[JURIST] A US military judge has ruled that US Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann [Air Force Link profile], a top Pentagon legal adviser on the Guantanamo military commission trials, is ineligible to participate in the first military commission trial of a detainee because he is too closely associated with the prosecution, the New York Times reported Saturday. The Times said it had a copy of the decision by Navy Capt. Keith Allred, although it had not been publicly released. The paper quoted Allred as concluding that "National attention focused on this dispute has seriously called into question the legal advisers ability to continue to perform his duties in a neutral and objective manner". Hartmann is legal adviser to Susan J. Crawford, the Convening Authority [backgrounder] for the military commissions. The New York Times has more.
Earlier this year former Guantanamo prosecutor Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis [official profile, PDF] made headlines when he said in the wake of his resignation that Hartmann had questioned the need for open trials [JURIST report] at Guantanamo and was upset with the slow pace of the proceedings begun by Davis. In a subsequent Los Angeles Timesop-ed [text], Hartman said that the slow progress that frustrated Davis was an unavoidable part of a careful judicial process and rejected Davis' allegations that aspects of the military commissions were being intentionally hidden from the public. Last month, Davis testified at a pre-trial hearing for Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan that Hartmann had pressured him [JURIST report] to move forward with military commissions quickly "before the election" or else "this thing's going to implode."
[JURIST] Pakistani ministers and officials scrambled Sunday as a second deadline for restoring judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf in November loomed with little prospect of being met. An aide to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has pressed hard for the reinstatement [JURIST report], was quoted by AP as saying that an "acceptable solution" would be worked out by party leaders still in London after talks that began late last week, but JURIST's Pakistan correspondent says that with Sharif scheduled to return to Pakistan Sunday morning a deal on a parliamentary resolution [JURIST report] with his coalition partners in the Pakistan People's Party by May 12 is unlikely. Responding to a Sharif suggestion that police could escort the judges back to work under a simple executive order, Information Minister Sherry Rehman told AP that such a move risked a "political and constitutional crisis." Musharraf has also let it be known that he would oppose a restoration on those terms, and might even seek a Supreme Court stay against such an order were it issued. AP has more.
Pakistani Law Minister Farooq Naek said Friday that the governing coalition was unlikely to meet the May 12 deadline [JURIST report]. JURIST's Pakistan correspondent says that if the deadline passes without agreement Sharif is likely to step out of the coalition cabinet.
[JURIST] The military junta of Myanmar held a national referendum on a draft constitution [JURIST news archive] Saturday despite sharp international criticism [JURIST report] for going ahead with the poll after a devastating cyclone last weekend left at least 60,000 people dead or missing. Voting in the hardest-hit areas has been delayed until later this month, but state media encouraged citizens to turn out with enthusiastic videos and patriotic songs. Some local journalists said, however, that they witnessed many irregularities in the voting, with people voting multiple times or not having the privacy of a truly secret ballot. No official results have yet been announced but the vote is widely expected to result in an overwhelming endorsement of a document presented by the military government as an essential element of its "roadmap" to democracy. AP has more.
The National League for Democracy and other opposition groups have labelled 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. 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 Suu Kyi, won that election easily, but the ruling military government did not recognize the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.
[JURIST] Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], currently on trial for human rights violations during his three terms in office from 1990-2000, is showing lack of respect for the court and the trial process by his courtroom behavior, Peruvian prosecutors said Friday. Earlier this week Fujimori burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter [Xinhua report] after hearing military witnesses testify that they had spied on him through a keyhole; prosecutors also contend he has fallen asleep and even plotted his political comeback in court in total disregard of the seriousness of the charges against him. Xinhua has more.
Last month the Supreme Court of Peru upheld a prison sentence [JURIST reports] imposed on Fujimori after his separate conviction 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 at that time also upheld a $135,000 fine for rights violations that occurred during the search.
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