet's secret police chief earlier this week for his role in the 1974 disappearance of a political dissident. Over 3000 people are said to have been killed for political reasons during the Pinochet regime. AP has more.






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Padilla sent to Colorado 'supermax' prison to serve out terrorism conspiracy sentence
Kiely Lewandowski on April 19, 2008 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] US prison officials said Friday that convicted terrorism conspirator Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] will serve his approximately 17-year term at a "supermax" federal prison in Colorado. The maximum-security facility located in Florence [official website] also holds "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, and September 11 attacks conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive]. Padilla's co-defendants remain in Miami's downtown detention center. In an email to AP Friday Padilla's attorney Michael Caruso said the decision was "yet another example of Jose being treated differently and in a more punitive fashion than others who have been accused of similar crimes." AP has more.

Padilla was convicted in August, along with Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi [profiles], of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Initially alleged to have planned the explosion of a "dirty bomb" in the United States, Padilla went from enemy combatant to criminal defendant when he was finally charged with other offenses in November 2005.






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Colombia high court extends pension and health benefits to same-sex couples
Kiely Lewandowski on April 19, 2008 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website, in Spanish] has held that same-sex couples should be given the same pension and health benefits as those held by opposite-sex couples. The Constitutional Court reached its decision Thursday after considering arguments presented by domestic and foreign human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. In its decision [court materials, in Spanish], the Court said that to exclude same-sex couples from receiving such benefits would undermine their fundamental right to human dignity and equal protection of the laws. The director of the Human Rights Watch Americas Division said that Colombia had "set an example" for countries in the region and that others should "follow suit."

In March 2007, the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] voted in favor of a Colombian man seeking his deceased partner's pension, but the Colombia Constitutional Court said it lacked the legal framework to implement the decision. In August 2007, multiple human rights groups challenged the relevant Colombian laws [Article 1 of Law 54/1990 and Articles 47, 74 and 163 of Law 100/1993], arguing that to deny same-sex couples these benefits would violate human rights protected by international law. Last June, the Colombian Senate voted against landmark legislation [JURIST report] that would have given same-sex couples who have cohabited for over a period of two years similar rights as persons in heterosexual common law marriages. Last February, the Constitutional Court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples must be accorded the same property rights as other unmarried couples. Reuters has more.






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Former Fannie Mae CEO settles civil accounting fraud charges for $24.7 million
Steve Czajkowski on April 18, 2008 4:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Fannie Mae [corporate website] CEO Franklin Raines has agreed to pay $24.7 million [press release] to settle a civil lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) [official website], OFHEO said Friday. In 2006, OFHEO filed the lawsuit [PDF text; press release, PDF] against Raines, former Vice Chairman and CFO J. Timothy Howard, and former Senior VP and Controller Leanne G. Spencer based on allegations that the three "improperly manipulated earnings to maximize their bonuses, while knowingly neglecting accounting systems and internal controls." Howard and Spencer also settled for $6.4 million and $275,000 respectively. AP has more.

In October 2004, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation into whether Fannie Mae broke accounting rules to smooth earnings and boost executive bonuses; the DOJ dropped [JURIST reports] the investigation in August 2006. In May 2005, Fannie Mae settled for $400 million [JURIST report] with regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission and OFHEO for fraudulently reporting future earnings so that top executives would receive maximum performance bonuses. A derivative lawsuit filed by shareholders, which sought to force former executives and board members involved in the scandal to repay their bonuses and severance packages to the corporation, was dismissed [JURIST report] in June 2007.






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FBI reports rise in public corruption cases
Eric Firkel on April 18, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] is currently investigating 2,500 cases of public corruption, a 50 percent increase from five years ago, FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] said in a Thursday speech [text] to the American Bar Association. Mueller also said that corporate fraud cases had increased by more than 80 percent from five years ago, due in large part to recent mortgage fraud cases. The FBI currently has over 1,300 mortgage fraud cases under investigation, including 19 corporate fraud matters related to the sub prime-lending crisis [FBI report]. AP has more.

The number of criminal cases pursued by the FBI has drastically decreased since the 9/11 attacks, according to statistics released by the Department of Justice [official website] in 2006. Those statistics revealed that the FBI has shifted its traditional focus [FBI backgrounder] on drugs and white collar crimes to terrorism.






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Pope tells UN human rights key to solving world issues
Steve Czajkowski on April 18, 2008 2:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Protecting human rights is vital to bridging inequalities between countries, Pope Benedict XVI [official profile] said Friday in a speech [text] to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the third day of his visit to the United States [official websites]. The Pope said:

Experience shows that legality often prevails over justice when the insistence upon rights makes them appear as the exclusive result of legislative enactments or normative decisions taken by the various agencies of those in power. When presented purely in terms of legality, rights risk becoming weak propositions divorced from the ethical and rational dimension which is their foundation and their goal. The Universal Declaration, rather, has reinforced the conviction that respect for human rights is principally rooted in unchanging justice, on which the binding force of international proclamations is also based. This aspect is often overlooked when the attempt is made to deprive rights of their true function in the name of a narrowly utilitarian perspective. Since rights and the resulting duties follow naturally from human interaction, it is easy to forget that they are the fruit of a commonly held sense of justice built primarily upon solidarity among the members of society, and hence valid at all times and for all peoples. This intuition was expressed as early as the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo, one of the masters of our intellectual heritage. He taught that the saying: Do not do to others what you would not want done to you "cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world" (De Doctrina Christiana, III, 14). Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon introduced the Pope in a speech [text] about the shared interests of the Catholic Church and the UN regarding issues such as poverty, nuclear proliferation, and the environment.

On Thursday, the Pope met privately with victims of clergy sexual abuse [JURIST news archive] in the Boston area. He first addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse when he arrived in the US on Tuesday, and raised it again in his homily during a Thursday mass at Nationals Stadium. AP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.





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EU ministers reach agreement on new anti-terror measures
Patrick Porter on April 18, 2008 2:21 PM ET

[JURIST] European Commission [official website] ministers Friday agreed [press release] on implementation of a new counter-terrorism package, including a proposal to amend the Framework Decision on combating terrorism [press release] to criminalize recruitment and training for terrorism, particularly when committed through the Internet. Despite recent criticism [JURIST report] by Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Rapporteur Dick Marty [personal website; JURIST news archive], the Commission said that the measures respect human rights and free speech concerns. AP has more.

EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini introduced [JURIST report] the proposed anti-terror measures on behalf of the European Commission last November.






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Maine governor signs bill to stop illegal aliens from obtaining state IDs
Eric Firkel on April 18, 2008 1:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Maine Gov. John Baldacci [official website] signed a bill into law late Thursday that would require an applicant to show proof of US residency before being issued a state driver's license or ID card [JURIST news archive]. Forty-three other states already require proof of legal US residency to get a driver's license. The new law brings Maine closer to compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005 [PDF text; JURIST news archive].

Initially drafted after the Sept.11, 2001 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, the REAL ID Act attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary], it finally passed in 2005 [JURIST report] as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill. State lawmakers had previously expressed concern [JURIST report] about possible problems expected to accompany the implementation of the REAL ID Act, fearing that they would not be able to comply with the law's requirements before the May 2008 deadline. In March, Homeland Security responded to these concerns by extending the deadline for compliance by 18 months [JURIST report]. In January, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule [text; DHS backgrounder] establishing the new minimum standards [press release; JURIST report] for state-issued identification cards. AP has more.






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Military commission trial of alleged 9/11 planner to be televised for victims' families
Patrick Porter on April 18, 2008 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] US Army Col. Lawrence Morris, chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions, has said that the trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] and other Sept. 11 suspects will be broadcast live via closed-circuit television to several military bases so that victims' families can watch, according to Friday media reports. Some family members applauded the decision, while others said justice would be better served if the trials were held in regular courts and open to the public at large, thereby countering any accusations of unfairness. Reuters has more.

Last September, the US Department of Defense released censored audio recordings [MP3 file] of Mohammed's Combatant Status Review Tribunal [DOD backgrounder]. The recording eliminated 10 of about 40 minutes of Mohammed's testimony [transcript, PDF], in which he said he masterminded the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report] and claimed responsibility for 29 other planned terror attacks.






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Former Pakistan justice calls reconstituted top court unconstitutional
Patrick Porter on April 18, 2008 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] justice Rana Bhagwandas [JURIST news archive] Thursday told the Lahore High Court Bar Association that the Supreme Court as currently constituted is unconstitutional, and that its ruling [JURIST report] supporting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's November 3 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST report] is invalid. Bhagwandas said only a two-thirds majority by both houses of parliament would validate the declaration of emergency.

Bhagwandas and other justices were ousted from the court and detained under effective house arrest [JURIST reports] last November for refusing to take oaths under the Provisional Constitution Order [text as amended]. Musharraf subsequently named other justices and a new chief justice to take their place. The Khaleej Times has more.






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Zimbabwe court rejects opposition request to block election recount
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 11:10 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in Zimbabwe on Friday dismissed an attempt by opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] to block a partial recount of Zimbabwe's March 29 elections [JURIST report]. Official election results have not yet been released, but independent tallies suggest that Tsvangirai won the presidential election and that the parliamentary vote gave the opposition control of parliament. A recount is scheduled for Saturday because electoral officials have found problems with 23 constituencies. Tsvangirai and MDC accuse current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] of refusing to release official election results in an effort to maintain power. On Monday, the High Court of Zimbabwe rejected a bid by the MDC to compel the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) to immediately release the results of the election [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

On Thursday, Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] accused [JURIST report] Tsvangirai of treason, saying that Tsvangirai and Britain are conspiring to overthrow Mugabe. Zimbabwean police arrested at least 30 MDC members [JURIST report] this week after the party called for a strike to protest the nondisclosure of the election results. The police said that the MDC supporters were arrested for blocking roads and traffic and attempting to intimidate people from going to work after police announced a ban on all political rallies [JURIST report].






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Senate directs DOJ to investigate highway spending earmark
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate voted 64-28 [roll call] Thursday to direct the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to open an investigation into discrepancies between the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) [text; press release] as approved in Congress and the version that was sent to the president for signature. The 2005 highway spending bill contained more than 6,000 earmarks, including $10 million earmarked for I-75 in southwestern Florida. The version that reached President George W. Bush's desk redirected the I-75 money to the "Coconut Road Interchange" in Florida. Former House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) [official website] has acknowledged that he supported the Coconut Road project at the request of Florida community residents, but the specifics of how the money was redirected to Coconut Road remain unclear. Also Thursday, the Senate voted 88-2 [roll call] to pass a bill [HR 1195] amending SAFETEA-LU.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) supported [press release] the decision to urge the DOJ to investigate whether any violations of federal criminal law occurred, while Republicans raised separation of powers concerns about having Congress direct the DOJ, an executive branch agency, to open an investigation. A 2007 House bill [HR 3248 materials] returned the $10 million earmark to the original I-75 project. AP has more.






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DOJ urges appeals court to overturn Vermont greenhouse gas emissions decision
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 9:55 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration has asked the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to set aside a decision [PDF text; JURIST report] by a federal judge sitting in Vermont that allowed Vermont to regulate automotive greenhouse gas emissions. In Green Mountain Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie, the US District Court for the District of Vermont held that the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) [text] does not preempt state regulation of emission standards. The US Justice Department filed an amicus brief late Wednesday urging the appeals court to overturn the district court's ruling, as it was dependant on a California waiver [JURIST news archive] to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied [PDF rejection letter; JURIST report] California's waiver request in December. In the Vermont case, the DOJ argued that the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] preempts state laws in the regulation of fuel and economy.

Vermont's standards require a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The California standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent for cars and light trucks, and 18 percent for SUVs, starting with the 2009 model year. California's Air Resources Board [official website] adopted the greenhouse gas standards in 2004 [press release], but it could not mandate them unless the EPA granted a waiver for the lighter CAA standards. California is the only state permitted to seek a waiver under the CAA, and other states would have had the option of choosing between the federal standards and the California standards if the California waiver had been granted. At least 11 states indicated that they would have followed the California standard. AP has more.






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New ICC registrar vows to make witness protection a priority
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN-backed International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] swore in Silvana Arbia [press release] as new registrar in a ceremony at The Hague on Thursday, during which Arbia said [speech, PDF] that she intends to make protecting witnesses a priority as the ICC prepares for its first trial this year. Arbia was elected by the judges of the ICC in February, and will serve a five-year term as registrar. She will serve as the chief administrative and operational manager of the ICC.

The upcoming trial [JURIST report], scheduled for June, of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile] will be the first trial for the ICC since it was established six years ago. The UN News Centre has more.






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Canada tried to prevent Khadr transfer to Guantanamo: letter
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 8:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Canada requested in 2002 that the United States not send detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] to Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] after his capture in Afghanistan, according to a letter submitted with court documents filed by Khadr's lawyers Thursday. Khadr's lawyers have argued that Guantanamo was an inappropriate place to detain Khadr because he was 15 years old at the time of his capture. The 2002 letter, from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC to the US State Department, notes that both Canada and the US have laws designed for minor suspects and that those laws should prevent Khadr's transfer to the military prison. Last month, Khadr's lawyers argued [JURIST report] before the Supreme Court of Canada that the Canadian government should be compelled to turn over confidential documents [JURIST report] that they say led to Khadr's charges and are therefore necessary for a fair trial. Khadr is seeking documents that Canada allegedly provided to US authorities, along with videotapes of Khadr's 2003 interrogations at Guantanamo and uncensored transcripts.

Earlier this week, Khadr's lawyers argued [JURIST report] before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit that the court has jurisdiction to intervene in Khadr's case to determine whether only detainees found to be "unlawful enemy combatants" may be subject to a military commission [DOD materials], or if such hearings also apply to "enemy combatants." Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Khadr's trial was originally scheduled to begin May 5, but last month US military judge Col. Peter Brownback postponed the trial [JURIST report] and instead scheduled a May 8 hearing in order to hear arguments on a number of evidence issues that must be reconciled before the trial can begin. AP has more.






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DOJ probing memo authorizing military use of harsh interrogation methods
Jaime Jansen on April 18, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice has opened an internal probe into whether DOJ lawyers acted improperly when advising the US Department of Defense [official websites] in a 2003 memorandum [PDF text; JURIST report] that military interrogators could employ a wide range of interrogation methods when questioning foreign detainees outside the United States without fear of criminal liability or constitutional sanction, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) [official website] said Thursday. While the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility declined to speak about the investigation, Whitehouse said the investigation will help explain how DOJ lawyers reached the conclusion to authorize harsh interrogation methods.

The 2003 memo was released publicly earlier this month, showing that the DOJ approved a wide range of interrogation methods for the military to use - the same broad limits that the DOJ had earlier approved for the CIA. The 81-page memo was later rescinded by the DOJ. AP has more.






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Egypt court silent on charges for convicted Muslim Brotherhood members: lawyers
Nick Fiske on April 17, 2008 7:25 PM ET

[JURIST] An Egyptian military court has yet to release details of the charges on which 25 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder] were convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] Tuesday, a lawyer for the Brotherhood told Reuters Thursday. In a unusual move, the court had blocked the Brotherhood's lawyers, the media, and defendants' families from the courtroom while the verdicts were read. Reuters has more.

Forty Brotherhood members were originally charged with terrorism and money laundering, but those charges were later dropped; the trial, which lasted for over a year, dealt with lesser charges that included possessing anti-government literature and being a member of a banned group. Deputy guide for the Brotherhood Khairat al-Shatir [BBC report] was among those sentenced Tuesday, receiving a jail sentence of seven years. Al-Shatir has denied the charges, saying that they were politically motivated. The 40 defendants were initially arrested in a raid [BBC report] in December 2006 and but were acquitted of all charges last January in a criminal court in Cairo. They were then rearrested shortly after release and Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak [official profile] ordered the transfer of the cases to a military court [JURIST report]. They were the first Muslim Brotherhood members to face a military trial in Egypt since 2001.






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Chile court sentences former general for Pinochet-era rights abuses
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 17, 2008 7:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chilean court Thursday sentenced a retired general to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1974 disappearance of a political dissident. General Manuel Contreras [TrialWatch profile], the secret police chief under former dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive], is already serving a cumulative prison sentence of 57 years for several other convictions. AP has more.

In January, a Chilean appeals court sentenced [JURIST report] Contreras to 10 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping of seven neighborhood leaders from La Legua in December 1973. In November 2007, Chile's Supreme Court affirmed seven convictions and overturned one [JURIST report] in cases involving murders committed by state agents during Pinochet's 1973-90 regime. The court based that decision on the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], finding that Chile was in a state of internal armed conflict when the murders occurred.






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House panel asks Rove to testify on alleged role in DOJ Siegelman prosecution
Nick Fiske on April 17, 2008 6:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee Thursday called [press release] upon former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove [official profile] to testify concerning any involvement in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman [official profile; JURIST news archive] on federal corruption charges in 2005. In a letter [PDF text] to Rove, the committee expressed concern over allegations that the prosecution had been politically motivated, citing a sworn affidavit [PDF text] signed by Alabama lawyer Jill Simpson in which she alleged that Rove had assured Republican operative Bill Canary that Siegelman was being pursued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website].

The committee's examination of Siegelman's case is part of a larger investigation into what it alleges is a pattern of politically influenced selective prosecutions by the DOJ. In a report [PDF text] released on Thursday, the committee highlighted a number of cases it says were brought as a result of political pressures, including those against former Allegheny County coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht and former Wisconsin procurement official Georgia Thompson. The report also said the DOJ has refused to cooperate with its investigation. The committee Thursday asked [letter, PDF] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to turn over all DOJ documents and case materials pertaining to the matters. AP has more.






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Nepal police arrest 500 more protesters as pro-Tibet rallies continue
Benjamin Klein on April 17, 2008 5:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Nepalese police detained more than 500 Tibetan monks, refugees, and other protesters near the Chinese Embassy [embassy website, in English] in Kathmandu Thursday as demonstrations continued against China's recent crackdown against pro-Tibet protests [BBC backgrounder]. Thursday's detentions follow a sweep of arrests [JURIST report] in late March in which hundreds were taken into Nepalese police custody. Since demonstrations began in March, the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] has criticized Nepal [press release, PDF] for its actions against protesters and for restricting the right to peaceful assembly.

Rights groups have criticized China for ongoing human rights violations [HRW materials] targeted at Tibetans, and many call for the total independence [advocacy website] of the currently "semi-autonomous" region. In March, police in China detained 953 people [JURIST report], of whom 403 have been formally arrested, in connection with protests against Chinese rule in Tibet. A top Tibetan official has been quoted as saying that Tibetan courts will prosecute more than 1,000 protesters [JURIST report] before May 1. AP has more.






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Philadelphia gun regulations blocked pending constitutional review
Benjamin Klein on April 17, 2008 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge Thursday issued a temporary restraining order [PDF text; NRA press release] blocking Philadelphia from enforcing new gun control legislation [press release, PDF] that would have banned the sale of assault weapons, required owners to report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours, and limited firearms purchases to one per month. The National Rifle Association (NRA) [advocacy website] and other pro-gun groups filed a request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday to prevent enforcement of the laws before the court rules on their constitutionality. NRA Lawyers and Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham have both said that state law bars Pennsylvania municipalities from regulating guns. Arguments for the case are scheduled for April 28.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Ortiz v. Commonwealth [text] in 1996 that attempts by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to regulate the possession of firearms were unconstitutional. AP has more. The Philadelphia Inquirer has local coverage.

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Former Russia nuclear minister released from prison
Katerina Ossenova on April 17, 2008 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov [Kommersant backgrounder, JURIST news archive] was released from prison Thursday after a Moscow City Court suspended his sentence. Adamov was convicted [JURIST report] on charges of fraud and abuse of office in February and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison by Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court. Adamov said he plans to appeal the verdict and seek his formal acquittal. AP has more. RIA Novosti has local coverage.

Adamov was convicted for his involvement in a corruption scheme which misappropriated $31 million in US aid designated to upgrade unsafe Russian RBMK nuclear reactors [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. He was arrested [JURIST report] in Switzerland in 2005 on a US warrant on charges of fraud and money laundering. Despite repeated US extradition requests, the Swiss Supreme Court ruled that Adamov should be tried in Russia [JURIST report] because he is a Russian citizen and his crimes were allegedly committed in Russia. In August 2006, Adamov's case was thrown out due to factual errors in court filings [JURIST report]; the latest proceedings began in April 2007. The US charges are still pending.






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China rights activist convicted of subversion denied appeal: lawyer
Katerina Ossenova on April 17, 2008 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia [advocacy blog; JURIST news archive], sentenced [JURIST report] in early April to over three years in prison on charges of inciting subversion of state power [JURIST news archive], said Thursday that his client has been denied an appeal. Hu's lawyer said that Hu had 10 days to appeal his conviction, but that Hu's legal team was not allowed to visit Hu in prison to discuss an appeal. Hu was formally charged in February after he made public letters and recordings [JURIST reports] from Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng alleging that Gao was tortured into confessing to subversion charges.

Hu supporter Teng Biao, a lawyer who has defended political dissidents, was released by the Chinese government last month after spending two days in custody. In September 2007, Teng and Hu wrote an open letter [text] requesting that the international community investigate China's promises to improve its human rights record. In November 2007, rights group Dui Hua [advocacy website] reported that the number of political arrests in China more than doubled in 2006 [JURIST report]. The country has been harshly criticized in recent months for cracking down on human rights activists and political dissidents [JURIST report] ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.






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CIA says destroyed interrogation videos not relevant to Guantanamo Bay detainee case
Joshua Pantesco on April 17, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Two videotapes showing CIA officers interrogating al Qaeda suspects are likely not related to a federal case filed by a Guantanamo Bay detainee and thus not covered by a court order entered in that case directing the CIA to preserve evidence relating to the case, the CIA argued in court papers filed Wednesday. The filing came in response to an order [PDF text, JURIST report] issued in January by US District Judge Richard W. Roberts directing the government to provide information about why the CIA destroyed videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], whether other evidence connected to a lawsuit filed by Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Hani Abdullah was destroyed, and what steps the government has taken to preserve relevant evidence. According to the CIA filing, the CIA has reviewed thousands of classified documents in conjunction with federal prosecutors to determine whether the tapes were protected under the court order, but found nothing to indicate they are relevant to the federal case. AP has more.

CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] in December 2007 that the CIA destroyed the two videotapes in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. In February, Roberts extended the deadline [JURIST report; order, PDF] for the CIA to reply to his request for information. The CIA had asked for the extension on the grounds that compliance could interfere with a US Justice Department criminal probe [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes.



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Thailand to lift martial law restrictions in most districts
Katerina Ossenova on April 17, 2008 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Martial law will be lifted in most of Thailand, new Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] said Thursday. Sundaravej said that while the restrictions were no longer necessary after elections in December and the passage of the controversial Internal Security Bill [JURIST report], martial law will still remain in effect in three southern provinces, which are home to a violent separatist insurgency.

The Thai military imposed martial law nationwide after it seized power from civilian former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] in a bloodless coup [JURIST report] in September 2006. In October 2007, Thailand's cabinet voted [JURIST report] to lift martial law [JURIST news archive] in 221 of the country's 400 districts where it was still in force. In November 2007, the Thai cabinet approved a measure to lift restrictions in 41 of the country's 76 provinces [JURIST report], including Bangkok. BBC News has more.






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Zimbabwe president accuses opposition candidate of treason
Katerina Ossenova on April 17, 2008 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] Thursday accused opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website, in English] of treason. Mugabe's government has said that Tsvangirai and Britain are conspiring to overthrow Mugabe; Tsvangirai denied the accusations in an AP interview. AP has more.

In a CNN interview [text] Thursday, Tsvangirai called for the UN to establish a criminal court to try those responsible for violence in the wake of Zimbabwe's contested March 29th presidential election [JURIST report]. Independent observers say that Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe, but Mugabe is demanding a recount [JURIST report]. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) [official website] has not yet released the official results because of "errors and miscalculations" in their compilation, despite an attempt [JURIST report] by the MDC to force ZEC to release election results. Zimbabwean police banned all political rallies [JURIST report] last week as tensions continued to mount and earlier this week, police arrested more than 50 MDC members [JURIST report] after the party called for a strike to protest the nondisclosure of the election results.






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Iowa House passes bill to deter hiring of illegal immigrants
Mike Rosen-Molina on April 17, 2008 12:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iowa House [General Assembly website] voted 84-16 Wednesday to pass a bill [HF 2686 text] that would require Iowa employers to verify within 10 business days of hiring a new employee that they are a legal US resident. Employers would have to sign a statement under penalty of perjury that they checked the employee's driver's licenses or state-issued identification card [JURIST news archive] and "facially validated" them. The measure also authorizes misdemeanor criminal penalties against employers who circumvent restrictions against hiring illegal aliens by improperly designating them as "independent contractors." The bill now moves to the Iowa Senate.

The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to notify the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] when they arrest an illegal alien. The Sioux City Journal has more.






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Malaysia PM proposes independent judicial nominating body
Joshua Pantesco on April 17, 2008 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The movement in Malaysia to reform the judiciary took another step forward Thursday as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told a Bar Council assembly that the government will implement a Judicial Appointments Commission that will identify and nominate candidates for the bench, hopefully bringing transparency to the process. A similar proposal [JURIST report] was made by the newly appointed Malaysian Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim [firm profile] in March; the top judge in Malaysia, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia Abdul Hamid Mohamad [official profile], has also announced support [JURIST report] for creating an independent judicial nominating commission. From Malaysia, the Star has local coverage.

In September 2007, approximately 2,000 lawyers and activists protested [press release; JURIST report] in Malaysia's capital, calling for an investigation into judicial corruption. The protest was sparked by the release of a 2001 video [Malaysian Bar Council report and streaming video] showing prominent Malaysian lawyer V.K. Lingam on the phone with someone who is believed to be former Malaysian Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim brokering Halim's appointment to become chief justice. In January, Lingam claimed he must have been intoxicated [JURIST report] in the video when he appeared to be arranging for the appointment of "friendly" senior judges during an official inquiry into the incident. An inquiry panel has yet to release its findings about the incident.






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Afghan president urged to reinstate death penalty moratorium
Joshua Pantesco on April 17, 2008 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; BBC profile] should reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and should not sign execution orders for 100 prisoners, approved by the Supreme Court this week, advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday. According to the HRW press release [text]:

Supreme Court officials told the media those sentenced to death had been convicted of serious crimes, such as kidnapping, hostage taking, armed robbery, murder, and rape. Legal experts and human rights organizations in Afghanistan have long expressed concerns that international due process and fair trial standards are generally not met in capital cases.

...

Legal experts in Afghanistan told Human Rights Watch that in a number of these criminal trials, the cases were not properly investigated and the courts did not disclose crucial evidence leading to convictions.
Afghanistan abruptly lifted its moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] in October, executing 15 prisoners by firing squad. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged Afghanistan to reinstate the ban [JURIST report] the next day. The Canadian Press has more.





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Serbia must do more to arrest war crimes fugitives: ICTY chief prosecutor
Joshua Pantesco on April 17, 2008 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbia is not doing enough to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Thursday. Brammertz said he was especially concerned with Serbia's inability to find and capture four fugitives wanted in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline, JURIST news archive], including alleged Srebrenica masterminds Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; ICTY indictment] and Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; ICTY indictment]. He also noted that the lack of satisfactory cooperation is hurting the country's efforts to join the European Union. Reuters has more.

Brammertz took over the court's leadership in January, saying that he would continue his predecessor's tough stance on Serbian cooperation [JURIST report] with the tribunal. Former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [JURIST news archive] had long criticized Serbia for its apparent reluctance to cooperate with the ICTY. The EU has made Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY a key element of its membership negotiations [EU accession materials].






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Samsung CEO indicted for alleged tax evasion, breach of trust
Jaime Jansen on April 17, 2008 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] South Korean prosecutors on Thursday charged Samsung [corporate website] Chairman and CEO Kun-Hee Lee [corporate profile] with breach of trust and tax evasion, but decided not to charge him based on accusations that Samsung maintained a $200 million slush fund to bribe prosecutors, judges and civil servants. Nine other Samsung executives were indicted on similar charges, but none have been arrested. Prosecutors questioned Lee [JURIST report] earlier this month. The New York Times has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Samsung, South Korea's largest corporation, has been the center of numerous legal battles over the past few years. In May 2007, a South Korean appellate court upheld the conviction of two Samsung executives connected with illegal stock trading [JURIST reports]. In April 2007, another Samsung executive pleaded guilty [US DOJ press release; JURIST report] to US charges of conspiring to artificially inflate the cost of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), affecting the price of personal computers worldwide. In 2005, Samsung reached an agreement [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice to plead guilty to charges that it conspired with other technology companies to fix prices on DRAM chips.






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Japan court finds military involvement in Iraq unconstitutional
Jaime Jansen on April 17, 2008 8:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The Nagoya District Court in Japan ruled Thursday that Japan's air force mission to Iraq breaches the Japanese constitution [text], but did not order the government to redeploy the 210 air force personnel in Kuwait aiding the US-led Multi-National Force-Iraq. In a lawsuit brought by more than 1,100 people demanding that the dispatch of air force troops be suspended, the court found that the dispatch violated Article Nine [text] of the constitution renouncing war and forbidding the use of force to settle international disputes. Last fall, a Sapporo District Court dismissed a similar suit [JURIST report] brought under Article Nine of the Japanese constitution. Reuters has more.

In November, the Japanese House of Councillors passed a bill [JURIST report] to end Japan's air force mission in Iraq, with opposition leaders insisting that Japan should work through the United Nations rather than the United States. The debate over Japan's involvement in military operations abroad has caused a major rift [JURIST report] between Japan's two major parties, contributing to the September resignation [JURIST report] of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Democratic Party of Japan, which generally opposes Japan's overseas military deployments, blocked the renewal of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law [text], which allowed Japan to refuel allied ships in the Indian Ocean for operations in Afghanistan until its expiration last November. Compromise legislation was later approved [JURIST report] by Japan's parliament






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US interrogators abused Afghan detainees at Gardez: ACLU
Jaime Jansen on April 17, 2008 8:02 AM ET

[JURIST] US military interrogators allegedly abused Afghan detainees in 2003 at the Gardez Detention Facility [Globalsecurity.org backgrounder] in southeastern Afghanistan, according to Pentagon documents [text; press release] released Wednesday under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The documents indicate that eight Afghan detainees complained of abuse by interrogators, and that a 2006 review by the Army Criminal Investigation Command [official website] determined interrogators found misconduct that did not rise to the level of abuse. The review also concluded that the alleged abuse did not cause the 2003 death of Jamal Nasser, who died in custody. In the documents, some interrogators admitted using techniques they learned in a course designed to expose them to the conditions they may face if captured by foreign forces. AP has more.

The ACLU has opened several FOIA lawsuits [ACLU materials] trying to obtain information about alleged detainee abuse at US military bases for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Last month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to compel the US government to release unredacted transcripts of military hearings conducted at Guantanamo Bay in early 2007 for 14 "high-value" prisoners [DNI profiles, PDF] during which the prisoners allegedly described torture and abuse sustained during detention in CIA secret prisons [JURIST report].






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US expanding DNA data collection to all federal arrestees
Deirdre Jurand on April 16, 2008 7:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The US government will begin collecting DNA samples [JURIST report] from every person arrested under federal laws, a Department of Justice spokesman said Wednesday. Federal agencies are authorized to collect DNA samples under a 2006 amendment [PDF text] to the Violence Against Women Act, but previously had only collected DNA from people actually convicted of federal crimes. About 1.2 million additional people could be added to the FBI's Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) [official website; FBI backgrounder, PDF] every year under the expansion, although people who are not convicted can request the destruction [WP report] of their DNA samples. Supporters of the new measures say the expanded database will help prevent crime, but civil rights groups have expressed privacy concerns. The law will soon be published in the Federal Register and will then be subject to a 30-day comment period. AP has more.

Thirteen states have implemented policies similar to the new federal policy. In November 2007, The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that all convicted federal felons must provide DNA samples to a federal database available to police departments throughout the country. In 2005, the Third Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that a convicted bank robber had to submit DNA samples to CODIS. A New Jersey state appeals court upheld a comparable state law [JURIST report] in 2005.






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Russia NGOs hampered by increasing state regulation: rights groups
Andrew Gilmore on April 16, 2008 7:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia are chafing under increasingly strict regulations implemented under legislation signed into law [JURIST report] in April 2006 by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website], rights groups told AP Wednesday in the wake of a Tuesday compliance deadline. The groups say they expect the Russian government to continue its clamp-down on foreign-funded and domestic NGOs operating under the law, which has been widely criticized [JURIST report] by the US government and human rights organizations. Prior to signing the 2006 legislation, Putin said that it was "aimed against puppeteers abroad" [JURIST report]. The Russian Ministry of Justice [official website, in Russian] has used the law to subject organizations to heightened financial and administrative scrutiny, as well as force non-compliant NGOs to shut down operations [JURIST report]. AP has more.

The law has been used against numerous NGOs operating in Russia, including the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society [advocacy website; JURIST report] and the British Council [official website; JURIST report].






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Berlusconi testimony sought in defense of Italy ex-spy chief in CIA rendition case
Deirdre Jurand on April 16, 2008 6:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for former Italian Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website] chief Nicolo Pollari said Wednesday that they have included Italian Prime Minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile] as a requested witness to testify in support of Pollari's assertion that he was not involved in a reported 2003 CIA kidnapping [JURIST news archive; WP timeline] case. Pollari was charged [JURIST report] in 2006 in connection with the kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian cleric Moustafa Hassan Nasr. Defense lawyers hope Berlusconi and other Italian officials will testify [Reuters report] that classified government documents prove that Pollari was not involved in the kidnapping. Judgment on whether to allow the testimony is scheduled for May 14. AP has more.

The Italian cabinet relieved Pollari of his duties [JURIST report] as SISMI head in November 2006. Pollari has denied allegations [JURIST report] that he assisted the CIA with the extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] of Nasr. Pollari, another SISMI official and 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents, are being tried for their role in Nasr's alleged kidnapping. Proceedings against the Americans are being conducted in absentia as the US is not expected to hand them over.






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Some US states to resume executions after high court lethal injection ruling
Patrick Porter on April 16, 2008 6:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Several US states announced Wednesday that they would resume executions by lethal injection after the Supreme Court's decision upholding Kentucky's lethal injection protocol [JURIST report] earlier in the day. Virginia lifted its death penalty moratorium [press release] and Oklahoma's attorney general said he would seek to schedule executions for two death-row inmates [press release]. Arizona's attorney general said the decision clears the way for executions to resume in the state, but that the state would delay rescheduling [press release, PDF] a previously stayed execution [JURIST report] until the inmate in that case has an opportunity to file a brief addressing the Supreme Court's decision.

In September 2007, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Baze v. Rees [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], allowing it to consider whether the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. This led to an effective moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty in the United States as many federal courts, state courts, and state governors put executions on hold pending the high court's ruling. AP has more.





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US military releases AP journalist detained in Iraq after last charge dismissed
Andrew Gilmore on April 16, 2008 6:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein [AP materials; JURIST news archive] was released from custody Wednesday by US military forces in Iraq. Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, deputy commanding general for detainee operations for the Multi National Force–Iraq [official website], signed an order approving Hussein's release Monday after confirming that Hussein's conduct fell under Iraq's amnesty law [JURIST reports], passed in February as part of the national reconciliation effort. A four-member Iraqi judiciary panel dismissed the last remaining charge against Hussein [JURIST report] on Sunday and recommended the US release him from custody immediately.

Hussein [advocacy website] had been held by the US military since his arrest in April 2006 for allegedly possessing equipment to construct roadside bombs. In November 2007, the US Department of Defense pushed for terrorism charges against Hussein [JURIST report]. AP repeatedly called for his release and had accused the military of denying Hussein his due process rights. AP has more.






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Australia court deals setback to ex-Guantanamo detainee compensation claim
Patrick Porter on April 16, 2008 6:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Court of Australia Wednesday ruled [judgment text] against former Guantanamo detainee Mamdouh Habib [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in an ongoing claim for compensation against the Australian government, which he accused of being complicit in torture he allegedly suffered while held in US custody. Habib had alleged that he was interrogated and tortured at the Australian High Commission in Pakistan [official website], but the court ruled that Habib was mistaken and was not interrogated anywhere under the control of the Australian government. A different court Wednesday threw out Habib's defamation claim against broadcasters for alleging in 2005 that he was improperly seeking a disability pension.

Habib was detained in 2001 in Pakistan and was held in Egypt and Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo Bay for three years, where the US accused him of aiding terrorist militants. The US released him without charge [JURIST report] in 2005. Habib and his lawyers have repeatedly said that he was tortured while in US custody [JURIST reports]. The Australian has more.






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Supreme Court hears child rape death penalty case
Katerina Ossenova on April 16, 2008 3:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Kennedy v. Louisiana [Duke Law case backgrounder, merit briefs], 07-343, where the Supreme Court considered whether the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed. Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death in Louisiana for raping a minor, one of the few remaining crimes where the death of a victim is not required for the death penalty, and the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld [opinion, PDF] the sentence. Kennedy's lawyers argued that imposing the death penalty for child rape under Louisiana law violates the Eighth Amendment [text] protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia challenged Kennedy's argument while Justice Breyer expressed concern that allowing the execution would broaden the death penalty for crimes other than murder. AP has more.

The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Taylor v. Sturgell [Duke Law case backgrounder, merit briefs], 07-371, where the Court is considering whether a litigant is barred under the theory of "virtual representation" from pursuing a claim if another litigant had previously pursued a similar claim. Taylor filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking to compel disclosure of certain FAA documents, but the suit was dismissed when the district court determined that the claim was barred because a "close associate" of Taylor's already unsuccessfully pursued a similar claim. The US Court of Appeals for the District Court affirmed the district court based on a "virtual representation" theory, noting that Taylor and the earlier litigant sought disclosure of the same documents, were represented by the same lawyer, among other factors.






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Federal judge declares second mistrial in Sears Tower terror case
Katerina Ossenova on April 16, 2008 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Joan A. Lenard Wednesday declared a second mistrial in a terrorism prosecution [JURIST report] of six men charged with conspiring [DOJ press release] to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations. In December 2007 Lenard declared an initial mistrial [JURIST report] when the jury was deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. A seventh man was acquitted in that proceeding. AP has more.

The seven were indicted [JURIST report] last year on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleged that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men said that their clients were entrapped [JURIST report] by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. If the men had been convicted, they would have faced up to 70 years in prison.






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EU urged to ensure Croat war criminals brought to justice
Katerina Ossenova on April 16, 2008 2:42 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Union (EU) [official website] must do more to ensure that those responsible for war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 Croatian War of Independence are brought to justice, Amnesty International [advocacy website] said Tuesday. Amnesty called on the EU [press release] to use Croatia's status as an EU candidate country [Croatia materials; EU materials] to ensure that the Croatian government actively investigates and prosecutes suspected war criminals. Amnesty criticized the slow pace of war crimes investigations, and noted that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused of ethnic-based war crimes.

Croatian trials of war crimes suspects are part of the country's bid to become a member of the EU. In March 2005, the EU suspended entry talks [JURIST report] on the grounds that Croatia was failing to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive] investigating war crimes in the area. The entry talks were resumed later in October 2005 after the ICTY declared that Croatia was fully cooperating with the ICTY [JURIST report]. EUobserver.com has more.






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Zimbabwe police arrest opposition supporters after strike staged
Brett Murphy on April 16, 2008 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police have arrested more than 50 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] after the party called for a strike to protest the nondisclosure of the results of the March 29 presidential elections [JURIST report], a party spokesperson said Wednesday. Zimbabwe police say that only 30 opposition supporters were arrested for blocking roads and traffic and attempting to intimidate people from going to work after police announced a ban on all political rallies [JURIST report] Friday. The strike apparently had an insignificant impact, with most businesses remaining open.

On Monday, the High Court of Zimbabwe rejected a bid by MDC to compel the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) to immediately release the results of the election [JURIST reports]. On Sunday, the High Court ordered the ZEC to refrain from recounting the results [JURIST report] of the elections until the presidential poll results are announced. Independent observers say that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than Mugabe but likely not enough to reach the 50 percent plus one needed for outright victory. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.






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Supreme Court upholds Kentucky lethal injection protocol
Jeannie Shawl on April 16, 2008 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled Wednesday that lethal injection [JURIST news archive] does not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling came in Baze v. Rees [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where lawyers for Kentucky death row inmate Ralph Baze argued that the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states violates the US Constitution because the first drug administered can fail to make the subject fully unconscious, thereby making the subject suffer excruciating pain when the heart-stopping drug is injected. The Supreme Court rejected Baze's arguments, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing:

We too agree that petitioners have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The judgment below is affirmed.
The Supreme Court's grant of certiorari in the case led to an effective moratorium on the death penalty in the United States [JURIST report] as many federal courts, state courts, and state governors put executions on hold pending the high court's ruling.

Chief Justice Roberts announced the judgment, and his opinion [text] was joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito. Alito filed a separate concurring opinion [text]. Justice Stevens filed an opinion concurring in the judgment [text], as did Justice Scalia [opinion text], who was joined by Justice Thomas. Thomas wrote his own opinion concurring in the judgment [text] and was joined by Scalia. Justice Breyer also filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment [text]. Finally, Justice Ginsburg dissented [text], and was joined by Justice Souter.



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Supreme Court rules in sentencing enhancement cases
Jeannie Shawl on April 16, 2008 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in three cases Wednesday, including Burgess v. US [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that a defendant's federal drug sentence can be enhanced under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) [text] when the defendant has previously been convicted of a state drug offense punishable by more than one year, even if that offense is classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony. Burgess pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base, and prosecutors sought to double the normal 10-year minimum sentence to 20 years based on provisions of the CSA. Burgess had previously been convicted in South Carolina of cocaine possession, a crime classified under state law as a misdemeanor. Burgess argued that because he had not been convicted of a "felony," his federal sentence should not be enhance based on the "felony drug offense" provision [21 USC 841(b)(1)(A)] of the CSA. The Supreme Court disagreed with Burgess and affirmed the Fourth Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case, writing:

Two statutory definitions figure in our decision. Section 802(13) defines the unadorned term "felony" to mean any "offense classified by applicable Federal or State law as a felony." Section 802(44) defines the compound term "felony drug offense" to mean an offense involving specified drugs that is "punishable by imprisonment for more than one year under any law of the United States or of a State or foreign country."

The term "felony drug offense" contained in §841(b)(1)(A)'s provision for a 20-year minimum sentence, we hold, is defined exclusively by §802(44) and does not incorporate §802(13)'s definition of "felony." A state drug offense punishable by more than one year therefore qualifies as a "felony drug offense," even if state law classifies the offense as a misdemeanor.
Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Ginsburg.

In Begay v. United States [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Court ruled that convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol do not trigger enhanced sentencing for prior "violent felony" convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Begay pleaded guilty to felony possession of a firearm, and the federal judge presiding over his case imposed an enhanced 15-year sentence under the Act, which allows the longer prison term when a defendant has at least three prior convictions for certain drug crimes or "violent felonies." Begay had 12 separate convictions in New Mexico for driving under the influence. The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit allowed the enhanced sentencing [opinion, PDF], but the Supreme Court reversed, concluding that "New Mexico's crime of 'driving under the influence' falls outside the scope of the Armed Career Criminal Act's clause (ii) 'violent felony' definition." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Breyer, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Scalia, and a dissent [text] from Justice Alito.

Finally, in Baze v. Rees, the Court ruled that a three-drug lethal injection protocol used in Kentucky and many other states does not violate the Constitution [JURIST report].





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Peru high court upholds Fujimori abuse of authority prison sentence
Brett Murphy on April 16, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Peru on Tuesday upheld a prison sentence [JURIST report] for former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was convicted late last year on charges of abuse of authority for ordering a warrantless search of the apartment of the wife of former Peruvian Intelligence Director Vladimiro Montesino [BBC profile]. The high court also upheld a $135,000 fine for rights violations that occurred during the search.

The December conviction marked the first time Fujimori has ever been convicted of a crime; he currently faces separate trials for alleged human rights abuses and other charges stemming from his actions during three presidential terms in office from 1990-2000. AFP has more.






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US prosecutors defend al-Marri 'enemy combatant' detention conditions as humane
Brett Murphy on April 16, 2008 9:38 AM ET

[JURIST] US federal prosecutors defended the prison treatment of accused enemy combatant Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri [Brennan Center case materials; NYT profile] in documents filed Tuesday with the US Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit. Prosecutors say that although al-Marri is kept in solitary confinement, he has access to a library, TV, computer, and exercise equipment. Lawyers for al-Marri said last month that the conditions of his detention were having a negative affect on his health, but prosecutors say that al-Marri enjoys much more than most military detainees, including the use of a 1,000-square-foot room and nearby cells during the day.

Last week, a lawyer for al-Marri argued in a letter [PDF text; JURIST report] submitted to the Fourth Circuit that a 2003 US Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum [PDF text] and a 2001 memorandum cited in the 2003 document demonstrate that al-Marri's detention "lacks legal basis" as the detention was based on now-discredited legal opinions. The appeals court is currently considering al-Marri's challenge to his designation as an enemy combatant [JURIST news archive]. In October 2007, the court held an en banc rehearing [JURIST report] of its earlier ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] that the military cannot seize and imprison civilians lawfully residing in the United States and detain them indefinitely as "enemy combatants." Al-Marri was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois by civilian authorities in 2001, and was indicted for alleged domestic crimes. In 2003, President George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and ordered the attorney general to transfer custody of al-Marri to the defense secretary, claiming inherent authority to hold him indefinitely. AP has more.






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Iran appeals court upholds sentences of students charged with insulting Islam
Brett Murphy on April 16, 2008 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] An Iranian appeals court Tuesday upheld the sentences [JURIST report] of three Iranian students on charges of insulting Islam. Majid Tavakoli, Ahmed Ghassaban, and Ehsan Mansouri were arrested last year for allegedly publishing anti-Islamic material in multiple newspapers. The three were sentenced to 22 to 30 months in prison. Supporters of the students had hoped they would be released on bail, but a court official said that they will serve the full terms before being released. AFP has more.

The students all attend Amirkabir University of Technology [university website] in Tehran and are leaders of Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat (the Office for the Consolidation of Unity) [HRW backgrounder], the largest-known Iranian student reform group. Group officials and the three students maintain that the "insults" were made by conservatives to frame the group [AFP report, in French].






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Zimbabwe court clears foreign journalists of illegal reporting charges
Leslie Schulman on April 16, 2008 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in Zimbabwe on Wednesday cleared two foreign journalists of charges of reporting on the country's March 29 presidential election [JURIST report] without obtaining proper credentials. Barry Bearak of the New York Times and Stephen Bevan of Britain's Telegraph were arrested [CPJ press release; JURIST report] in early April and held for five days before being released on bail [NYT report] but were prohibited from leaving Zimbabwe until the court's ruling. Many saw the arrest of the journalists as indications that long-time Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] may refuse to relinquish power if he is found to have lost the recent general election, the official results of which have not yet been announced by the Electoral Commission [official website]. Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] has insisted its candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won the popular vote, but has indicated that it is willing to participate in a run-off, as have officials of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Earlier this week, an attempt by the MDC to force the Electoral Commission to release election results was rejected, as a court refused to compel release of the results [JURIST report].

Zimbabwe opposition parties allege that the government rigged the country's local, senate, assembly and presidential elections, while Mugabe's administration has denied any improper delays in the vote count. Electoral Commission officials attribute the lag in reporting the official outcome to the task of tallying all the results together for the first time in the country's history. AP has more.

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US officials urge Senate ratification of treaties protecting civilians in wartime
Leslie Schulman on April 16, 2008 8:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials from the US Department of State and the Department of Defense testified Tuesday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official websites], calling for the Senate to ratify five long-postponed treaties that would provide increased protection for civilians during wartime. State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger III [official profile] and Pentagon Deputy General Counsel Charles A. Allen testified [Bellinger text, PDF; Allen text, PDF] that ratification of the treaties would not harm US national security, and would induce other nations to follow suit while giving the US more leverage to negotiate future treaties.

The five texts include the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and three protocols to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW): Protocol III on Incendiary Weapons; Protocol IV on Blinding Laser Weapons; and Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, and an amendment to the CCW.

According to Bellinger:

United States ratification of the treaties before you today is in our military and security interest and would promote the rule of law and the development of international law. These treaties are widely supported and are not contentious in our view. This Administration, including the State and Defense Departments, strongly supports these treaties. They promote our cultural and humanitarian values while not interfering with legitimate military operations, as you will shortly hear from my colleagues from the Defense Department. The United States has traditionally been at the forefront of efforts to improve the legal regime dealing with the conduct of armed conflict, in order to protect our own forces, to reduce the suffering caused by armed conflicts and to provide protection to the victims of war, in a manner consistent with legitimate military requirements. Our ratification of these instruments will therefore serve our interests in these areas.
Brig. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson [official profile], a deputy director at the Pentagon, also testified [PDF text] Tuesday, supporting Bellinger's contention that the treaties would not have an adverse effect on US military missions. AP has more.





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Haditha Marine battalion commander court-martial postponed
Leslie Schulman on April 16, 2008 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] A military judge Tuesday postponed the scheduled April 28 court-martial for a US Marine charged in connection with the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive], rescheduling the trial for June 17. According to lawyers for Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani [JURIST news archive], who faces court-martial [JURIST report] for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on the allegations that he failed to properly investigate the Haditha shootings, the judge postponed the court-martial in order to decide whether several military officials were under "undue command influence" to charge the Marine. Chessani, the former commander of the Third Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment [official website], did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he said he did not suspect any wrongdoing. It has been alleged that the civilians were murdered in cold blood [JURIST report], but Chessani said that when he first learned of allegations that the civilians were killed intentionally he thought that the claims were baseless. If convicted on all counts, Chessani could serve up to three years in prison.

Eight Marines were initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, though charges [text] have since been dropped against five others. The court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] last month from an original March 3 start date, while 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website] faces court-martial in May on charges [JURIST report] that he made false official statements and obstructed justice in connection to the killings at Haditha. AP has more.






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NYPD settles policing tactics lawsuit prompted by Iraq war protest
Kiely Lewandowski on April 15, 2008 6:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] Tuesday settled [settlement, PDF; press release] its lawsuit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] challenging the department's tactics for dealing with large protests. Under the settlement, the NYPD agreed to make sure protesters can get into designated demonstration areas and that any "pens" (enclosed areas) have sufficient openings such that protesters can exit, and also not to send police horses into crowds without adequate warnings.

The lawsuit [NYCLU materials] stemmed from "controversial" policing tactics employed by the NYPD during a February 15, 2003 demonstration [NYT report] against military action in Iraq, in which several named plaintiffs were injured. AP has more.






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Parmalat fraud suit against Citigroup can proceed: judge
Devin Montgomery on April 15, 2008 6:03 PM ET

[JURIST] A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled [PDF text] Tuesday that a $7 billion lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by Italian dairy giant Parmalat SpA [corporate website] against Citigroup [corporate website] could go forward on a claim that Citigroup aided and abetted former Parmalat executives in misappropriating company money. Parmalat has alleged that Citigroup helped obscure the state of Parmalat's finances and helped to move the ill-gotten gains of former Parmalat executives through its bank accounts. Judge Jonathan N. Harris dismissed several of Parmalat's claims, including fraud claims brought under New Jersey's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act [statute materials] and racketeering claims brought under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [statute materials]. The trial is scheduled for May 5.

Citigroup was among four banking giants indicted [JURIST report] by an Italian judge in June 2007 for not revealing to the market that Parmalat was not financially healthy. Parmalat filed for insolvency in December 2003 after discovering accounting discrepancies totaling nearly $5 billion in debt. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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US military pre-trial hearing begins for civilian contractor charged with Iraq crime
Deirdre Jurand on April 15, 2008 5:55 PM ET

[JURIST] A US military court opened an Article 32 hearing [press release] in Baghdad on Tuesday for a civilian military contractor accused of aggravated assault. Earlier this month, the US military charged [JURIST report] Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali, a dual Iraqi-Canadian citizen working as a translator in Iraq, with the February stabbing of another contractor. He is the first civilian charged by the military since a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] granted the military jurisdiction over civilians accompanying US troops in a combat zone. His Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding, was delayed [JURIST report] late last week. AP has more.

Prior to the 2006 UCMJ amendment, contractors working in Iraq were exempted [PDF text] from prosecution in that country. The amendment, found in Section 522 of the 2007 defense authorization bill [2 2766 materials; LawReader backgrounder], significantly changed the military's jurisdiction to bring civilian contractors within the military's jurisdiction during a "contingency operation" rather than its previous requirement that Congress actually declare war. Last fall, Congress took further steps [JURIST report] to bring US contractors within the jurisdiction of the military with the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials]. The issue of criminal jurisdiction over US military contractors working in Iraq gained notoriety last fall when several Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] employees allegedly killed at least eight Iraqi civilians [JURIST report]. The US Department of Justice has run into legal hurdles [JURIST report] trying to bring criminal charges against the Blackwater employees.






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UN SG calls for 'long overdue' trials of Khmer Rouge leaders
Caitlin Price on April 15, 2008 4:40 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday marked the tenth anniversary of the death of dictator Pol Pot [BBC profile] by urging [statement; UN News report] the international community and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] to continue efforts to bring senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice. Ban said:

I would like to remind the international community of the urgent importance of bringing to closure one of history's darkest chapters. The United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia remain actively engaged in efforts to hold the Khmer Rouge senior leaders and those most responsible accountable for their horrific crimes. With the support of the international community, it is my hope that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will soon deliver long-overdue justice for the people of Cambodia.
Established by a 2001 law [text as amended in 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials, the ECCC currently has five former Khmer Rouge leaders in custody charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the Communist regime of the 1970s. To date, no top officials have faced trials.

The Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. AFP has more.






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Federal appeals court hears challenge to Sarbanes-Oxley oversight board
Caitlin Price on April 15, 2008 4:00 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments Tuesday regarding the constitutionality of a private body established by Congress to oversee accounting practices in publicly traded companies. In 2006, conservative business organization Free Enterprise Fund challenged [JURIST report] provisions in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [PDF text] establishing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) [official website], alleging that it violates the separation of powers doctrine. In 2007, the District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] in favor of the PCAOB, finding that the plaintiffs' facial challenge failed to establish that no set of circumstances could exist under which the Act would be valid. The five-member PCAOB board is appointed and overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website]; plaintiffs argued Tuesday that the board is outside of presidential control and endowed with too much unchecked prosecutorial and police power. The US Department of Justice, arguing for the government, said that scrutiny from the presidentially appointed SEC is sufficient to render the board constitutional.

Consistent with the overall purpose of Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB board was created in response to the collapse of Enron and the other corporate fraud scandals [JURIST news archives] that made headlines in 2002. Dow Jones has more.






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Khadr defense urges federal appeals court to review 'enemy combatant' distinctions
Caitlin Price on April 15, 2008 3:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] argued before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Tuesday that the court has jurisdiction to intervene in Khadr's case to determine whether only detainees found to be "unlawful enemy combatants" may be subject to a military commission [DOD materials], or if such hearings also apply to "enemy combatants." Department of Justice lawyers argued that under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [S 3930 materials], no civilian court can consider an appeal of a war crimes case until a military court has issued a final judgment. Chief Judge David B. Sentelle said that the MCA does not appear to expressly grant jurisdiction, but no final ruling was issued.

Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Khadr's trial was originally scheduled to begin May 5, but last month US military judge Col. Peter Brownback postponed the trial [JURIST report] and instead scheduled a May 8 hearing in order to hear arguments on a number of evidence issues that must be reconciled before the trial can begin. AP has more.






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Egypt military court sentences 25 Muslim Brotherhood members to prison
Leslie Schulman on April 15, 2008 12:23 PM ET

[JURIST] An Egyptian military court handed down its final verdict [MB press release] Tuesday in the military trial of 40 senior members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder], sentencing 25 of the accused to prison time and acquitting 15 others. The 40 Brotherhood members were originally charged with terrorism, but those charges were later dropped; the trial, which lasted for over a year, dealt with lesser charges that included possessing ant-government literature and being a member of a banned group. Deputy guide for the Brotherhood Khairat al-Shatir [BBC report] was among those sentenced Tuesday, receiving a jail sentence of seven years. Al-Shatir has denied the charges, saying that they were politically motivated. Reuters has more.

The 40 defendants were initially arrested in a raid [BBC report] in December 2006 and but were acquitted of all charges last January in a criminal court in Cairo. They were then rearrested shortly after release and Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak [official profile] ordered the transfer of the cases to a military court [JURIST report]. They were the first Muslim Brotherhood members to face a military trial since 2001.






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UN anti-corruption head says rule of law needed to achieve UN 'millennium goals'
Leslie Schulman on April 15, 2008 12:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The rule of law is a necessary prerequisite to achieving all eight of the UN's anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [official website; official backgrounder], UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa [official profile] said in an address [text; press release] Monday at the opening of the 17th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice [official website]. He went on to say:

Economic analysis has consistently shown the clear correlation between weak rule of law and weak socio-economic performance ... [I]n countries ravaged by crime and corruption, and where governments lost control of their land, the poor suffer the most, and the services provided to them get delayed, or never arrive. They - the so-called "bottom billion" - have no access to justice, health and education and face rising food prices: how can such countries meet the MDGs?

Poorly governed countries are the most vulnerable to crime, and pay the highest price in terms of erosion of social and human capital, loss of domestic savings, reduction of foreign investment, white-collar exodus, increased instability, and faltering democracy. Seen in this light, the rule of law takes on a whole new importance: when established, l'etat de droit can unleash the welfare potentials of nations. When it's lacking, underdevelopment perpetuates itself.

I invite this Commission to impart new momentum to its crime control work first, by contributing to the mid-term review of MDGs (scheduled at the General Assembly in September 2008) and second, by undertaking measures so as to facilitate the realization of the MDGs in the next half period (2008-2015).
Costa also noted several key MDG targets, including boosting anti-corruption and human rights projects in Africa, addressing the link between combating crime and improving economic growth in Central America, and fighting global terrorism.

The week-long session will primarily focus on fighting crimes and violence against women, especially in conflict zones. The UN News Centre has more.





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Supreme Court rules in tax cases
Jeannie Shawl on April 15, 2008 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in two tax cases Tuesday, including MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Department of Revenue [LII case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court overturned an Illinois state court decision allowing the state to tax a portion of the $1 billion capital gain realized by MeadWestvaco's predecessor when it sold its interest in Lexis/Nexis. The Court wrote:

The Due Process and Commerce Clauses forbid the States to tax "'extraterritorial values.'" ... A State may, however, tax an apportioned share of the value generated by the intrastate and extrastate activities of a multistate enterprise if those activities form part of a "'unitary business.'" We have been asked in this case to decide whether the State of Illinois constitutionally taxed an apportioned share of the capital gain realized by an out-of-state corporation on the sale of one of its business divisions. The Appellate Court of Illinois upheld the tax and affirmed a judgment in the State's favor. Because we conclude that the state courts misapprehended the principles that we have developed for determining whether a multistate business is unitary, we vacate the decision of the Appellate Court of Illinois.
Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Alito, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Thomas.

In US v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co. [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that a taxpayer seeking to bring an action in federal court to obtain a tax refund must first exhaust the administrative refund claim procedure outlined in the Internal Revenue Code [text]. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining paid coal export taxes, later found to be unconstitutional, and filed a claim agianst the government under the Tucker Act [text] to recover a portion of the export taxes paid. The US Court of Federal Claims [official website] allowed the Tucker Act lawsuit, as did the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but the Supreme Court reversed the appeals court, writing:
The Internal Revenue Code provides that taxpayers seeking a refund of taxes unlawfully assessed must comply with tax refund procedures set forth in the Code. Under those procedures, a taxpayer must file an administrative claim with the Internal Revenue Service before filing suit against the Government. Such a claim must be filed within three years of the filing of a return or two years of payment of the tax, whichever is later. The Tucker Act, in contrast, is more forgiving, allowing claims to be brought against the United States within six years of the challenged conduct. The question in this case is whether a taxpayer suing for a refund of taxes collected in violation of the Export Clause of the Constitution may proceed under the Tucker Act, when his suit does not meet the time limits for refund actions in the Internal Revenue Code. The answer is no. ...

We therefore hold that the plain language of 26 U. S. C. §§7422(a) and 6511 requires a taxpayer seeking a refund for a tax assessed in violation of the Export Clause, just as for any other unlawfully assessed tax, to file a timely administrative refund claim before bringing suit against the Government.
Read the Court's opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts. SCOTUSblog has more on both decisions.





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China punishes thousands in crackdown on illegal land transfers
Leslie Schulman on April 15, 2008 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] China has disciplined nearly 3,000 people and imposed criminal penalties on over 530 more for their involvement in illegal land seizures, an official from the Chinese Law Enforcement and Supervision Bureau under the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources [official website, in Chinese] said Monday. Bureau director Zhang Xinbao said Monday that the punishments were part of a new effort to combat illegal land transfers that have led to unrest across the country. AP has more. Xinhua has local coverage.

Property in China [JURIST news archive] is essentially state-owned, but land use titles do convey their holders a form of ownership; corrupt local officials have long been accused of illegally confiscating property from individuals and transferring title to property developers and industrial parks. In recent months, China has been pushing for stricter enforcement of laws prohibiting illegal land seizure [JURIST report].






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Myanmar arrests opposition activists ahead of constitutional referendum
Michael Sung on April 15, 2008 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Myanmar's military government has arrested more than 20 peaceful demonstrators protesting the scheduled May 10 national constitutional referendum [JURIST report], the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said Tuesday. The NLD also said that government security forces have detained a close aide of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].

Opposition groups have urged citizens to reject [JURIST report] the proposed constitution put forth by the military government, which has been described as a "sham" intended to legalize military rule. The draft constitution reserves 25 percent of the parliamentary seats for the military [JURIST report] and would also block Aung San Suu Kyi from seeking office. The military junta has also rejected calls for international observers. Earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro criticized the timing of the referendum, saying it was "surreal" to hold a referendum while the military government continues to persecute critics of the proposed charter. AP has more.






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Pakistan National Assembly calls for UN probe into Bhutto assassination
Michael Sung on April 15, 2008 9:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The National Assembly of Pakistan [official website] unanimously adopted a resolution late Monday calling for a United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The resolution now goes to the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In January, President Pervez Musharraf ruled out the possibility of a UN investigation [JURIST report], saying that such an investigation was not necessary since there is no suggestion that another state was involved.

Bhutto's widow, Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile], has repeatedly called for an international probe [JURIST report] and has accused Musharraf's regime of involvement in the assassination. The United States has already taken the position that a UN investigation is unnecessary. In March, Pakistani authorities filed preliminary charges [JURIST report] against top Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud [BBC profile]. Meshud, who is the commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, a group of Islamic militants with links to al Qaeda, has denied involvement in the assassination. AP has more.






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UK Defense Ministry reaches £2m settlement with Iraq accidental shooting victim
Michael Sung on April 15, 2008 8:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK Ministry of Defense [official website] confirmed Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with an Iraqi teenage civilian who was paralyzed in an accidental shooting in Basra in 2003. The plaintiff, who was 13 at the time of the shooting, had filed a civil negligence action in the UK High Court after relocating to the UK. The final terms of the settlement still have to be approved by the court, but the plaintiff is expected to receive £2 million in compensation from the Defense Ministry. The plaintiff was shot when a British soldier accidentally dropped and discharged his firearm.

The MoD has said the circumstances of the case were exceptional and should not considered a precedent for future cases. The family of Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Musa [Herald report; JURIST news archive], who died in British military custody in 2003, has also filed suit against the Ministry. In March, Defense Secretary Des Browne said that the Ministry will admit "substantive breaches" [Times Online report] of Musa's protected right to life and prohibition on torture under the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Musa suffered 93 separate injuries and died after 36 hours under British military custody. BBC News has more.






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Over 1200 people executed worldwide in 2007: Amnesty International
Joshua Pantesco on April 15, 2008 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] At least 1200 people were executed worldwide in 2007, and 88 percent of those executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA, according to a report [PDF text; press release] released Tuesday by human rights group Amnesty International. Saudi Arabia had the most executions per capita, and China had the highest total at 470, but Amnesty cautioned that the number of executions it was able to confirm are likely much lower than the actual number. Amnesty found that at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries; 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries; and 27,000 people are now on death row. The Sydney Morning Herald has more.

In the US, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the lethal injection procedure [DPIC backgrounder] now used in most states meets the constitutional test for cruel and unusual punishment. Until the Supreme Court ruling in Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; JURIST report], expected before the Court adjourns for the term in June, courts have stayed executions from taking place in several states, including Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida [JURIST reports].






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Collapsed hedge fund co-founder sentenced to 20 years on fraud charges
David Frueh on April 14, 2008 7:31 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday sentenced Samuel Israel, III, co-founder of collapsed hedge fund Bayou Group [JURIST report], to 20 years in prison. US District Judge Colleen McMahon also ordered Israel to make $300 million in restitution and forfeit interests in a $100 million account. In 2005, both Israel and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Marino pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges that included mail fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, and conspiracy to commit investment adviser fraud.

Bayou was only one example of what authorities say is a growing amount of fraudulent activity involving the loosely regulated hedge funds. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox has consistently urged Congress to permit the SEC oversight over hedge funds [JURIST report], saying that regulation is necessary to protect retail investors and prevent fraud. Reuters has more.






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UK Home Secretary presses case for 42-day terror detention without charge
Andrew Gilmore on April 14, 2008 7:12 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] Monday urged [News of the World interview] the passage of a new anti-terror bill [BBC Q/A] that would increase the number of days a terror suspect can be detained without charge to 42 days, up from the current limit of 28. The Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 [draft text, PDF; bill materials] also includes provisions creating a registry of convicted terrorists and making terrorism an "aggravating factor" in sentencing for non-terrorism offenses.

Smith first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December 2007. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by former UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits, and a proposal [JURIST reports] floated last July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and would have allowed judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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Federal appeals judge appointed to top post at FISA review court
Andrew Gilmore on April 14, 2008 6:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Bruce Selya [official profile], a senior circuit judge for the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has been designated as presiding judge of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review [FJC backgrounder]. The designation was made by US Chief Justice John Roberts [Oyez profile; JURIST news archive], in an order dated March 27. The appointment will be effective May 19. The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review is the appellate panel of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and reviews rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the request of the government. AP has more. The Providence Journal has local coverage.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established by Congress in 1978 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text, JURIST news archive] to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations and surveillance [JURIST news archive]. The court rarely publishes opinions, and due to the sensitive nature of the matters it hears, members are not permitted to discuss the business of the court. In March, US Attorney General Michael Mukasey expressed a willingness to compromise with Congress [JURIST report] on legislation amending FISA.






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Serbia asking ICTY to reopen probe into Kosovo organ trafficking allegations
David Frueh on April 14, 2008 6:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Serbia plans to officially request that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] resume a probe into allegations that separatist Kosovo Liberation Army leaders were involved in trafficking organs taken from Serb prisoners during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo [BBC backgrounder], Serbian government officials said Monday. Former ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [JURIST news archive] has alleged in her new book [JURIST report] that approximately 300 Serb and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking, but that a 2003 probe by her ICTY team failed to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute. Kosovo Justice Minister Nekibe Kelmendi dismissed the allegations as "fabrications."

Last month, the Office of Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] said that it was investigating "informal statements" [JURIST report] received from ICTY investigators alleging illegal organ harvesting. The ICTY has not commented officially on the alleged organ trafficking. The Turkish Press has more.






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US military to release detained AP journalist after all charges dismissed
Alexis Unkovic on April 14, 2008 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The US military said Monday it plans to release [press release] Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein [AP materials; JURIST news archive] from custody Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the deputy commanding general for detainee operations, Multi-National Force–Iraq [official website], signed the order approving Hussein's release after confirming that Hussein's conduct fell under Iraq's amnesty law [JURIST report], which was passed in February as part of the national reconciliation effort. A four-member Iraqi judiciary panel dismissed the last remaining charge against Hussein [JURIST report] on Sunday and recommended the US release him from custody immediately.

Hussein has been held by the US military since his arrest in April 2006 for allegedly possessing equipment to construct roadside bombs. In November 2007, the US Department of Defense pushed for terrorism charges against Hussein [JURIST report]. AP has repeatedly called for his release and has accused the military of denying Hussein his due process rights. AP President Tom Curley on Monday applauded news of Hussein's scheduled release [press release], saying "we may never see eye to eye with the US military over this case, it is time for all of us to move on." AP has more.






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UN rights envoy slams Myanmar constitutional referendum as 'surreal'
Alexis Unkovic on April 14, 2008 3:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Myanmar is completely ill-prepared to hold a national constitutional referendum [JURIST report] as part of a democratic political transition, UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro [official profile] told Reuters in an interview Monday. Myanmar's 45-member Referendum Holding Commission announced last week that it had scheduled the planned referendum [JURIST reports] for May 10, but Pinheiro said it was "surreal" to hold a referendum while the military government continues to persecute critics of the proposed charter.

Opposition groups such as the National League for Democracy (NLD) have urged citizens to reject [JURIST report] the proposed constitution put forth by the military government, labeling the referendum a "sham" to legalize military rule. AP reported last month that the draft constitution reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military [JURIST report] and would also block pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from seeking office. It is unclear whether the ruling junta will allow international observers of the referendum as requested by the opposition party. Reuters has more.






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Supreme Court to hear prosecutor immunity, EPA regulation cases
Caitlin Price on April 14, 2008 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday granted certiorari in two cases [order list, PDF], including Van de Kamp and Livesay v. Goldstein (07-854) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which the Court will consider the legal immunity of a prosecutor implicated in a wrongful conviction murder case. Convicted murderer Thomas Goldstein served 24 years in prison before being released in 2004 after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that he was wrongfully convicted, in part due to the prosecution team's reliance on testimony from a habitual jailhouse informant who received undisclosed sentence reductions for his cooperation. Goldstein then sued former Los Angeles District Attorney and his former chief deputy under 42 USC 1983 [text]. The Ninth Circuit ruled [PDF text] that the suit could proceed because the challenged conduct was administrative and not prosecutorial in function and therefore did not merit absolute immunity. AP has more.

The Court also agreed to hear the consolidated cases of Entergy Corp. v. EPA (07-588) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], PSEG Fossil LLC v. Riverkeeper, Inc. (07-589) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], and Utility Water Act Group v. Riverkeeper, Inc. (07-597) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], where it will review challenges to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] regulations aimed at protecting aquatic life by retrofitting cooling water intake structures at power plants. Arguments will be limited to the issue of whether Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act [PDF text] authorizes the EPA to use a cost-benefit analysis to determine what is the "best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact" in compliance with the Act. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [PDF text] that no such balancing test may be used and that companies must adopt the best technology available. Utility industry groups say that decision unlawfully extends EPA authority. AP has more.






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Mexico lawmakers continue demonstrations against proposed energy bill
Alexis Unkovic on April 14, 2008 2:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Leftist legislators continued demonstrations [AP report] Monday in both houses of the Mexican Congress to protest an energy reform bill sent by Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official websites, in Spanish] to the Mexican Senate [official website] last week. Members of Mexico's Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) [party website, in Spanish] and several smaller parties object to certain provisions of the proposed oil bill, including one that would allow state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos [official website, in Spanish] to work with private companies, a move they say is tantamount to privatization. They reportedly want the Mexican Congress to schedule a national debate on the bill.

The demonstrators in Mexico's lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], put up barricades around their encampment by the speaker's podium Monday, as their colleagues in the Senate reportedly began a fast. They have refused to retreat from their positions near the House and Senate podiums since protests began last week. AP has more.






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Canada justice department moves to block public hearing on Afghan detainees
Caitlin Price on April 14, 2008 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Department of Justice [official website] has moved to block a Canadian Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) [official website] public hearing investigating the country's military detainee transfer process in Afghanistan [JURIST news archive], the Globe and Mail reported Monday. The government filed papers in Canada's Federal Court [official website] Friday arguing that the MPCC lacks jurisdiction to conduct investigations into military operational decisions regarding detainee treatment, and that the Commission's reach is limited to military policing issues. MPCC Chairman Peter A. Tinsley said that the Commission is "surprised and disappointed" [MPCC press release] by the move, and questioned why jurisdiction was not challenged when the investigation was first launched last year.

The investigation began in February 2007 as Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association [advocacy websites] filed complaints against the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal [official website], alleging complicity in torture by Canadian personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force [official website]. The MPCC opened its own investigation, and last month announced public hearings [JURIST report] to issue subpoenas and compel disclosure, saying that it was unable to complete its investigation because several departments in the Canadian government were refusing to hand over key information. The rights groups are currently appealing [JURIST report] a Federal Court ruling [PDF text] that the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] do not extend to Afghan detainees captured by Canadian soldiers. CBC News has more.






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Zimbabwe high court rejects opposition bid to force release of election results
Michael Sung on April 14, 2008 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe's High Court rejected a bid Monday by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] to compel the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) to immediately release the results of the country's March 29 presidential election [JURIST reports]. Last week, the High Court ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit and agreed to expedite the case [JURIST reports].

On Sunday, the High Court ordered the ZEC to refrain from recounting the results [JURIST report] of the elections until the presidential poll results are announced. The MDC has said that a request by current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website] for a vote recount [JURIST report] is a tactic to keep Mugabe in power. On Friday, Zimbabwean police banned all political rallies [JURIST report] as tensions continued to mount after the contested elections. Independent observers say that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than Mugabe but likely not enough to reach the 50 percent plus one needed for outright victory. Reuters has more.






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2002 Bali bombers will not seek presidential pardon
Joshua Pantesco on April 14, 2008 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Three Indonesian Islamic militants sentenced to death for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder] told the lead prosecutor in the case that they will not seek a presidential pardon after they exhaust the appeals process, the prosecutor said on Monday. Lawyers for the three militants said the pardon process is distinct from the appeals process, which is ongoing [JURIST report]. The three men - Mukhlas, Amrozi, and Imam Samudra [BBC profiles] - face execution by firing squad if their appeal is not successful.

A first appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Indonesia late last year, prompting an unusual second appeal, which was later withdrawn [JURIST reports]. A new appeal was subsequently filed in late March. AFP has more.






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Red Cross chief urges US military to allow outside evidence in Afghan detainee hearings
Michael Sung on April 14, 2008 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Jakob Kellenberger on Monday urged the US military to allow the introduction of outside evidence during enemy combatant review hearings at the Bagram Temporary Internment Facility [JURIST news archive]. Kellenberger, who was in Afghanistan for a seven-day mission to meet with senior Afghan leaders and US military officials, praised US officials for establishing the review boards and allowing video conferencing between detainees and family members [JURIST report], but said that many detainees do not know why they are being held. Detainees are reviewed by the review board every six months. AP has more.

The ICRC is formally entrusted under the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] with visiting prisoners of war and inspecting the conditions of their detention. The ICRC in Iraq [ICRC materials] currently has arrangements with US forces allowing access to some 20,000 detainees and with Kurdish authorities to allow visitation with another 1,500 detainees.






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Philippines to sign UN Convention against Torture protocol
Michael Sung on April 14, 2008 9:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The Philippine government delegation to the United Nations in Geneva said Monday that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] will soon begin the process of signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text]. Philippines' accession to the optional protocol will open the country's detention facilities to regular international inspection and recommendations. The protocol was opened for signature in February 2003 and entered into force on June 22, 2006 after the twenty state parties ratified the protocol. It has 61 signatories, 34 of which have ratified the convention.

In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the United Nations to scrutinize the Philippine government's response [JURIST report] to accusations that the Filipino military has engaged in extrajudicial killings of left-wing activists since 2001. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] is currently conducting its Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines [UN backgrounder, PDF]. Human rights advocates say almost 900 people have been killed since Arroyo assumed power in 2001, while more than 180 have disappeared and believed to have been killed. The United States, Australia, China, Russia, Iran, and Israel are among those countries that have not signed the optional protocol. AP has more.






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Iraq judges clear AP journalist of remaining charge
Joshua Pantesco on April 14, 2008 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] A four-member Iraqi judiciary panel dismissed the last remaining charge against Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein [AP materials; JURIST news archive] on Sunday and recommended the US release him from custody immediately. The US said this weekend that it will continue to hold Hussein [JURIST report] despite an earlier decision by the Iraqi panel to dismiss terrorism-related charges [JURIST report] against the photographer. The military said it was permitted to keep Hussein in custody under a UN mandate, which expires later this year, that authorizes the US to hold any detainee deemed a security risk. On both occasions, the panel determined that Hussein's conduct fell under Iraq's amnesty law [JURIST report], which was passed in February as part of the national reconciliation effort.

In November 2007, the US Department of Defense pushed for terrorism charges against Hussein [JURIST report]. AP has repeatedly called for his release and has accused the military of denying Hussein his due process rights. In December 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report [text; JURIST report] noting that the US was at the time detaining three journalists, including Hussein and Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj [CPJ report]. AP has more.






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Top Russia provincial judge killed by gunmen in Ingushetia
Devin Montgomery on April 13, 2008 4:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Khasan Yandiyev, deputy head of the Supreme Court in Russia's Ingushetia province [official website, in Russian; BBC backgrounder] was shot dead Sunday while changing a car tire near the town of Karabulak, according to a regional interior ministry spokesman quoted by Russian media. His killers have not yet been identified. Local media said Yandiyev had chaired trials of both corrupt officials and Islamic rebels. RIA Novosti has local coverage. Reuters has more.

In recent months, Ingushetia has seen an upsurge of violence, particularly targeted towards police and the military. Local authorities blame Muslim rebels from both Ingushetia and neighboring Chechnya [JURIST news archive], but government opponents blame increasingly harsh policing tactics including the alleged abductions, beatings, and even killings [advocacy report, PDF] of suspected militants.






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LRA infighting kills Uganda rebel wanted by ICC: report
Benjamin Klein on April 13, 2008 4:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Internecine conflict among factions of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) [MIPT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Uganda has killed a rebel commander wanted [arrest warrant] by International Criminal Court [official website] prosecutors, according to sources speaking to Reuters Sunday. Okot Odhiambo had been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes associated with the LRA attacks on Ugandan refugee camps in 2003 and 2004.

Sources say that disagreements over a pending peace deal between the LRA and the Ugandan government prompted the infighting, as a result of which LRA leader Joseph Kony [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] failed to attend a signing ceremony this past week on the remote Sudan-Congo border. Kony fired the head of his negotiating team earlier in the week, citing a need for stronger guarantees of safety and financial security in the final deal. Kony was indicted [ICC materials; JURIST report] by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005 but has requested that the ICC indictments be withdrawn in exchange for his cooperation. The Ugandan government has said it would use a traditional mediation system [JURIST report] or a special war crimes court [JURIST report] to counter the arrest warrants issued by the ICC, but has acknowledged that any decision to drop international charges would have to be approved by judges at The Hague. Reuters has more.






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Malaysia 10-year post-conviction ban on ex-deputy PM Anwar expires
Devin Montgomery on April 13, 2008 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim [personal website; BBC profile] will return to political life Monday as the leader of opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, marking the expiration of his 10-year ban from public office arising from corruption and now-overturned sodomy convictions [JURIST reports]. In the country's March 8 elections [results website; BBC backgrounder], the recently formed coalition won a third of the parliamentary seats and control of five of 13 Malaysian states in what is being called the largest blow to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling Barisan Nasional [campaign website] alliance in half a century. Anwar's own party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat [party website, in Malay], ran on a platform of ending judicial corruption and reforming the country's controversial affirmative action policies. AFP has more. The Star has local coverage.

Since his release from prison in 2004, Anwar has held teaching positions at various universities, most recently the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, before returning to Malaysia in December 2007. He has also played a significant roll in sparking protests of judicial corruption in the country by releasing video excerpts [JURIST reports] allegedly showing former Malaysian Chief Justice Dzaiddin Abdullah admitting to accepting bribes in return for judicial appointments.






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Zimbabwe court orders election recount delayed until presidential results disclosed
Benjamin Klein on April 13, 2008 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe's High Court Sunday ordered the country’s Electoral Commission [official website] to refrain from recounting the results of the combined March 29 elections [JURIST report] until the presidential poll results are announced. Zimbabwean opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] sought to enjoin the Electoral Commission following the official announcement that a recount in 23 out of 210 constituencies would be undertaken. The Electoral Commission, which had called for a recount under pressure [JURIST report] from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [party website], cited “reasonable grounds” for suspecting that votes were miscounted in a way that could affect the outcome.

The MDC filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] earlier this month to compel the Electoral Commission to release the results of the presidential elections. A High Court ruling in that case is expected on Monday. Though no official tally has been released, independent observers say that MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than sitting President Robert Mugabe but likely not enough to reach the 50 percent plus one needed for outright victory. A run-off presidential election is widely expected. The March elections combined local, senate, assembly and presidential polls. BBC News has more. The Independent has additional coverage.






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Pakistan government urged to release secret terror detainees held to help US
Eric Firkel on April 13, 2008 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] A Pakistani rights group Sunday urged Pakistan's new government to immediately release dozens of people its security agencies have secretly detained as part of President Pervez Musharraf's cooperation with the US [USIP backgrounder] in its "war on terror" [JURIST news archive]. Defense of Human Rights and other critics of Musharraf claim his administration has detained dozens of militant suspects without formal charges since Sept. 11, 2001, handing some of them over to the US illegally. Pakistan's new coalition government - led by Musharraf opponents - has promised to make freeing the secretly detained a priority, but Pakistani authorities are still said to be detaining suspected militants.

The ruling coalition in Pakistan was elected on a platform of opposing Musharraf's authoritarian rule, his ousting of the country's superior court judges after his November proclamation of emergency, and his handling of the war on terror. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani [official profile] reiterated [JURIST report] earlier this month that he will restore Pakistan's constitution [text], ensure the supremacy of the country's parliament, and preserve judicial independence [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Top Philippines military officials recommend pardon for 2003 coup plotters
Eric Firkel on April 13, 2008 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Several top military officials in the Philippines on Sunday called for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] to pardon the nine officers sentenced [JURIST report] this week for their role in a failed 2003 coup [BBC report]. General Hermogenes Esperon, head of the armed forces and Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro [official profiles] said they recommended pardoning the officers, stressing the importance of achieving national peace. The government has traditionally gone easy on military coup plotters and coup attempts have been relatively commonplace in Philippines history.

No shots were fired during the 2003 incident, in which 31 officers commandeered a Manila hotel, threatened to set off explosives, and held off police for 19 hours before surrendering. All nine officers changed their pleas to guilty last week, though no plea agreement had been struck with prosecutors. Two officers were given life sentences, while the other seven each received 12-year sentences. In April 2007, a Philippine military tribunal sentenced 54 military officers [JURIST report] to seven years and six months in prison for their involvement in the 2003 coup attempt. Charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] in October against four additional military officers connected to the same mutiny. Reuters has more.






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China arrests 9 monks for Tibet bombing
David Frueh on April 12, 2008 4:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Nine Tibetan monks have been arrested by Chinese authorities in connection with the March bombing of a government building as part of recent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet [BBC backgrounder]. China's Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that the Buddhist monks have confessed to the bombing. Also Saturday, Chinese President Hu Jintao [BBC profile] said that the ongoing conflict in Tibet was not a "human rights problem" or an issue of religion or politics, but instead was about "preserving national unity." The Dalai Lama [personal website], Tibet's spiritual leader currently in exile, on Friday again denied he was seeking separation from China.

Chinese officials have blamed the exiled leader for the protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa last month. China claims 19 people died after the skirmishes, but the Tibetan government-in-exile [official website] said that 130 had died [JURIST report]. The Dalai Lama has denied accusations that he was behind the riots and has said that he supports true autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence. A Chinese government official in Tibet said last week that police have detained over 900 people [JURIST report] in connection with the protests. Reuters has more.






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Former Maoist rebels lead vote count for Nepal constitutional assembly seats
Steve Czajkowski on April 12, 2008 3:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The Communist Party of Nepal - Maoists (CPN-M) [party website; JURIST news archive] has won 27 constituencies where vote counting has been completed in the election for Nepal's Constituent Assembly, election officials said Saturday. The 601 member assembly will be in charge of drafting a new constitution [JURIST news archive], which is seen as marking the end of the country's 240-year-old monarchy. The Assembly will have 240 of its members decided by the polls, 335 seats based upon proportional representation, and 26 named by the cabinet. According to the Election Commission of Nepal [official website] the CPN-M, a former rebel group still considered a terrorist group by the US, has a lead in the polls in 61 other constituencies where voting is still being conducted. Additionally, the former leader of the Maoist insurgency, Prachanda [BBC profile], won a seat in a constituency in the capital city, Kathmandu. The final vote count for all 240 constituencies is expected to take several weeks.

The vote for the assembly and the abolition of the monarchy were the main parts of a 2006 peace agreement [text; JURIST report] between the CPN-M and the Nepalese government, which marked the end of the 10-year-long Maoist insurgency [JURIST report]. The polls are the first for Nepal since 1999. Reuters has more. eKantipur has local coverage.






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Indonesia lifts ban on file-sharing websites over controversial Dutch anti-Islam film
Steve Czajkowski on April 12, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Indonesian Internet providers said Friday that they will remove a ban [JURIST report] on file-sharing websites including YouTube, Google Video, and MySpace [corporate websites], which was put in place to prevent the transmission of a controversial anti-Islamic film [JURIST report] created by far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch]. Due to complaints from Web users, the Internet providers have said that they will attempt to block individual web pages that carry the film. Indonesia's secular government issued an order [Reuters report] to block the websites earlier this month, citing fears of unrest between the nation's different religions.

Wilders' 15-minute film, released in late March and entitled "Fitna," shows images of the Quran contrasted with images of violence and says democratic values are threatened by the increasing number of Muslims in Europe. The film was described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as "offensively anti-Islamic" [JURIST report] last month. In February, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube's website because it had posted a movie trailer for Wilders' film; access was restored [JURIST reports] several days later. Last week, a district court in the Netherlands rejected [JURIST report] a bid by the Dutch Islamic Federation to block Wilders' anti-Quran statements, saying that his comments are protected by the right of free expression and do not constitute speech that incites hate or violence. AP has more. The Telegraph has additional coverage.






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China chief justice urges death penalty for violent crimes
David Frueh on April 12, 2008 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] China's chief justice has instructed judges to impose harsh sentences, including the death penalty, for violent crimes, China's Xinhua news agency reported Saturday. Touring the Guangdong province last week, president of the Supreme People's Court [official website] Wang Shengjun [official profile], said that crimes posing a serious threat to the "social order" should be dealt with especially harshly. The death penalty is thought to enjoy popular support in China despite growing international opinion against the practice [JURIST report]. The comments come amid efforts by the Supreme Court to drastically reduce the number of executions in China [JURIST report]. AP has more.

In response to wrongful convictions and international criticism, China implemented reforms [JURIST report] at the beginning of 2007 requiring all death sentences be approved [JURIST report] by the Supreme People's Court. High court vice-president Jiang Xingchang [official profile] said in September that death sentences handed down by Chinese courts were at a ten-year low in 2006 and the trend continued [JURIST report] in 2007.






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Khadr prosecution, defense spar over military commission trial delays
Nick Fiske on April 12, 2008 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Frustrations over the delay of the US military commission trial of Canadian Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] continued Friday, with prosecutors urging US military judge Col. Peter Brownback to set a trial date and Khadr's defense team blaming the prosecution for delays, saying that they have blocked access to evidence that could exonerate Khadr. Khadr's trial was originally scheduled to begin May 5, but last month Brownback postponed the trial [JURIST report] and instead scheduled a May 8 hearing in order to hear arguments on a number of evidence issues that must be reconciled before the trial can begin. Military prosecutors said Friday that Khadr's defense has been appealing the case to the media and intentionally stalling in hopes that a "political solution" for the detainee will materialize while the victims' families continue to suffer as a result of the delays. The defense Friday said that the trial system in place at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] is inherently unjust, because no detainee could obtain an acquittal in light of the government's unlimited resources and unrestricted access to classified documents integral to the trials.

Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed US Sgt. Christopher Speer and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Among evidence the defense insists could exonerate Khadr is new alleged reports from witnesses that could prove Speer was killed accidentally by "friendly fire" [AP report]. The New York Times has more. AFP has additional coverage.






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Colombia court halts extradition of paramilitary chief to US
Kiely Lewandowski on April 12, 2008 10:58 AM ET

[JURIST] A Colombian court Friday temporarily blocked extradition to the US of narcotics trafficker and former paramilitary chief Carlos Mario Jimenez Naranjo, also known as "Macaco," staying extradition approval granted last week by President Alvaro Uribe that had followed the Colombian Supreme Court's ruling permitting extradition [Xinhua reports]. Jimenez, who was indicted in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 2005 and in the Southern District of Florida in 2007, is wanted by the US on charges of federal drug trafficking, money laundering, and financing terrorist groups. The Colombian court on Friday halted the government's extradition approval after victims of paramilitaries appealed, saying permitting him to leave Colombia would impede their abilities to seek compensation for his role in paramilitary operations. While most paramilitaries who have made peace deals with the Colombian government in exchange for a reduced sentence are immune from extradition, Jimenez was stripped of such protection [BBC report] last year after the government discovered he was engaged in drug trafficking and paramilitary activities in jail, breaking his peace deal.

In February, the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) [official website] designated Jimenez [press release] a "Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker" pursuant to Executive Order 12978 [PDF text], which was issued by President Clinton in October 1995 and applies financial sanctions against Colombian narcotics traffickers. The designation freezes any property located in any US jurisdiction and forbids business transactions between American citizens and the designated companies and individuals. If extradited, Jimenez would be the highest ranking Colombian paramilitary sent to the US to stand trial. AP has more.






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US military to hold AP journalist pending review of Iraq order dismissing charges
Kiely Lewandowski on April 12, 2008 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The US will continue to hold Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein [AP materials; JURIST news archive] despite an Iraqi judicial order dismissing terrorism-related charges [JURIST report] against Hussein, a US military spokesman has said. Hussein, who has been detained in Iraq by the US for two years, was granted amnesty this week under Iraq's amnesty law [JURIST report], which effectively closes the case against him. Military officials, however, said Thursday it could continue to hold him, pending review of the Iraqi order, as military forces in Iraq are authorized to hold detainees deemed to be a security risk. On Friday, advocacy group Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged the US to release Hussein [news release], saying: "The US military held Bilal Hussein for nearly two years without charging, then transferred him to the Iraqi justice system, which apparently sees no reason to detain him. It's time to set him free."

In November 2007, the US Department of Defense pushed for terrorism charges against Hussein [JURIST report]. AP has repeatedly called for his release and has accused the military of denying Hussein his due process rights. In December 2006, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report [text; JURIST report] noting that the US was at the time detaining three journalists, including Hussein and Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj [CPJ report]. AP has more.






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Chertoff says DHS moving ahead with domestic spy satellite program
Nick Fiske on April 12, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] said Friday that DHS will move forward with plans to use spy satellites as part of a domestic intelligence program designed to assist law enforcement agencies. In his response to concerns [press release; letter, PDF] by Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Jane Harman (D-CA), and Chris P. Carney (D-PA) on the progress of the DHS's National Applications Office (NAO) [DHS fact sheet], Chertoff outlined the NAO's satellite program, giving assurance that it would not impede the privacy or civil rights of American citizens. According to Chertoff, the satellites would immediately be used for scientific and non-intelligence DHS activities, including charting damage cause by hurricanes and monitoring climate changes. He also said that the program would not be used for law enforcement purposes until concerns by the House Committee on Homeland Security [official website] could be addressed. DHS says that the satellites will not be used to intercept domestic communications, but some lawmakers have pushed for greater assurance of such protection before the program is launched.

The NAO was established by DHS [WSJ report] last year to compile information obtained from intelligence satellites and a number of traditional domestic monitoring capabilities including radar, electronic signal information, and chemical detection that could be used to help law enforcement agencies. In October, however, DHS halted implementation of the program [press release], in response to Congressional concerns surrounding the office procedures and safeguards. DHS submitted answers to Congress's inquires on Thursday, but democratic legislatures said they were still unsure whether establishment of the NAO, whose budget and size remain classified, violated the Constitution. Critics of the program also cite concerns that the military's role in domestic law enforcement would become too powerful and that important civilian or scientific satellites would be used for intelligence gathering rather than their intended purposes. The Washington Post has more.






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US will not attend Dublin meeting to draft cluster bomb ban
Steve Czajkowski on April 11, 2008 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The US will not attend a scheduled meeting in Dublin [official website] to draft a legally binding ban on cluster bombs [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive] in May, US State Department officials told reporters Friday. The US will instead attend United Nations talks in Geneva intended to restrict the use of the munitions, but not ban them outright. In June 2007, the US said it will not support a cluster munitions ban [JURIST report] but that it is open to negotiations to reduce the humanitarian impact by requiring the increased reliability, accuracy and visibility of unexploded munitions. AP has more.

Cluster munitions have been used by at least 23 countries; at least 34 nations have produced more than 200 different types of cluster munitions. Last February, 46 of 49 countries participating in the two-day Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions agreed to an action plan to develop a new international treaty [press release; JURIST report] to ban the use of cluster munitions by 2008. Romania, Poland and Japan refused to sign the Oslo Declaration [PDF text]. The United States, Russia, Israel, and China chose not to attend the conference. In February, delegates met again in for further talks at a conference in New Zealand [JURIST report]; delegates failed to agree on a ban but most signed the Wellington Declaration [PDF text], acknowledging that cluster bombs should be banned and pledging to continue talks toward that end at the May conference in Dublin. Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [CMC backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials].






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UK court rules failure to equip troops properly may violate their rights
Eric Firkel on April 11, 2008 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Sending British soldiers on patrol or into combat with inadequate equipment could be a violation of their human rights, the High Court of Justice ruled in London Friday. The British Ministry of Defence [official website] had argued that the Human Rights Act [text] does not apply to soldiers on active service abroad outside bases under British military jurisdiction, but Lord Justice Lawrence Antony Collins [University of London profile] ruled that British service members are entitled to legal protection of their human rights "wherever they may be."

Collins also rejected a bid by UK Defence Secretary Des Browne [official website] to gag coroners in military inquests, which would have barred them from using phrases such as "serious failure" when describing a soldier's cause of death as it might open the government to civil liability. The Telegraph has more.






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South Africa court rules evidence obtained by torture inadmissible
Eric Firkel on April 11, 2008 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal [official website] ruled Thursday that evidence obtained through torture is inadmissible in court, even when it is found to be reliable and vital for conviction. In doing so, the court overturned the convictions and set aside the sentence of a former police officer who was found guilty of auto theft and armed robbery based on testimony obtained under torture from an accomplice.

The ruling marks the first time the court has prohibited evidence obtained through torture since the adoption of the South African constitution [text] in 1996. From Johannesburg, Business Day has more.






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European Commission president urges reforms in Turkey to aid EU entry bid
Steve Czajkowski on April 11, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Turkey must speed up political and social reforms to meet the criteria for accession into the European Union [JURIST news archive], European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] said in a speech [PDF text] before the Turkish parliament Thursday. Barroso applauded recent efforts to reform [JURIST report] the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of the country's penal code, which makes "insulting the Turkish identity" a crime, but stressed that more and faster reforms are necessary:

However, more progress is needed on a number of key issues, such as freedom of expression, democratic primacy in civil-military relations, cultural rights, trade union rights, women's and children's rights. They are part of our common values, they are central to progress and modernity and, indeed, they are also the keys to accession.

Take the example of freedom of expression. It is a basic, fundamental right in any democracy. But it is also indispensable for addressing the problems of today. Like the EU, Turkey is facing a number of security threats including terrorism. Turkey and the EU are both adapting to globalisation and climate change. These challenges may shake up our habits and question our cultural identities, but in any case they invite us to think about our responsibility in the world, our future and our past. Finding the right responses requires imagination and new ideas. It also requires open and frank debates and strong confidence between institutions and citizens.

In this context, it is not healthy in any society if the expression of non-violent opinions leads to indictments and convictions. This is why I am very pleased that the parliament will soon be working on amending article 301 of the penal Code. Article 301 and other similar provisions need to be brought in line with European standards.
Barroso also expressed concern at the March decision [JURIST report] by the Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] to hear a case that could result in a ban on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. Additionally, Barroso noted concern over disputes between Cyprus and Turkey since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 [BBC timeline]. EUobserver has more.

In 2006, the Foreign Affairs Committee [official website] of the European Parliament [official website] approved a report taking Turkey to task for slow progress on a variety of legal and other reforms agreed to by Ankara as part of its bid for EU membership. Among other things, Turkey was criticized [press release; JURIST report] for its "persistent shortcomings in areas such as freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, the role of the military, policing, women's rights, trade union rights and cultural rights."





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Zimbabwe police ban political rallies
Patrick Porter on April 11, 2008 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Police in Zimbabwe Friday banned all political demonstrations as tension continued to mount after the country's contested March 29th presidential election [JURIST report]. Independent observers say that Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], but Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front [party website] are demanding a recount [JURIST report]. MDC had planned a rally for Sunday, and an MDC spokesperson said that the party has not decided whether it will still hold the rally in defiance of the ban. AP has more.

Also Friday, the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC), which has yet to announce official results for the presidential election because of "errors and miscalculations" in their compilation, apparently closed its Harare offices without official announcement. Earlier this month, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] to compel ZEC to release the results of the presidential elections, and a ZEC official said in an interview with a state-run news agency Friday that the agency would wait to hear the outcome of the court challenge before releasing the results. IRIN has more.






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Pakistan lawmakers introduce bill to lift media restrictions
Patrick Porter on April 11, 2008 1:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani lawmakers introduced a bill Friday that would lift media restrictions [JURIST report] imposed by President Pervez Musharraf after his declaration of emergency rule [text; JURIST report] last November. The bill seeks to remove prohibitions on live broadcasts as well as publishing or broadcasting material found to be defamatory toward public officials.

In addition to the ordinances, Musharraf's government allegedly pressured the United Arab Emirates to order two Dubai-based Pakistani news channels to cease broadcasting [JURIST report] in November. Pakistan's new coalition government [JURIST report], formed by the Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League [party websites], has vowed to restore rights secured by the country's constitution [PDF text]. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Mukasey says Fourth Amendment applies to domestic military terror ops
Patrick Porter on April 11, 2008 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] Thursday disavowed a 2001 memo [JURIST report] advising the Bush administration that Fourth Amendment [text] protections against unreasonable searches and seizures did not apply to "domestic military operations." Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mukasey testified [recorded video] that the 2001 memo is not currently endorsed by the Justice Department and said that the "Fourth Amendment applies across the board, regardless of whether we're in wartime or in peacetime."

The October 23, 2001 memo, authored by former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, was referenced in a footnote of a 2003 memorandum [PDF text; JURIST report] on military interrogations, which was made public by the American Civil Liberties Union last week. The 2001 memo remains classified, but the ACLU has said that it will seek disclosure of document. The Washington Post has more.






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Washington high court rules inmate has no right to starve himself
Brett Murphy on April 11, 2008 11:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The Washington Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion] that the Washington state constitution does not provide a right for prison inmates to starve themselves to death. Convicted arsonist Charles R. McNabb sued the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) [official website] to stop his force-feeding [JURIST news archive]. McNabb pursued his case under the Article I, Section 7 guarantee of privacy enshrined in the Washington constitution [text], but DOC officials argued that they had a "legal and constitutional obligation" to prevent him from starving to death. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the DOC, noting that McNabb was not on a hunger strike but was rather attempting to commit suicide via starvation:

An individual retains a modicum of constitutional protection while incarcerated. However, "many rights and privileges are subject to limitation in penal institutions because of paramount institutional goals and policies." [citation omitted]. Therefore, in accord with holdings from other jurisdictions, we conclude that McNabb retains a limited right of privacy, including the limited right to refuse artificial means of nutrition and hydration subject to the goals and policies of the prison system...

[W]e conclude that the State's interests in applying DOC's force-feeding policy to McNabb outweigh his right to refuse artificial means of nutrition and hydration.

First, the State has a compelling interest in maintaining security and orderly administration in its prison system...

Second, the State has a strong interest in the preservation of life where medical treatment will in fact save the patient's life...

Third, the State has a compelling interest in protecting innocent third parties...

Typically, the court considers the interests of the patient's dependents and family members...

Fourth, the State has a compelling interest in the prevention of suicide...

Fifth, the State has a compelling interest in the maintenance of the ethical integrity of the medical profession.
Only one justice dissented [text], writing that "force-feeding will not rehabilitate McNabb or contribute to his welfare; by contrast, force-feeding is degrading and cruel."

McNabb pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and arson after he set fire to the house of his estranged wife, and received a sentence of 14 years. He first stopped eating while detained before trial, apparently in an attempt to starve himself to death out of remorse. Prison officials began to force-feed McNabb after attempting to convince him to eat on his own. The Spokesman Review has more.





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Third Guantanamo Bay detainee plans to boycott military commission trial
Brett Murphy on April 11, 2008 10:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Sudanese Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi [DOD materials; JURIST report] said at a pre-trial hearing Thursday that he plans to boycott his upcoming military commission trial, becoming the third Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee to announce boycott plans. Al-Qosi declined the assistance of a lawyer, saying that he did not believe in "the justice or the lawfulness" of the tribunal and said that he is only being accused because he is Sudanese. The trial may continue without al-Qosi's presence, with the judge entering a plea of not guilty for the defendant.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabian detainee Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi [DOD materials] said during a pre-trial hearing that he plans to boycott [JURIST report] his upcoming military commission trial, also refusing legal representation. Last month, Afghan detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials] asked to boycott his upcoming trial [JURIST report] at his first military commission pretrial hearing. AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.






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China court finds former Communist Party official guilty of corruption
Jeannie Shawl on April 11, 2008 10:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A former top Chinese Communist Party official was convicted Friday of corruption and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Chen Liangyu [People's Daily profile] was found guilty of accepting bribes and abuse of power, making Chen the highest ranking official to be convicted in China's recent crackdown on corruption [JURIST news archive]. He was fired [JURIST report] in 2006 after being accused of involvement in a pension plan scandal, in which some $4.8 billion was illegally siphoned from Shanghai's pension fund.

Chinese prosecutors said last month that the number of corruption convictions against government officials has increased by 30 percent in the last five years [JURIST report]. China has taken a hard line on corruption recently, punishing several officials with lengthy prison terms and the death penalty [JURIST report]. In January, the Communist Party of China [official backgrounder] issued a list of "10 taboos" [JURIST report] for public officials as part of the government's attempt to fight corruption ahead of a reshuffling of provincial leadership posts. AFP has more.






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Top White House officials approved harsh interrogation methods: reports
Brett Murphy on April 11, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] US Vice President Dick Cheney and other top White House officials approved controversial interrogation methods, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], in secret meetings, AP reported Friday. An unnamed former senior intelligence official confirmed an earlier ABC News report [text] that the officials asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to sign off on the lawfulness of the techniques before approving them for use during CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Democratic lawmakers and rights groups quickly denounced the actions alleged in the news reports. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) Thursday said [press release]:

Today's press reports bring yet another astonishing disclosure about the Bush administration and its use of torture. According to ABC News, officials at the highest level of the administration in dozens of meetings signed off on specific CIA interrogation practices for particular prisoners - such as waterboarding, slapping, pushing, sleep deprivation, and combinations of these techniques. Who would have thought that in the United States of America in the 21st century, the top officials of the executive branch would routinely gather in the White House to approve torture?

Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly said that "History will not judge this kindly." He was right. History will not judge kindly the CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation program" or the legal fictions invented to justify it. History will not judge kindly an administration that authorized brutal and illegal interrogation techniques that shamed America in the eyes of the world and put our own soldiers at greater risk.

Congress and the American people still have much to learn about the administration's approval of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and other abuses. Long after President Bush has left office, our country will continue to pay the price for his administration's renegade repudiation of the rule of law and fundamental human rights.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to appoint a special counsel [letter, PDF; press release] to investigate the allegations that top Bush administration officials may have approved interrogation techniques that qualify as torture.





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Guantanamo guards seize items given to Khadr by military lawyer
Nick Fiske on April 10, 2008 7:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Guards at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] have confiscated several unapproved items, including news articles printed off the Internet and a "Lord of the Rings" movie script, from Canadian detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], officials said Thursday. Khadr's appointed US military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, said that he gave Khadr the unapproved materials to help establish a rapport with his client. Guantanamo officials said that lawyers are not permitted to give their clients anything other than materials directly related to their defense. Kuebler was also barred from playing chess or dominoes with Khadr, an activity he defended as necessary to build a relationship with the Canadian youth.

Khadr faces life imprisonment after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002, when he was 15. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. Khadr is one of four [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees prosecuted under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text]. In an affidavit released last month, Khadr said that US interrogators in Afghanistan threatened him with rape, physically abused him, and forced him to swear to false statements [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Egypt prosecutors charge opposition leader with inciting violence
Benjamin Klein on April 10, 2008 6:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Egyptian prosecutors Thursday charged the co-founder of pro-reform opposition movement Kifaya [party website, in Arabic] with inciting unrest and violence in association with a nationwide labor strike last Sunday. George Ishaq and 60 other members of the Kifaya movement were arrested in a Wednesday night police sweep. Kifaya leadership has said the arrests are retaliation for Sunday's strike, which drew thousands participants to protest nationwide inflation. AP has more.

Last week, five members of another opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder], were arrested [JURIST report] as they tried to hang campaign posters, joining the over 800 party members already in custody, including 148 council election candidates. Prosecutors also announced that an additional 147 members are under investigation [JURIST report] for causing riots during unauthorized protests against the government. The Brotherhood, which has accused the government of blocking its efforts to field candidates in the election, responded by calling for a boycott of Tuesday's municipal elections [MP statement; press release].






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Slovakia parliament approves EU reform treaty
Benjamin Klein on April 10, 2008 6:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The National Council of the Slovak Republic [official website] voted 103-5 Thursday to ratify the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text]. Previous attempts to vote on the treaty had ended in walkouts by opposition MPs in protest over a domestic media reform law endorsed by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, but one of the opposition parties ended its boycott Thursday allowing for ratification of the EU treaty. Slovakia's ratification of the EU treaty follows that of Poland [JURIST report], which approved the treaty early last week.

Leaders from the 27 countries that make up the European Union signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] in December, but all member countries must ratify the document before it can take effect. Nine countries, including Bulgaria, France, Hungary, and Slovenia [JURIST reports] have ratified the reform treaty so far. BBC News has more. EUbusiness.com has additional coverage.






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House lawyers slam White House executive privilege claims as broadest 'since Watergate'
Nick Fiske on April 10, 2008 6:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House's interpretation of executive privilege to shield former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and current White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten [official profiles] from Congressional subpoenas represents the broadest construction of the doctrine since Watergate, lawyers for the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] told the US District Court for the District of Columbia in court papers [motion, PDF] Thursday. Lawyers for the Executive branch argued that Miers and Bolten were immune from prosecution as their refusal to cooperate with subpoenas was directed by the White House, and therefore protected by executive privilege [press briefing transcript].

In February, members of the House voted 223-32 [roll call; JURIST report] to issue contempt citations for Miers for failing to testify and citations for both Miers and Bolten for refusing to produce documents related to the 2006-2007 firings of nine US attorneys [JURIST news archive]. The same month, Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey urging him to begin a grand jury investigation [JURIST report] into the conduct of the two White House aides and saying that the House would initiate a civil lawsuit if she did not receive a response within one week. Mukasey refused to present the contempt citations to a grand jury [JURIST report] in a response the following day, and the committee filed a civil lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking enforcement of the subpoenas. AP has more and offers additional coverage.






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Virginia reaches settlement with families of VA Tech shooting victims
Joshua Pantesco on April 10, 2008 5:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Twenty-one families who said that they intended to sue the state of Virginia for negligence in connection with the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech [JURIST news archive] have agreed to a tentative settlement worth $11 million, lawyers representing the families said Thursday. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine [official website] said that the details of the settlement would remain confidential [press release] until it is finalized over the next few days. It is currently unclear how the $11 million will be distributed amongst the families.

The Virginia Tech massacre left 33 people dead and 25 wounded in the largest shooting spree in US history [MSNBC backgrounder]. Last year, Kaine issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] closing the loophole [JURIST report] that allowed ]gunman Seung-Hui Cho to purchase a firearm despite having been ordered to receive psychiatric treatment by a Virginia court in 2005. AP has more.






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UK rights record on terrorism, prisoners challenged as UN review process continues
Joshua Pantesco on April 10, 2008 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Representatives from the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] Thursday criticized the human rights record of the United Kingdom [UNHRC materials; recorded video], including the government's treatment of terror suspects and prisoners, as the body continued its new Universal Periodic Review [official website; UNHRC backgrounder] of rights practices around the world. During debate, several countries expressed concern about the UK's counter-terrorism measures, especially laws authorizing control orders [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which allow the British government to impose house arrest and electronic surveillance on terrorism suspects and to forbid them from using mobile phones and the Internet when there is not enough evidence to prosecute. The head of the UK delegation denied that those powers are used to target any particular racial or religious group.

Under the Universal Periodic Review, UNHRC will systematically investigate the human rights situations of all 192 UN member nations over a four-year period. The Council will consider 16 countries during this inaugural two-week session, which began on Monday with a review of Bahrain [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Turkish PM says ruling party might amend constitution to block legal challenge
Joshua Pantesco on April 10, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] may attempt to amend the country's constitution if necessary to block a legal challenge [JURIST report] brought by Turkish prosecutors seeking to disband the party, Turkish Prime Minister and AKP leader Tayyip Erdogan [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] said Thursday. Prosecutors petitioned the Constitutional Court of Turkey to disband AKP [JURIST report] in March, accusing the party of being a "focal point of anti-secular activities." The Constitutional Court has banned several Islamist parties in the past for violating constitutional obligations to respect Turkey's strict secular principles. AKP has until the end of the month to prepare a defense or seek an extension before oral arguments begin.

In March, EU Enlargement Commissioner Ollie Rehn said the AKP court case could further impede Turkey's bid for EU membership [JURIST news archive], as such a political issue would normally be debated in parliament and decided by a ballot in a typical European democracy. Reuters has more.






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Zimbabwe election officials accused of vote tampering brought before magistrates
Brett Murphy on April 10, 2008 12:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Eight Zimbabwean election officials accused of under-counting votes [JURIST report] for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his ruling Zanu-PF party during the March 29 presidential election [JURIST report] appeared before magistrates in provincial courts Wednesday. Independent observers say that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] won more votes than Mugabe, but Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front [party website] are demanding a recount [JURIST report]. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) has not yet released the official results because of "errors and miscalculations" in their compilation.

On Monday, a High Court judge in Harare ruled that that court has the jurisdiction to hear a lawsuit seeking a court order to compel the ZEC to immediately release the results [JURIST reports] of the elections, but refused to issue an immediate ruling in the case. On Saturday, the court postponed hearing the case [JURIST report] when lawyers for the MDC were barred by government security forces from entering the courts. From Zimbabwe, the Herald has more.






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India high court upholds educational quotas for lower castes
Brett Murphy on April 10, 2008 11:28 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] Thursday upheld [judgment] a governmental program reserving seats at India's top state schools for members of lower castes [BBC backgrounder], but ruled that wealthy lower caste families should not be permitted to take advantage of the program. The program holds 27 percent of enrollment at state-run professional schools for lower caste persons. Announced last year, the program was temporarily placed on hold until the court ruled on its legality.

The caste system in India was outlawed almost 60 years ago, but program supporters argue that such initiatives are necessary to correct socio-economic injustices. Critics say that better basic education should be the focus, as reserved seats at universities remain unfilled because of poor primary education. AP has more.






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Ohio man indicted for threatening to blow up Supreme Court, attack Thomas
Brett Murphy on April 10, 2008 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Ohio resident David Tuason was indicted [PDF text; press release] Wednesday for allegedly threatening to blow up the US Supreme Court building and attack black men, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [OYEZ profile]. Tuason was charged with six counts of mailing threatening communications and two counts of transmitting threatening interstate communications. AP has more.

Threats of violence against judges are an increasing problem in the United States; last month, the US Marshals Service [official website] reported that threats against federal judges had risen for the fifth straight year in a row [statistics, PDF]. In 2006, retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [OYEZ profile] warned against growing efforts at "judicial intimidation" in a Wall St. Journal op-ed [text; JURIST report]. Earlier that year, both O'Connor and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [OYEZ profile] said they had received death threats [JURIST report] after Republican politicians criticized judges for citing foreign law or being "activist" in their rulings. Then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later acknowledged that the security of judges was becoming a national concern [JURIST report].






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US military hearing delayed for civilian contractor charged with alleged Iraq crime
Brett Murphy on April 10, 2008 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The investigating officer for the Multi-National Force-Iraq Wednesday granted a postponement of the Article 32 hearing [press release] for civilian contractor Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali. Ali, who holds dual Iraqi-Canadian citizenship, is charged [JURIST report] with aggravated assault for stabbing another contractor in February, and is the first civilian contractor charged by the military since it was granted jurisdiction over civilians accompanying US troops in a combat zone by a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text]. A new date for the hearing has not yet been set. AP has more.

Prior to the 2006 UCMJ amendment, contractors working in Iraq were exempted [PDF text] from prosecution in that country. The amendment, found in Section 522 of the 2007 defense authorization bill [2 2766 materials; LawReader backgrounder], significantly changed the military's jurisdiction to bring civilian contractors within the military's jurisdiction during a "contingency operation" rather than its previous requirement that Congress actually declare war. Last fall, Congress took further steps [JURIST report] to bring US contractors within the jurisdiction of the military with the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials]. The issue of criminal jurisdiction over US military contractors working in Iraq gained notoriety last fall when several Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] employees allegedly killed at least eight Iraqi civilians [JURIST report]. The US Department of Justice has run into legal hurdles [JURIST report] trying to bring criminal charges against the Blackwater employees.






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Pakistan president urges calm after lawyers clash in Karachi
Brett Murphy on April 10, 2008 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [official website] appealed to anti-government lawyers on Thursday to not "spread anarchy," a day after a clash between opposing groups of lawyers in Karachi [JURIST report] prompted widespread rioting and led to at least 11 deaths. Lawyers supporting Musharraf who gathered to protest other lawyers' beating [JURIST report] of former Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Niazi in Lahore on Tuesday were confronted after their meeting by anti-Musharraf lawyers; fighting broke out near the city's main court complex which then spread to other areas.

New Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] immediately denounced the violence [press release], which Musharraf supporters blamed on the lawyers movement pressing for reinstatement of superior court judges ousted by Musharraf after he proclaimed emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in the country last November. Reuters has more.






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Afghan court trying ex-US detainees based on questionable evidence: rights group
Jaime Jansen on April 10, 2008 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] A criminal court in Afghanistan is trying detainees previously held by the US detainees at Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] and is relying primarily on allegations and evidence provided by the US military, the New York Times reported Thursday. Other countries have so far refused to use evidence provided by the US military over concerns that it would not stand up in their courts, but US-provided information is being used to convict and sentence defendants to up to 20 years in prison. The trials reportedly often last less than an hour and take place without the aid of witnesses. Defense lawyers typically meet their clients only days before the trial and lack the resources to investigate the allegations of the case.

The Afghan court is located in the high-security Pul-e-Charki prison [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on the outskirts of Kabul. According to a report [PDF text; executive summary] released Thursday by Human Rights First, the court has tried 82 prisoners and convicted 65. Prosecutions have also been based on a 1987 Soviet-era Afghan security law, and Human Rights First expressed concern that defendants are not receiving fair trials [press release], saying that "so-called "evidence" being used to prosecute the repatriated detainees violates international fair trial standards and, in many cases, Afghan law." Though the court is not completely secret, Afghan officials have only allowed three outside observers, including two human rights investigators and a representative from a local United Nations office. The New York Times has more.






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Federal appeals court dismisses high school free speech case
Jaime Jansen on April 10, 2008 8:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] Wednesday dismissed [PDF text] a lawsuit brought by Kentucky high school student Timothy Morrison against the Boyd County Board of Education [official website] over a 2004 policy that banned Morrison and other students from expressing their opposition to homosexuality. Judge Deborah L. Cook [official profile], in a 2-1 ruling, said that Morrison failed to show he had been harmed by the policy prior to the school district repealing the policy and also that winning the lawsuit, which sought $1 in damages, would not rectify the issue. Morrison sued [ACLU press release] the school district over a now-repealed policy that required students to undergo anti-harassment training. The school district changed the policy to exempt speech that would ordinarily be protected under the First Amendment. Wednesday's ruling reverses an earlier decision [PDF text] by the same Sixth Circuit panel allowing the case to proceed. AP has more.

In another student free speech case, the US Supreme Court held last year in Morse v. Frederick [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that public schools do not violate the First Amendment rights of students by sanctioning them for speech during a school-sanctioned activity that may be reasonably interpreted to promote the use of illegal substances. A high school student was suspended after he displayed a banner with the message "Bong hits 4 Jesus" during a televised parade on a school day. The student subsequently sued his principal, arguing that the principal unreasonably restricted his right to free speech.






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El-Masri asks OAS rights court to condemn CIA rendition
Jaime Jansen on April 10, 2008 8:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Khaled El-Masri [JURIST news archive], the German citizen allegedly kidnapped by the CIA in 2003, petitioned [PDF complaint; press release] the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] Wednesday alleging he was tortured by the CIA. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned the IACHR, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], on behalf of El-Masri, arguing that the US should apologize to El-Masri and that the CIA's extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] program should be deemed illegal. Specifically, the ACLU asked the IACHR to declare the CIA's rendition program a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man [text], a source of binding international obligations on member states of the OAS. AP has more.

El-Masri, a German national of Lebanese descent, claims that the CIA kidnapped him while he was traveling to Macedonia in 2003, and transported him to a secret detention facility in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was held for four months. He was eventually released in Albania in 2004 without charge or funds to return to Germany.

Last fall, the US Supreme Court denied [PDF order; JURIST report] without comment El-Masri's petition for certiorari, ostensibly supporting the Bush administration's contention that allowing El-Masri's federal lawsuit [PDF complaint; ACLU materials] to proceed would require the revelation of state secrets. Earlier, the German Justice Ministry said that it would not press a formal request [JURIST report] to extradite the 13 CIA agents suspected of participating in El-Masri's alleged rendition after the Bush administration informed them it would not comply with a such a request. In June 2006, a German investigator concluded that no evidence had surfaced to disprove El-Masri's story [JURIST report], though German officials have denied [JURIST report] that Germany had any knowledge of the alleged kidnapping.






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Pakistan lawyers clash in Karachi over Niazi beating
Bernard Hibbitts on April 9, 2008 7:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Opposing groups of Pakistani lawyers clashed with each other in the city of Karachi Wednesday, prompting widespread rioting that led to at least seven deaths. Lawyers supporting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf who gathered to protest the Tuesday lawyers' beating in Lahore [JURIST report] of former Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sher Afgan Niazi were confronted after their meeting by anti-Musharraf lawyers; fighting broke out near the city's main court complex which then spread to other areas. Most of the dead were killed when they were trapped in a nearby building containing some lawyers' offices that was set ablaze. A local bar association office was gutted.

New Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani immediately denounced the violence, which Musharraf supporters quickly blamed on the lawyers movement pressing for reinstatement of superior court judges dismissed when Musharraf proclaimed emergency rule in the country last November. Niazi was instrumental in the dismissals. AP has more. From Pakistan, the News has local coverage.






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Israel bars UN Palestinian rights envoy after Holocaust comments
Deirdre Jurand on April 9, 2008 7:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] announced Tuesday that it will not allow the new UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] envoy on Israeli human rights to enter either Israel or the Palestinian territories after he called current Israeli actions against Palestinians a "Holocaust in the making." In a Tuesday BBC interview, Richard Falk [academic profile], who is scheduled to begin his position as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories in May, defended comments [text] made last year criticizing Israel for policies he said indiscriminately punished an entire group of people and comparing them to Nazi actions in World War II. Israeli officials accused Falk of bias and said that they will bar him from entering the country until a meeting scheduled for September. At the meeting, they plan to ask for an expansion of the investigator's powers that would allow the investigation of both Israeli and Palestinian human-rights violations. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.

In October, current Special Rapporteur John Dugard [academic profile] said that the UN must better address human rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories [JURIST report]. He has also previously criticized Israel's continued military presence in the region, comparing it to South African apartheid [JURIST report]. Dugard was appointed in 2001 as an independent expert by the now-defunct UN Commission on Human Rights to investigate Israeli rights violations. Israel and the US have dismissed his reports as one-sided.






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