June 2008 Archives


Guantanamo detainee charged with USS Cole bombing
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 30, 2008 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Defense [official website] prosecutors announced Monday they had filed charges [press release] related to the 2000 al Qaeda attack [US DOD inquiry report; JURIST news archive] on the USS Cole [official website] against Guantanamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [Globalsecurity backgrounder]. Al-Nashiri, a Saudi national, is charged with terrorism, attempted murder, and providing material support to terrorism, among other offenses. The charges fall under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] and must now be approved by Convening Authority Susan J. Crawford, who will decide whether to refer the charges to military commission. AP has more.

Last year, al-Nashiri said that his confession to planning the USS Cole attack was coerced through torture [JURIST report] at Guantanamo. In 2004, a Yemeni security court charged [JURIST report] al-Nashiri in absentia in connection with the attack, saying he belonged to the al Qaeda terrorist network. In 2005, a Yemeni appeals court upheld a death sentence [JURIST reports] against al-Nashiri.






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US should expedite Guantanamo closure: European investigator
Devin Montgomery on June 30, 2008 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The United States should set a concrete deadline for closure of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], according to a Monday report [PDF text] by an investigator from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) [official website]. OSCEPA's special Guantanamo envoy Anne-Marie Lizin [personal website, in French] said that the major problems blocking closure include questions over the repatriation of detainees who are either likely to reengage in terrorist activities or face inhumane punishments if returned to their countries of origin. She also reported that living conditions for the detainees have not changed significantly since her report last year [JURIST report]. Her report indicated doubt about the value of the prison, saying:

We expressed our skepticism in previous reports as to the added value of information gathered after years of detention, as well as the degree to which certain detainees are dangerous. As regards the latter point, we must bear in mind the fact that a large number of detainees who were released and transferred clearly shows many of them wound up in Guantanamo almost by chance, because they kept suspect company or because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Conversely, it cannot be doubted that individuals transferred to Guantanamo after spending several years in CIA secret prisons outside the territory of the United States, are highly dangerous. It remains to be seen whether the evidence compiled against them will be sufficient and whether the information they have provided was not extracted under constraint and even torture, as their defenders and human rights organisations assert.
The group called for the US to "spare no effort" in providing for the rights of those detainees to be tried under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], and called for changes in international humanitarian law to account for "new categories of combatants." This is Lizin's third report [press release] on the base. AP has more.

Numerous international groups and rights activists have called for the closure of the Guantanamo detention center [JURIST news archive]. In February, the leaders of 34 international bar associations and law societies sent a letter [PDF text] to US President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging the "immediate closure" of the facility [JURIST report]. Last October, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin called on the US to quickly prosecute or release terror suspects [JURIST report] detained at Guantanamo Bay so that the US can close the detention center. In May, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reiterated President Bush's August 2007 claim that the US wants to close the base [JURIST reports], but that both legal and logistical impediments make the closure difficult.





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Colombia president calls for election referendum after court orders legal inquiry
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 30, 2008 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish; BBC profile] Monday moved forward with plans for a national referendum on the country's 2006 presidential election. Last week, the Colombian High Court [official backgrounder] ruled [AP report] that a legal inquiry should be held into the election after it found that a legislator had been bribed to help push constitutional amendments allowing Uribe to seek a second term in office. Uribe accused the court of bias and instead announced plans to hold a referendum on the election's outcome. It is not clear if a referendum can be held before the court determines whether the election was legally valid. Critics accused Uribe of overstepping his authority in ignoring the judiciary, and of using the referendum as a stepping-stone to push additional amendments to allow him to run for a third term. Reuters has more.

Uribe has frequently clashed with the courts in recent months, particularly in matters concerning the country's long feud with right-wing anti-government paramilitaries. In May, the Constitutional Court [official backgrounder] threw out a part of the controversial 2005 Justice and Peace Law [JURIST reports] approved by Uribe, which gave lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm. Paramilitary leaders argued that the decision would disrupt the peace process.






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Pakistan must change constitution to reinstate judges: justice minister
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 30, 2008 11:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Pakistani constitution must be amended in order to reinstate the judges who were ousted last year by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive], Pakistani Law and Justice Minister Farooq H. Naik said Sunday. He said that while the constitution provides for the appointment of judges, it does not speak to the reinstatement of ousted judges. Under current law, parliament can request the reinstatement but the federal government is not required to follow parliament's suggestion. In April, Naik prepared a constitutional package [JURIST report] to restore the ousted judges, calling for a parliamentary committee to limit the tenure of the chief justice to three years. Those proposed constitutional amendments also called for restoration of the 1973 Constitution and the abolition of Article 58(2)b [texts], which empowers the president to dissolve the government and the parliament. Daily Times has more.

Pakistan's new coalition government, formed by the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League [party websites], has vowed to establish a fully independent judiciary and work together to reinstate judges [JURIST reports] ousted by Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule [proclamation, PDF; JURIST report] last November. Pakistani Attorney General Malik Qayyum has also said that reinstating the judges would require a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] with a two-thirds majority vote in parliament. In May, Musharraf insisted that a constitutional amendment was necessary [JURIST report] to restore the judges.






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Five Iraq appeals court judges survive assassination attempts
Andrew Gilmore on June 30, 2008 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] Unknown bombers made unsuccessful assassination attempts on the lives of five Iraqi appeals court judges Monday. The five judges - Ali al-Alaq, Suleiman Abdullah, Ghanim Janab, Alaa al-Timimi, and Hassan Fouad - are all members of the al-Rasafa Court of Appeal in eastern Baghdad. While all five were unharmed in the separate attacks, the wife of Ali al-Alaq and family members of Suleiman Abdullah were wounded by the bombs, and the judges' vehicles and property sustained damages in the blasts. An Iraqi judge told Voices of Iraq that the attacks involved roadside bombs targeting the judges as they commuted to work [Voices of Iraq report]. Last Thursday, Kamel al-Shewaili, the president of the al-Rasafah court, was shot and killed [JURIST report] by unidentified assailants while travelling on a Baghdad highway. Reuters has more.

In January, Iraqi federal court of appeal judge and Supreme Judicial Council member Amir Jawdat al-Naeib was also assassinated [JURIST report] by gunmen in the capital. The Judicial Council said in August 2007 that 31 Iraqi judges have been assassinated since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraqi Lawyers Association reported in April last year that at least 210 lawyers and judges have been killed [IRIN report] since the US-led invasion, with dozens more injured in attacks which have prompted hundreds to leave the country. Many key Iraqi judges and their families now live in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad or in the so-called Rule of Law complex [NYT report], a secure compound in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Rusafa where they are supposedly safe from outside threats.






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Germany police torture threats did not violate right to fair trial: ECHR
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 30, 2008 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] A German man's right to a fair trial was not violated by police torture threats, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [text; press release] Monday. In 2003, Magnus Gaefgen was convicted of kidnapping and killing a six-year-old child after German police threatened Gaefgen with torture to get him to reveal the location of the body. Gaefgen argued that the threats violated the Article 3 prohibitions against torture and the Article 6 right to a fair trial enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Although the ECHR ruled that torture was "inhuman," it found that the German trial court had already excluded the coerced confession from evidence:

The Regional Court decided at the outset of the trial hearing that, on account of the threats against him, all confessions and statements made by the applicant in the entire investigation proceedings could not be used as evidence at trial. The court argued that the applicant had not been previously instructed by the prosecution authorities that the use as evidence of the statements he had made as a result of the threats against him was excluded (see paragraphs 24-26 above). The Court considers that this exclusion of statements made under threat or in view of incriminating statements extracted previously is an effective method of redressing disadvantages the defendant suffered on that account in the criminal proceedings against him. By restoring him to the status quo ante in this respect, it serves to discourage the extraction of statements by methods prohibited by Article 3.
The court ruled that excluding the resulting evidence would not have been enough to avoid violating the convention if actual torture, rather than just the threat, had taken place. The police officer who ordered the torture threats was later convicted of coercion for his actions. DPA has more.

In the past, the ECHR has upheld an absolute ban on torture. Earlier this year, it ruled against the deportation [judgment; JURIST report] of former Tunisian terror suspect Nassim Saadi, finding that evidence provided by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch showed that he would likely be subjected to torture in violation of Article 3 of the convention if returned to Tunisia. The court rejected arguments by the Italian government that Saadi posed a serious danger to society, ruling that those concerns did not have any bearing on the risk of torture that Saadi faced if deported from Italy. Amnesty praised the court's decision [press release], saying it would remind states that the ban on torture also extended to deporting people to countries where they would likely face mistreatment.





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Lawyer for ex-Thailand PM jailed for bribery attempt
Devin Montgomery on June 30, 2008 11:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Thana Tansiri, a lawyer for former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], began serving a six-month prison sentence Monday for his role in an attempt to bribe officials [Nation report] overseeing a corruption case against Thaksin. Thana is one of three lawyers sentenced [Nation report] last week for delivering a paper bag containing $60,000 to a court official. The two other lawyers involved are already in prison, but Thana's sentence had been delayed while he was hospitalized for "stress." All three lawyers say the bag was delivered by mistake, and Thaksin has denied that he was part of any bribery plan [Nation report]. The Nation has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Also Monday, Thailand's Constitutional Court [official website, in Thai] ruled that the Assets Examination Committee, a panel formed to investigate corruption charges against Thaksin, was not rendered invalid after voters approved a new constitution [JURIST report] last year. Last week, the Committee recommend that two new charges be brought [AP report] against Thaksin, one for using his position to secure a $127 million loan to benefit a company owned by his family, and another for corruption related to the purchase of approximately $43 million worth of rubber trees. In March, Thaksin pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to separate corruption charges stemming from a 2003 land purchase by his wife Pojamarn from a government-directed institution despite a ban on officials making business deals with government agencies. In February, Thaksin returned to Thailand from self-imposed exile to face corruption charges laid against him after he was ousted in a military coup [JURIST reports] in September 2006. AFP has more.






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Iran court sentences man to death for spying for Israel
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 30, 2008 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced an Iranian electronics salesman to death Monday after convicting him of espionage, according to a state media report [FNA report]. Ali Ashtari, who was arrested last year, was charged with using his sales connections in the military to pass information on Iran's Atomic Energy Organization [official website, in Persian] to Israeli intelligence agents. Israeli officials denied knowledge of Ashtari's case. Ashtari has 20 days to appeal the ruling. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Last year, Iranian police arrested twenty people [JURIST report] near the Iraqi border on suspicion of participating in an international spy ring. The arrests came several months after the Iranian government first accused four Iranian-Americans [JURIST news archive] of belonging to a US-organized spy network. In May 2007, Iran formally charged [JURIST report] Iranian-American scholar Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile] with allegedly plotting "against the sovereignty of the country," and charged Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh [OSI press release] and Radio Farda [media website] correspondent Parnaz Azima with allegedly engaging in an espionage conspiracy [JURIST report]. In June last year, an Iranian judge said that Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh admitted to carrying out some "activities" [JURIST report], although it was unclear if their statements were tantamount to an admission of spying.






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Dutch judiciary will not prosecute politician for anti-Islamic statements
Deirdre Jurand on June 30, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) [official website, English version] will not prosecute politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] for his video and printed statements against the Quran and Islam because the statements are not punishable under anti-discrimination laws [OM statement]. Wilders, who is an official with the right-wing People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) [party website, in Dutch], released written statements in 2006 and 2007 that elicited more than 40 criminal complaints against him. A film released by Wilders on the Internet last March led to dozens more criminal complaints. In its statement, the OM said:

The fact that statements are hurtful and offensive to a large number of Muslims does not necessarily mean that such statements are punishable. It is true that some statements insult Muslims, but these were made in the context of public debate, which means that the statements are no longer of a punishable nature.
The OM also called Wilders' comments acceptable because they were made as part of a public debate on Islam and criticized Islam as a whole, rather than Dutch Muslims specifically. Last week, the Dutch Foreign Ministry expressed concerned that a court in Jordan would issue an international warrant for Wilders' arrest [NIS report] after it found a case against him admissible earlier this month. The Canadian Press has more.

Wilders' 15-minute film, Fitna, shows images of the Quran alongside images of violence and says democratic values are threatened by the increasing number of Muslims in Europe. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the film "offensively anti-Islamic" [JURIST report] after its release. In February, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube's website because it had posted a movie trailer for Wilders' film, but access was restored [JURIST reports] several days later. Indonesia followed suit [JURIST report] in April. The same month, 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.





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Malaysia: Anwar files suit against accuser after leaving Turkish embassy
Andrew Gilmore on June 30, 2008 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] filed a lawsuit [The Star report] on Monday against a former aide who had accused him of sodomy [JURIST report] on Saturday.  In the lawsuit, Anwar said that the aide's allegations against him were baseless and politically motivated. Also on Monday, Anwar left the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where he had taken refuge [Anwar blog post], fearing for his personal safety in the wake of the sodomy allegations. On Sunday, Anwar had indicated through Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the president of Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat [party website, in Malay] that he would not leave the Turkish Embassy unless Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi [official profile] guaranteed Anwar's safety [New Straits Times report]. BBC has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Under Malaysian law, sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison regardless of whether or not it was consensual. Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister under former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad until he was fired in 1998 as the result of earlier sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later cleared. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges. Earlier this month the Federal Court of Malaysia ruled he could challenge the constitutionality [JURIST report] of his original dismissal from office.






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US House committee subpoenas CIA leak documents
Devin Montgomery on June 30, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] has issued a subpoena [text, PDF; press release] to Attorney General Michael Mukasey for documents relating to the Valerie Plame leak scandal [JURIST news archive] and other Committee investigations. The Committee specifically requested transcripts of interviews with US President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and five White House aides, all of whom were questioned during the criminal investigation into the leak. In addition, the Committee is seeking all unclassified documents relating to legal counsel the Administration received on detainee interrogation methods and the legal ramifications of domestic counter-terrorism efforts [JURIST news archives]. The Committee also asked for documents relating to the firing of a US attorney, voters' rights investigations, and selective prosecution allegations. Concluding that a subpoena was the only way for the Committee to obtain the requested documents, chariman John Conyers (D-Mich) [official website] Friday wrote:

Although the Committee seeks to obtain information necessary for its oversight responsibilities cooperatively whenever possible, utilizing subpoenas as a last resort, we have concluded that a subpoena is warranted in this instance in light of our many prior requests for these documents. We trust that this subpoena will now facilitate the prompt production of the requested documents.
The Committee gave Mukasey until July 7 to produce the documents. AP has more.

The Committee indicated that this is the latest of several attempts by House bodies to obtain documents and testimony related to these investigations. In May, the Committee voted to issue a subpoena [JURIST report] to compel Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington [US News profile] to testify about Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum [text; JURIST report] authorizing a wide range of interrogation methods to be used against suspected terrorists. In January, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sought transcripts [letter, PDF; JURIST report] of the interviews conducted with the CIA leak investigation, but was unsuccessful in obtaining them.





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Zimbabwe election run-off condemned as unfair
Deirdre Jurand on June 30, 2008 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] International leaders and human rights groups have criticized last Friday's presidential run-off election in Zimbabwe [Harare Tribune election results], calling the elections unfair and characterizing the government of newly sworn-in president Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] as illegitimate. A committee of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) [official website], the legislative branch of the African Union, reported Monday that killings, intimidation and violence were common [report text] in the lead-up to the elections, and that the election itself had a low voter turnout and was neither transparent nor impartial. Through a spokesperson, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] indicated in a press statement [text] that the voting results "did not reflect the true and genuine will of the Zimbabwean people or produce a legitimate result." Meeting in Kyoto, Japan for the 2008 G8 Kyoto Foreign Ministers' Meeting [summit website], foreign ministers from the G8 countries issued a joint statement [text] on Zimbabwe, saying:

We deplore the actions of the Zimbabwean authorities - systematic violence, obstruction and intimidation - which have made a free and fair Presidential run-off election impossible. We strongly urge the Zimbabwean authorities to work with the opposition to achieve a prompt, peaceful resolution of the crisis in accordance with the democratic wishes of the Zimbabwean people and, for that purpose, to cooperate fully with the international efforts.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] also criticized the Zimbabwean government, encouraging African nations to impose sanctions [HRW statement] on the Zimbabwean government because of the "sham presidential runoff." AFP has more.

Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] are disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Tsvangirai is currently taking refuge [JURIST report] at the Dutch embassy in Harare. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March. Human rights groups suggested that state-sponsored violence would only increase as the second presidential vote drew closer, and in the past few weeks the amount of election-related violence has increased, including the beating [ABC News report], torture [National Post report], and killing [NYT report] of MDC supporters throughout Zimbabwe. Last week, Mugabe's government expelled a UN human rights observer [JURIST news report]. Earlier this month, government forces stopped and detained US and UK diplomats [JURIST report], threatening them and beating one of their drivers.





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Malaysia police investigating new sodomy complaint against Anwar
Bernard Hibbitts on June 29, 2008 6:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian law enforcement authorities have launched an investigation into a new sodomy complaint against opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] filed by an aide Saturday. Under Malaysian lawyer sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison regardless of whether or not it was consensual. Anwar was convicted for sodomy in 1999 in the midst of political scandal before an appellate court overturned his conviction and sentence in 2004. Asserting his innocence of the latest allegations in a statement [text] on his blog Sunday, Anwar wrote:

The police report lodged against me...is a complete fabrication. I believe we are witnessing a repeat of the methods used against me in 1998 when false allegations were made under duress. This is clearly a desperate attempt by the Barisan Nasional regime to arrest the movement of the Malaysian people towards freedom, democracy and justice.

The report has been organized by interested parties to attack me in retaliation for evidence I have recently obtained implicating IGP [Inspector General of Police] Musa Hassan and the AG [Attorney General] Gani Patail in misconduct including fabrication of evidence in the cases launched against me in 1998-1999. This vile attack will not prevent me from releasing this dossier to the public.
Fearing for his life, however, Anwar later took refuge [Anwar blog post] in the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister under Mahathir bin Mohamad until he was fired in 1998 as the scandal over his alleged conduct erupted. He later insisted that the charges were brought against him for political reasons due to a falling out with Mahathir. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] imposed after his original convictions for sodomy and corruption. The corruption conviction was never overturned. Earlier this month the Federal Court of Malaysia ruled he could challenge the constitutionality [JURIST report] of his original dismissal from office. AP has more. From Kuala Lumpur, the Star has local coverage.





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Canada rights commission dismisses Muslim complaint against newsmagazine
Bernard Hibbitts on June 29, 2008 4:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Human Rights Commission [official website] has dismissed a Muslim group's complaint against Maclean's [media website], Canada's leading newsmagazine, for publishing an article it alleged exposed Muslims to abuse or contempt. The Canadian Islamic Congress [advocacy website] brought the complaint in respect of a 2006 article published by Mark Steyn entitled "The future belongs to Islam" [text]. In its ruling, put online late Friday by Maclean's but not yet available on the Commission's own website, the Commission said that the article was "polemical, colourful and emphatic, and was obviously calculated to excite discussion and even offend certain readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike" but that that was not enough to constitute a discriminatory practice under Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which provides:

It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Maclean's said in a statement [text] that it welcomed the Commission's ruling which it said was in keeping with its stance that the Steyn article was a "worthy piece of commentary on important geopolitical issues, entirely within the bounds of normal journalistic practice." CP has more.

The allegations against Maclean's have sparked fierce debate in Canada over the intersection of freedom of the press and the protection of human rights and have drawn sharp criticism from journalists' groups. A previous CIC action before the Ontario Human Rights Commission [official website] in respect to the article failed when it said it lacked the jurisdiction under the Ontario Human Rights Code [text]. The British Columbia Human Rights Commission heard arguments [JURIST report] on the article's alleged infringement of section 7 of the BC Human Rights Code [text] earlier this month but has not yet issued a decision.





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Cambodia genocide court to decide on detention of ex-Khmer Rouge official
Steve Czajkowski on June 28, 2008 11:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Cambodian Foreign Minister Ieng Sary [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] is set to appeal his provisional detention in a June 30 open hearing to be broadcast on radio and TV stations, according to documents [scheduling order, PDF; hearing invitation, PDF] released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who served as minister for social affairs, were arrested [PDF press release; JURIST report] in November 2007 and charged [JURIST report] with crimes against humanity and war crimes for breaches of the Geneva Conventions [text] based on their role in the Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] communist regime of the 1970s. Sary and his wife have cited health concerns in their appeals against detention orders. Sary has been hospitalized twice [JURIST report] so far this year.

Sary was pardoned in 1996 [NYT report] by King Norodom Sihanouk, but in a response [PDF text] to the hearing by the civil party in the case, the pardon was said to violate international law, and is non-binding on the ECCC, which was established by in 2001 to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. According to published proceedings [PDF text], Sary is punishable under articles 5, 6, 29, and 39 of the Law on the Establishment of the ECCC [text]. 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. To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial. Sary and Thirith are two of five former Khmer Rouge leaders in the custody of the court.






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Afghanistan juvenile justice system must be reformed: study
Benjamin Klein on June 28, 2008 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The Afghan juvenile justice system is in serious need of reform, according to a study [PDF] conducted by the Afghan Independent Human Right Commission (AIHRC) [official website] in collaboration with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) [official website]. The report, released on Thursday, says that child detainees in Afghanistan face ongoing rights violations and are deprived of access to education, legal services, and health care. One of the worst problems in the country’s juvenile justice system is reportedly its inability to ensure due process:

Only 8% of juveniles were explained their rights upon arrest. 56% of respondents reported that they had not given their statement voluntarily, while only 38% of juveniles had seen ‘their’ statement. In detention only 23% of respondents had access to a lawyer (17% of males and 62% of females) while in court this increased to only 38% of juveniles having a defence lawyer. In relation to their status as juveniles, only 7% were presented before a children’s court, while only 8% of children had a parent, guardian or social worker present when their statement was taken, and only 43% had a parent or guardian present during the trial.
The UN Press Centre has more.

The study calls on the government of Afghanistan [JURIST news archive] to fully implement the Juvenile Code [PDF], a body of procedural law for dealing with children in the criminal justice system, which was adopted by the government in March 2005. The Juvenile Code incorporates the basic principles of juvenile justice as expressed in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], including non-discrimination (Article 2), participation (Article 12) and reintegration (Article 6).





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Lawsuits seek to overturn gun bans following US Supreme Court ruling
Steve Czajkowski on June 28, 2008 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] US firearm ownership advocacy groups filed lawsuits in Chicago and San Francisco [court documents] late this week seeking to overturn laws which ban handguns within the cities. The lawsuits were filed within a day of the US Supreme Court decision [JURIST report] in District of Columbia v. Heller [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment [text] to the US Constitution prohibits the District of Columbia ban on private handgun ownership. Four residents of Chicago joined by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) [advocacy website] and the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) [official website] filed suit against the City of Chicago and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley [official website] in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeking to overturn the citywide handgun ban [municipal code text]. SAF's founder, Alan Gottlieb, said in a statement [press release] "Chicago’s handgun ban has failed to stop violent crime. It’s time to give the Constitution a chance." The National Rifle Association (NRA) [advocacy website] filed suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking a ruling against the city's ban on handguns in public housing. The lawsuit was joined by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) [advocacy website] and a resident of one of San Francisco's housing projects. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom [official website] said in a recent press release [text] that despite the Supreme Court decision, the laws will be upheld. AP has more.

The Supreme Court ruling was the first that directly addressed the Second Amendment since 1939's US v. Miller [case materials]. In September 2007, Washington DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and DC Attorney General Linda Singer [official profiles] formally appealed a March 2007 federal court ruling which invalidated the District of Columbia's handgun ban [JURIST reports]. The decision affirms the March DC Circuit holding [opinion, PDF] that the city's 30-year-old ban on private possession of handguns was unconstitutionally broad.






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Italy plan to fingerprint Roma discriminatory: rights groups
Benjamin Klein on June 28, 2008 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A proposal by the Italian government [JURIST news archive] to fingerprint the country’s Roma minority drew fierce criticism from the human rights community and Roma advocates [European Roma Rights Centre website] on Friday. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [OECD profile] announced plans on Thursday to fingerprint thousands of Roma children, saying that the process would help to reduce street begging and keep children in school. The plan would also involve fingerprinting all adult Roma, and was immediately criticized by officials as a method of "ethnic screening." Vincenzo Spadafora, head of UNICEF in Italy [official website], said UNICEF was "deeply concerned" by the proposal, commenting that "[i]f this is being brought in to protect the rights of Roma children, Italian children should also be fingerprinted to protect them as well.” Amos Luzzarto, the former president of Italy's Union of Jewish Communities [official website, in Italian], condemned the plan as a form of "ethnic surveying,” stating that “[t]he racism of this initiative is evident and unacceptable.” Reuters has more.

In November 2005, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) [advocacy website] reported that Roma minorities are the ethnic group most susceptible to racism in the European Union [JURIST report]. Two years later, in November 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled [opinion text] rejected the educational separation of Roma children in the Czech Republic, holding that the practice amounted to racial discrimination and violated principles of human rights.






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DOJ Hatfill anthrax settlement may moot contempt case against reporter Locy
Bernard Hibbitts on June 27, 2008 8:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice announced [press release] Friday that it has settled a lawsuit [settlement text, PDF] brought by former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven Hatfill [WP profile], a development that may moot a landmark contempt case against former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [JURIST news archive] now awaiting a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Under the settlement, Hatfill would drop all damages claims against the government in return for a lump sum payment of $2.825 million and a 20-year annuity of $150,000 amounting to $3 million. Hatfill had initially sued [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] the Department alleging that it violated the US Privacy Act [text] by providing personal information and information about him to journalists - including Locy - during its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder] in which he was at one point named a "person of interest". Locy had refused to disclose her sources in discovery, arguing that the information Hatfill was seeking was not central to his lawsuit. In a letter [PDF text] to the Court of Appeals Friday informing it of the settlement, Hatfill lawyer Christopher Wright said that Locy's evidence was no longer needed by his client. Bloomberg has more

In March, US District Judge Reggie Walton found Locy in contempt of court [order, PDF; JURIST report] for not disclosing her sources and ordered her to pay a fine of $500 a day, increasing to $1000 a day after one week and then up to $5000 a day after two weeks, the costs of which could not be covered by her former employer. Locy obtained an emergency stay of that order from the Court of Appeals and oral arguments [JURIST reports] on the merits of the sanctions were heard last month. The appeals court has yet to make a formal ruling on the status of the contempt case in light of the Hatfill settlement, but Locy said late Friday that she and her lawyers are hopeful that the deal would end the matter. Locy will be a professor at Washington & Lee University's journalism school this fall.

Editor's Note: Toni Locy served as a JURIST student staff member while pursuing her MSL at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006-07.






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South Africa police commissioner corruption case set to begin 2009
Andrew Gilmore on June 27, 2008 4:10 PM ET

[JURIST] A South African magistrate Thursday set April 14, 2009 as the start of the corruption and fraud trial of suspended police commissioner Jackie Selebi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. The South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) [official website] charged Selebi, the former president of INTERPOL [organization website], with corruption [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in connection with his alleged relationship with Glenn Agliotti [Mail and Guardian report], a convicted drug smuggler suspected of involvement in the murder of South African mining head Brett Keeble. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Selebi is a close political ally of South African President Thabo Mbeki [official profile] and on Thursday the South African government extended Selebi's contract [BBC report] for an additional year. Selebi was suspended from his police post and forced to resign as INTERPOL president [JURIST report] after the NPA announced the allegations last month. Selebi is accused of receiving $170,000 in bribes from Agliotti. The NPA has alleged that Selebi ignored Agliotti's drug trafficking and warned Agliotti that he had been identified in the Keeble murder investigation.






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Soldier challenges India army ban on HIV-positive personnel
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 27, 2008 1:17 PM ET

[JURIST] An HIV-positive soldier has challenged his upcoming dismissal from the Indian Army, the Supreme Court [official website] announced Friday. A Human Rights Law Network [advocacy website] lawyer who is representing the soldier argued that the policy barring HIV-positive personnel from military service was "retrograde," pointing to a March 2008 ruling by the South African High Court that struck down a similar South African policy [PlusNews report]. He also noted that other nations, including the United States [US military policy text, PDF], already allow HIV-positive people to serve in their armed forces. IANS has more.

Other countries have also rejected policies banning all HIV-positive individuals from serving in the military. Last year, the Supreme Court of Mexico [official website] ruled [JURIST report] such a policy was an unconstitutional infringement on principles of equality. The Mexican military may now only expel soldiers if a doctor certifies that their condition prevents them from performing their duties.






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Canada court rules sponsorship scandal commissioner was biased against ex-PM
Andrew Gilmore on June 27, 2008 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Federal Court [official website] ruled in two separate opinions Thursday that media comments by Quebec Justice John Gomery [CBC profile], who led the inquiry into the sponsorship scandal [CBC backgrounder] involving the Liberal Party [party website] and the administration of former prime minister Jean Chrétien [official profile], indicated bias against Chrétien [opinion, PDF] and his chief of staff Jean Pelletier [opinion, PDF]. The court also set aside a portion of the inquiry's findings, including a conclusion by Gomery that Chrétien and Pelletier had erred in their oversight of a sponsorship program, in which millions of dollars were given to advertising agencies friendly with the then-ruling Liberal Party, in return for little or no advertising work. In rebuking Gomery and setting aside a substantial portion of his report on the scandal, Judge Max Teitelbaum [official profile] wrote:

I am convinced that an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically and having thought the matter through would find that the Commissioner’s statements to the media during the Phase I hearings, after the release of the Report and upon his retirement, viewed cumulatively, indicate that the Commissioner prejudged issues under investigation and that he was not impartial toward the Applicant. The nature of the comments made to the media are such that no reasonable person, looking realistically and practically at the issue, and thinking the matter through, could possibly conclude that the Commissioner would decide the issues fairly.
CBC News has more. The Globe and Mail has additional coverage.

Gomery's first and second reports [text and materials], released in November 2005 and February 2006 [JURIST reports], outlined the results of his judicial commission of inquiry [official website] into the Canadian scandal and included recommendations for controlling prime-ministerial power. The investigation began after Liberal Party Prime Minister Paul Martin, Chretien's successor, acknowledged allegations [JURIST report] of money laundering and kickbacks and took full responsibility for the misuse of public funds. After the reports has been issued, Gomery criticized [JURIST report] the ruling Conservative Party [party website] for ignoring his recommendations on limiting government corruption and abuse of power. In June 2007, a former Canadian advertising executive was sentenced to 42 months in prison [JURIST report] for bilking the government of almost $1.6 million as part of the scandal.





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Austria chancellor to push for referenda on Lisbon Treaty
Deirdre Jurand on June 27, 2008 11:47 AM ET

[JURIST] Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer [official website] promised in an open letter [text, in German; SPÖ statement, in German] Thursday that he would push for Austria to hold national referenda in deciding whether to accept future modifications of the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], properly known as the Treaty of Lisbon [PDF text; website]. The announcement came two weeks after Irish voters rejected [JURIST report] the reform treaty in a referendum. A June European Commission Eurobarometer report [PDF text] found that Austrian citizens are among those least satisfied with EU membership. Bloomberg has more.

In April, the upper house of the Austrian parliament [official website, in German] voted 151-27 [press materials, in German; JURIST report] to approve the treaty. The treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU member states before it can take effect, though each country may choose the method of ratification. Leaders from the 27 countries signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, and 14 countries have ratified the document [JURIST news archive]. In 2005, an earlier draft for a European constitution [JURIST news archive] failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda.






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Germany court rules China counterfeit cars infringe on BMW design
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 27, 2008 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A German court [Bavarian justice system website, in German] Friday ruled that a sports utility vehicle manufactured in China bore an unacceptable resemblance to a model manufactured by German automaker BMW [corporate website], ordering the SUV's importers to stop sales of the infringing SUV, destroy all remaining cars, and pay compensatory damages to BMW. China Automobile said it would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Justice [official website], arguing that Germany could not ban a vehicle that was legal throughout the rest of Europe. AP has more.

This is not the first time Chinese automakers has been accused of imitating foreign car design. Last year, DaimlerChrysler threatened to sue Shuanghuan Automobile [Forbes report] over a car it alleged infringed on its designs. Counterfeit luxury goods have been an increasing problem [AutoChannel report] for many countries in recent years and many have taken steps to crack down on Chinese "copycat cars."






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Iraq criminal appeals court judge assassinated
Devin Montgomery on June 27, 2008 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Unidentified assailants Thursday shot and killed a top Iraqi judge while he was traveling on a Baghdad highway. Kamel al-Shewaili was the president of the al-Rasafah Court of Appeal, one of two appeals courts in Baghdad, and presided over criminal cases for the city's eastern district. Reuters has more. Voices of Iraq has local coverage.

In January, Iraqi federal court of appeal judge and Supreme Judicial Council member Amir Jawdat al-Naeib was also assassinated [JURIST report] by gunmen in the capital. The Judicial Council said in August 2007 that 31 Iraqi judges have been assassinated since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraqi Lawyers Association reported in April last year that at least 210 lawyers and judges have been killed [IRIN report] since the US-led invasion, with dozens more injured in attacks which have prompted hundreds to leave the country. Many key Iraqi judges and their families now live in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad or in the so-called Rule of Law complex [NYT report], a secure compound in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Rusafa where they are supposedly safe from outside threats.






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ICC holds confirmation of charges hearings on Congo militia leaders
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 27, 2008 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Hearings to confirm war crimes charges [press release] against two former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leaders began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Friday. Germain Katanga [BBC report; ICC materials] is accused [JURIST report] of using child soldiers and orchestrating violence against women; former Nationalist and Integrationist Front leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui [ICC materials; JURIST report] is accused of planning and carrying out an attack against the village of Bogoro in 2003, allegedly killing some 200 persons. Prosecutors argued that the trial would help victims to "move forward" with their lives in the DRC's violence-plagued Ituri district [HRW backgrounder], where many of the alleged war crimes took place.

A scheduled May hearing to confirm the charges against Chui and Katanga was delayed [decision, PDF; press release] in April to allow the defense more time to prepare. Another accused war criminal, Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile], was taken into ICC custody in March 2006, becoming the first DRC war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC [JURIST reports]. Lubanga is charged [JURIST report] with enlisting child soldiers in the Ituri district.






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Sudan removes Darfur aid worker for refusing to cooperate with investigation
Steve Czajkowski on June 27, 2008 9:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Banu Altunbasof, the Sudan head of international aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) [advocacy website], was ejected from the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive] Thursday, after authorities said that she blocked state investigations into alleged MSF transgressions. The Sudanese government has long alleged that aid agencies have falsely accused the government of human rights abuses in Darfur for political purposes [JURIST report], while aid groups accuse the government of being hostile toward their work [HRW backgrounder] in the region. In 2005, two MSF workers were detained [JURIST report] over a report [PDF text] alleging mass rape in the Darfur region. Reuters has more.

A report [materials] released by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) [official website] last week named Sudan as one of the worst violators of refugee rights. The report graded [grade report, PDF; report grading policy, PDF] countries based on their adherence to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees [text], specifically evaluating refugee policies on physical protection, detention and access to courts, labor, and freedom of movement. According to a report [text] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website], as of April 2008 2.5 million people have been displaced by the government's war against rebel forces and another 2 million are considered to be otherwise affected by the conflict.






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UN rights chief criticizes Zimbabwe parties for rights abuses in election lead-up
Devin Montgomery on June 27, 2008 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday sharply criticized [press release] Zimbabwean political groups for violence surrounding the country's ongoing presidential elections and said that mediation efforts should be based on the need for accountability and justice. Members of both the ruling ZANU PF party and occasionally the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party websites] commit serious human rights violations, she said, and must be held accountable. Arbour added that current conditions make meaningful elections impossible and she called on both the Zimbabwean government and international groups to restore order. Also Thursday, the UN Special Procedures mandate holders [UN materials] reiterated concerns about rights violations in Zimbabwe and urged the government to postpone the elections until the rule of law had been restored. In a statement [text], the group wrote:

We strongly urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure respect for human rights and to abide by democratic principles and practices, in accordance with Zimbabwe's own domestic law and international human rights standards.
Run-off elections in the country continued Friday despite the international pressure from the UN and rights groups [FIDH press release], with current president Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] running unopposed after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] withdrew his candidacy Tuesday. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March. Human rights groups suggested that state-sponsored violence would only increase as the second presidential vote drew closer, and in the past few weeks the amount of election-related violence has increased, including the beating [ABC News report], torture [National Post report], and killing [NYT report] of MDC supporters throughout Zimbabwe. On Wednesday, Tsvangirai called for the United Nations and African leaders to facilitate an end [JURIST report] to continuing political violence in the country. Earlier this month, Mugabe's government expelled a UN human rights observer, and government forces stopped and detained US and UK diplomats [JURIST reports], threatening them and beating one of their drivers.





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Ashcroft involved with torture memos: Bush administration lawyers
Deirdre Jurand on June 27, 2008 8:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Controversial US interrogation policies outlined in two 2002 and 2003 memoranda [PDF texts; JURIST report] were reviewed by top Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft [official profile], according to two former Bush administration officials testifying before the House Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday. The documents advised the Department of Defense (DOD) that the military could use a wide range of interrogation methods to question foreign detainees outside the US without fear of criminal liability or constitutional limitations. Vice Presidential chief of staff David Addington and former DOJ lawyer John Yoo [profiles] denied that the memos were written without Ashcroft's knowledge or input. Addington did not prepare formal testimony [background documents, PDF], but told the panel that he would not be responsible for US interrogation policy if a court later found it to be illegal. Yoo, who wrote the 2002 memorandum, told the Committee [PDF text]:

In facing the questions that were posed to us, we appropriately kept in mind that the homeland of the United States had been attacked by a dangerous, unconventional enemy. But we did not make policy, and we called the legal questions as we saw them.
Also Thursday, lawyer Christopher Schroeder [academic profile] testified before the committee that some of the advice in the memoranda was based on inaccurate interpretations of the law [PDF text]. The New York Times has more.

In May, Yoo agreed to testify voluntarily, but the committee subpoenaed Addington [JURIST report] after he repeatedly refused to appear. In April, Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) threatened to seek subpoenas [materials; JURIST report] to compel Addington and other current and former administration officials, including Ashcroft, to testify about the memos.





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East Timor president declines 'offer' to succeed Arbour as UN rights chief
Andrew Gilmore on June 27, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Friday declined what he described as an offer to become the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, despite having told parliament last week [AP report] that he had accepted the position. Ramos-Horta said he changed his mind because resigning from the presidency would force new elections to be held within 90 days, something he feared could destabilize the newly-formed country. The UN has made no official statement on the matter. Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize [Nobel Prize website], had been considered a leading candidate for the position since surviving an assassination attempt [JURIST report] in February. Current UNHCHR Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] will be formally stepping down next week. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Ramos-Horta is only the second president of East Timor and previously served as the country's first foreign minister. He was wounded in a February assassination attempt by anti-government rebels. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed during the attacks, while Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao [BBC profile] 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 established the state of emergency for one month at the end of February, but extended it [JURIST reports] in late March, saying some parts of the country remained unstable following the assassination attempts.






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Federal court enforces Facebook trade secret settlement
Steve Czajkowski on June 27, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] Wednesday granted a motion [order, PDF] to enforce a previous settlement agreement between two social networking websites, Facebook [corporate backgrounder] and ConnectU [corporate website]. The ruling effectively ends the two companies' ongoing legal battle [case materials] concerning ownership of source code forming the basis of Facebook. The two sides had agreed on a settlement in February, but ConnectU had sought to annul that agreement [Bloomberg report], arguing that Facebook had committed fraud in the procurement, material terms were missing, and the agreement did not reflect the parties' intentions. Judge James Ware rejected ConnectU's arguments asserting unclear terms and fraud:

In sum, the Court finds that the Agreement reached by the parties does not display on its face a failure to agree or any uncertainty regarding its material terms. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Agreement is enforceable...[T]he Court finds that Defendants have failed to tender sufficient evidence of fraud in the circumstances proffered to the Court to create a genuine dispute as to whether the Agreement was fraudulently induced.
The actual terms of the financial settlement were not released, but as a result of the agreement, all ConnectU stock will be acquired by Facebook in exchange for cash and common shares of its stock. The New York Times has more.

ConnectU and Facebook originally went to court last year amid allegations that Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerburg [corporate profile], had stolen the idea for the site while working for a student-run Harvard University website, the Harvard Connection, which later became ConnectU, in 2003. Facebook, which was established in 2004, is said to have a value in excess of $1 billion, and according to reports by ComScore [corporate website] it has 80 million active users and it is the sixth most-trafficked website in the world.





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Belarus proposed online media law violates rights: journalists
Deirdre Jurand on June 26, 2008 4:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Belarusian online news services and journalist organizations have denounced a proposed new law [BAJ report] that would restrict online press freedom by requiring news services to register with the government. The House of Representatives of Belarus' National Assembly [official website, English version] approved the "On Mass Media" law Tuesday after its second reading. Belarusian online news sources Wednesday posted black banners and some temporarily stopped posting material in response. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) [official website] wrote [press release] that "it is unacceptable to consider and adopt a legal act that infringes upon this fundamental right," protected by articles 33 and 34 of the Belarus constitution [text]. Reporters Without Borders [official website] also criticized the passage, writing [press release]: "The Internet has until now been one of the few spaces where Belarusians could express themselves freely. We fear that censorship will be stepped up." The proposal must be passed by the upper house of the Assembly and then signed by the president before it becomes law. AP has more.

In March, the Belarus KGB [official website] detained at least 16 journalists [JURIST report] and searched their homes and offices for materials that allegedly libeled Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile]. The Belarus Deputy Prosecutor General said that the searches related to an animated Internet cartoon that allegedly insulted Lukashenko and had been broadcast on Belsat TV [media website], a Polish-funded satellite television channel. The BAJ argued that the searches were retaliation for media coverage of anti-Lukashenko protests [JURIST report] in Minsk earlier that week. In 2004 the Council of Europe severely condemned [Resolution 1372 text] the Belarusian government for its oppression of journalists, the Council will again evaluate the status of journalists [BAJ report] in the country following the approval of the proposed law.






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US to remove North Korea from terror sponsor list
Andrew Gilmore on June 26, 2008 3:48 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Thursday announced plans [statement] to remove North Korea [JURIST news archive] from a State Department list of terror sponsors [text]. The move comes after the North Korean government presented China with a detailed report outlining its nuclear energy and weapons programs, in accordance with international efforts to end its nuclear ambitions. Other sanctions against North Korea, including those imposed by the UN Security Council [JURIST report], will remain in place. The New York Times has more. AP has additional coverage.

In February 2007, North Korea agreed [JURIST report] to end its nuclear weapons program, shut down and seal any reactors, and completely declare the extent of its nuclear activities in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel. International efforts to end North Korea's nuclear programs have taken place in the context of the Six-Party Talks [US State Department backgrounder], a group that includes North Korea, South Korea, the US, Russia, Japan, and China. The group has also focused on normalizing US-North Korean relations, relations between Japan and North Korea [JURIST news archive], peace and security in northeast Asia, energy and the economy, and the status of North Korea's de-nuclearization. AFP has more.






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Age discrimination legislation proposed by UK government
Deirdre Jurand on June 26, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials from the UK Government Equalities Office (GEO) [official website] introduced a new equality bill [bill framework, PDF; BBC Q/A] Thursday designed to combat discrimination based on age or gender. Equalities Minister Harriet Harman told [statement, PDF] the House of Commons that 40 years of anti-discrimination laws have not sufficiently reduced inequality in the UK:

This package will see us make further progress towards a fair and equal society. A single statute to replace the complex web of legislation that has grown up over the years will make it easier for people to know their rights and their obligations.
The bill framework focuses on transparency in company operations, with a provision requiring companies to report regularly on their employee make-up and to allow internal discussion of salaries, which is currently prohibited under UK law. The bill will also provide for an increased role for the Equality and Human Rights Commission [official website], a non-departmental public body established by the Equality Act 2006 [text] to work toward eliminating discrimination, and will give employment tribunals wider discretion in proposing recommendations for companies that violate the bill. BBC News has more.

The UK has made increased efforts to combat discrimination in recent years. In October 2006, an official at the UK Commission for Racial Equality [official website] warned [JURIST report] that if communication about social differences does not improve in Britain, riots could erupt there in the wake of a religious dress [JURIST news archive] debate prompted by the suspension of a Muslim UK teacher for wearing a full-face veil in the classroom. In January 2007, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced [JURIST report] that rules under the Equality Act protecting same-sex couples' rights to adopt children [JURIST report] will apply without exception, denying special exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies opposed to same-sex unions or homosexuality.





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Amnesty urges EU to condemn torture in Brussels protest
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 26, 2008 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture [UN backgrounder] by protesting [press release] in front of the European Parliament [official website] in Brussels on Thursday. The protest criticized European Union states for failing to condemn alleged abuses in countries like the United States and Tunisia, warning that many governments were using the threat of terrorism as a justification for repression and torture. The group called on EU governments to publicly condemn torture and hold its practitioners accountable. Al Jazeera has more.

Earlier this month, Amnesty accused [report text; JURIST report] Tunisia of committing wide-spread human rights abuses under overly-broad anti-terrorism legislation [Amnesty backgrounder]. In January, Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier [official profile] said that the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade would remove the US from an internal document that lists countries that employ interrogation methods that amount to torture [JURIST reports] and where prisoners risk being tortured.






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Canada court rules on preservation of evidence in terror investigation
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 26, 2008 1:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled [judgment] Thursday that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) [official website] improperly destroyed recordings of agent interviews with terror suspect Adil Charkaoui [case summary], but the justices refused to stop Charkaoui's extradition to Morocco. The Court found that the loss of evidence hampered judicial review:

As things stand, the destruction by CSIS officers of their operational notes compromises the very function of judicial review. To uphold the right to procedural fairness of people in Mr. Charkaoui’s position, CSIS should be required to retain all the information in its possession and to disclose it to the ministers and the designated judge. The ministers and the designated judge will in turn be responsible for verifying the information they are given. If, as we suggest, the ministers have access to all the undestroyed "original" evidence, they will be better positioned to make appropriate decisions on issuing a certificate. The designated judge, who will have access to all the evidence, will then exclude any evidence that might pose a threat to national security and summarize the remaining evidence — which he or she will have been able to check for accuracy and reliability — for the named person.
The Court found that the destruction of the recordings violated CSIS's duty to preserve all intelligence notes as stated in Section 12 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act [text]. CBC News has more.

Charkaoui was arrested in 2003 and detained until 2005 under a security certificate [CBSA backgrounder; CBC backgrounder] that allowed the government to indefinitely detain and deport foreigners with suspected ties to terrorism. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled [text; JURIST report] that the government's use of security certificates violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text; CDCH materials]. Last October, the Canadian government introduced [JURIST report] a new security certificates bill [press release] in the House of Commons [official website].





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Canada court orders release of Khadr classified information
Deirdre Jurand on June 26, 2008 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] A Canadian Federal Court judge ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that the government must release evidence to Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] that could assist in his defense. The decision followed last month's Supreme Court of Canada ruling [text; JURIST report] that Khadr had the right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] to see confidential documents and videos compiled by Canadian officials following interviews with Khadr that possibly involved torture. The Federal Court judge held that Canadian officials violated Khadr's human rights under the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) and the Geneva Convention [texts] when they knowingly allowed interviews of Khadr to continue at Guantanamo. Justice Mosley wrote:

Canada cannot now object to the disclosure of this information. The information is relevant to the applicant’s complaints of mistreatment while in detention. While it may cause some harm to Canada-US relations, that effect will be minimized by the fact that the use of such interrogation techniques by the US military at Guantánamo is now a matter of public record and debate. In any event, I am satisfied that the public interest in disclosure of this information outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure.
The government must release some of the related information its agencies have and Khadr may release that information to the public, both subject to national security limitations. CBC News has more. Canwest News has additional coverage.

Khadr, 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 is one of four [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees prosecuted under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text]. On March 13, a US military judge ruled [JURIST report] that some correspondence between US and Canadian government officials regarding Khadr must be turned over to Khadr's defense team. In an affidavit released in early May, Khadr accused US interrogators of mistreatment [JURIST report] including threatening him with rape, physically abusing him, and forcing him to swear to false statements.





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Thousands died while in India police custody: rights group
Andrew Gilmore on June 26, 2008 11:37 AM ET

[JURIST] India's National Human Rights Commission [official website] should create a special department to investigate deaths in police custody, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) [advocacy website] said in a Wednesday report [PDF text; press release]. The report found that over 7,000 people, many of whom were allegedly tortured, have died in the custody of Indian police between 2002 and 2007. ACHR called on India to enact legislation to criminalize torture, to repeal all laws granting immunity to torturers, and to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text] and permit visits to the country by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. BBC News has more.

India came under criticism from South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) [advocacy website] in October 2006 when the group pressed both India and Pakistan to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report]. In December 2006, an Indian police officer was sentenced to death [BBC report] for killing a man while in police custody.






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House passes Americans with Disabilities Act amendments
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 26, 2008 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House voted 402-17 [roll call] to approve the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 [HR 3195 materials] Wednesday. The bill makes it easier for employees with mental or physical handicaps to prove they are victims of workplace or hiring discrimination. Bill co-sponsor Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) [official website] said that the new legislation closed gaps in the law [press release; floor statement, recorded video] that denied protections to workers with many handicaps, including epilepsy and diabetes. Bill co-sponsor Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) [official website; press release] said the bill was necessary because the Supreme Court interpreted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [official website] in an overly restrictive manner in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. v. Williams [opinion] in 2002, severely limiting the range of handicaps that qualified for protection. The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation. President George W. Bush has expressed concern that the bill could lead to excessive litigation. The New York Times has more.

The US is one of only 45 countries in the world with disability legislation, having adopted the ADA in 1990. In 2006, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted by acclamation an international treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities [official website; JURIST report]. The US said that it would not sign [New Standard report] the international accord, insisting that US domestic measures on the federal, state and local levels are already adequate for the purpose.






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Federal court rules FOIA does not apply to Guantanamo wiretaps
Devin Montgomery on June 26, 2008 11:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Wednesday ruled [decision, PDF] that the National Security Agency (NSA) [JURIST news archive] does not have to tell lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees whether it has used electronic surveillance methods to monitor their communications. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; CCR backgrounder ] on behalf of the lawyers in May 2007, arguing [JURIST report] that under the Freedom of Information Act [statute materials] the agency was compelled to disclose if and when the lawyers' communications were intercepted. The court rejected the Center's argument, agreeing with the NSA that the National Security Agency Act of 1959 [text] and other laws grant it immunity from this kind of request. The court said that granting such requests could expose too much of agency's operations:

If, as a matter of law, defendants are required to respond to plaintiffs' FOIA requests, they must do so no matter who is requesting the information. This might allow potential malfeasants to access sensitive information. Moreover, according to [NSA official Joseph] Brand, the accretion of progressively disclosed information 'would disclose the target and capabilities (sources and methods) of the [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and inform our adversaries of the degree to which NSA is aware of some of their operative[s] or can successfully exploit particular communications.'
AP has more.

In 2006, CCR filed a lawsuit, CCR v. Bush [CCR synopsis], seeking an injuction against the US government conducting warrantless surveillance [JURIST news archive] within the US. CCR said at the time that because there were "no safeguards put in place to ensure that attorney-client privileged communications are not being monitored, it is almost certain that confidential communications between CCR staff and our clients have been caught up in this massive web of illegal surveillance." That case is still pending [advocacy status report] and was argued before the US District Court for the Northern District of California in August 2007.





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Supreme Court rules in DC gun ban, campaign finance, energy contract cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 26, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down three decisions Thursday, including District of Columbia v. Heller [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment [text] to the US Constitution prohibits the District of Columbia from banning private handgun ownership. The Court found that the Second Amendment bestows upon citizens an individual right to own firearms for lawful purposes:

There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment's right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 553 US (2008). Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.
This was the first time that the Supreme Court has directly addressed the Second Amendment since 1939's US v. Miller [case materials]. In September 2007, Washington DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and DC Attorney General Linda Singer [official profiles] formally appealed a March 2007 federal court ruling which invalidated the District of Columbia's handgun ban [JURIST reports]. Thursday's decision affirms the March DC Circuit holding [opinion, PDF] that the city's 30-year-old ban on private possession of handguns was unconstitutionally broad. Read the Court's opinion [PDF text] per Justice Scalia, a dissent filed by Justice Stevens, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Breyer. AP has more.

The Court also ruled 5-4 in Davis v. Federal Election Commission [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] that 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, is unconstitutional. The exception was intended to ensure that independently wealthy candidates do not unfairly dominate elections. New York Democrat Jack Davis [campaign website] challenged the law, arguing that it violated his First Amendment rights. The Court agreed, holding:
There is, however, no constitutional basis for attacking contribution limits on the ground that they are too high. Congress has no constitutional obligation to limit contributions at all; and if Congress concludes that allowing contributions of a certain amount does not create an undue risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption, a candidate who wishes to restrict an opponent's fundraising cannot argue that the Constitution demands that contributions be regulated more strictly.
Thursday's decision reversed and remanded a DC Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF] that the law had not infringed on his right to free speech. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Alito, a concurrence in part and a dissent in part filed by Justice Stevens, and a concurrence in part and dissent in part [texts] filed by Justice Ginsburg.

In Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 5-2 that a long-term contract made between an energy supplier and a local public utility during the Western energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 [FERC materials] was void. After prices normalized, the Public Utility sought to have the contracts voided by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) [official website], arguing that the contract rates were unfairly influenced by outside market manipulation during the crisis. The FERC refused nullify the contracts, but on appeal, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Public Utility [opinion, PDF], and remanded the case to FERC. Thursday's ruling affirms the Ninth Circuit ruling, finding that FERC's:
analysis was flawed or incomplete to the extent FERC looked simply to whether consumers' rates increased immediately upon conclusion of the relevant contracts, rather than determining whether the contracts imposed an excessive burden "down the line," relative to the rates consumers could have obtained (but for the contracts) after elimination of the dysfunctional market.
Read the Court's opinion per Justice Scalia, a dissent filed by Justice Stevens, and a concurrence [texts] filed by Justice Ginsburg. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer did not participate in the decision.





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Child rape should remain punishable by death: politicians
Deirdre Jurand on June 26, 2008 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] A number of politicians have denounced Wednesday's US Supreme Court ruling [Kennedy v. Louisiana opinion text; JURIST report] that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for the rape of a child. At a press conference, Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill) said [MSNBC report] that

[T]he rape of a small child, six or eight years old is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our constitution.
Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.) also disagreed with the ruling, commenting [press release]
That there is a judge anywhere in America who does not believe that the rape of a child represents the most heinous of crimes, which is deserving of the most serious of punishments, is profoundly disturbing.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King called the Supreme Court's ruling unconstitutional [press release], while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal commented that the ruling "suppresses the constitutional authority of state legislatures" [press release]. Governor Jindal also said that Louisiana state officials would work to amend the statute to preserve the death penalty for child rapists. AP has more.

The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling held that the death penalty violates the Eight Amendment [text] protection against cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed or which did not harm society in general, as with espionage or treason. 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. The Court found that in cases where the victim was not killed, the death penalty fails to serve "deterrent or retributive" purposes invoked for its use. The Court's holding in the case reversed a decision [PDF text] of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.





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Council of Europe to investigate Kosovo organ trafficking allegations
Kiely Lewandowski on June 26, 2008 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] announced Wednesday that it will prepare a report [press release] on allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo. Former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has alleged in a new book [JURIST report] that about 300 Serbian and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, but that a 2003 probe by her ICTY team failed to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute. In response, parliamentarians submitted a motion [text] in April requesting that the Assembly investigate the organ trafficking charges. PACE officials forwarded the issue to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights [official website] earlier this month, according to officials from PACE's Serbian delegation [official website]. B92 has more. AP has additional coverage.

Del Ponte said reliable sources told her that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [official website] took the organs of young, healthy prisoners for black-market sales [Kosovo Compromise report]. The Swiss Foreign Ministry later barred Del Ponte from promoting the book because it was inconsistent with her role as the Swiss ambassador. In March, 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 next month, Serbia announced [JURIST report] that it planned to officially request that the ICTY resume a probe into the organ trafficking allegations, even though Kosovo Justice Minister Nekibe Kelmendi dismissed the allegations as "fabrications." The same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] urged [JURIST report] leaders of Kosovo and Albania to launch an investigation into the allegations, but as of May had not received a response.






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New Zealand Parliament signs record-breaking Maori land settlement
Kiely Lewandowski on June 26, 2008 6:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The New Zealand government and several Maori groups signed a deed of settlement Wednesday worth nearly NZ $196 million to resolve certain indigenous claims concerning land taken by British settlers in the 19th century. The deed of settlement agreement, known informally as the Treelords deal [settlement back-grounder, PDF], restores land rights and nearly 176,000 hectares of forest previously appropriated by the New Zealand government, including rental income from the land, to the Central North Island Forest Iwi Collective [official website], an organization made up of Maori iwi, or social units. Under the settlement, negotiated by the Office of Treaty Settlements [official website], all rental and other income from the land will be held in a newly-established trust holding company, whose shareholders are the Maori iwis. The Treelords deal also gives the Collective the ability to acquire government-owned properties through deferred selection or rights of first refusal. AP has more. The New Zealand Herald has local coverage.

Maori claims to the historical Central North Island forests are based on breaches of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi [text] by the New Zealand government. The treaty established the sovereignty of the British crown in New Zealand, but guaranteed Maori groups continued use of their land and natural resources. The Maori have fought for remedies for land loss and unequal treatment suffered pursuant to the Treaty since soon after its signing in 1840. Under the Treelords deal, the government of New Zealand officially apologizes for breaches of the Treaty. BBC News has more.






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UK High Court dismisses EU reform treaty lawsuit
Andrew Gilmore on June 25, 2008 2:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A UK High Court dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit Wednesday that sought to force the government to put the ratification of the new EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], known as the Treaty of Lisbon [PDF text; official website], to a public vote. Influential UK Conservative Party donor Stuart Wheeler [BBC profile] launched a legal bid to force a referendum on the treaty [JURIST report] in January, arguing that Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] had broken a pledge to hold a referendum on the pact, possibly warranting judicial review. The High Court agreed to consider the suit in May. Brown has said that a referendum is unnecessary because the treaty does not affect the UK constitution or impinge on British sovereignty. In dismissing Wheeler's lawsuit, the High Court ruled:

For the reasons we have given, we are satisfied that the claim lacks substantive merit and should be dismissed. Even if we had taken a different view of the substance of the case, in the exercise of the court’s discretion we would have declined to grant any relief, having regard in particular to the fact that Parliament has addressed the question whether there should be a referendum and, in passing the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, has decided against one.

At a late stage in the proceedings, a few days before we expected to hand down judgment, we were informed by the Treasury Solicitor that, following Royal Assent to the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, the government "is now proceeding to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon." We were concerned that the government might be intending to pre-judge or pre-empt the decision of the court by ratifying the treaty while the lawfulness of doing so without a referendum was still in issue before the court. The Prime Minister, however, acted promptly to remove our concern by Foreign Secretary making clear that ratification would not take place before the judgment was handed down.

In the event, the decision of the court is itself clear. We have found nothing in the claimant’s case to cast doubt on the lawfulness of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum.
BBC News has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Last year, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband [official profile] similarly rejected calls for a general referendum on the treaty, instead insisting [transcript] that it was sufficiently "different...in absolute essence" from the earlier draft European Constitution [JURIST news archive]. The draft constitution would have been put to a popular vote [JURIST report] had it survived political defeats in France and the Netherlands. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected a referendum [JURIST report] on the Treaty of Lisbon last year before leaving office. The UK House of Lords [official website] passed a bill [text; JURIST report] earlier this month to ratify the treaty, rejecting an amendment pushed by Conservative peers to postpone the upper chamber vote. The House of Commons approved the Treaty [BBC report] in March. AFP has more.





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Federal court rejects Conrad Black appeal of fraud, obstruction of justice convictions
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 25, 2008 2:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Wednesday rejected [opinion, PDF] an appeal of Canadian-born financier and former media mogul Conrad Black [CBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Convicted [JURIST report] of fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007, Black was sentenced to 78 months in prison [JURIST report] and ordered to pay $125,000 and forfeit another $1 million. In February, the court upheld a district court ruling [JURIST reports] rejecting Black's bid to remain free on bail pending the appeal. The appeals court ruled in February that Black's co-defendants, John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson, could remain free on bail because they had not been convicted of a separate obstruction of justice charge. CBC News has more. The Canadian Press has additional coverage.

The US government originally accused [indictment, PDF] Black of diverting more than $80 million [JURIST report] from Hollinger International and its shareholders during the company's $2.1 billion sale of several hundred Canadian newspapers, but in July 2007 he was found not guilty on separate charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and tax evasion. In August 2007, Black and former Hollinger executives Boultbee, Atkinson and Mark Kipnis filed concurrent motions [JURIST report] requesting either new trials or acquittals after their July convictions. US District Judge Amy St. Eve largely rejected the motions [ruling, PDF; JURIST report], overturning one of Kipnis' mail fraud convictions while affirming all of the other convictions against the four.






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Challenge to Missouri midwifery law fails for lack of standing
Deirdre Jurand on June 25, 2008 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Missouri ruled [opinion text] Tuesday that four physicians associations do not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of a state law that legalizes midwifery [American College of Nurse-Midwifes backgrounder]. The Missouri legislature passed the provision [text] last year as part of a larger health insurance reform act [HB 818 text, PDF]. The Missouri State Medical Association, the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, the Missouri Academy of Family Physicians and the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society [professional websites] challenged the law on the grounds that physicians could be subject to disciplinary action for aiding unlicensed midwives; the groups also argued that the bill violated the Missouri constitution [Article III text] because it had more than one subject and because the midwifery provision changed the bill's original purpose. Officials for Missouri Midwife Supporters said that the ruling gives families more options and freedom in birth methods, but the Missouri State Medical Association said that the provision "needlessly puts at risk the health of mothers and their babies" [press releases].

Missouri law prohibits physicians from aiding or encouraging an unlicensed person to practice medicine, and such actions can lead to the revocation of a physician's license by the state Board of Registration for the Healing Arts [official website]. Practicing midwifery in Missouri was previously a class-C felony that could be punished by up to seven years in prison, but the ruling allows all certified midwives to legally practice in the state. Certified Nurse Midwives, who have training in both nursing and midwifery, can be licensed in all states but usually must practice in association with a physician. Direct-entry midwives [state legal comparison chart] do not have to have formal training and usually do not have to practice in association with a physician, but they are prohibited in 10 states and not legally regulated in four others. AP has more. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has local coverage.






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Zimbabwe opposition leader calls for negotiated settlement, UN intervention
Andrew Gilmore on June 25, 2008 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], Wednesday called for the United Nations and African leaders to lead a settlement process aimed at ending the ongoing violent political crisis in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai's comments came at a press conference held during a temporary departure [Radio Netherlands report] from the Dutch embassy in Harare, where he has been staying since Sunday after announcing his withdrawal from a presidential run-off election [AFP report] against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] scheduled for this Friday. In withdrawing from the elections, Tsvangirai cited increasing violence against his party by Mugabe's government and said that he would not ask his supporters to risk their lives by voting in the run-off election. In an editorial published Wednesday in The Guardian, Tsvangirai also urged the UN to send an international peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe to oversee the country's presidential elections and end attacks on MDC politicians and activists by the government. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March. Human rights groups suggested that state-sponsored violence would only increase as the second presidential vote drew closer, and in the past few weeks the amount of election-related violence has increased, including the beating [ABC News report], torture [National Post report], and killing [NYT report] of MDC supporters throughout Zimbabwe. Last week, Mugabe's government expelled a UN human rights observer [JURIST news report]. Earlier this month, government forces stopped and detained US and UK diplomats [JURIST report], threatening them and beating one of their drivers.






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Poland court rules on riot police convictions for 1981 protest killings
Deirdre Jurand on June 25, 2008 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] A Polish appellate court Tuesday overturned the conviction of one riot police officer found guilty for the shooting deaths of nine coal miners during a 1981 protest, but affirmed the convictions of 14 other officers convicted in relation to the same incident. The coal miners were protesting the imposition of martial law [Polish government backgrounder] and the jailing of Solidarity [group website] labor movement leaders by the Communist government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski [official website]. The 15 riot police said that they only shot over the heads of the protesters, but a court sentenced [JURIST report] them in 2007 to between two and one-half years and 11 years in prison. Tuesday's ruling, which cannot be appealed, reduced the 11-year sentence of one officer to six years, increased the sentences of 13 other officers by one year each, and remanded the case of a final officer. AP has more.

The prosecutions were part of a plan for "moral renewal" [Washington Post report] pushed by Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski [official websites], which has sought to purge police and military intelligence agencies and require civil servants, academics and others to disclose whether they served as police informants [JURIST report] prior to 1989. The country's Constitutional Tribunal struck down the proposed disclosure law [JURIST report] in 2007, saying that the government could neither require citizens to make such declarations nor publish a list of alleged Soviet collaborators.






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Supreme Court rules in child rape, Sixth Amendment, Exxon damages cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 25, 2008 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down four decisions Wednesday, including Exxon v. Baker [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 5-3 to reduce a punitive damages award to be paid by Exxon Mobil [corporate website] for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill [EPA backgrounder] from $2.5 billion to $500 million. Exxon Mobil and its shipping subsidiary had been ordered to pay punitive damages for the spill of 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The award was larger than the total of all punitive damages awards affirmed by all federal appellate courts in US history. The Court found that punitive damages should be predictable based on the harm done:

Our review of punitive damages today, then, considers not their intersection with the Constitution, but the desirability of regulating them as a common law remedy for which responsibility lies with this Court as a source of judge-made law in the absence of statute. Whatever may be the constitutional significance of the unpredictability of high punitive awards, this feature of happenstance is in tension with the function of the awards as punitive, just because of the implication of unfairness that an eccentrically high punitive verdict carries in a system whose commonly held notion of law rests on a sense of fairness in dealing with one another. Thus, a penalty should be reasonably predictable in its severity, so that even Justice Holmes's "bad man" can look ahead with some ability to know what the stakes are in choosing one course of action or another.
In December 2006, the Ninth Circuit reduced [JURIST report] Exxon's original $5 billion punitive damage award by over $2 billion, ruling [PDF, text] that the award was excessive in light of a 2003 US Supreme Court ruling that punitive damages must be reasonable and proportionate to the harm incurred. The Court also considered the cleanup and compensation efforts already made by Exxon. When the Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in October, it agreed to consider three questions presented [PDF text] by the appeal, but declined to hear a claim that the verdict was excessive under the Constitution's Due Process Clause [text] and a cross appeal to reinstate the initial $5 billion damages award. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Souter, a concurrence filed by Justice Scalia and joined by Justice Thomas, a concurrence in part and dissent in part filed by Justice Stevens, a concurrence in part and dissent in part filed by Justice Ginsburg, and a concurrence in part and dissent in part [texts] filed by Justice Breyer. Justice Alito recused himself from taking part in the case as he owns Exxon stock. AP has more.

The Court also ruled 5-4 in Kennedy v. Louisiana [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] that a death sentence 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. The Court found that in cases where the victim was not killed, the death penalty fails to serve "deterrent or retributive" purposes invoked for its use:
The rule of evolving standards of decency with specific marks on the way to full progress and mature judgment means that resort to the
penalty must be reserved for the worst of crimes and limited in its instances of application. In most cases justice is not better served by terminating the life of the perpetrator rather than confining him and preserving the possibility that he and the system will find ways to allow him to understand the enormity of his offense. Difficulties in administering the penalty to ensure against its arbitrary and capricious application require adherence to a rule reserving its use, at this stage of evolving standards and in cases of crimes against individuals, for crimes that take the life of the victim.
The decision reversed and remanded a holding [PDF text] by the Supreme Court of Louisiana. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Kennedy, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Alito and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas. AP has more.

In Giles v. California [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 6-3 that 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. The Court accepted Giles' argument that allowing the previous statements as evidence violated his constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause [LII backgrounder], ruling that it "decline[d] to approve an exception to the Confrontation Clause unheard of at the time of the founding or for 200 years thereafter." The decision vacated and remanded a holding [PDF text] by the Supreme Court of California. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Scalia, a dissent filed by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Stevens and Kennedy, a concurrence filed by Justice Thomas, a concurrence filed by Justice Alito, and a concurrence [texts] filed by Justice Souter. AP has more.

In Plains Commerce v. Long Family Land and Cattle [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled that Indian tribes’ courts do not have jurisdiction to decide a case between a business owned by tribe members and a bank that owns land within a reservation but that is not owned by tribe members. Applying "the general rule that tribes do not possess authority over non-Indians who come within their borders," the Court reversed an Eighth Circuit holding [PDF text]. Read the Court's opinion per Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Ginsburg filed a concurrence in part and dissent in part [text], concurring in the judgment in part, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer.





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Italy Senate approves legislation suspending Berlusconi corruption trial
Andrew Gilmore on June 25, 2008 9:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The Italian Senate [official website], the upper house of the country's parliament, approved public safety legislation [text, PDF, in Italian; Senate Act 692 materials, in Italian] Wednesday containing provisions to suspend older trials for nonviolent crimes, including corruption proceedings against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Berlusconi told the Senate in a letter [text, in Italian] last week that the measures would allow the judiciary to consider more important cases and give the government time to introduce judicial reforms. The bill will suspend trials for crimes that occurred before mid-2002 except for those involving the Mafia, violent offenses, workplace accidents and crimes that could be punished by 10 years or more in prison. The government also plans to propose a bill that would protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Berlusconi is currently on trial for corruption charges [JURIST report] dating back to 1997, and critics of the amendment have charged that the move is personally motivated since Berlusconi's trial will be among those suspended. BBC has more.

Berlusconi, a media mogul and Italy's richest man, has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October 2007, Italy's highest court of appeal upheld Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. Berlusconi has said he is innocent and has accused prosecutors of pursuing a political vendetta against him.






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Russia fails to stop police abuses, rebel militias in Ingushetia: HRW report
Devin Montgomery on June 25, 2008 9:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Russian police have committed serious rights abuses against suspected rebel militants from Ingushetia [government website, in Russian; BBC backgrounder], including abductions, torture, and killings, according to a Wednesday report [HRW materials; press release] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW alleged that Russia has failed to hold government agents accountable for abuses and compared Russian tactics against suspected rebels to those used during both Argentina's "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity Backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and the recent conflict in Chechnya [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group said that Russian abuses had strengthened an increasingly violent militia movement in the region:

These practices evoke, albeit on a far smaller scale, the thousands of enforced disappearances, killings, and acts of torture that plagued Chechnya for more than a decade. They are antagonizing local residents and serve to further destabilize the situation in Ingushetia and more widely in the North Caucasus.

In order to prevent Ingushetia from turning into the full-blown human rights crisis that has characterized Chechnya, prompt and effective measures must be taken by the Russian government to end these human rights violations and hold accountable their perpetrators.
The group urged the government to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the abuses and to better secure the region through the enforcement of the rule of law. Reuters has more.

In recent months, Ingushetia has seen an upsurge of violence [JURIST report], particularly targeting police, the military, and the judiciary. Local authorities blame Muslim rebels from both Ingushetia and Chechnya, but government critics and rights groups blame the government counter-insurgency tactics [advocacy report, PDF]. In May, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] held Russia responsible [JURIST report] for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the ECHR ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members [JURIST reports].





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Cambodia genocide tribunal aims to complete work in 2010: officials
Devin Montgomery on June 25, 2008 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] Tuesday announced plans to complete operations a year early and to significantly reduced its budget.  Earlier this year the court announced plans [JURIST report] to operate until 2011, but has been unable to raise the funds necessary to support the plan. The court said that it would still be able to bring those accused to justice despite the cutbacks.  Also Tuesday, the court released a statement [text] saying that it still needs $43.7 million to continue work through the end of 2009. The court was originally scheduled to operate from 2006 to 2009 on a much smaller budget, and financial overruns prompted an April UN audit [audit text, PDF; JURIST report] which eventually cleared the court of mismanagement. The extensions have instead been blamed on long trial delays and frequent appeals. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The ECCC was created to try Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leaders responsible for the country's 1970s genocide, but no Khmer Rouge officials have yet faced justice. In August 2007, the ECCC brought its first charges against Kaing Khek Iev [TrialWatch profile; JURIST report], better known as "Duch," who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Former Khmer Rouge official Nuon Chea [GenocideWatch report] is awaiting trial [JURIST report] for charges [statement, PDF] of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Charges have also been brought against former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, who was arrested [JURIST report] in November 2007. In February, Samphan ended his cooperation [JURIST report] with the ECCC.






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UK seeks permission of anonymous witness testimony
Deirdre Jurand on June 25, 2008 9:01 AM ET

[JURIST] UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw [official profile] Tuesday held emergency meetings with members of Parliament to discuss possible legislation that would expressly allow anonymous witnesses to testify at some trials.  The recently adopted judicial practice was challenged last week by a Law Lords [government backgrounder, PDF] ruling [Regina v. Davis text, PDF] that it may deny defendants' right to meaningfully challenge the witnesses against them. The judges said that Parliament, rather than the courts, was best suited to balance the rights of the accused with the safety of witnesses:

In these circumstances, while I am very conscious of the problems confronting the authorities which have led them to adopt these measures, in my view it is not open to this House in its judicial capacity to make such a far-reaching inroad into the common law rights of a defendant as would be involved in endorsing the procedure adopted in the present case.
In his meetings with MPs Tuesday, Straw began negotiations in line with the judges' ruling for legislation to allow the use of anonymous witnesses. The Guardian has more. TheTimes has additional coverage.

The office of Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] commented [press briefing] Tuesday that the ruling "was something we were looking at urgently, including looking at whether or not we could change the law." A ruling in the first of as many as 600 potentially affected cases also came Tuesday, when a judge suspended a murder trial [AP report] because the jury had heard testimony from anonymous witnesses. Prime Minister Brown announced [Guardian report] Wednesday that the government would try to push the legislation, which must conform to the Human Rights Act [text], hoping to get it through Parliament by the end of next week. 





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Pakistan Supreme Court delays Friday by-election in district of ex-PM Sharif
Andrew Gilmore on June 25, 2008 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Wednesday agreed to delay a by-election scheduled for Thursday in the district of the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] and ex-Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] until the court rules on an appeal of a lower court ruling [JURIST report] that barred Sharif from standing in the by-election. A three-judge panel [cause list] of the Supreme Court heard the government's emergency appeal of the ruling Wednesday, and indicated that it would not deliberate on the case until next Monday, putting on hold elections in Sharif's home district in Lahore until the court resolves the issue. The PML-N's partner in government, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website], instigated the appeal after the PML-N declined to appeal Monday's Lahore High Court (LHC) [official website] ruling against Sharif and rejected the court's decision [Daily Times report]. The Pakistan government said Tuesday that it would file an appeal [JURIST report]. BBC has more.

The Lahore High Court's ruling barred Sharif from the June 26 by-election on the grounds that a prior criminal conviction rendered him ineligible for office. In 2000, Sharif was convicted for his involvement in an attempt to prevent a plane carrying then-army chief and current President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] from landing in Pakistan during Musharraf's 1999 coup against Sharif's civilian government. Sharif has said that he will not personally challenge Monday's decision since he considers the Supreme Court as currently constituted to be illegitimate. AP has additional coverage.






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US ambassador to Albania helped conceal illegal ammunition deal: House panel
Deirdre Jurand on June 24, 2008 2:56 PM ET

[JURIST] US Ambassador to Albania John L. Withers [official website] colluded with Albanian officials to hide evidence of an illegal ammunition selling plan [NYT report] from New York Times reporters, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA) alleged in a letter [PDF text; materials] Monday. Government arms contractor AEY allegedly sold ammunition produced in China to the US Department of Defense in violation of a military acquisitions prohibition [clause 252.225-7007 text] against trading Chinese arms; Albanian officials allegedly repackaged the Chinese arms to appear as if they were manufactured in Albania. On Thursday, a grand jury indicted [text, PDF; press release] government arms contractor AEY, Inc., 22-year-old company president Efraim Diveroli, and three other company executives on charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the US, making false statements to a federal agency, and major fraud against the US [US code sections text]. Withers has denied that he conspired with Albanian officials to hide the operation and said he plans to formally refute the charges [statement]. The International Herald Tribune has more.

In late 2006, AEY responded to an Army solicitation seeking bids on an arms contract for Afghanistan. The Army awarded AEY the contract, which prohibited "delivery of ammunition acquired, directly or indirectly, from a Communist Chinese military company." The indictment said that the company and its executives regularly and fraudulently completed Certificates of Conformance [template form, PDF] certifying that the ammunition was wholly legal. In 2007, Congress enacted the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials] as an additional measure [JURIST report] to bring all civilian contractors [Parameters backgrounder] in Iraq under the military's jurisdiction. Such prosecutions had previously been impossible [USAF guidance document] because of court rulings [Grisham v. Hagan opinion text] that the military did not have such jurisdiction absent a declaration of war by Congress.






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Spain should extradite ex-Nazi officers for war crimes trial: rights group
Devin Montgomery on June 24, 2008 2:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Rights group Equipo Nizkor [advocacy website] has petitioned Spain's National Court [press release, in Spanish; Human Rights Blog backgrounder] to extradite and try four former Nazi officers for alleged war crimes committed during WWII, a group lawyer said Tuesday. The suit was brought on behalf of a concentration camp survivor and families of three who died at the camp. Under Spanish law, the country's courts can exercise universal jurisdiction [HRW backgrounder] to try those suspected of genocide and other serious human rights offenses even if they occur abroad. The four named in the suit, Johann Leprich [DOJ press release], Anton Tittjung [AP report], Josias Kumpf [DOJ press release] and John Demjanjuk [JURIST news archive], are currently in the US under deportation orders. AP has more.

If the petition is granted, it will not be the first time Spain has exercised jurisdiction for crimes committed outside its borders. In January 2006, Spain indicted [JURIST report] former Argentinean naval officer Ricardo Miguel Cavallo [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] for crimes he allegedly committed during Argentina's 1976-83 "Dirty War" [Global Security backgrounder; JURIST news archive], before dropping the charges and sending him back to Argentina [JURIST reports] to face trial there. In May 2007, a Spanish judge upheld arrest warrants [JURIST report] issued against three US soldiers accused of a "crime against the international community" in the 2004 death in Iraq of cameraman Jose Couso [advocacy website, in English; JURIST news archive] but the US has refused to extradite the three.






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Pakistan government to challenge Sharif election disqualification
Andrew Gilmore on June 24, 2008 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The Pakistan government will challenge Monday's Lahore High Court ruling [JURIST report] blocking Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] leader and former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from running in upcoming parliamentary elections, current Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Tuesday. The ruling, which bars Sharif from a June 26 by-election, was criticized by both the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website]. A PML-N spokesman rejected the court's decision [Daily Times report] that a prior criminal conviction rendered Sharif ineligible for office. The legal challenge to the ruling is expected to be filed Wednesday with the Pakistan Supreme Court [official website]. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In 2000, Sharif was convicted for his involvement in an attempt to prevent a plane carrying then-army-chief and current President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] from landing in Pakistan during Musharraf's 1999 coup against Sharif's civilian government. Sharif has said that he will not personally challenge Monday's decision as he considers the Supreme Court as currently constituted to be illegitimate.






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DOJ favored politically conservative candidates in hiring: OIG report
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 24, 2008 1:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The Department of Justice improperly granted preferential treatment to conservative candidates in assessing job and summer internship applications under a 2002 screening program, according to a Tuesday report [PDF text] by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General [official website]. It was found that political officials played a greater role in the department's hiring processes, supporting long-standing accusations by critics that the Bush administration sought to politicize the traditionally non-partisan department.

In 2002, many deselections were required because of budget constraints. The data showed that candidates with Democratic Party and liberal affiliations apparent on their applications were deselected at a significantly higher rate than candidates with Republican Party, conservative, or neutral affiliations. This pattern continued to exist when we compared a subset of academically highly qualified candidates from the three groups. However, we found no other evidence that the members of the Screening Committee intentionally considered political or ideological affiliations in making their deselections, and the Committee members all denied doing so. While we were unable to prove that any specific members intentionally made deselections based on these prohibited factors, the data indicated that the Committee considered political or ideological affiliations when deselecting candidates.

During the next 3 years, from 2003 to 2005, the Screening Committee made few deselections, and we found no evidence that deselections were made based on political or ideological affiliations.

However, we found that in 2006 the Screening Committee inappropriately used political and ideological considerations to deselect many candidates. We determined that a disproportionate number of the deselected Honors Program and SLIP candidates had liberal affiliations as compared to the candidates with conservative affiliations. This pattern was also apparent when we examined the data for membership in the liberal American Constitution Society compared to the conservative Federalist Society for SLIP candidates and when we compared applicants with Democratic Party affiliations versus Republican Party affiliations for both Honors Program and SLIP candidates. The disproportionate pattern was also apparent when we examined candidates who were highly qualified academically.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned [JURIST report] last year amidst related allegations concerning the alleged firing of US Attorneys for political reasons [JURIST news archive]. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

Top Democrats criticized the Bush administration for interfering in DOJ hiring practices. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) [official website] called on current Attorney General Michael Mukasey to implement the report's recommendations [press release]; Mukasey said in a Tuesday statement that he is already working to do so. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said [press release] that further anticipated reports would "shed light on the extent to which the Bush administration has allowed politics to affect – and infect – the Department’s priorities, from law enforcement to the operation of the crucial Civil Rights Division to the Department’s hiring practices."





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ECHR holds Turkey responsible for deaths of Greek Cypriots
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 24, 2008 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [press release] against Turkey Tuesday in two cases concerning the deaths of Greek Cypriots. Anastasios Issac [ruling] was killed at a 1996 protest, and Solomos Solomou [ruling] was shot at Issac's funeral; the ECHR found that Turkish agents were responsible for both deaths. The court held that Turkey had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], in failing to protect the right to life and in failing to mount an adequate investigation into the deaths, and ordered Turkey to pay 340,000 euros to the victims' families. Reuters has more.

Tensions between ethnic Turks and Greeks in Cyprus have long been high. Cyprus split into two areas, the Greek controlled south and the Turkish controlled north [TRNC website], when Turkey invaded the island in 1974 to quell a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Attempts to reunite the island have thus far been unsuccessful. In 2004, Turkish and Greek negotiators failed to agree [JURIST report] on a plan to reunify Cyprus ahead of its entry into the EU.






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Canada terror suspect pleads not guilty to UK bomb plot charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 24, 2008 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Accused terrorist Mohammed Momin Khawaja [CBC backgrounder] pleaded not guilty in an Ottawa court Monday to charges related to an alleged UK bomb plot. Khawaja's lawyer said the allegations were exaggerated and that Monday testimony by former al Qaeda operative Mohammed Babar [BBC report] should be excluded as hearsay. The National Post has more. CTV has additional coverage.

Last year, Canadian Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley refused to require the release of confidential evidence [ruling, PDF; summary, PDF; JURIST report] against Khawaja, explaining that "disclosure of most of the information would be injurious to national security or to international relations." Khawaja was arrested [JURIST report] in March 2004, and was the first to be charged under Canada's post-September 11 Anti-Terrorism Act [text; CBC backgrounder]. He was identified as a co-conspirator in a UK fertilizer bomb terror plot which resulted in life sentences for five British nationals [JURIST report] last year.






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Kosovo inmates on hunger strike for improved conditions, amnesty
Deirdre Jurand on June 24, 2008 11:09 AM ET

[JURIST] More than 560 inmates in Kosovo's Dubrava Prison [official website, in Albanian] began a hunger strike Sunday to protest poor conditions at the prison and to pressure the government to pass an anticipated amnesty law. The inmates have demanded that "prison year" terms be reduced to nine months rather than a full calendar year, that the president have the power to pardon inmates and that prisoners who have served two-thirds of their sentences be subject to conditional release; they say that the government should have addressed these demands after the Kosovar constitution [text; JURIST report] went into effect earlier this month. Officials for the Ministry of Justice said they are currently in negotiations on the proposed amnesty law [announcement, in Albanian]. Justice Minister Nekibe Kelmendi asked the prisoners to end the strike, but inmates said they would continue the protest until the government passes the law. Beta has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.

Kosovo's new constitution went into effect on June 15 after the Assembly of Kosovo [official website] adopted [JURIST report] it in April and the European Union certified [JURIST report] that it guarantees the individual and community rights of all citizens. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence [text; JURIST report] and Serbian President Boris Tadic has said that the charter of the breakaway Serbian province is legally void. Russia also refuses to recognize the new constitution, alleging that it violates international law [JURIST report].






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Senegal criticized for delaying prosecution of former Chad dictator
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 24, 2008 10:56 AM ET

[JURIST] A coalition of international and African human rights groups Monday criticized Senegal for delays [statement, in French; APO press release] in the prosecution of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] and called on the African Union [organization website] to press the issue at an upcoming summit. The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, the Chadian Association of Victims of Political Repression and Crime, the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, and the International Federation of Human Rights [advocacy websites] accused Senegal of stalling Habre's trial, noting that the Senegalese minister of justice had yet to fulfill his pledges to appoint investigating judges in the case. Habre was accused in 1992 by a Chadian Truth Commission of committing some 40,000 acts of murder and torture of political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. He has been living is Senegal since he was deposed in 1990, and the Senegalese courts dismissed an action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that they lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere. In April, the National Assembly of Senegal amended the Senegalese Constitution [JURIST report] to give Senegalese courts jurisdiction over the trial of Habre. IPS has more.

Senegal courts have long refused to extradite Habre, despite the issuance of an international arrest warrant [JURIST reports] by Belgium pursuant to its universal jurisdiction laws [HRW backgrounder]. Under growing international pressure to either try Habre locally or extradite him to Belgium, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade [official profile, in French; BBC profile] agreed in April 2006 to try him in Senegal [Africa Union report] and the government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. In January, an EU official sent to Senegal to advise the court where trial should take place reported that the trial would not begin in 2008 [JURIST report].






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Congo ex-militia leader trial can proceed fairly: ICC Chief Prosecutor petition
Devin Montgomery on June 24, 2008 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] filed a petition [PDF text] Monday asking the court not to consider releasing suspected war criminal Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile]. The petition also seeks leave from the court to appeal the ICC's June 16 decision to indefinitely stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] the proceedings in Lubanga's case. The ICC had granted the stay after finding that the prosecution had abused confidentiality agreements making possibly exculpatory information inaccessible to the court and Lubanga's defense lawyers. In its petition, the prosecution characterized the court's earlier decision as "premature" and based on a misunderstanding of the prosecutor's duties and responsibilities. Challenging the decision, the prosecutor wrote:

a stay of proceedings is an exceptional measure of last resort, which, as the Appeals Chamber has warned, must be used "sparingly". Staying proceedings is appropriate only where other remedies have been exhausted, or are simply not available. The circumstances of the instant case, including the availability of alternative evidence, the modest exonerating value of the undisclosed material and the availability of different options for the Chamber to explore, did not justify such a drastic remedy, as a result of which, as the Chamber acknowledged, "the victims have been excluded from justice". In this case, and contrary to the Trial Chamber's assessment, a fair trial remained possible at all times.
Reuters has more.

Once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], Lubanga is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. Lubanga's long-delayed trial [JURIST report] was scheduled to be the ICC's first since its creation in 2002.

6/25/08 The Court announced [ICC press release] later Tuesday that it would not consider releasing Lubanga until after hearing the prosecution's appeal. It gave both the prosecution and Lubanga's defense until Friday to file submissions regarding the appeal and plans to make a ruling on it next week.





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UN condemns Zimbabwe violence after politician takes refuge at Dutch embassy
Andrew Gilmore on June 24, 2008 8:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] condemned the increasing violence against opposition activists and politicians in Zimbabwe in a presidential statement [text] issued Monday. The statement calls on the government of Zimbabwe to "stop the violence, to cease political intimidation, to end the restrictions on the right of assembly and to release the political leaders who have been detained." The Security Council's statement comes after Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Sunday announcement of his withdrawal from the country's presidential run-off election [AFP report], scheduled for this Friday, and took refuge at the Dutch embassy in Harare. Tsvangirai cited the increasing violence against his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], by the government of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Tsvagirai indicated that he would leave the embassy when he felt safe enough to do so [AFP report], but stated that he could not ask his supporters to risk their lives by voting given the threat of violence from Mugabe's government. The New York Times has more. BBC has additional coverage.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai are disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March. Human rights groups suggested that state-sponsored violence would only increase as the second presidential vote drew closer, and in the past few weeks the amount of election-related violence has increased, including the beating [ABC News report], torture [National Post report], and killing [NYT report] of MDC supporters throughout Zimbabwe. Last week, Mugabe's government expelled a UN human rights observer [JURIST news report]. Earlier this month, government forces stopped and detained US and UK diplomats [JURIST report], threatening them and beating one of their drivers.






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UK Parliament removes Iranian group from terrorism list
Deirdre Jurand on June 24, 2008 8:50 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK House of Commons and the House of Lords [parliamentary debate texts] Monday approved a draft order [PDF text] to remove the opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] from the country's list of prohibited organizations. The votes confirm a May court ruling [JURIST report] that there was no evidence that the PMOI had been involved with terrorism since 2003 and that the group no longer satisfied the criteria for appearing on the proscribed group list [Home Office materials]. During the Commons debate, security minister Tony McNulty [official profile] said the government was disappointed with the court's ruling but that officials "complied with the judgment and have moved quickly to lay the order that the House is debating." President-elect of the Iranian Resistance Maryam Rajavi commended the removal [press release] and said that the EU should also remove the PMOI from its terrorist group list. AP has more. Alalam has additional coverage from Iran.

PMOI is Iran's main political opposition organization and part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) [group website], an umbrella coalition of Iranian opposition groups. PMOI was added to Britain's list of proscribed organizations under the Terrorism Act 2000 [text] in March 2001. In December 2006, the European Court of First Instance annulled an asset freeze [JURIST report] on PMOI by the Council of the European Union. The judgment prompted the Council of the European Union to revise [press release, PDF; JURIST report] the procedures used in establishing and maintaining the EU's terror lists.






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Corruption threatens rule of law in former Soviet states: rights group report
Devin Montgomery on June 24, 2008 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Corruption and repression are increasingly threatening legal rights in former Soviet republics like Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, according to a Monday report [text; press release] released by rights group Freedom House [advocacy website]. The group said that Russia especially has seen a significant deterioration of the rule of law, finding that the country's court system is controlled by powerful political elites. Defendants face unnecessary pre-trial detention and long trials, and are often denied adequate legal counsel. Although some mechanisms permit defendants to document abuses, the perceived weakness of the Russian judicial system means that large numbers of cases are still appealed to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. In addition, Bribery and corruption remain a problem in Russia, where official censorship has discouraged an independent press [JURIST reports] from investigating alleged abuses. Giving the country an overall "Democracy Score" near the bottom of the scale, the group said:

Russia does not have a democratic political system. Instead, there is a facade of democracy, with a Constitution, formal elections, political parties, and other attributes typically found in democracies. However, without public accountability, a free media, and independent courts, the incumbent leadership can manipulate the
entire structure to its benefit. Such a system may be able to maintain itself in power for decades, but ultimately it will lose touch with society and become unstable.
The group blamed recent surges in oil and gas prices for enabling former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] to institute increasingly authoritarian policies. AP has more.

Earlier this month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] said he was committed to improving Russia's human rights record, preserving an independent media, and enforcing the rule of law, reiterating the pledges he made during his May inauguration [JURIST reports]. Also this month, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson [corporate profile] said that there was little international confidence in Russia's judicial system, and that the country needs to make significant improvements [JURIST report] to attract more foreign investment.





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Israel Supreme Court denies Schalit family bid to keep Gaza crossings closed
Devin Montgomery on June 23, 2008 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website] Monday denied a request to suspend the opening of border crossings between the country and the Palestinian Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The appeal was made by the father of Sgt. Gilad Schalit [advocacy website], an Israeli soldier held prisoner by Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] after being captured by the group in 2006, and it asked the government not to open the crossings until Schalit is released. The court ordered government officials to brief Schalit's family on the status of the negotiations, but said his release was not one of the conditions of the June 19 peace agreement between Israel the group. AP has more. Haaretz has local coverage.

The planned six-month cease-fire [IICC backgrounder] in the region was facilitated by Egypt and was agreed to by Israel and Hamas last week. If the agreement continues to go forward, more crossings between the two regions will open and more goods will be let through. In January UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] heavily criticized the embargo Israel had placed on Gaza, but the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the measures [JURIST reports] later that month.






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Pakistan legislature passes controversial Supreme Court expansion in budget bill
Andrew Gilmore on June 23, 2008 3:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The Pakistan National Assembly [official website] Sunday passed a bill [text, PDF] which not only approved the country's 2008-2009 budget, but also expanded the membership of the country's Supreme Court from 16 to 29 justices. Passage of the so-called Finance Bill was sharply criticized [Daily Times report] by several opposition groups and members of the country's lawyers' movement [JURIST news archive], who fear that the expansion of the Supreme Court undermines their demands for the reinstatement of judges dismissed after the November 2007 declaration of emergency law [text, PDF; JURIST report]. After the bill passed, Finance Minister Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] insinuated that its clause 18, providing for the expansion of the Court, was drafted and inserted by members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party websites]. PML-N members denied the allegation, saying that the party only supported the bill because expanding the Supreme Court would ensure that dismissed judges could be reinstated. Pakistan's Dawn has more. From Dubai, the Khaleej Times has additional coverage. The Daily Times has more local coverage.

The expansion of the Pakistan Supreme Court by the National Assembly is the latest development in the ongoing conflict between Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and opposition politicians and activists. Last week, members of the lawyers' movement concluded a "long march" protest [JURIST report] from Lahore to the capital, Islamabad, calling for the reinstatement of the dismissed judges. Two weeks ago, the PML-N called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report], releasing a "charge sheet" outlining instances - including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges - where the president allegedly misused his authority. Earlier this month, the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association called constitutional amendments proposed by the PPP a stall tactic [JURIST report] to delay addressing the reinstatement of the ousted judges.






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Special US terrorism courts would threaten Constitution: report
Deirdre Jurand on June 23, 2008 3:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Special national security courts to try terrorism suspects are "unnecessary" and "dangerous to traditional constitutional protections," according to a report [text, PDF; advocacy press release] issued Monday by the Constitution Project [advocacy website]. The report was endorsed by a panel of national security experts and legal scholars including General Wesley Clark, Yale Law School dean Harold Koh, former FBI director William Sessions, and former Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Patricia Wald. It criticized proposals for a hybrid court system [Salt Lake Tribune editorial] that would withhold certain traditional constitutional rights from terrorism suspects, saying that such a system would threaten the Constitution and the judicial process:

The idea that national security courts are a proper third way for dealing with such individuals presupposes that the purported defects in the current system are ones that cannot adequately be remedied within the confines of that system, and yet can be remedied in hybrid tribunals without violating the Constitution. We strongly disagree. Traditional Article III courts can meet the challenges posed by terrorism prosecutions, and proposals to create national security courts should be rejected as a grave threat to our constitutional rights.
The report comes after the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] earlier this month that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as enemy combatants.

In May, Human Rights First (HRF) [advocacy website] issued a similar report [text, PDF; JURIST report] stating that terrorism cases should be tried in the US federal criminal court system [official website] rather than by military tribunals or special terrorism courts.





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Federal appeals court overturns enemy combatant status of Guantanamo detainee
Andrew Gilmore on June 23, 2008 1:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Monday ordered [PDF text] the US government to release or transfer a Chinese Uighur Muslim [JURIST news archive] detained at Guantanamo Bay, ruling that Huzaifa Parhat had been improperly designated as an enemy combatant by a US Combatant Status Review Tribunal [DOD materials]. Barring release or transfer, the order directed the US to "expeditiously hold a new Tribunal consistent with the court's opinion." Parhat will be able to challenge his detention in federal court and seek immediate release through a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The appellate court's opinion has not yet been released because it contains classified information, but a redacted version is being prepared. Reuters has more.

In April, US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers defended Parhat's detention [JURIST report] in oral arguments before the court, claiming he is an "enemy combatant" due to his ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and was designated as a terrorist group by the US government in 2002. The DOJ acknowledged that Parhat did not fight against the US and that there is no evidence that he intended to do so, but said he can still be held under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act of 2001 [SJ Res 23 materials] because ETIM is affiliated with al Qaeda. In 2006, five Chinese Uighur detainees were released to Albania [JURIST report], where officials reviewed applications for asylum. The transfer, which was criticized by China, ended a court challenge against the detainees' indefinite detention [JURIST reports]. In December 2006, lawyers for seven Uighur detainees filed a lawsuit [JURIST report], arguing that the process by which they were determined to be enemy combatants was flawed.






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Pakistan court rules Sharif ineligible for office
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 23, 2008 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A Pakistani court Monday blocked Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] head and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile] from running for parliament, finding that a prior criminal conviction rendered him ineligible for office. Earlier this month, the Election Commission of Pakistan [official website] cleared [JURIST report] Sharif and his younger brother to run in the June 26 by-elections after a local election tribunal was unable to reach a unanimous decision [Daily Times report] about Sharif's candidacy. AP has more. A Pakistan News has local coverage.

In 2000, Sharif was convicted for his involvement in an attempt to prevent a plane carrying then-army-chief and current President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] from landing in Pakistan during Musharraf's 1999 coup against Sharif's civilian government. Last year, the ECP ruled that Sharif could not run as a candidate [JURIST report] in February elections because of the 2000 criminal conviction.






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Oil execs should be charged with crimes against humanity: NASA climatologist
Deirdre Jurand on June 23, 2008 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The head executives of oil companies should be tried for crimes against humanity and nature for misleading the public about the impact of oil on global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive], according to a NASA climatologist who testified [briefing advisory] before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming [official website] Monday. James Hansen [NASA profile; background and publications page], the long-time director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) [official website], told the Guardian that

When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime.
Hansen first testified [text, PDF; New York Times report] about global warming before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on June 24, 1988; Monday's testimony marked the 20th anniversary of that address. The New York Times has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

In late 2007, participants in the United Nations Climate Change Conference [official website; JURIST report] agreed to a timetable for negotiating a new international treaty on global warming. Under the Bali Roadmap [PDF text; press release, PDF], the 187 participating nations will negotiate a new agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive] by 2009.





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Tunisia terror laws no safeguard against rights abuses: Amnesty report
Devin Montgomery on June 23, 2008 11:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Tunisia [US State Department backgrounder] is committing wide-spread human rights abuses under overly-broad anti-terrorism legislation [Amnesty backgrounder], according to a Monday report [text; press release] by Amnesty International [advocacy website]. Amnesty said that while the government claims to comply with international norms on due process and detainee treatment, it rarely investigates allegations of rights violations by state security organs:

The fact that gaping discrepancies exist between law and practice in the country signals a conscious refusal by the Tunisian authorities to fully subscribe to and abide by their obligations under international human rights law. The laws that should have increased protection have been routinely flouted by the Tunisian authorities, and have not served as an adequate safeguard against torture, unfair trial and other serious human rights abuses.
Amnesty also criticized the US, as well as European and other Arab countries, for turning over terror suspects to Tunisian authorities [JURIST report] despite allegations of torture and other abuses. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the deportation [text] of a former Tunisian terrorism suspect, finding he would likely be subjected to torture [JURIST report] in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] if returned to Tunisia. In September 2007, Human Rights Watch released a report [text; press release] accusing Tunisian officials of mistreating two former Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] after they were returned to the country.





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Supreme Court to hear Iran compensation, Navy sonar cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 23, 2008 11:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday agreed to hear seven cases [Order List, PDF], including Ministry of Defense and Support for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. Elahi (07-615) [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. In that case, the Court will consider whether the brother of dissident Cyrus Elahi, assassinated in Paris in 1990, can collect on a default judgment he holds against Iran by attaching a $2.8 million judgment obtained by the Iranian Ministry of Defense against California-based Cubic Defense Systems [corporate website]. Dariush Elahi was awarded $11.7 million in compensatory and $300 million in punitive damages after Iran refused to respond to his 2000 lawsuit brought in a Washington federal court, alleging that the Iranian government was responsible for his brother's death. Iran originally won the $2.8 million judgment against Cubic before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) [official website] for Cubic's contract breach following the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 [BBC backgrounder]. AP has more.

In Winter, et al. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al. (07-1239) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will review a Ninth Circuit ruling rejecting the Bush administration's attempt to exempt the US Navy from environmental laws [JURIST reports] so that the Navy could continue using sonar in its anti-submarine warfare training off the coast of southern California. In its petition for certiorari, the Justice Department argued that the decision interferes with the Navy's ability to prepare for war, that national security interests should override environmental regulations, and that there is no evidence to support the claim that the sonar exercises harm marine wildlife. The Natural Resources Defense Council [advocacy website], which filed the lawsuit seeking to halt Navy sonar use due to harm caused to whales and other marine mammals, published a 2005 paper on the impact of sonar on marine wildlife [NRDC materials]. AP has more.

The Court also granted certiorari in five other cases Monday. In Pacific Bell Telephone Co., dba AT&T California v. LinkLine Communications (07-512) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether a company can be sued for anti-competitive practices if it sets its wholesale prices to block competitors from the retail market. In AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen (07-543) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether maternity leave taken before the passage of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act can be considered in calculating employee pensions. In Cone v. Bell (07-1114) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider a case brought by a Tennessee death row inmate who alleges that authorities hid mitigating evidence during his murder trial. In Arizona v. Johnson (07-1122) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether a police officer may search a suspect during a routine traffic stop if he believes that suspect may be armed and dangerous but has no justifiable reason to believe that they are committing a crime. In Harbison v. Bell (07-8521) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether indigent death row inmates are entitled to federally-provided counsel in their pursuit of clemency claims.






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Serbia not cooperating with Tribunal: ICTY president
Devin Montgomery on June 23, 2008 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] wrote in a letter [text, PDF; press release] to the UN Monday that the Serbian government had failed to cooperate with Tribunal investigations and cases in violation of the court's UN statute [Article 29 text, PDF]. ICTY president Fausto Pocar [official profile] told UN Security Council President Zalmay Khalilzad [US government profile] that the court repeatedly asked the Serbian government [order, PDF] to help them find General Aleksander Dimitrijevic, who was a key witness in the court's case involving Former Yugoslavian President Milan Milutinovic [TrialWatch profile; ICTY case backgrounder, PDF]. Pocar said that the government had even hampered the court in its efforts to summon Dimitrijevic, and told Khalilzad:

I view this situation as a very serious one. The Security Council in establishing the International Tribunal gave it certain powers, one of which was to issue binding orders for the appearance of key witnesses before it. By failing to comply with its duties, the Government of Serbia is challenging the authority of the International Tribunal and the Security Council. Article 29 of the Statute is particularly clear in that regard and demands that the orders of the Trial Chamber be implemented swiftly and categorically and with the greatest diligence.
Reuters has more.

Milutinovic and five co-defendents [JURIST report] face charges [indictment, PDF; ICTY backgrounder] of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the deportation, forcible transfer, murder and persecution of thousands of Kosovo Albanians during the former Yugoslavia's 1999 ethnic conflict [State Department backgrounder].





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Supreme Court rules in right to counsel, sentencing, standing cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 23, 2008 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down three decisions Monday, including Rothgery v. Gillespie County [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 8-1 that a person accused of a felony has the right to a lawyer at a probable cause hearing before a magistrate judge. The Court held:

We merely reaffirm what we have held before and what an overwhelming majority of American jurisdictions understand in practice: a criminal defendant’s initial appearance before a judicial officer, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the start of adversary judicial proceedings that trigger attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
The decision reverses and remands a Fifth Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF] that the right to counsel does not exist until a defendant is indicted on charges. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Souter, a concurrence filed by Chief Justice Roberts, a concurrence filed by Justice Alito, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Thomas. AP has more.

The Court also ruled 5-4 in Sprint Communications v. APCC Services [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], finding that a plaintiff who was assigned the right to pursue a claim, but who does not stand to gain anything from the claim, nonetheless has standing to sue. Sprint argued that APCC lacked standing to sue for revenue from coinless long-distance telephone calls because it had promised to turn over any award to pay-phone service operators. The Court rejected this argument:
The aggregators' injuries relate to the failure to receive the required dialaround compensation. And if the aggregators prevail in this litigation, the long-distance carriers would write a check to the aggregators for the amount of dial-around compensation owed. What does it matter what the aggregators do with the money afterward? The injuries would be redressed whether the aggregators remit the litigation proceeds to the payphone operators, donate them to charity, or use them to build new corporate headquarters. Moreover, the statements our prior cases made about the need to show redress of the injury are consistent with what numerous authorities have long held in the assignment context, namely, that an assignee for collection may properly bring suit to redress the injury originally suffered by his assignor.
The Court's decision upholds a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer, and a dissent [texts] filed by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. AP has more.

In Greenlaw v. US [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 7-2 that a federal circuit court cannot take steps to lengthen a convict's sentence in the absence of any government appeal requesting such an extension:
The strict time limits on notices of appeal and crossappeal would be undermined, in both civil and criminal cases, if an appeals court could modify a judgment in favor of a party who filed no notice of appeal. In a criminal prosecution, moreover, the defendant would appeal at his peril, with nothing to alert him that, on his own appeal, his sentence would be increased until the appeals court so decreed.
The decision reverses and remands a ruling [PDF text] by the Eighth Circuit. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Ginsburg, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Breyer. Justice Alito filed a dissent [text], joined by Justice Stevens and joined in part by Justice Breyer.





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Bolivia autonomy referendum approved by fourth province
Andrew Gilmore on June 23, 2008 9:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bolivian province of Tarija approved [Agencia Boliviana de Information (ABI) report, in Spanish] a referendum Sunday calling for greater autonomy, becoming the fourth of nine provinces to approve increased freedom from Bolivia's socialist government. The voting results in Tarija, which has considerable natural gas deposits, were similar to those in three other neighboring provinces, which have similar mineral resource wealth. Voters in those provinces have opposed a plan by Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] to redistribute land and wealth in the country to aid the nation's historically disenfranchised Indian population. The Bolivian government characterized the autonomy referendum as irrelevant, since provinces can only gain autonomy through an amendment to the Bolivian constitution [text], but provisional poll results show that about 80 percent of the region's voters supported the changes. AFP has more.

Earlier this month, voters in Beni and Pando provinces voted [JURIST report] in favor of similar autonomy measures, while voters in the province of Santa Cruz approved [JURIST report] autonomy measures last month. In 2006, governors from six of Bolivia's nine states vowed to break off relations with Morales following a bid to give his leftist party more power [JURIST reports] to rewrite the Bolivian constitution [JURIST news archive]. A proposed national referendum on the new draft constitution, which had originally been blocked [JURIST report], was narrowly approved in February by the Bolivian Constitutional Assembly [official website, in Spanish] amid reports that Morales supporters prevented many draft opponents from entering the constitutional building to participate in the vote. In May, the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] voted to hold a national referendum [JURIST report] on Morales and 10 other officials on August 10. The officials must win more than 53.74 percent of the vote to keep their positions.






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Iran revokes newspaper license for criticizing Ahmadinejad policies
Deirdre Jurand on June 23, 2008 9:07 AM ET

[JURIST] A division of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [official website, in Persian] revoked the license of Iranian daily newspaper Tehran Emrouz [official website, in Persian] Saturday for printing articles that criticized the policies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official profile; BBC profile]. The articles [Roozonline.com report] were published on the third anniversary of Ahmadinejad's election and focused on his economic and political strategies. The Tehran public prosecutor accused the newspaper's officials [IRNA report; Press Law Chapter 4 text] of "publishing articles and images insulting to president [sic]," constituting "defamation and publishing false reports to disturb public opinion." Tehran Emrouz's editorial board said in a statement Sunday that the articles unfairly criticized the government and that they were the result of "journalistic adventurism." Reuters has more. Iranian state-run PressTV has additional coverage.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] has ranked Iran as one of the most restrictive countries for the press, noting that in 2007, the government prosecuted more than 50 journalists [RSF reports], permanently closed at least four news agencies and temporarily closed at least 12 others. In August 2007, Iranian authorities detained three journalists [JURIST report] on charges of "publishing false statements and lies" about Iran. That same month, RSF officials asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intercede on behalf [press release] of two Iranian Kurdish journalists who were sentenced to death [JURIST report] for being "enemies of God." RSF said that the two journalists' "most basic rights were violated as they were barred from court when the sentence was handed down."






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US military court convicts first civilian since Vietnam
Andrew Gilmore on June 23, 2008 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military court in Iraq Sunday convicted [Multi-National Corps release] Alaa "Alex" Mohammad Ali [JURIST news archive], an Iraqi-Canadian translator working in the country, in connection with the February stabbing death of a fellow military contractor. The case is the first in which a civilian has been charged [JURIST report] and convicted by the military since a 2006 amendment [S 2766 materials] to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] granted the military jurisdiction over civilians accompanying US troops in a combat zone, and the first time a civilian has charged and convicted under military law since the Vietnam war. In court, Ali pleaded guilty to charges of wrongfully taking a knife belonging to a US soldier, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators, and was sentenced to five months in prison. Ali had been scheduled to face court-martial for aggravated assault [JURIST report], but the charges were reduced in exchange for the plea. AP has more.

In 2007, Congress enacted the 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials] as an additional measure [JURIST report] to bring all civilian contractors [Parameters backgrounder] in Iraq under the military's jurisdiction. Such prosecutions had previously been impossible [USAF guidance document] because of court rulings [Grisham v. Hagan opinion text] that the military did not have jurisdiction over civilian contractors without a declaration of war by Congress.






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Iraq amnesty law freeing tens of thousands from charges, detention
Bernard Hibbitts on June 22, 2008 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] A spokesman for Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council has said that the country's recently-enacted amnesty law [JURIST report] has resulted in charges being dropped against over 75,000 people with some 20,000 others being ordered freed from detention, according to Reuters Sunday. It was not clear how many prisoners have actually been freed. Abdulsatar al-Bayrkdar indicated that approximately 44,900 persons no longer facing charges had at one time been arrested but were now free on bail. Some 26,000 applications for amnesty have been rejected, however. Reuters has more. The latest figures are up from those reported in May [VOI report], when the spokesman was quoted by Voices of Iraq (VOI) as saying that charges had been dropped under amnesty against 24,472 people out on bail and 13,469 wanted but not yet arrested; the same spokesman said at the time that 11.476 detainees had been released along with 5,636 convicted prisoners.

The Iraqi legislature passed the General Amnesty Law [text, in English] in February as part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's effort to draw disaffected Sunnis into the national reconciliation and reconstruction process. In May Iraq's Council of Ministers amended the law [JURIST report] to exclude prisoners who had committed certain types of serious crimes, including terrorist activities against the state. The pre-amendment amnesty law authorized the release of any prisoner who had not appeared before a judge within six years of the date of their detention.






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Israeli rights group says military abusing Palestinian detainees after arrest
Bernard Hibbitts on June 22, 2008 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Israeli soldiers regularly beat and abuse Palestinian detainees even after they have been arrested and no longer pose a threat, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) alleged in a report [press release; PDF text, in Hebrew] published Sunday. The group based its finding on testimony it obtained from some 90 detainees covering the period June 2006 and October 2007:

Abuse occurs at various junctions - immediately following arrest, in the vehicle transporting the detainees, and during the time they are held in IDF military camps prior to their transfer to interrogation and detention facilities. At times abusive practices involve dogs that are employed by the military forces during arrest operations and transported in vehicles along with Palestinian detainees. On certain occasions, the ill treatment of Palestinian detainees is highly violent resulting in serious injury. At other times, abuse manifests itself in a routine of beating, degradation and additional abuse. Minors, who must be granted special protection under both Israeli and International Law, are also victims of abuse. The soldiers who carry out arrests do not treat minors with special care and at times – as revealed by various testimonies – exploit their weakness.
PCATI said military violence against detainees is "reinforced by a weak legal system which conducts only a small number of investigations and legal proceedings that concern cases of abuse by soldiers." The Israeli military has denied treating prisoners in any way prohibited by national or international law. PCATI released its report in the run-up to the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture [backgrounder] on June 26. AFP has more.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Israel upheld a law [JURIST report] allowing the Israeli government to indefinitely detain "unlawful combatants" suspected of belonging to terrorist groups. PCATI is opposed to that law and has argued against any attempt to broaden it [press release].





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Italy judge says Berlusconi corruption trial to proceed despite bias claim
Steve Czajkowski on June 21, 2008 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The Italian judge presiding over the corruption trial [JURIST report] of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his former lawyer David Mills said Friday accord to Reuters that hearings in the case will continue despite a request for her removal by Berlusconi's lawyers. Berlusconi's legal team claimed [ANSA report] judge Nicoletta Gandus was biased after she commented on laws passed by the previous Berlusconi government; they also said she had a vested interest in another trial involving Berlusconi and Mills because she previously owned shares of Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website]. Berlusconi faces charges of corruption arising from his alleged payment of $600,000 to Mills for favorable testimony at trials in the 1990s. The trial is set to continue on July 7. Gandus's removal hearing is also set for July. Reuters has more.

Earlier this week Berlusconi suggested that proposed changes to Italian law [PDF text, in Italian] designed to suspend older trials for nonviolent crimes would allow the country's judiciary to consider more important cases [Senate letter, in Italian] and would give the government time to introduce judicial reforms. The changes would protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Critics of the proposal have charged that the move is personally motivated since Berlusconi's trial would be among those suspended. Berlusconi has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of embezzlement, false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports] involving Mediaset.






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Ex-Bosnian Serb police chief transferred to ICTY for war crimes trial
Steve Czajkowski on June 21, 2008 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbian officials transferred former Bosnian Serb police commander Stojan Zupljanin [Trial Watch profile] to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] Saturday after the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court refused his appeal [B92 report] against extradition. Serbian Minister of Justice Dusan Petrovic [official profile] approved [press release] the transfer Friday. Zupljanin was arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month. He was indicted [text] by the ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws of war for allegedly killing civilians during the Balkan ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. AFP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

The EU has made Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY a key element of its membership negotiations [EU accession materials]. There have been 43 Serbian suspects transferred to the tribunal since its inception in 1993. The remaining fugitives sought by the tribunal are Bosnian Serb leaders Ratko Mladic [BBC profile] and Radovan Karadzic, and Croatian Serb war crimes suspect Goran Hadzic [ICTY indictments].






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Alleged Equatorial Guinea coup plotter downplays involvement as verdict looms
Benjamin Klein on June 21, 2008 11:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of British national Simon Mann [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], charged with participating in an alleged coup attempt [BBC backgrounder] against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo [BBC profile] in 2004, concluded on Friday with his defense lawyer seeking leniency. Mann, who has claimed that Sir Mark Thatcher was involved in the plot [JURIST report], testified that he was “only a junior member” in the organization plotting to overthrow Mbasogo. Defense counsel portrayed Mann as a "poor victim" of the failed coup in his closing argument, asking the court to consider his level of involvement and his collaboration with the authorities. Mann faces a maximum sentence of 32 years, to be served in Blackbeach prison in Malabo. AP has more.

Mann is a former British military officer arrested four years ago after a plane carrying him and approximately 60 mercenaries landed in Zimbabwe. Mann was sentenced [JURIST report] in 2004 in Zimbabwe for plotting the coup, and was deported [JURIST report] to Equatorial Guinea in secret in February 2007 before his appeal process against extradition in Zimbabwe was complete. His lawyers argued that Mann would face torture and possibly the death penalty if extradited, but the Zimbabwe High Court ruled against his appeal [JURIST report] this past January, finding that there was enough evidence of his involvement to carry out extradition, and that the defense failed to show a sufficient likelihood of torture.






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Kansas high court rules juveniles have constitutional right to jury trial
Steve Czajkowski on June 21, 2008 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kansas Supreme Court [official website] ruled [text; press release] 6-1 Friday that juvenile defendants in the state have a constitutional right to a jury trial. The Court found that recent changes to the Kansas Juvenile Justice Code [PDF text] made juvenile proceedings "more akin to an adult prosecution" in which jury trials are constitutionally provided under Section 10 of the Kansas Constitution's Bill of Rights [text] stating that "In all prosecutions, the accused shall be allowed to appear and defend in person, or by counsel…[and have] a speedy public trial by an impartial jury". In finding for the juvenile right the Kansas court overturned its own 1984 decision in Findlay v. State and distinguished the US Supreme Court's 1971 ruling in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania [opinion text]. Justice Eric Rosen [official profile] wrote for the majority:

The United States Supreme Court relied on the juvenile justice system's characteristics of fairness, concern, sympathy, and paternal attention in concluding that juveniles were not entitled to a jury trial. Likewise, this court relied on that parens patriae character in reaching its decision in Findlay. However, because the juvenile justice system is now patterned after the adult criminal system, we conclude that the changes have superseded the McKeiver and Findlay courts' reasoning and those decisions are no longer binding precedent for us to follow. Based on our conclusion that the Kansas juvenile justice system has become more akin to an adult criminal prosecution, we hold that juveniles have a constitutional right to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments [text].
Kansas Chief Justice Kay McFarland dissented.

Ten states - Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming - provide jury trials for delinquent juveniles [Juvenile Law Center amicus brief, PDF], while eleven others, including Kansas, allow them under specific circumstances. AP has more. The Kansas City Star has local coverage.

The case arose when a 16 year old boy was ordered to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and possession of alcohol when he forcibly kissed a woman while walking home. The boy's attorney had originally requested a jury trial, but the request was refused. Kansas Attorney General Steve Six [official website] said he does not intend to appeal the decision.





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White House claims executive privilege in EPA emissions inquiry
Benjamin Klein on June 21, 2008 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration on Friday invoked executive privilege [JURIST news archive] in refusing to turn over documents to the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [official website] now investigating what it claims to be a politically-motivated decision [JURIST report] by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to deny California permission to implement its own vehicle emission standards. Administration officials have refused to respond to subpoenas for documents concerning White House intervention in EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson’s December 2007 decision to overrule EPA officials [JURIST report] in favor of granting California and 17 other states permission to mandate the reduction of vehicle emissions by 30 percent by 2016. The Oversight Committee held off on scheduled contempt-of-Congress proceedings against the EPA following the administration’s claim of executive privilege. The White House made public a June 19th letter [text] by Attorney General Michael Mukasey stating that the release of internal documents "could inhibit the candor of future deliberations among the president's staff."

The California emission standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent from cars and light trucks, and 18 percent from SUVs, beginning 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 of the lighter Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] standards. In December 2007, the EPA Administrator told reporters that the White House prefers a single unified national standard to a state-by-state network of regulations, pointing to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet]. This is the first time that the EPA has denied California a waiver since Congress established the state's right to seek Clean Air Act (CAA) waivers in 1967. AP has more.






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European Union leaders call for tougher border security laws
Benjamin Klein on June 21, 2008 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] European Union [official website] government leaders meeting in Brussels Friday directed member states [official report, PDF] to draft tougher border security legislation to curb the growing problem of illegal immigration in Europe. The security overhaul is aimed at setting common security standards at airports, harbors and border checkpoints in an effort to filter out illegal immigrants and to catch criminals and terror suspects before they enter the 27-country bloc. In addition to fingerprinting all foreign visitors, the EU leaders proposed the use of new technological initiatives, including satellite systems and an Internet-based pre-travel authorization system, to detect illegal immigrants and screen foreigners.

On Wednesday the European Parliament [official website] approved [JURIST report] a new set of immigration rules [press release] to help combat the growing number of illegal immigrants in the EU, currently estimated at eight million. The rules allow EU states to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months to decrease flight risk while deportation is being processed as well as impose a re-entry ban of up to five years on expelled immigrants who do not cooperate or are deemed a security threat. The plan also requires that immigrants be given access to free legal advice, and that minors and families with children only be detained as a last resort. AP has more.






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ICTR refuses to shift second war crimes trial to Rwanda
Devin Montgomery on June 20, 2008 4:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website; JURIST news archive] Friday refused to move [ruling, PDF] the trial of suspected war criminal Ildephonse Hategekimana [TrialWatch profile] to the Rwandan domestic courts. The request had been made by the prosecutor's office and the Rwandan government, but was objected to by Hategekimana's defense and human rights groups filing amicus briefs on his behalf. According to Rule 11 [backgrounder] of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence [PDF text], the court may refer a case to another court with jurisdiction over the accused provided that the host country is willing and prepared to accept them, they can receive a fair trial, and they will not face the death penalty or other overly-harsh punishments upon conviction. Refusing the request, the Court wrote:

The Chamber notes that Rwanda has made significant progress in rebuilding to its criminal justice system, which was crippled as a result of the events of 1994. Nonetheless, some obstacles to referral of Mr. Hategekimana's case remain. The Chamber:

(i) is not satisfied that Rwanda's legal framework criminalizes command responsibility;
(ii) is not satisfied that Rwanda can ensure Mr. Hategekimana's right to obtain the attendance and examination of witness on his behalf under the same conditions as the witnesses against him; and
(iii) considers it possible that, pursuant to Rwandan law, Mr. Hategekimana may face life imprisonment in isolation without adequate safeguards in violation of his right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
AFP has more.

According to the indictment against Hategekimana [PDF text], he served as a lieutenant in the Rwandan army during the country's bloody genocide [HRW backgrounder] in the mid 1990s. He specifically accused of ordering or aiding in the massacre of civilian Tutsis in the Rwandan town of Butare. Earlier this month, the ICTR refused to refer [JURIST report] the case of another genocide suspect, Gaspard Kanyarukiga [TrialWatch profile], to the Rwandan courts, citing similar justifications.





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Federal appeals court dismisses Khadr petition to review combatant status
Andrew Gilmore on June 20, 2008 3:47 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Friday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a petition brought by US terrorism detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], who sought review of his unlawful enemy combatant classification. The court agreed with the arguments [JURIST report] of US Department of Justice lawyers and held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear Khadr's appeal, since the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] only permits it to review final judgments of military commissions. The court also held that public interest in fair military commissions did not justify the court's review of Khadr's determination as an unlawful enemy combatant prior to a final judgment. AP has more.

On Thursday a US military judge at Guantanamo Bay set October 8 [JURIST report] as the date for Khadr's military commission trial. Khadr, who is 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes allegedly committed six years ago while he was fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 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. In April, Khadr's military judge, Col. Peter Brownback, ruled [PDF text] that Khadr was not a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan. Khadr's lawyers had moved for dismissal [JURIST report], alleging a violation of the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which gives special protection to children under 18 who are involved in armed conflicts. Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled enemy combatants can challenge their detention in federal courts [JURIST report], a decision that puts the future of the commission process into doubt.






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Ex-press secretary McClellan denies administration cover-up of CIA name leak
Devin Montgomery on June 20, 2008 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan [appointment release] testified Friday that he was unaware of any criminal wrongdoing [hearing materials] by administration officials who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive]. Appearing before the US House Judiciary Committee [official website], McClellan said that he was unaware of any attempts by administration officials to cover up the leak, but that unwarranted secrecy and attempts to avoid accountability were to blame for lingering questions. McClellan said he regretted the false information that he unwittingly relayed to media regarding the scandal. AP has more.

In December 2007, the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to provide them with transcripts [JURIST report] of interviews with President Bush and other administration officials that were conducted during a criminal investigation into the leak. The White House has consistently refused to turn over information [JURIST report] relating to the investigation claiming immunity from the Freedom of Information Act [text]. In June of 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury and other offenses related to the investigation before his sentence was commuted by President Bush in commuted his sentence [JURIST reports] in July of that year.






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China reports release of Tibetan demonstrators
Andrew Gilmore on June 20, 2008 2:30 PM ET

[JURIST] China has released more than 1,000 protesters detained by authorities during March demonstrations in Tibet [BBC backgrounder] Friday, according to comments attributed to a Chinese official by state press agency Xinhua. Speaking at a press conference on the Olympic Flame's visit to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, Chinese official Palma Trily said that 1,157 people detained in March have been released, while 116 more are still in custody, and 42 have been charged with crimes in connection with the demonstrations. Reporters from major world news services are on a state-guided visit to Tibet [Xinhua report] to cover the Olympic torch relay. The announcement of the prisoners' release comes two days after the release of an Amnesty International (AI) report [text; JURIST report] highlighting the plight of the detainees and calling on China to free all detainees who engaged in peaceful protest. The report also criticized [AI press release] China for severely censoring media reports on Tibet, blocking international journalists and independent human rights observers from entering the region, and physically abusing detained activists. Reuters has more. BBC has additional coverage.

Rights groups have criticized China for ongoing human rights violations [Human Rights Watch 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. In April, a Chinese court sentenced 30 people to prison for their roles in the protests. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests.






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House passes FISA amendment granting telecom immunity
Devin Montgomery on June 20, 2008 1:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Friday passed [roll call] a compromise version of a bill [HR 6304 materials] amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] and including a controversial provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. The bill also grants the FISA court [governing provisions] authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, would prohibit the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and orders the Department of Justice [official website] and other agencies to issue a report on the country's use of wiretapping orders. Earlier versions of the bill without the immunity provisions had also passed in the House, but President Bush has promised to veto [JURIST reports] any version of the bill without the language. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week and has already approved similar legislation including the immunity clause [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Many members of the House, which voted 293-129 in favor of the amendment, praised the compromise [press release] for providing new privacy protections and holding the executive branch more accountable for its surveillance program. Senate Judiciary Committee member Arlen Spector (R-PA) [official website] said he still would not vote for the bill [press release] because of the provisions, and the American Civil Liberties Union [official website] had even broader criticisms of the bill [press release], saying it still allowed for massive surveillance of international communications without proper review.






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EU leaders putting off Lisbon Treaty discussion to October
Andrew Gilmore on June 20, 2008 12:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Council [official website] agreed [meeting report, PDF] at a Friday meeting of government leaders in Brussels to reconvene in October to discuss the future of the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text]. Last week, Irish voters rejected the Treaty [JURIST report] with 53.4 percent voting against it, raising serious concerns that the Treaty, which sets out guidelines for EU reform, will fail to gain full ratification in the EU. In a press release Friday, the Slovenian President of the EU called [press release] the Council meeting "very constructive," and said that he "sensed a very positive mood and a high level of solidarity" concerning the Treaty's prospects. Reuters has more. The Economist has additional coverage.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek [personal website] expressed doubt [BBC report] that his parliament would ratify the Treaty once the country's constitutional court declares that it conforms with the Czech constitution. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official profile] made similar comments, saying that the UK would not ratify the Treaty of Lisbon [BBC report] until the High Court rules on lawsuit which aims to force a referendum on the Treaty. In March, the House of Commons voted 311-248 against [JURIST report] putting ratification of the Treaty to a public referendum vote. The Treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU member states before it can take effect, though each country may choose the method of ratification. Leaders from the 27 countries that make up the European Union signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, and fourteen countries have ratified the document [JURIST archive]. In 2005, an earlier draft for a European constitution [JURIST news archive] also failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda. AFP has more.






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Canadian reproductive regulation ruled too broad, violates provincial authority
Devin Montgomery on June 20, 2008 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Court of Appeal of Quebec [official website] ruled [decision, in French; summary release] Thursday that a national law which regulates the use of human embryos and bans human cloning encroaches upon provincial authority. The court held that regulatory provisions included in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act [statute materials] fell within provincial authority to generally regulate health and medical research and were beyond the scope of the federal government's claimed interest in defining criminal activity. The court emphasized that the criminalization of practices such as human cloning, the sale of embryos, and the use of in vitro embryos for any purpose other than human reproduction were clearly within the federal government's authority [Constitution Act of 1867 text].

If the impugned provisions were to be validated on the basis of the federal jurisdiction over Criminal Law, it would follow, according to the Court, that very few, if any, cutting edge medical activities would escape the possibleintervention by Parliament. There is a risk, according to the Court, that withdrawing the practice of assisted human reproduction from the head of jurisdiction of health to include it in that of Criminal Law would amount to a Trojan Horse and would reduce substantially the jurisdiction of the provinces. Hence, such jurisdiction in health is not limited to building and managing hospitals, clinics and laboratories; it extends to setting standards for these activities taking place in each province, including the clinical and research activities related to assisted human reproduction, the patient-physician relationship, the supervision of professional orders, the consent to care, etc.

Canada's ban on human cloning [JURIST news archive] was first introduced [JURIST report] in 2003 and the Assisted Human Reproduction Act has been praised [press release] by the Center for Genetics and Society [advocacy website], a group seeking comprehensive regulation of embryonic use. In 2007 the UN University Institute for Advanced Studies [official website] called for a universal ban on human cloning, but numerous countries and US states [JURIST reports] have increasingly liberalized non-cloning use of human embryos [JURIST news archive].





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NGO names worst violators of refugee rights, criticizes border policies
Deirdre Jurand on June 20, 2008 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] European nations are among the worst violators of refugee rights [country list] because of the countries' strict border policies and their treatment of refugee seekers, according to a report [materials] released by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) [official website] on Thursday. The 60 main refugee host countries were graded [grade report, PDF; report grading policy, PDF] based on their adherence to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees [text], specifically evaluating refugee policies on physical protection, detention and access to courts, labor, and freedom of movement. The report criticized France and Britain [JURIST asylum reports] for returning asylum seekers to their home countries, and graded Russia as one of the worst refugee rights violators because of its "Byzantine system of rules and regulations that made it virtually impossible for asylum seekers to obtain legal refugee status." Five Asian countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Iraq and the African nations of Sudan and Kenya, were also named the worst violators of refugee rights. AFP has more.

USCRI released the report a day before the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) World Refugee Day [press release], designed to highlight the "need and right to protection that refugees deserve." Of the countries included in the USCRI report, Benin, Brazil and Mali earned the highest score in each of the four categories. The United States earned low scores for its refugee policies on physical protection and access to courts, which the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) [official website] also criticized [text; JURIST report] in early 2007.






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Germany convicts Iraqi for al-Qaeda recruitment material distribution
Andrew Gilmore on June 20, 2008 10:20 AM ET

[JURIST] A German court convicted an Iraqi man for disseminating terrorist materials online in an attempt to recruit members for al-Qaeda [JURIST news archive] on Thursday. The man, Ibrahim Rashid, an Iraqi political refugee of Kurdish descent, was convicted on 22 counts of recruiting for a non-German terrorist organization. He was arrested in 2006 and detained until his trial in the German city of Celle. Rashid is the first person to be convicted under a German law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks [JURIST news archive] that bans recruitment for terrorist groups. Rashid's defense lawyer had urged the court to acquit his client, arguing that convicting him could lead to unintended political abuse of the law. AFP has more. Deutsche-Welle has local coverage.

Thursday's conviction comes amid controversy over German anti-terrorism laws dealing with technology and the Internet. In February, the Federal Constitutional Court overturned [JURIST report] a 2006 state law that authorized intelligence agents to search personal computers, networks and Internet communications of terrorism suspects. In September 2007, German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries proposed [JURIST report] new laws criminalizing the preparation of acts of terrorism, including the posting of bomb-making instructions on the Internet.






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South Africa must accept Zimbabwean refugees: HRW report
Devin Montgomery on June 20, 2008 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [HRW materials; press release] Friday urging South Africa [JURIST news archive] to grant temporary asylum and work permits to Zimbabweans who have fled to the country. The group said that the South African Department of Home Affairs [official website] has mischaracterized the refugees fleeing "political repression and economic deprivation," as ordinary migrants and that massive government deportation efforts are in violation of international law. It calls on the government to legitimize the status of Zimbabweans in the country and to allow new refugees to enter legally:

The choice the South African government faces is difficult and stark. Either it continues to breach its fundamental obligations under international law and ignores the reality of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Zimbabweans on its territory. To do this means allowing many to be mistreated by police, abused and exploited by employers, while many others are removed haphazardly, arbitrarily, expensively, and ineffectively to Zimbabwe (most returning back over the border within days or weeks)... Or the government can choose to regularize [the refugees'] stay.
The group said that government's harsh treatment of the Zimbabweans is ineffective and leads to public hostility and xenophobic attacks [HRW release] aimed at the refugees. AP has more.

South African Minister of Home Affairs Mapisa-Nqakula spoke at a government [speech text] conference in recognition of World Refugee Day [UN backgrounder] Friday. The Minister said the government was increasing efforts to determine the status of the refugees and that those granted asylum would enjoy certain rights, but stopped short of a wider declaration on the status of the Zimbabweans:
A new system has been put in place in order to improve the refugee determination processes. The new Asylum Registration System links all offices electronically to prevent duplication of applications and enhance turn around times. We have also appointed almost 200 staff members, including new managers, to beef up capacity in all 5 Asylum determination offices.
HRW blamed South Africa's refugee crisis on the failed economic policies of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and on political violence in the country. Earlier this week, Zimbabwe evicted a UN rights envoy [JURIST report] who had been sent to monitor the human rights situation following hotly-contested presidential elections [JURIST news archive].





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UN Security Council condemns sexual violence as war tactic
Deirdre Jurand on June 20, 2008 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] Thursday condemned the use of sexual violence [Resolution 1820 text and materials] against civilians as a war tactic, saying that it can be "a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide." The resolution, adopted unanimously after a debate on women, peace and security [press release], demands that warring parties immediately stop using sexual violence because it violates human rights and threatens international security by prolonging conflicts. Those accused of sexual violence should never be immune from prosecution, and UN member states must

comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commended the UN [opening remarks] for deeming sexual violence a security concern, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the Security Council was promoting stability [statement text] by supporting women and demanding accountability. The resolution calls on Ban to report back to the Security Council next year on the resolution's implementation. AFP has more.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also praised the resolution, calling it the UN's first strong and concrete condemnation [HRW press release] on the issue. The UN issued its primary resolution against sexual violence [Resolution 1325 text, PDF] in 2000, urging warring parties to respect the rights of women and suggesting more participation of women in peace processes. In October 2007 Security Council officials reported that sex offenses in wartime are widespread [statement text; JURIST report]. Last month Ban promised to increase efforts to combat child exploitation and sexual abuse [statement text; JURIST report] allegedly perpetrated by UN peacekeeping forces [report, PDF], and he said during Thursday's debate that such exploitation and abuse is absolutely prohibited.





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Bolivia constitution reforms called illegitimate, may lead to violence
Steve Czajkowski on June 20, 2008 8:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Several Bolivian opposition groups have said that the nation's new constitution is illegitimate, alleging that supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] used legal loopholes to rush its approval. An International Crisis Group [official website] report [PDF text; ICG press release] released Thursday said the opposition may react to the constitutional reform attempts through violence. The opposition consists mainly of Unidad Nacional (UN), Poder Democratico y Social (PODEMOS), and Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) [official websites, in Spanish], who say the approval vote was mostly restricted to those in Morales' Movement Toward Socialism Party (MAS) [party website, in Spanish]. The government has said that the constitution was approved by a majority of elected delegates. UPI has more.

Bolivia's current constitution [text, in Spanish] prohibits a president from seeking election to consecutive terms. The new constitution, which gained preliminary approval by the Constitutional Assembly [JURIST report] in November 2007, allows the president to seek election to two consecutive five-year terms, gives the president more power over natural resources, and consolidates Bolivia's legislature. In March, Bolivia's National Electoral Court [official website] blocked a scheduled May 4 referendum [JURIST report] on the new constitution after finding that it failed to satisfy a constitutional provision requiring a national vote to be held within 90 days of congressional approval of new legislation. The referendum had been narrowly approved [JURIST report] in the National Congress [official website, in Spanish] earlier in the month.






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US nursing homes fight to keep arbitration clauses in resident contracts
Steve Czajkowski on June 19, 2008 8:46 PM ET

[JURIST] A representative for the US nursing home industry urged members of Congress Wednesday not to pass legislation that would eliminate the arbitration clauses which are typically part of admission contracts to nursing homes. In a joint meeting [recorded audio] between the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights and the Special Committee on Aging [official websites], Kelley Rice-Schild, a representative of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) [official website] testified [ACHA press release] that such legislation would undermine the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [USC Title 9 text], while arbitration is more efficient and could enable patients to retain a larger part of any financial settlement. However Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) [official website], who along with Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) [official website] introduced the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2008 [S 2838 materials] in April, argued [press release]:

Typically, admissions agreements are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Residents have few choices because they require immediate admission or because there are no other facilities in the area...[A]s a result, whether or not they understand the arbitration provision, [people] often feel compelled to sign in order to ensure that their loved one will be admitted.
Alison Hirschel, the president of the National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) [official website], echoed the senator's concerns in a statement [PDF text] before the committee. Reuters has more.

The legislation highlights the public's concerns over long-term care facilities. A May 2008 report [PDF text] by the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] said that the state surveys of nursing homes continually understated the number of serious care problems. Last month the House version of the bill [HR 6126 materials] was introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). The legislation has been supported by groups such as the AARP [official website] and the Alzheimer's Association [official website].





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FBI names more than 400 in mortgage fraud indictments
Devin Montgomery on June 19, 2008 4:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] Thursday announced that more than 400 people had been indicted [press release] in connection to what has been termed the US "sub-prime mortgage collapse." The vast majority of the indictments involved fraud related to individual mortgages, with the FBI focusing on lending fraud, foreclosure rescue scams and mortgage-related bankruptcy schemes, which account for more than $1 billion in losses.

Lending fraud frequently involves multiple loan transactions in which industry professionals construct mortgage transactions based on gross fraudulent misrepresentations about the borrower’s financial status, such as overstating the borrower’s income or assets, using false or fictitious employment records or inflating property values. Foreclosure rescue scams involve criminals who target legitimate homeowners in dire financial circumstances and fraudulently collect fees for foreclosure prevention services or obtain ownership interests in residential properties. Both of these fraudulent mortgage schemes may be furthered by filing bankruptcy petitions that automatically stay foreclosure.
The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York [official website] also announced Thursday that indictments [PDF text; press release] had been brought against two senior hedge fund managers at Bear Stearns [corporate website] for allegedly misleading investors even after they knew their mortgage-related funds were at serious risk of collapse. The Attorney's Office said that the two managers, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, held more than $1.4 billion in investor funds.
[They] misrepresented or omitted material facts in communications with investors and lenders about a variety of topics, including the financial prospects of the Funds, their opinions regarding the financial prospects of the Funds, their personal investments in the Funds, the Funds' investor redemption requests, the Funds' liquidity picture, and the Funds' exposure to the subprime mortgage market.
AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.

In March of this year Bear Stearns was hit with two major lawsuits [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] after its announced acquisition [press release] by JPMorgan Chase [corporate website]. Earlier that month, Bear Stearns stock dropped precipitously after the announcement that the US Federal Reserve had provided it with emergency funds to avoid insolvency and JPMorgan Chase announced that it had reached a deal with the company to buy it out [merger agreement text, PDF] for $236 million, about $2 per share, a fraction of its prior market price.





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UN rights council condemns Myanmar violations, urges independent probe
Deirdre Jurand on June 19, 2008 3:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] Wednesday criticized the government of Myanmar [A/HRC/8/L.12 text, PDF] for its continued human rights abuses and refusal to cooperate with humanitarian groups. The resolution calls on the Myanmar government to free political prisoners, stop recruiting child soldiers and to implement earlier UNHRC resolutions [S-5/1 text, PDF] regarding the country's human rights situation. The Council adopted the measure without a vote and requested a

full, transparent and effective, impartial and independent investigation into all reports of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment, forced labour and forced displacement and for bringing those responsible to justice.
Resolution supporters said that even the recent Myanmar constitutional referendum [JURIST news archive] was not free or fair and that the country maintains poor human rights standards, but critics responded that Myanmar has worked toward improving its human rights situation and that the resolution was unnecessary. The Myanmar representative to the UN rejected the resolution [text, PDF], saying that its conclusions are incorrect and that more powerful countries were using the charges of human rights abuses to politically pressure the Myanmar government. MaximsNews has more. AHN has additional coverage.

The UNHRC passed a similar resolution [press release; JURIST report] in March condemning the Myanmar government for continuous abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The European Union expressed particular concern over human rights violations in the country and the lack of investigations into widespread arrests during last year's pro-democracy demonstrations [JURIST report]. Recently, other international observers and rights activists have expressed doubt about the legitimacy of the constitutional referendum and criticized [JURIST report] the junta for holding the vote immediately after a devastating cyclone hit the country, leaving nearly 130,000 people dead or missing.





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US military judge sets October date for Khadr trial
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 19, 2008 3:53 PM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge at Guantanamo Bay Thursday set October 8 as the date for the military commission trial of Canadian-born Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. Khadr's military defense lawyer Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler said that judge Col. Patrick Parrish, who replaced Col. Peter Brownback [JURIST news archive] as presiding judge last month, is pushing ahead to complete the trial before President George W. Bush leaves office. Prior to his dismissal, Brownback had refused to set a trial date [JURIST reports] until the US government submitted daily records of Khadr's detention. Kuebler has speculated that Brownback's dismissal was related to his refusal to set a date, but the Pentagon has denied this assertion. Parrish has ordered prosecutors to turn over materials related to Khadr's interrogation at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where Khadr was detained before his transfer to Guantanamo [JURIST news archive]. CBC News has more.

Khadr, 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes allegedly committed at the age of 15 while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 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. In April, Brownback ruled [PDF text] that Khadr was not a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan. 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. Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled enemy combatants can challenge their detention in federal courts [JURIST report], a decision that puts the future of the commission process into doubt.






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Federal judge discusses Guantanamo habeas rights with defense lawyers
Andrew Gilmore on June 19, 2008 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief Justice Royce Lamberth [official profile] of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held an off-the-record meeting Wednesday with defense lawyers for enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] to discuss court procedures in light of the US Supreme Court's recent opinion in Boumediene v. Bush [text, PDF; JURIST report]. The group reportedly discussed how Guantanamo prisoners' challenges in civilian courts might be affected by the controversial ruling, which determined that terrorism detainees have US habeas corpus rights. The meeting also addressed issues of scheduling, including possible delays in the military commission trials [JURIST news archive] of the detainees. Reuters has more.

Last week's ruling was the not the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled against the government in a case concerning the legal rights of enemy combatants. In June 2006, the Supreme Court held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the military commission system as initially constituted violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. The Court's decision was criticized [JURIST report] by US President George W. Bush and Attorney General Michael Mukasey. UN human rights chief Louise Arbour and rights activists praised [JURIST report] the Court for its decision.






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Serbia high court sentences Milosevic ex-security chief for assassination plot
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 19, 2008 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Serbian chief of state security Radomir Markovic was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for his role in a 1999 assassination attempt on then-Yugoslav opposition leader Vuk Draskovic [BBC profile]. The Supreme Court of Serbia also sentenced ten other individuals, including special police commander Milorad Ulemek [JURIST news archive], for orchestrating a highway crash intended to kill Draskovic. Draskovic survived and later went on to become the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Serbia-Montenegro. AP has more.

The high court tried Markovic after overturning numerous previous convictions related to the 1999 assassination attempt. In 2005, Markovic was among 10 former members of the Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] regime sentenced to jail [JURIST report] for the assassination plot. Markovic was sentenced to 10 years for covering up the plot. He was originally convicted in 2003 but that verdict was overturned on appeal.






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Italy high court decides no trial for US soldier accused in Iraq shooting
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 19, 2008 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Italy's highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation [official site, in Italian], Thursday ruled that Italian courts lack jurisdiction to try a US soldier accused of shooting an intelligence agent in Iraq. Last year, Italian prosecutors filed an appeal of a Rome court's dismissal [JURIST report] of the criminal case against US Army Spc. Mario Lozano [defense website] for the alleged 2005 murder of Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the attempted murders of agent Andrea Carpani and journalist Giuliana Sgrena [BBC profile]. Lozano was tried in absentia [JURIST report] beginning in April last year, but the court accepted defense lawyers' arguments that it lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report], as members of multinational forces in Iraq were each under the sole jurisdiction of their home countries. AP has more.

The Italian agents and journalist were shot while entering a US checkpoint [JURIST report] on the way to the Baghdad airport after the agents secured the release of Sgrena from Iraqi kidnappers. US and Italian officials have failed to agree [JURIST report] on details surrounding Calipari's death. A US investigation cleared US soldiers of wrongdoing, while an Italian probe [JURIST reports] concluded the killing was accidental but found that there were serious miscommunications and confusion about the rules of engagement for checkpoints.






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Malaysian human rights situation worsening: rights group report
Devin Montgomery on June 19, 2008 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian rights group Suaram [advocacy website] Thursday published its annual report [PDF text; press release] on the state of human rights in the country, saying that conditions had significantly worsened over the past year. The group cited the country's judicial fixing scandal [JURIST news archive] and lax prosecution of human rights offenders by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia [official website] as evidence of weak protections in the country. It also criticized the continued use of what it considers arcane preventative detention laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder], under which it said more than 70 prisoners, including some human rights protesters [JURIST report], were still being held without charge. The group blames ineffective and unmotivated governmental institutions for the decline, and says it was this ineptitude which lead to the former ruling party's ouster in recent elections. AFP has more.

In May, Amnesty International Malaysia [advocacy website] also issued a release [text] condemning the country's rights record, and called for leaders to take more aggressive action to protect human rights. Earlier this month, Malaysian Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim [firm profile] said [JURIST report] legal, possibly even constitutional, reforms were needed to safeguard the independence of the country's judiciary. In March, opposition leaders called for the release [JURIST report] of five members of the Hindu Rights Action Force held under the ISA accused of organizing a November street demonstration [TIME report] by thousands of the nation's ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur.






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Indonesia Supreme Court suspected of embezzlement
Deirdre Jurand on June 19, 2008 12:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) [official website, in Bahasa] began investigating the country's Supreme Court [official website, in Bahasa] Monday for suspected embezzlement [Jakarta Post report]. The Court collects administrative fees from appellants but has so far not accounted for the money. Late last month officials from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) [official website, in Bahasa], an NGO that monitors government organizations for corruption, encouraged a KPK investigation [Jakarta Post report] after the Court again refused to account for its collected fees or to allow for an audit, which the group said violated the Public Finance Management Law. The investigation officially began Monday when KPK officials confiscated Supreme Court documents after the Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia (BPK) [official website] reported problems with the court's fee-collection records. The investigation is designed to check for such problems by accounting for the $3.4 million the court reportedly collected between January 2007 and March 2008. The KPK also plans to audit court bank accounts. AFP has more.

The Indonesian constitution called for the establishment of the BPK [Art. 23, s. 5 text], designed to report its audits on all government agencies to the House of Representatives. The legislature officially established [Act 5 text, in Bahasa] the agency in 1973, and in 2002 the Indonesian Assembly named the BPK the state's official independent audit department [decree, PDF, in Bahasa]. In 2007 the Supreme Court refused a BPK audit of the Court's administrative accounting records, arguing that the fees were used to cover expenses and were not state revenue. BPK officials responded that money gathered in payment for state services does constitute state revenue. In 2006 World Bank officials called judicial corruption one of the biggest challenges [JURIST report] for Indonesia, and anti-corruption group Transparency International [official website] has since said that the country is perceived as one of the most corrupt [rankings list; regional analysis, PDF] worldwide.






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Denmark newspaper not liable for Muhammad cartoons
Andrew Gilmore on June 19, 2008 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The Vestre Landsret [court website, in Danish], one of the two second-highest appeals courts in Denmark, denied [text, PDF, in Danish] Wednesday an appeal of a 2006 lower court judgment [JURIST report] dismissing a lawsuit concerning caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive]. The defamation lawsuit was brought by seven Muslim groups against Jyllands-Posten [newspaper website], a Danish newspaper that printed satirical cartoons depicting [Le Monde slideshow] the Prophet Muhammad, and two of the newspaper's editors. The cartoons, including one which associated the Prophet with terrorism, caused international anger that resulted in wide-spread demonstrations, multiple deaths, the burning of Danish embassy buildings [JURIST reports], boycotts of Danish goods, and violent clashes throughout the Muslim world. The Vestre Landsret agreed with the judgment of the City Court of Aarhus that while some Muslims may be offended by the cartoons, they were an exercise in free speech, and there was no reason to believe the editors intended to insult Muslims. AP has more.

The seven Muslim groups filed the lawsuit in March 2006, following the announcement [text] by Denmark's Director of Public Prosecutions [official website] Henning Fode that the government would not press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the newspaper or its employees. A Jordanian court convicted editors [JURIST report] of two national newspapers in May 2006 and sentenced them to two months' imprisonment for publishing the cartoons. In January, a former newspaper editor in Belarus was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for reprinting the cartoons in the Zhoda newspaper. In February, Jyllands-Posten reprinted the cartoons, drawing condemnation and protests in Indonesia, Sudan, and Afghanistan [JURIST reports], among other places. Also in February, a tape recording allegedly made by Osama bin Laden was released, threatening retaliation against European Union countries [Reuters report] for reprinting the cartoons.






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Sudan begins terror trials for 39 Darfur rebels
Deirdre Jurand on June 19, 2008 11:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Thirty-nine accused Darfur [JURIST news archive] rebels appeared before special courts in Sudan to be tried under a 2001 anti-terrorism law Wednesday. The accused allegedly belong to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [group website], which Sudanese officials accuse [AP report] of terrorism, rebellion and conspiring against the constitution. Lawyers for the rebels have expressed skepticism that the special courts, which were established by the nation's chief justice, can be impartial. If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty. Sudanese security forces arrested more than 100 JEM members [HRW press release; JURIST report] following a May 10 attack on the Sudanese city of Omdurman, in which at least 200 people died. Reuters has more. SUNA has local coverage, in Arabic.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [text, PDF; HRW press release] detailing detainee abuse in the wake of the May 10 rebel attack. The report calls on the Sudanese government to identify the prisoners detained in connection with the attack, and to release any detainees who have no connection to rebel activities. Since civil war broke out in the Darfur region in 2003, over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced. Reports by the UNHCHR and the International Committee for the Red Cross [official website] have documented numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law [JURIST reports] based on interviews with refugees, rebel groups, and agencies and authorities working in the region.






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Congress overrides second Bush Farm Bill veto
Andrew Gilmore on June 19, 2008 10:59 AM ET

[JURIST] The US congress voted late Wednesday to override President George W. Bush's veto [JURIST report] of the new Farm Bill [HR 6124 materials]. The override passed easily in both chambers, with votes of 80-14 in the Senate and 317-109 [roll calls] in the House. Bush had vetoed the legislation earlier Wednesday, calling it fiscally irresponsible. The original version of the text sent to Bush for signature last month inadvertently omitted [JURIST report] a section providing for foreign food aid. AP has more.

The future of a landmark discrimination case [NBFA press release; JURIST report] brought by the Virginia-based National Black Farmers Association earlier this month against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] depended on the passage of the bill. The legislation includes a provision [AP file report] that expressly permits new claims of improper discrimination in the allocation of USDA resources, including loans, disaster relief, and other resources. The new Farm Bill also reopens the class-action suit to farmers who were left out of a 1999 settlement after missing a filing deadline and thousands more who argue that the terms of the settlement were inadequate.






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Ninth Circuit rules text messages protected by Fourth Amendment
Devin Montgomery on June 19, 2008 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [PDF text] Wednesday that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages sent on work cell phones. The present case was bought by an Ontario police officer who alleged that his department violated his Fourth Amendment [LII backgrounder] rights by reading his messages; the officer also brought suit against text-messaging service Arch Wireless [parent company website], which released the messages to the department. The court found that if text messages are stored by an outside service, rather than on an employer's own servers, the employer does not have a right to see those messages without the employee's permission. The court also held that Arch Wireless, as an "electronic communication service," had violated the Stored Communications Act [text] by releasing the texts to the department. Considering the privacy implications of the case, the court wrote:

The extent to which the Fourth Amendment provides protection for the contents of electronic communications in the Internet age is an open question. The recently minted standard of electronic communication via e-mails, text messages, and other means opens a new frontier in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that has been little explored. Here, we must first answer the threshold question: Do users of text messaging services such as those provided by Arch Wireless have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their text messages stored on the service provider’s network? We hold that they do.
The LA Times has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has additional coverage.

The decision is the first time that a federal appeals court has found that electronic messages are covered by Fourth Amendment protections. Advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy website] praised the decision [press release] as "an immensely important one which gives the victims of unlawful searches the ability to suppress illegally obtained evidence."





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Desmond Tutu urges US Senate to pass AIDS spending bill
Deirdre Jurand on June 19, 2008 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu [Nobel Prize profile] said [backgrounder] Wednesday that the US Senate should quickly pass a proposed bill [S 2731 text, PDF] designed to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria because it would save lives and encourage other governments to increase their anti-AIDS efforts. The bill would directly support other countries' anti-AIDS efforts and is designed to:

provide a framework to work with international actors and partner countries toward universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care programs, recognizing that prevention is of particular importance in terms of sequencing.
The House of Representatives passed a similar bill [HR 5501 text, PDF; Health GAP bill comparison, PDF] in April, but US Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and several others blocked the Senate bill [press release; Africa Science report]. Coburn said the the Senate bill must focus more on care and treatment for those who already have AIDS and less on prevention efforts, but bill supporters have said that the current proposed bill would be more effective because it allows for countries to individually tailor their anti-AIDS efforts. Tutu urged the Senate to pass the bill and send it to President George W. Bush to sign before the G-8 Summit [official website] next month so that other governments might also increase their international AIDS efforts. Reuters has more. The Tulsa World has additional coverage.

Both of the bills are part of this year's planned reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) [official website], an initiative announced in 2003 that pledged $15 billion over five years for combating AIDS. Congress signed the Plan into law [PL 108–25 text, PDF] later that year after determining that "[d]uring the last 20 years, HIV/AIDS has assumed pandemic proportions, spreading from the most severely affected regions, sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, to all corners of the world, and leaving an unprecedented path of death and devastation." Each proposed bill would provide $50 billion over five years for AIDS health services and prevention, as well as $4 billion for anti-tuberculosis programs and $5 billion for anti-malaria projects.





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Supreme Court rules in mental competency, worker rights cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 19, 2008 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down five decisions Thursday, including MetLife v. Glenn [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled 6-3 that an employee benefit plan administrator has an illegal conflict of interest under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act [text; US DOL backgrounder] if he has both the authority to pay benefits and to determine employees' eligibility for benefits. The Court found:

In such instances, any one factor will act as a tiebreaker when the other factors are closely balanced, the degree of closeness necessary depending upon the tiebreaking factor's inherent or case-specific importance. The conflict of interest at issue here, for example, should prove more important (perhaps of great importance) where circumstances suggest a higher likelihood that it affected the benefits decision, including, but not limited to, cases where an insurance company administrator has a history of biased claims administration.
The decision upholds a US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling [PDF text]. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer, a dissent filed by Justice Scalia, a concurrence by Chief Justice Roberts, and a dissent and concurrence in part [texts] by Justice Kennedy. AP has more.

The Court also ruled 5-4 in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], finding that the use of age as a factor in a retirement plan is not facially discriminatory and does not violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) [text]. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [official website] brought suit against a number of Kentucky state agencies who administer the state retirement program because it distinguishes among recipients based on age. The Court found that the process was not discriminatory:
The Plan's "assumptions" that no disabled worker would have continued to work beyond the point at which he was both disabled and pension eligible do not involve age-related stereotypes, but apply equally to all workers regardless of age.
The decision reverses a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Kennedy. AP has more.

In Indiana v. Edwards [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 7-2 that states may adopt a higher standard for measuring competency to represent oneself at trial than for measuring competency to stand trial. The Court found:
[T]he Constitution permits judges to take realistic account of the particular defendant’s mental capacities by asking whether a defendant who seeks to conduct his own defense at trial is mentally competent to do so.
The ruling reverses and remands an Indiana Supreme Court decision [opinion, PDF] that a court which found a schizophrenic defendant competent to stand trial could not subsequently deny that defendant the right to represent himself under the Sixth Amendment [text]. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Breyer and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Scalia. AP has more.

In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 8-1 that an employer has the burden of proof in an age discrimination case where a worker says he was fired for no valid reason. The Court found that Congress had intended that the ADEA require employers to show that workers were dismissed for reasonable factors other than age and explained that "we have to read it the way Congress wrote it." The ruling reverses and remands a US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding [PDF text] that the burden of proof rests on the worker. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Souter, a concurrence filed by Justice Scalia, and a concurrence and dissent in part [texts] filed by Justice Thomas. Justice Breyer did not take part in the judgment. AP has more.

In Chamber of Commerce v. Brown [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 7-2 that a 2000 California law [Assembly Bill 1889 text] that prohibits employers from using certain funds they receive from the state to influence union elections is unconstitutional. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld [PDF text] the California law, ruling that it was neither preempted by the National Labor Relations Act [text] nor rendered unenforceable by the US Constitution's Supremacy Clause. The Court reversed and remanded that decision Thursday, holding that the law "imposes a targeted negative restriction on employer speech about unionization." Read the Court's opinion per Justice Stevens and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Breyer. AP has more.





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Mexico argues ICJ should stay US executions of foreign nationals
Andrew Gilmore on June 19, 2008 9:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Mexico has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] for assistance in stopping the Texas executions of five of its citizens, including Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder; JURIST news archive], who is scheduled to be executed August 5. In hearings [schedule, PDF] scheduled for Thursday, Mexico will ask the ICJ to rule on its request for provisional measures and to clarify the 2004 ruling in which it held such executions were in violation of international law due to denial of consular assistance. Last month, a Texas court set Medellin's execution date [JURIST report] after the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in March that President George W. Bush did not have the authority to direct state courts to comply with the ICJ's order for new court hearings. Reuters has more.

Medellin, a Mexican national sentenced to death for raping and murdering two teenage girls, had appealed a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals November 2006 ruling [text; JURIST report] that Bush had "exceeded his constitutional authority" by ordering state court rehearings [JURIST report] for 51 Mexican nationals, including Medellin, convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum [text] instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 ICJ decision [materials] that held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text] to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences.






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Sweden approves wiretapping bill immediately following last-minute changes
Devin Montgomery on June 19, 2008 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The Swedish parliament Wednesday passed a controversial warrantless wiretapping law [draft text, in Swedish] that gives the country's National Defence Radio Establishment [official website] broad authority to monitor international telephone and electronic communications passing through the country. The bill, which had been rejected Tuesday [JURIST report], passed by a narrow 143-138 margin after last-minute changes made by lawmakers. The changes included a provision for independent oversight of the program, but critics say the revised bill still does not do enough to protect privacy interests. Opposition party members say the program could also be used to intercept domestic communications [press release, in Swedish], and the International Federation of Journalists argued it could compromise source anonymity [press release]. The new law will take effect in January 2009. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Warrantless wiretaps have been an increasingly controversial topic, as officials struggle to balance civil liberties with security concerns. In February, a Canadian judge ruled [excerpts] that Section 184.4 of the Canadian Criminal Code [text], which allows law enforcement officers to electronically intercept private communications in "exceptional circumstances" without court authorization, is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental freedom to be free from unreasonable search and seizure" protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. In March, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a controversial bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Security Act [JURIST news archive] that would extend government power to eavesdrop on individuals within the US under judicial oversight but not grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had previously allowed the government to eavesdrop on their lines as part of its warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive].






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Tibetan protesters missing after Chinese arrests: rights group
Deirdre Jurand on June 19, 2008 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The status of more than 1,000 protesters detained by Chinese authorities during March demonstrations [BBC backgrounder] in Tibet remains unknown, according to an Amnesty International report [text, DOC; press release] released Wednesday. About 370 of the protesters who surrendered to authorities and about 980 arrested in April after the protests have still not been released or charged [Amnesty press release]. Amnesty officials also criticized China for severely censoring media reports on Tibet, blocking international journalists and independent human rights observers from entering the region, and physically abusing detained activists. An Amnesty official said that under Chinese law [text, Administrative Punishment Law of the People's Republic of China], detainees can be held without charge for four years [ITV report]. The Amnesty report called on China to free all detainees who engaged in peaceful protest. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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. In April, a Chinese court sentenced 30 people to prison for their roles in the protests. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests.






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Canada says charity a front for Tamil Tigers, prepares to seize assets
Nick Fiske on June 19, 2008 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Canada classified the World Tamil Movement (WTM) as a terrorist organization Tuesday [Canadian list of terrorist entities], according to comments [press release] by Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day [official website]. Day characterized the group as a front for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [group website; CFR backgrounder], or "Tamil Tigers," stating that there was evidence linking the WTM to LTTE fund raising efforts, and that WTF representatives had elicited donations from Canadian Tamils and transferred funds to Sri Lankan bank accounts controlled by the LTTE. The listing, made pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada [text], is meant to combat terrorist activities and "support Canada's law-abiding Tamil community." The Canadian government now plans to seize WTM assets and make it illegal for Canadian citizens to donate to the group. CBC has more.

The LTTE [JURIST news archive] argue that the government of Sri Lanka [official website; JURIST news archive] must establish an independent ethnic state for Tamils within the current boundaries of Sri Lanka, a demand the government has rejected since the Tigers began an open rebellion in the 1970s. Canada placed the LTTE on its list of terrorist organizations [Public Safety list] in April 2006, citing the groups attacks on civilians as well as political, economic, religious and cultural targets through the use of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombings.






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Burundi military announces mass arrests of Hutu separatists
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 4:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Burundi military officials Wednesday announced the arrests of nearly 100 members of the Forces for National Liberation (FNL) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a Hutu separatist group engaged in an ongoing conflict with the Burundian government. The FNL denied accusations [Reuters report] that the arrests were a government response to the alleged recruitment of new fighters. Those arrested were said to be established members of the rebel group who were moving to assembly and disarmament areas established with international help. From South Africa, Bua News has more.

The announcement of the arrests followed FNL leader Agathon Rwasa's Tuesday declaration of a formal end [IRIN report] to the group's struggle with the government. Rwasa returned to Burundi [BBC report] from exile in Tanzania in late May, at the urging of South African mediators. Burundi is still recovering from a 12-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] between the Hutu majority and the dominant Tutsi minority, a conflict which began in 1993 and claimed more than 300,000 victims.






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New York AG reaches $600k settlement with law firms accused of pension fraud
Devin Montgomery on June 18, 2008 4:14 PM ET

[JURIST] New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo [official profile] announced [press release] Wednesday that the state had settled with two law firms accused of defrauding the state pension system. For years the two firms, Girvin & Ferlazzo, PC and Hogan, Sarzynski, Lynch, Surowka & DeWind LLP [firm websites], had arranged for some of their attorneys to be placed on the employment rolls of New York school districts in order to qualify for pension benefits, even though the attorneys had only performed contract work for the schools. The firms agreed to pay a combined $600,000 in restitution for the illegitimate benefits, and in return those attorneys included in the deals will not face criminal charges for their involvement. Commenting on the outcome, Cuomo said:

The Girvin firm considered it a perk of partnership to collect public pension benefits they weren’t entitled to. Some partners collected benefits as purported ‘employees’ while not providing any of the services for which they were being compensated. This settlement will make New York’s taxpayers more than whole while holding the firm accountable for this egregious conduct.
It is unknown whether the attorneys will face any additional disciplinary measures from the bar. The Business Review has more. News 10 has local coverage.

Cuomo's investigation began in February [Newsday report] as a response to a report that one attorney, Lawrence Reich, had been illegitimately placed on the employment rolls of five New York school districts. In April, he announced [press release] that as many as 90 attorneys and 180 school districts had been involved in similar agreements, with some attorneys recieving hundreds of thousands of dollars in inappropriate benefits. The New York Times has more.





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Bulgarian government freezes EU funds over corruption concerns
Deirdre Jurand on June 18, 2008 4:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Bulgarian officials said Wednesday that they had frozen 10 National Road Infrastructure Fund [backgrounder] projects worth almost 90 million euros ($137 million) in order to avoid possible sanctions for using the money inappropriately. The funds are mostly grants from the Phare program [Bulgaria program materials; EU Bulgaria finance page], an EU policy designed to aid countries' development before their accession to the EU. Bulgaria officially joined the EU [JURIST report] in January 2007, but the EU has since accused the country of insufficient attempts to reduce corruption [JURIST report] and has frozen funds in response. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Plugchieva said that an independent audit released Monday of the National Road Infrastructure Fund showed mishandling of funds and conflicts of interest. She plans to send the report to prosecutors. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

The EU has frequently criticized the anti-corruption efforts of both Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU at the same time. In February, an EU interim report on Bulgaria [PDF text; JURIST report] criticized Bulgarian efforts to counter high-level corruption and organized crime for not demonstrating "convincing results." Last June, the European Commission (EC) issued similar findings in two progress reports [JURIST report], saying that Bulgaria and Romania needed to do more to achieve judicial reform, and combat corruption and organized crime [press release]. The countries' EU membership followed six years of accession negotiations. Both countries are required to meet a series of benchmarks; failing to do so could result in EU intervention and the loss of economic aid under Articles 36-38 of the Act of Accession [text], which lays out safeguard mechanisms [EC backgrounder] if there are possible threats to the functioning of the EU.






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Bush vetoes Farm Bill again after omission corrected
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush vetoed the new Farm Bill [HR 6124 materials; White House press release] for the second time on Wednesday, saying that the proposed legislation was fiscally irresponsible. The original version of the text sent to Bush for signature last month inadvertently omitted [JURIST report] a section providing for foreign food aid. Bill supporters had said they would submit the bill for a new vote in Congress to avoid any potential concerns about the legitimacy of the resulting law. Congress is expected to vote on overriding Bush's latest veto later Wednesday. AP has more.

The future of a landmark discrimination case [NBFA press release; JURIST report] brought by the Virginia-based National Black Farmers Association earlier this month against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] depends on the passage of the bill. The legislation includes a provision [AP file report] that expressly permits new claims of improper discrimination in the allocation of USDA resources, including loans, disaster relief, and other resources. The new Farm Bill also reopens the class-action suit to farmers who were left out of a 1999 settlement after missing a filing deadline and thousands more who argue that the terms of the settlement were inadequate.






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ECHR rules Armenia violated human rights by revoking independent station license
Devin Montgomery on June 18, 2008 2:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [decision; press release] Tuesday that Armenia's National Television and Radio Commission had improperly denied a broadcast license to the A1 Plus [media website] television station. ECHR found that the denial violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which protects freedom of expression. A1 Plus, which is frequently critical of the Armenian government, had its license revoked in 2002. ArmeniaNow has more.

Council of Europe [official website] Secretary General Terry Davis praised the decision [press release] saying it was well overdue and "victory for freedom of expression." Advocacy group Global Voices said [advocacy posting] that the absence of the station had effectively eliminated all non-state-controlled television in the country. In March, Armenia eased additional media restrictions that it had put in place as part of a state of emergency [JURIST reports] declared during fiercely contested elections in the country.






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Sweden parliament votes against controversial wiretap law
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 18, 2008 1:41 PM ET

[JURIST] The Swedish parliament Tuesday rejected a proposed warrantless wiretap law [text, in Swedish] that would have given the National Defence Radio Establishment [official website] wide leeway to eavesdrop on international telephone and electronic communications passing through the country. The government said that the law was necessary for national security, but the measure was vigorously protested [Times Online report] by journalists, civil libertarians, and privacy advocates. The bill has been sent back to committee for redrafting; proponents said it would be amended to take privacy concerns into consideration. The Register has more.

Warrantless wiretaps have been an increasingly controversial topic, as officials struggle to balance civil liberties with security concerns. In February, a Canadian judge ruled [excerpts] that Section 184.4 of the Canadian Criminal Code [text], which allows law enforcement officers to electronically intercept private communications in "exceptional circumstances" without court authorization, is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental freedom to be free from unreasonable search and seizure" protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. In March, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a controversial bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Security Act [JURIST news archive] that would extend government power to eavesdrop on individuals within the United States under judicial oversight but not grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had previously allowed the government to eavesdrop on their lines as part of its warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive].






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Russia charges three Chechens with murder of journalist covering separatists
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 12:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian authorities have formally charged three men in the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya [JURIST news archive], were among those arrested last August [JURIST report] in connection with the investigation into Politkovskaya's murder. Russian investigators have also initiated a search for a third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, who is suspected of being the actual shooter. Russian prosecutors also announced in the same statement that abuse of office charges had been filed against a Federal Security Service agent, but it was not apparent whether those charges were also related to the Politkovskaya killing. Politkovskaya wrote for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [media website, in Russian], and had reported extensively on the conflict between the Russian army and separatist forces in Chechnya. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Politkovskaya, who had covered the Chechnya crisis for Novaya Gazeta since 1999, was shot [JURIST report] in the head and in the chest after returning to her Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006. She was a well-known critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive], and authored two books on Chechnya. Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika [official website] has said that Politkovskaya's murder was orchestrated by a Moscow-based Chechen criminal group specializing in contract killings. CBC News has more.






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China begins anti-monopoly investigation into Microsoft, software companies
Deirdre Jurand on June 18, 2008 12:25 PM ET

[JURIST] China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) [official website] Wednesday announced an anti-monopoly investigation into Microsoft [corporate website] and other international software companies suspected of dominating the Chinese software market, unfairly raising prices and bundling software. Software companies will likely face increased liability for alleged anti-competitive practices beginning August 1, when a new anti-monopoly law [Jones Day backgrounder; JURIST report] takes effect. Officials at Microsoft China [official website, in Chinese] said that they did not know about the investigation [IDG report]. AFP has more.

In February, the European Commission (EC) fined Microsoft 899 million euros [decision, PDF; press release] for failing to comply with a 2004 order [PDF text; JURIST report] requiring the company to share technical information with competitors. In response to the European decision and other judgments, the corporation has instituted an Antitrust Compliance Committee [official website]. In January, the European Commission began an investigation [JURIST report] into new allegations that Microsoft has misused its market position. Last month, Microsoft announced it had filed an appeal [JURIST report] with the European Court of First Instance [official website], seeking to annul the fine.






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Bush urges Congress to allow oil drilling offshore, in Arctic Refuge
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 18, 2008 12:22 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Wednesday called for Congress to relax restrictions on oil exploration [statement text], saying that it should end a long-standing prohibition against offshore oil drilling [JURIST news archive] and also allow drilling to begin in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website] in Alaska. Bush argued that resources currently off-limits to harvesters could offset rising fuel prices; according to some estimates, drilling on the outer continental shelf alone could yield approximately 18 billion barrels of oil. The current moratorium, in place since 1981, sets 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US off-limits for oil drilling. The House Appropriations Committee [official website] delayed a scheduled Wednesday vote to renew the moratorium so that legislators could instead address emergency relief measures for midwestern flooding. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] in the Arctic, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require several years and a massive infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.






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Zimbabwe expels UN rights envoy
Deirdre Jurand on June 18, 2008 12:22 PM ET

[JURIST] A UN observer who arrived in Zimbabwe Sunday to monitor the human rights situation has been ejected from the country after only two days, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile; statement, recorded audio] said Wednesday. Zimbabwe government agents told the UN envoy that he had not given them proper notice of his arrival, an assertion disputed by UN officials. Arbour further said that the government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has failed to cooperate with UN agencies and aid groups, as evidenced by the recent order that aid groups suspend their work [Telegraph report] in the country. AFP has more. The Zimbabwean has local coverage.

Mugabe and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] are now disputing the results of the recent presidential elections [JURIST news archive], and a run-off election is scheduled for June 27. The MDC has estimated that at least 65 of its members have been killed [BBC report] since the first election in March, and human rights groups have suggested that state-sponsored violence will only increase as the second presidential vote draws closer.






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California courts reject last-minute petitions to block same-sex marriages
Devin Montgomery on June 18, 2008 11:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The California First District Court of Appeal [official website] Tuesday rejected a petition [PDF text] by anti-same-sex marriage group Liberty Counsel [advocacy website] to block the issuance of new sex-neutral marriages licenses [PDF text; JURIST report]. Liberty Counsel had argued that same-sex marriage licenses should not be issued until after voters decide on a proposed amendment to the state's constitution [ballot material, PDF; proposition website] on the November ballot. The state began issuing licenses after the California Supreme Court ruling [order, PDF; JURIST report] overturning a state ban on same-sex marriage took effect [JURIST report] Monday. A Sacramento Superior Court [official website] judge also refused to order a stay on the marriages Tuesday, finding that a petition filed in his court by several county supervisors should have been filed in San Francisco. The supervisors argued that the licenses should not be issued because California's legislature has not yet re-written laws banning same-sex marriage. AP has more.

California and Massachusetts [JURIST report] are the only two US states to formally recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive], but unlike Massachusetts, California does not impose residency restrictions. Several other states permit same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive], and in May New York Governor David Paterson ordered [memo, PDF; JURIST report] that state agencies recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legal marriages in New York. Many states have banned same-sex unions through statutes or amendments.






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European Parliament adopts new EU immigration directive
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 11:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Parliament (EP) [official website] adopted a new European Union directive to combat illegal immigration on Wednesday. The new rules [legislative materials; EP press release] are intended to normalize immigration procedures across the EU. Under the directive, illegal aliens caught in the EU must leave within 30 days, after which a removal order can be issued to forcibly deport them, and deported aliens can be banned from returning to the EU for five years. Authorities will be allowed to detain an illegal immigrant for up to six months, but that limit could be extended to 18 months in certain cases or even longer in "emergency situations." AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

The Permanent Representatives Committee of the Council of Europe agreed [JURIST report] to a draft of the directive last month. The EU estimates that between 350,000 to 500,000 illegal immigrants enter its member states annually, mainly filling jobs in construction and farming. Reuters has more.






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Judge approves $11 million Virginia Tech settlement
Deirdre Jurand on June 18, 2008 10:58 AM ET

[JURIST] A Virginia circuit court judge approved an $11 million state settlement agreement [template, PDF; press release] Tuesday for the families of 24 people killed in the April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech [JURIST news archive]. The settlement, which many of the families involved tentatively approved [JURIST report] in April, gives each family $100,000 plus medical expenses and provides for meetings with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech administration and police officials. Many of the families in the settlement considered wrongful-death and personal-injury lawsuits against the state of Virginia after an independent state panel reported [text] that different school policies could have avoided some of the deaths, but the settlement terms require the families to release their claims. The state also finalized settlements with injured victims, which do not need court approval, that provide up to $100,000 each and possible lifetime medical care. The Washington Post has more. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has local coverage.

The Virginia Tech shootings left 33 people dead and 25 wounded in the deadliest shooting incident in US history [Washington Post backgrounder]. Last year, Kaine issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] closing the loophole [JURIST report] that allowed the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, to purchase a gun even though a Virginia court ordered him to receive psychiatric treatment in 2005.






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Serbia prosecutor threatened over Hague extradition of war crimes suspect
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 18, 2008 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] A telephone caller threatened the life of the Serbian prosecutor responsible for the arrest and extradition of war crimes suspect Stojan Zupljanin [ICTY indictment] to the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], the Serbian Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday. The death threat, which was traced to the Netherlands, warned Vladimir Vukcevic that he would be killed if any further extraditions take place. This is not the first such threat against Vukcevic; tensions run high in Serbia over the treatment of war crimes suspects, whom some still regard as heroes. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Zupljanin was arrested [JURIST report] by Serbian authorities last week and is wanted by the ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws of war for allegedly killing civilians during the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Bosnian Serb leaders Ratko Mladic [BBC profile] and Radovan Karadzic, as well as Croatian Serb war crimes suspect Goran Hadzic [ICTY indictments] still remain at large. Serbian authorities said that Zupljanin would be transferred to the ICTY later this week.






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UK House of Lords votes to ratify EU reform treaty
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 18, 2008 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK House of Lords [official website] Wednesday passed a bill [text; explanatory notes] to ratify the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text], rejecting an amendment pushed by Conservative peers to postpone the upper chamber vote until October 20. The House of Commons approved the pact [BBC report] in March. Royal assent is expected Thursday, making ratification officially complete. The opposition Conservative Party had hoped to delay the vote in the Lords due to uncertainties about the treaty's future after an Irish referendum rejected it [JURIST report] last week. The instrument must be ratified by all 27 EU member states to take effect. AFP has more. Sky News has additional coverage.

France and Germany last week echoed a general call [press release, PDF] by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso [official profile] for EU countries which have not ratified the treaty to continue with the process notwithstanding the Irish vote. European Union leaders signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, and after UK action, nineteen countries will have ratified the document [JURIST archive]. In 2005, a draft European constitution [JURIST news archive] failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda.






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Norway parliament approves same-sex marriage law
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 9:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The Norwegian parliament approved a law [legislative materials, PDF, in Norwegian] Tuesday allowing same-sex marriage in the country. The new law replaces 1993 legislation that granted same-sex couples the right to enter into civil partnerships. The bill was proposed [JURIST report] in the Norwegian parliament, the Storting [official website], by the Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs [committee member list], and passed by the Storting's informal lower house [Aftenposten report] last week. The bill received final legislative approval from the Storting's informal upper house, the Lanting, Tuesday. The new law allows same-sex couples to be married in a church, but does not require a minister or religious organization to perform the ceremony. It will take effect January 1, 2008. AP has more.

The new Norwegian law came on the same day that same-sex couples were allowed to marry in California, under the Supreme Court of California's landmark ruling [text, PDF; JURIST report] allowing same-sex marriage in the state. With the new law, Norway becomes the fourth European country to recognize same-sex marriage. Currently, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands are the only European countries to recognize same-sex marriage, although a number of others, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, and Croatia, recognize some form of civil union or registered partnership [ILGA backgrounder]. Earlier this month, the Greek justice minister denounced [JURIST report] the first same-sex marriages to take place in the country under a controversial and non-judicial interpretation of the country's constitution.






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Doctors examine ex-detainees, find conditions consistent with abuse claims
Devin Montgomery on June 18, 2008 9:25 AM ET

Photo source or description
[[JURIST] Physicians For Human Rights [official website] Wednesday released a report [PDF text; executive summary, PDF] saying that abuse and torture claims made by former detainees held by the US in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq [JURIST news archives] are supported by medical examinations performed by the group. The exams showed that their subjects currently experience numbness and weakness consistent with extended placement in "stress positions" such as suspension or binding; depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions consistent with severe isolation and psychological abuse; and bone and tissue scarring consistent with specific claims of physical and sexual assault. The group cautioned that they were only able to examine and interview 11 former detainees, so their conclusions may not apply to all those in US custody. They went on to emphasize that their findings are consistent with other claims of abuse [JURIST news archive] made by those not included in the sample. AP has more.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch issued a report [HRW materials; JURIST report] saying that detainees at Guantanamo Bay faced severe isolation and conditions worse than those in a super-max prison. In May the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a report [PDF text; JURIST report] on what role its officers played in allegedly abusive interrogations at US detention centers abroad. In March, it was reported [AP report; JURIST report] that top officials in President Bush's administration approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques including water-boarding [JURIST news archive] on terrorism suspects.



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Federal court overturns obstruction conviction of former White House official
Deirdre Jurand on June 18, 2008 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A panel of judges in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Tuesday reversed [opinion, PDF] the conviction of former White House official David Safavian [JURIST news archive] because of previous judicial error and the use of incorrect legal standards at the trial court level. A federal jury convicted [DOJ press release; JURIST report] Safavian in 2006 on three counts of concealing and falsifying information [18 USC s. 1001(a)(1) text] and one count of obstructing justice [18 USC s. 1505 text] during an investigation into his 2002 golfing trip with former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive]. Safavian moved for an acquittal later that year, which the district judge denied [opinion, PDF], but the appeals panel Tuesday primarily agreed with Safavian's arguments. The panel held:

We do not think s. 1001 demands that individuals choose between saying everything and saying nothing. No case stands for that proposition. We therefore conclude that Safavian had no legal duty to disclose and that his concealment convictions cannot stand.
Regarding the judge's exclusion of expert testimony on typical business practices, the panel wrote:
The court at one point recognized that “[w]hat was in the defendant’s mind is at issue in this case.” But excluding the expert testimony effectively preempted the jury’s conclusion on this issue.
The panel reversed two of the concealment charges and remanded the remaining charges. The Washington Post has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

Abramoff was allegedly trying to buy General Services Administration (GSA) [official website] property during the time he took a golf trip to Scotland with Safavian, then the administrator of the White House Office of Procurement Policy [official website] and chief of staff at the GSA. Officials accused Safavian of helping Abramoff deal with the GSA and indicted [JURIST report] Safavian on charges of obstructing a GSA investigation, making false statements to GSA officials and making a false statement to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee [official website]. After Safavian's conviction, the district court sentenced him to 18 months in prison [DOJ press release; JURIST report], but he was released pending appeal [order, PDF].





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Burundi court ruling on party schism 'sets dangerous precedent': HRW report
Andrew Gilmore on June 18, 2008 8:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Tuesday denounced a recent Burundi [CIA backgrounder] Constitutional Court decision to dismiss 22 former members of the ruling party from the National Assembly, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (NCDD-FDD) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The Constitutional Court ruled that the 22 former NCDD-FDD members should be expelled from the National Assembly since they no longer represented the party under which they were elected. The 22 former party members had split from the main body of the party and gone into opposition after a factional power struggle that started in 2007 and has impeded the Assembly's work. HRW condemned the decision [HRW statement], saying that it "sets a dangerous precedent for future political life" in Burundi. HRW also reported in its statement that "Burundian jurists, members of opposition parties, representatives of civil society, religious leaders, and the Bashingantahe (a council of respected elders) criticized the court’s decision as a deliberate and politically influenced interpretation of the constitution which could lead to future rights violations." AFP has more.

Burundi is still recovering from a 12-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] between the Hutu majority and the dominant Tutsi minority which began in 1993 and claimed more than 300,000 victims. Current Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza BBC profile], an ex-Hutu rebel leader and NCDD-FDD member, was elected in 2005 after the implementation of a UN-created peace plan, but his presidency has been marred by accusations of assassinations and torture [JURIST report].






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Federal prosecutions of illegal immigrants reach record high: TRAC study
Andrew Gilmore on June 17, 2008 4:08 PM ET

[JURIST] US immigration prosecutions continued to increase in March 2008, jumping nearly 50 percent from the previous month and nearly 75 percent from the previous year, according to a report [text; press release] released by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) [official websites] at Syracuse University. Federal immigration prosecutions have risen since February [JURIST report], when such prosecutions hit a record high. TRAC attributed the increase to Operation Streamline [Washington Post backgrounder], a joint federal program under which federal prosecutors levy minor charges against illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border. "Reentry of a deported alien" is by far the most common charge in immigration prosecutions.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website], one of the agencies involved in Operation Streamline, maintains a number of additional initiatives [fact sheet] to combat illegal immigration. Late last month, 270 illegal immigrants arrested during an ICE-led raid at an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa were each sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] and 27 more received probation after pleading guilty to the use of false immigration documents. ICE also carried out a raid in California last month targeting 495 people who had ignored deportation orders, during which several hundred other illegal immigrants were also found; the raid resulted in the arrest of more than 900 illegal immigrants [ICE press release].






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Military judge drops charges against US Marine in Haditha civilian killings case
Devin Montgomery on June 17, 2008 3:53 PM ET

[JURIST] A military judge Tuesday dropped charges against a US Marine charged in connection with the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani [JURIST news archive] had faced court-martial [JURIST report] for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on allegations that he failed to properly investigate the Haditha shootings. Judge Col. Steven Folsom dropped the charges after finding that a decision by Gen. James Mattis [official profile] to press charges may have been unduly influenced by a Haditha investigator who later became Mattis' personal legal adviser. AP has more.

Chessani was the highest ranking of eight Marines initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, and charges [text] have since been dropped against all but one. The court-martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [defense website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] in March. This month, US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website; JURIST news archive] was cleared on all counts, including charges that he ordered a subordinate officer to delete photographic evidence [JURIST reports] of the killings.






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Bolivia rejects proposed Peru amendment to regional IP pact
Deirdre Jurand on June 17, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian officials Monday rejected [press release, archived, in Spanish] a Peruvian proposal to expand intellectual property protections, arguing that the amendment would be illegal and would harm the Bolivian economy. Peru is anxious to strengthen its intellectual property laws because its trade agreements with third countries are contingent on their development. Bolivian officials said that widening the Common Intellectual Property Regime [text] of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) [official website] and effectively allowing free trade agreements would encourage the influx of transnational corporations by offering them greater intellectual property protections. President Evo Morales [official profile, in Spanish] spoke out against the amendment, which he said would specifically prevent access to constitutionally guaranteed health care [Bol Press report, in Spanish] by granting patent holders more protection. Bolivian authorities also said that the amendment would violate CAN policy governing third-country trade agreements [Decision 598 text] because Peruvian free trade would harm other CAN countries. El Mundo has more, in Spanish.

Bolivia's rejection occurred at the same time that council members of the Andean Community, which includes Bolivia, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador, met to discuss the proposed amendments [Prensa Latina report]. Under CAN law, trade policies may only be modified with the permission of the member states. The governments of Bolivia and Ecuador have both rejected [AP report] Peruvian attempts to expand intellectual property protections, and Columbia has a pending free trade deal with the US.






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Darfur rebels to face terror charges: Sudan official
Andrew Gilmore on June 17, 2008 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Detained members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [organization website], a rebel group from Sudan's Darfur region [JURIST news archive], will be charged with terrorism and tried this week, Sudanese Justice Minister Abdel Basset Sabdarat told AP Monday. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Sudanese security forces arrested over 100 JEM members [HRW press release] following a May 10 attack on the Sudanese city of Omdurman. Trials will begin as early as Wednesday in special courts. AP has more.

On Tuesday, HRW released a report [text, PDF; HRW press release] detailing detainee abuse in the wake of the May 10 rebel attack. The report calls on the Sudanese government to identify the prisoners detained in connection with the attack, and to release any detainees who have no connection to rebel activities. Since civil war broke out in the Darfur region in 2003, over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced. Reports by the UNHCHR and the International Committee for the Red Cross [official website] have documented numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law [JURIST reports] based on interviews with refugees, rebel groups, and agencies and authorities working in the region.






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Mexico constitutional reforms to revolutionize judicial system
Devin Montgomery on June 17, 2008 2:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website; BBC profile] Tuesday signed into law constitutional reforms [senate bill text, in Spanish] which provide for public and oral trials, guarantee the presumption of innocence, and guarantee suspects representation by qualified public defenders. According to a press release [text] from his office, the Calderon said the new reform "offers a transparent system of justice that respects the human rights of both victims and suspects." The legislation originally included a provision which would have allowed police to search homes without a warrant if they believed there was imminent danger to a person or if a crime was being committed, but it was eventually dropped. In late February, the bill was overwhelmingly passed by the country's lower house and was approved by the Senate [JURIST reports] in early March. AP has more.

Calderon first proposed the changes [JURIST report] to the country's constitution [text] in March 2007 in an effort to reform its criminal justice system [press release]. Earlier that month, Amnesty International had released a report [text] accusing Mexico [JURIST news archive] of having a "gravely flawed" criminal justice system in which human rights abuses are perpetuated and criminals are rarely punished. The report cited evidence of arbitrary detentions, torture, fabrication of evidence and unfair trials and claims that the victims are often indigenous Mexicans, the poor, women and children.






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Russia Court rejects ex-PM appeal to register political party
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 17, 2008 1:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov [personal website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] lost an appeal in the Moscow Court Tuesday to force Russian authorities to register his People for Democracy and Justice [party website, in Russian] party. Russian officials refused to register the party, alleging that the official party membership roster contained invalid names and violated various regulations. Kasyanov denied the existence of any problems with the party's registration materials. A group of opposition parties that included People for Democracy and Justice said they would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. RIA Novosti has more.

Last year, 16 political parties had their party status revoked by the Russian Federal Registration Service [official website, in Russian], which regulates Russia's political parties. In March 2007, both the Republican Party [party website, in Russian; JURIST report] and the Russian Peace Party [JURIST report] were shut down by the Supreme Court. The Social Democratic Party of Russia, the country's oldest political party, was shut down in April 2007 [JURIST report] for failure to follow other Registration Service regulations. Critics have alleged that the Russian government is using a 2004 law that establishes minimum membership numbers for political parties to clamp down on opposition.






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Italy PM defends plans to suspend trials for minor charges
Deirdre Jurand on June 17, 2008 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] wrote Monday that proposed amendments [PDF text, in Italian] designed to suspend older trials for nonviolent crimes would allow the judiciary to consider more important cases [Senate letter, in Italian] and would give the government time to introduce judicial reforms. The amendments would affect a larger anti-crime package [Senate Act 692 materials], and if passed would suspend trials for crimes that occurred before mid-2002 except for those involving the Mafia, violent offenses, workplace accidents and crimes that could be punished by 10 years or more in prison. The amendments would also protect high-ranking government officials from prosecution during their terms in office. Berlusconi is now on trial for corruption charges [JURIST report] dating back to 1997, and critics of the amendment have charged that the move is personally motivated since Berlusconi's trial would be among those suspended. Berlusconi responded to comments that the amendments would violate the Italian constitution [text, in Italian; AP report] by writing that the measure is both constitutional and essential for the proper functioning of the judiciary. Reuters has more. Corriere della Sera has local coverage, in Italian.

Berlusconi, a media mogul and Italy's richest man, has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October 2007, Italy's highest court of appeal upheld Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. Berlusconi has continually maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of conducting a political vendetta against him.






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Japan executes three in campaign to reduce violent crime
Devin Montgomery on June 17, 2008 12:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Japan carried out its thirteenth execution since Japanese Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama [official profile] assumed office last August with the hanging of three condemned inmates Tuesday. Tuesday's executions are the latest in an increasing number of executions in the country. In recent years, Japan has experienced a sharp upswing in both violent crime [BBC report; MOJ backgrounder] and the perceived risk of violent crime [Japan Focus study], factors used as justification for expanding the use of capital punishment. AFP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

One of the last developed nations to still use the death penalty, Japan has endured international criticism for the practice since it ended an unofficial moratorium [JURIST reports] on capital punishment in 1993. Amnesty International issued a release urging Japan to stop executions [text] after the hanging of four men in April. In February, a group of parliamentarians proposed a four-year moratorium on the practice [JURIST report] . In August 2007, Japan's national bar association called for a moratorium on the death penalty [press release, in Japanese; JURIST report] until new safeguards are enacted to prevent wrongful executions.






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Malaysia high court allows ex-deputy PM to challenge 1998 dismissal
Andrew Gilmore on June 17, 2008 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Court of Malaysia [official website] ruled Monday that former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; personal website] can challenge the constitutionality [Constitution, PDF] of his 1998 removal from office by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad [BBC profile]. Anwar was widely expected to succeed Mahathir as prime minister, but Mahathir dismissed him following disagreement on the handling of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The Federal Court will also consider whether Mahathir was authorized to dismiss Anwar without giving notice to the Malaysian head of state. AP has more. Bernama has local coverage.

After his dismissal, Ibrahim was prosecuted, jailed and banned from politics on corruption and sodomy charges [JURIST reports]. The ban on his political activity ended [JURIST report] in April. Since his release from prison in 2004, Anwar has held teaching positions at various universities, most recently at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in the United States, before returning to Malaysia in December 2007. He has also played a significant role 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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DOD lawyer pushed for harsh detainee interrogations: Senate committee chair
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 17, 2008 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Former DOD General Counsel William "Jim" Haynes [DOD profile] encouraged the use of harsh interrogation tactics on terror detainees, US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin [official website] (D-MI) said [opening statement] at a Tuesday committee hearing [witness list]. Refering to Haynes and others, Levin asked:

So, how did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress positions, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them? Were these actions the result of "a few bad apples" acting on their own? It would be a lot easier to accept if it were. But that’s not the case. The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.
The committee released documents [PDF text] revealing that Haynes studied interrogation methods used in a US military personnel training exercise and explored ways in which they could be applied to terror detainees. Some of the program's techniques were later approved for use against terror detainees in a 2002 memo [JURIST report] by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Some military lawyers reportedly argued against the use of the techniques. Haynes was scheduled to testify at Tuesday's hearing.

In another document released Tuesday, Guantanamo military lawyer Lt. Col. Diane Beaver [prepared statement, PDF] said that the DOD habitually prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross [group website] from seeing detainees who had been exposed to harsher interrogation methods. The Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] authorize the ICRC to visit prisoners of war and inspect the conditions of their detention. AP has more.





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EU leaders urge nations to continue treaty ratification process despite Ireland rejection
Devin Montgomery on June 17, 2008 11:30 AM ET

[JURIST] European Union foreign ministers said Monday that member states that have not yet ratified the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text], should continue their ratification processes despite an Irish referendum which rejected the treaty last week [JURIST report]. The agreement came during a special meeting held in Luxembourg, where the leaders also cautioned against hasty solutions to the current impasse, such as throwing out the proposed rules, trying to force Ireland to reconsider its rejection, or adopting the Treaty without Irish ratification. Both the Netherlands and United Kingdom have already to decided to continue their ratification processes. EU leaders will next meet in Brussels on Thursday to consider the future of the Treaty. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Eighteen of the EU's 27 member states have so far ratified the document [JURIST archive], but Ireland was the only one to hold a popular vote on the Treaty. EU leaders signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, but all EU member states must ratify the instrument before it can take effect. In 2005, a draft European constitution [JURIST news archive] failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda. AP has more.






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Sudan must work with ICC on Darfur prosecutions: UN Security Council
Andrew Gilmore on June 17, 2008 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council Monday issued a short presidential statement [text] calling on Sudan to work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to "put an end to impunity for the crimes committed in Darfur." Sudan is not a party to the ICC, but must cooperate to fulfill its obligations under Council Resolution 1593 [text], which established jurisdiction over the Darfur situation. When the measure was adopted in 2005, Sudan's envoy to the UN adamantly opposed it, calling the action "a tool to exercise cultural superiority." ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] recently accused [JURIST report] the Sudanese government of being intimately involved in the planning, execution, and cover-up of atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur [JURIST news archive]. The UN News Centre has more.


The Security Council, the ICC and Moreno-Ocampo have repeatedly urged Sudan to comply with Resolution 1593 and ICC attempts to prosecute Darfur war crimes suspects. In April, Moreno-Ocampo called on Sudan to arrest [JURIST report] two Darfur war crimes suspects in the country, former Sudanese Minister of the Interior Ahmed Muhammad Harun and former militia leader Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch profiles]. The ICC issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for the two men in May 2007 for "crimes against the civilian population in Darfur." Sudan has refused to cooperate with the ICC over the Darfur situation, and has responded strongly to Security Council and ICC statements on the matter. Last week, the Sudan ambassador to the United Nations called Moreno-Ocampo a terrorist [JURIST report], and called for his removal. Earlier this month, Sudan accused Moreno-Ocampo of hindering the peace process in Darfur [Reuters report] by preparing a "fictitious and vicious" case against its government officials in his report to the UN. In December 2007, Sudan rejected [JURIST report] Moreno-Ocampo's previous report to the UN Security Council, in which he condemned Sudan for failing to hand over Harun.






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UK PM defends 42-day terrorism detention bill, security proposals
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 17, 2008 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown Tuesday spoke in favor of a controversial anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that would allow authorities to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days [JURIST news archive] in a speech [text] he presented to the Institute for Public Policy Research [group website]. Brown said that stronger safeguards are needed to protect national security:

I agree with those who argue that the very freedoms we have built up over generations are the freedoms terrorists most want to destroy. And we must not - we will not - allow them to do so. But equally, to say we should ignore the new demands of security - to assume that the laws and practices which have applied in the past are enough to face the future, to be unwilling to face up to difficult choices and ultimately to neglect the fundamental duty to protect our security - this is the politics of complacency.
Brown said that the bill did not authorize "internment or preventative detention," since it required that suspects be brought before a judge within 48 hours of detention. He also defended other controversial security proposals, including an expanded DNA database and national ID cards [JURIST reports], as necessary to preserve public safety. BBC News has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Brown said that the speech was not related to the resignation [statement text; JURIST report] of UK shadow Home Secretary David Davis [party profile] last week. Davis resigned his parliamentary seat Thursday in protest of the House of Commons' passage [JURIST report] Wednesday of Counter-Terrorism Bill 2007-2008, and said that by resigning and forcing a by-election in which he will run, he could take the issue to his constituents for public debate. The House of Lords must still pass the bill for it to become law, but Davis suggested that politically motivated government officials might invoke the Parliament Act [backgrounder, PDF] to allow the bill to pass without the House of Lords' consent.





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Equatorial Guinea begins trial of alleged coup leader
Deirdre Jurand on June 17, 2008 9:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of British national Simon Mann [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused of participating in a 2004 coup attempt against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo [BBC profile], began Tuesday in Malabo. Government officials charged [BBC report] Mann, a former Special Air Service officer who allegedly signed the contract for the coup, with crimes against the head of state, crimes against the government and crimes against the peace and independence of the state. The court could sentence him to death if he is convicted. Rights groups have suggested, as Amnesty International did for others charged with involvement [Amnesty report] in the plan, that the trial will not be fair, and the UK Foreign Office maintains that Equatorial Guinea has a poor human rights record and that its government controls the judiciary [Foreign Office country report]. Obiang stressed that the country will comply with international standards [The Times report] for the trial and that Mann would likely receive a lesser sentence, such as 30 years in prison, since he did not organize the coup. The court is expected to render a verdict on Thursday. CNN has more. The Mail & Guardian has local coverage.

A Zimbabwean court sentenced [JURIST report] Mann in 2004 for plotting the coup after Zimbabwean authorities arrested him and about 60 suspected mercenaries earlier that year. Authorities secretly deported [JURIST report] him to Equatorial Guinea in February 2008 before his appeal process against extradition in Zimbabwe was complete. His lawyers argued that Mann would face torture and possibly the death penalty if extradited, but the Zimbabwe High Court ruled against his appeal [JURIST report] in January, finding that there was enough evidence of his involvement to carry out extradition and that the defense failed to show a sufficient likelihood of torture. In March, Mann accused Sir Mark Thatcher [BBC profile; JURIST report] of involvement in the plan. A South African court has since sentenced Thatcher [BBC report] to a $500,000 fine and a four-year suspended prison sentence.






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California same-sex marriages begin as court ruling takes effect
Devin Montgomery on June 17, 2008 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of California [official website] ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] which overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] took effect Monday, allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the state to go ahead. The Court's decision has so far withstood challenges from both in-state conservative groups and out-of-state attorneys general [JURIST reports] who object to the ruling because it also allows couples from others states to be married while in California. The ruling may still be overturned, however, as opponents have successfully petitioned [JURIST report] to place a proposed state constitutional amendment [ballot material, PDF; proposition website] banning same-sex marriages added to the November ballot. The first marriage licenses for same-sex couples, restyled with sex-neutral language [document, PDF; JURIST report], were issued Tuesday. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

California and Massachusetts [JURIST news report] are the only two US states to formally recognize same sex marriages, but unlike Massachusetts, California does not impose residency restrictions. Several other states permit same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive], and in May New York Governor David Paterson ordered [memo, PDF; JURIST report] that state agencies recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legal marriages in New York. Many states have banned same-sex unions through statutes or amendments.






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Pakistan must reform or abolish death penalty: HRW letter to PM
Andrew Gilmore on June 17, 2008 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the government of Pakistan [JURIST news archive] to abolish the country's death penalty in a letter [text; HRW press release] sent Tuesday to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani [BBC profile]. In the letter, HRW expresses concern over the number of executions in the country, the high number of executable offenses in Pakistan's penal code, and the availability of adequate defense counsel for those accused of capital crimes. According to HRW, the number of people sentenced to death and executed every year in Pakistan is "among the highest in the world." HRW asks Prime Minister Gillani to ensure that defendants facing the death penalty receive fair trials, that police do not use torture to obtain confessions or evidence, and that the death penalty is only imposed for the "most serious crimes." The Hindu has more.

In October 2006, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) [advocacy website] pressed India and Pakistan to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report], calling it a "violation of the right to life." In November 2006, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] overturned a ruling by the country's Sharia court and commuted [JURIST report] the death sentence of a British national convicted of killing a taxi driver.






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Russia refuses to recognize new Kosovo constitution
Deirdre Jurand on June 17, 2008 8:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Russia will not recognize the new Kosovar constitution [text] because it is illegal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation announced [press release, in Russian] Monday. The Assembly of Kosovo [official website] adopted the constitution in April, and the EU later certified it [JURIST reports] as guaranteeing the individual and community rights of all its citizens. The constitution went into effect Sunday [JURIST report]. Officials at the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the constitution violates international law [UN Resolution 1244 text] because it states Kosovo's intention to separate from the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website], which Russian authorities say is supposed to be present in Kosovo's administration. Ignoring this law rather than changing it with the support of the UN and the countries involved will lead to "negative consequences for the region's security and international stability," foreign ministry officials wrote. Reuters has more.

Kosovo [JURIST news archive] is overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians with only a small minority of Serbs remaining, mostly in the north [JURIST report]. Serb troops withdrew from the region following NATO's 1999 bombing campaign. The Kosovo region was then controlled by an interim UN administration, and the country unilaterally declared independence [declaration text; JURIST report] in February 2008. The US and most European states have recognized the new state of Kosovo, but Serbia and Russia, Serbia's closest ally, have refused to recognize the country. Kosovo Serbs claim they will set up their own assembly within Kosovo by June 28 to protect their rights.






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Dutch court hears Srebrenica refugee lawsuit against Netherlands
Deirdre Jurand on June 16, 2008 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The district court in The Hague Monday began hearing the first civil action [press release, in Dutch] against the Dutch State for the actions of its peacekeeping troops during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs - UN translator Hasan Nuhanovic [PBS interview], whose family was killed in the massacre, and the family members of murdered electrician Rizo Mustafic - allege that the government failed to protect their families and other civilians, many of whom were refugees that relocated to the Srebrenica "safe area" [S/Res 819, PDF]. The plaintiffs' lawyer has said that the Dutch government breached its duty to protect the civilians and violated their human rights. The court is scheduled to start hearing a similar class action lawsuit [JURIST report; case backgrounder] against the UN and the Netherlands on Wednesday. A court ruled in November that the case could proceed despite the UN's claim of immunity [JURIST report; press briefing transcript] under Article 2 Section 2 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations [PDF text], which says that the UN's property and assets "shall enjoy immunity from every form of legal process except insofar as in any particular case it has expressly waived its immunity." A ruling for the cases is expected on November 10. Reuters has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

Tom Karremans, commander of the Dutch peacekeepers, testified [JURIST report] in 2005 that Dutch troops could not intervene to protect the refugees because early phases of the massacre had initially been represented as an "evacuation." An independent report [text] by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation [official website] found that Bosnian Muslims had been mistakenly advised by Dutch troops to depart from the Srebrenica enclave, although it absolved the Dutch troops of blame because the peacekeepers were outnumbered, lightly armed, insufficiently supplied, denied air support, and under rules of engagement that permitted only self-defense. Several of the 161 suspects indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] remain fugitives, including Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder; BBC profile], both of whom are wanted for their alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre.






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ICC 'reluctantly' stays trial of Congo ex-militia leader
Devin Montgomery on June 16, 2008 1:35 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Monday announced it has imposed an indefinite stay [order, PDF; press release] on the war crimes trial of Congolese ex-militia leader Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile]. The court said it may consider releasing Lubanga because prosecutorial misconduct could deny him a fair trial; the court accused the prosecution of using confidentiality agreements to withhold possible exonerating evidence:

Although the Chamber has no doubt that this stay of proceedings is necessary, it has nonetheless imposed it with great reluctance, not least because it means the Court will not make a decision on issues which are of significance to the international community, the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the victims and the accused himself. When crimes, particularly of a grave nature, are alleged it is necessary for justice that, whenever possible, a final determination is made as to the guilt or innocence of the accused... The judges are acutely aware that by staying these proceedings the victims have, in this sense, been excluded from justice.
The court will next convene to consider releasing Lumbanga on June 24. AP has more.

Once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], Lubanga is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] in his militia, which is believed to have committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006. Lubanga's long-delayed trial [JURIST report] was scheduled to be the ICC's first since its creation in 2002.





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Federal judge dismisses suit seeking White House e-mails
Andrew Gilmore on June 16, 2008 1:26 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia Monday dismissed [order, PDF; opinion, PDF] a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] seeking access to e-mail records from the White House Office of Administration (OA) [official website] under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court held that the OA "is not an agency subject to the FOIA," even though OA had complied with such requests prior to August 2007. Lawyers for CREW have appealed the decision [press release]. In February, the court had allowed CREW to proceed with "very limited" discovery [JURIST report] in the case. AP has more.

CREW brought the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in May 2007 to gain access to information regarding potential lost e-mails at the Executive Office of the President. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy throughout the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation and then again during the US Attorney firing scandal [JURIST news archives]. In February, CREW urged US Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint a special counsel [JURIST report] to investigate whether the White House had violated the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act [texts] in failing to preserve White House e-mails. CREW has publicly alleged that White House officials may have deliberately lost or tampered with e-mail records to hide illegal conduct.






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UK Law Lords hear appeal of alleged hacker set for extradition to US
Deirdre Jurand on June 16, 2008 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] A man accused of hacking US government computers in 2001 and 2002 appealed to the judicial panel of the UK House of Lords Monday, arguing [certified points of appeal, PDF] that his extradition to the US would violate his human rights. British police arrested systems analyst Gary McKinnon [BBC profile; advocacy website] in 2002, and US authorities indicted [PDF text] him later that year on charges of hacking NASA, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army and Navy computers in violation of US computer laws [18 USC 1030 text]. The British government granted the 2005 US extradition request, and McKinnon's lawyer appealed on the grounds that US authorities had threatened him to encourage a plea agreement. His lawyer said that US officials told McKinnon that if he did not plead guilty to the charges, he could be sentenced to life in prison since each of the seven counts against him is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine [indictment press release]. The Telegraph has more.

In 2006, a UK court recommended [JURIST report] that the government extradite McKinnon to the US. His lawyers appealed, but in 2007 High Court judges ruled [opinion text] that there were no grounds for appeal. McKinnon has not denied the charges and has said that he was motivated by a desire to uncover "hidden technology" capable of benefiting all of mankind and evidence of UFOs, which he claims is being suppressed by the US military.






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Many Guantanamo, Bagram detainees have no links to terror: McClatchy report
Andrew Gilmore on June 16, 2008 12:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Dozens of accused terror detainees held in US military prisons actually have no ties to terrorism, according to an investigative report published Sunday by McClatchy Newspapers [media website]. McClatchy reporters found that many of the 66 former terror detainees interviewed were ordinary civilians or petty criminals; only 34 had ties to militant groups or activities and of those only seven had connections to al Qaeda leadership. The report also alleges that many of the detainees held at both the Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] prisons are civilians who were either caught up in large-scale sweeps by the Afghan and US armies or were arrested based on unreliable information obtained from relatives or neighbors.

The report echoes comments [JURIST report] made in February 2006 by lawyers for two detainees who alleged that over half of detainees held at Guantanamo have not committed terrorist acts or are not members of terrorist organizations. In November 2006, Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux [faculty profile] reported that US military Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD materials] do not offer Guantanamo detainees an adequate opportunity to contest the accusations against them [JURIST report] or to object to their status as enemy combatants.






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Supreme Court to hear Ashcroft immunity, veteran benefits, prison damages cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 16, 2008 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday agreed to hear three cases [Order List, PDF], including Ashcroft v. Iqbal, et al. (07-1015) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which the Court will consider whether high-ranking US officials are protected by qualified immunity from suit for alleged religious and ethnic discrimination by their subordinates. Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani national detained during a terror sweep after Sept.11, 2001, filed a lawsuit against former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profiles], and other officials, alleging that he was subjected to abuse during his detention in a Brooklyn jail because of his religion and ethnicity. The US Appeals Court for the Second Circuit allowed the lawsuit to go forward [ruling, PDF], but the Bush administration appealed the ruling, arguing that the officials were protected from suit for the acts of their subordinates. AP has more.

The Court also granted certiorari in two other cases Monday. In Peake v. Sanders (07-1209) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider the extent to which the US Department of Veterans Affairs is liable if it fails to adequately inform a veteran of the information needed to process a benefits claim. In Haywood v. Drown (07-10374) [docket], the Court will consider whether a New York law that requires all damage claims against state prison employees to be heard in state claims court is unconstitutional.






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Australia court orders new trial after first terror finance prosecution
Devin Montgomery on June 16, 2008 10:21 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal [official website] Monday upheld [decision; summary, PDF] a December 2006 decision [ABC report] ordering a retrial of suspected terrorist Joseph Thomas [advocacy website], nicknamed "Jihad Jack" by the popular media. Thomas' original convictions for carrying a fake passport and receiving funds from terrorists were overturned [JURIST report] when a lower court ruled that police had obtained statements against his will and in the absence of counsel. That court later found that Thomas should be retried because he willingly volunteered the same information in an interview [transcript] with the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC). The Supreme Court rejected Thomas's argument that his prosecution knew or should have known of the ABC interview at the time of the original trial [JURIST report]. No date for Thomas's retrial has been set, but he remains under a control order [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Thomas was the first Australian incarcerated under the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002 [text] after having been found guilty in February of receiving $3,500 from a senior al Qaeda member and of carrying a fake passport. Thomas was the first person to be put under controversial "control orders" [JURIST news archive], which require him to stay within the city of Melbourne and to obey an evening curfew imposed under anti-terror legislation [Act No. 144 text; security backgrounder] enacted late 2005.






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Singapore charges US blogger for insulting judge
Andrew Gilmore on June 16, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] A Singapore court Monday charged a US citizen and former Singapore lawyer with insulting a public servant after he published critical comments about a judge on his blog. California-based Gopalan Nair [firm profile] was arrested last week after accusing a judge presiding over a defamation case brought by former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew [official profile] against the Singapore Democratic Party of "prostituting herself" [blog entry]. Nair made the comments about Justice Belinda Ang [official profile] after observing a hearing in the case, where he perceived Ang as being unfairly favorable to Lee. Authorities originally accused Nair of sending an insulting email to Ang, a charge Nair denied [press release, PDF]. Earlier this month, Nair was also charged with sending an insulting email to another judge, Lai Siu Chiu, in 2006. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Before becoming a US citizen, Nair was a Singapore opposition politician. In 1991, he unsuccessfully ran for office as a member of the Singapore Worker's Party [party website]. The Straits Times has local coverage.






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Bangladesh to free prisoners early to reduce overcrowding
Deirdre Jurand on June 16, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The government of Bangladesh [JURIST news archive] plans to release certain inmates [press briefing] who have served half their prison sentences in order to reduce the country's overcrowded prison populations, Bangladeshi officials said Monday. The prisoner release plan comes following the June announcement of a clampdown on crime [JURIST report]. The prisons are now at triple their intended capacity, but Home Adviser Mohammad Abdul Matin [official profile] said that the arrests were primarily based on warrants and other crimes and were not for political reasons under the Emergency Power Rules. Bangladeshi political parties the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party [party websites] have already accused the government of using the sweep for political purposes, and rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the government of making widespread unwarranted arrests [HRW report]. AFP has more. The New Nation has local coverage.

Bangladesh's current anti-corruption movement began last February when eight former Bangladeshi ministers were accused of corruption [JURIST report] and 13 other former ministers and senior politicians were arrested in raids on their homes [JURIST report] after Bangladeshi President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] in the country and canceled a scheduled national election. In May, Bangladeshi authorities approved a Truth and Accountability Commission [JURIST report] that would allow corrupt officials and businessmen to avoid jail time by publicly confessing and returning any illegally obtained money. The commission is designed to ease the burden on the country's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) [governing statute; JURIST news archive], which faces a huge backlog of cases that could take years to clear.






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Supreme Court rules in bankruptcy tax exemption, immigration cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 16, 2008 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down two decisions Monday, including Florida Dept. of Revenue v. Piccadilly Cafeterias [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled that a federal bankruptcy code provision [11 USC §1146(a) text] exempting certain court-confirmed transfers from state and local transfer taxes applies only after the plan has been approved by a bankruptcy court. The Court found:

The most natural reading of §1146(a)'s text, the provision's
placement within the Code, and applicable substantive canons all lead to the same conclusion: Section 1146(a) affords a stamp-tax exemption only to transfers made pursuant to a Chapter 11 plan that has been confirmed. Because Piccadilly transferred its assets before its Chapter 11 plan was confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court, it may not rely on §1146(a) to avoid Florida’s stamp taxes.
The ruling overturns an April 2007 Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision [opinion, PDF] and also helps resolve a split among the Eleventh, Third, and Fourth Circuits' interpretations. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Thomas, and a dissent [texts] filed by Justice Breyer and joined by Justice Stevens. AP has more.

The Court also ruled in Dada v. Mukasey [Duke Law backgrounder], in which it found that an illegal alien who had agreed to leave the US could withdraw from that agreement to make a case against deportation. Dada, a Nigerian living illegally in the US, had agreed to leave the country willingly, but later sought to stay in the US and reopen his case. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied [ruling, PDF] Dada's petition, finding that the Board of Immigration Appeals [official backgrounder] had reasonably denied his request. The Court reversed and remanded that decision, holding:
[T]o safeguard the right to pursue a motion to reopen for voluntary departure recipients, the alien must be permitted to withdraw, unilaterally, a voluntary departure request before expiration of the departure period, without regard to the underlying merits of the motion to reopen. As a result, the alien has the option either to abide by the terms, and receive the agreed-upon benefits, of voluntary departure; or, alternatively, to forgo those benefits and remain in the United States to pursue an administrative motion.
Read the Court's opinion per Justice Kennedy, and a dissent [texts] by Justice Scalia joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas. Read a separate dissent [text] filed by Justice Alito. AP has more.





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Kosovo constitution goes into force despite Serbia protest
Nick Fiske on June 16, 2008 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Kosovo's new constitution [text] went into effect Sunday despite a declaration by Serbian President Boris Tadic that the charter of the breakaway Serbian province was legally void. The constitution was adopted [JURIST report] by the Assembly of Kosovo [official website] in April and later certified by the European Union [JURIST report] as guaranteeing the individual and community rights of all its citizens. Tadic reiterated in a speech Sunday that Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence [text; JURIST report] and as such, cannot recognize the country's constitution as a legal fact. He said that diplomacy, not force, was necessary to defend the "integrity" of Serbia's "southern province." Kosovo Serbs claim they will set up their own assembly within Kosovo by June 28 to protect their rights. Xinhua has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Kosovo [JURIST news archive] at present is overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians with only a small minority of Serbs remaining mostly in the north [JURIST report] after Serb forces withdrew from the region following the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslav forces under the political direction of President Slobodan Milosevic. It was subsequently put under UN administration. The new state of Kosovo has been recognized by the US and most European states, but not by Serbia or Russia, Serbia's closest ally.






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'Chemical Ali' denies killing civilians during Saddam rule
Andrew Gilmore on June 16, 2008 9:01 AM ET

[JURIST]Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known in the Western media as "Chemical Ali", denied involvement in the killing of Shi'ite civilians at a demonstration during the reign of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Al-Majid is charged with crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violent suppression of a predominately Shi'a protest [HRW backgrounder] in southern Iraq following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Al-Masjid has already been sentenced to death for the killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He denied the killing of any civilians, but admitted that he and his troops did open fire on people he characterized as Shi'ite insurgents, and that they also executed an Iranian man he believed was a threat. AP has more.

Al-Majid was absent [JURIST report] at the beginning of the trial due to a heart attack brought on by a self-imposed hunger strike. His 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. He continues to be held by US forces in Iraq.






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UK to continue EU reform treaty ratification process
Devin Montgomery on June 16, 2008 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official website] said Sunday that parliament would continue the process to ratify the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive], formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text], despite an Irish referendum which rejected the treaty last week [JURIST report]. Miliband said that even though the Treaty requires unanimous approval by all 27 EU member states, it is still important for Britain to voice its decision on the proposed rules. He rejected French and German leaders' calls to consider adopting the treaty without Ireland. The House of Lords [official website] will vote on the treaty Wednesday; the Commons approved the pact in March. The Telegraph has more. The Belfast Telegraph has additional coverage.

Netherlands Prime Minister Peter Balkenende [official profile] said Friday that his country would also press on with its consideration [JURIST report] of the treaty in line with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso's general call [press release, PDF] to remaining states to do so.






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Pakistan coalition partner to bring impeachment action against Musharraf
Deirdre Jurand on June 16, 2008 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials from Pakistani co-ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] will soon present an impeachment motion against President Pervez Musharraf, a PML-N MP told a National Assembly [official website] meeting Sunday. PML-N and coalition partner Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] officials have disagreed [JURIST report] on how to limit or amend Musharraf's powers, with the PML-N generally favoring resignation or impeachment and the PPP favoring working with Musharraf to improve the country's political system. However, after Musharraf declared [Dawn report] that he would neither step down nor go into exile, PPP leaders took a tougher stance, stating that Musharraf was only president by default and warning that if he did not step down, the parliament would impeach him [The News report]. So far 48 parliament officials have signed the motion for impeachment, which could be tabled within the next two weeks. Zee News has more.

Last Sunday, party leaders released a 10-point charge sheet [JURIST report; Dawn backgrounder] detailing Musharraf's alleged misuse of his executive powers, including November's declaration of emergency rule [text, PDF] and the subsequent removal of judges from the Supreme Court of Pakistan [court website]. PML-N officials recently supported a protest march by members of the Pakistani lawyers' movement [NYT backgrounder], which reached the Parliament House in the capital Islamabad on Friday night and which will likely continue until the judges are reinstated [JURIST reports]. Last week PML-N leader and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan. Sharif also said that Musharraf should be punished for the "damage" he has done to Pakistan in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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UK forces alleged to be secretly holding Iraqi prisoners without charge
Deirdre Jurand on June 15, 2008 3:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The British military has held the last two Iraqis in its custody without charge or access to lawyers for five years, similar to US detentions at Guantanamo, lawyers for the men alleged in a report published in the Independent Sunday. Faisal Attiyah Nassar al-Saadoon and Khalaf Hussain Mufdhi, both supposedly involved in the deaths of two British soldiers [BBC report] in 2003, wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] that they were not involved in the soldiers' deaths and that they should either be released or given a fair trial. A lawyer for Public Interest Lawyers [firm website], retained by the men's families to work for their release in the British courts, said that the detentions are groudless. The men are at a British Army base at Basra airport, even though British officials have said their case is now before the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website]. The High Court in London will likely hear the claim regarding their detention within the next week.

In May, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] announced plans to conduct a public inquiry [MOD press release; JURIST report] into the death of Baha Mousa [BBC report; JURIST news archive], an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British military custody in 2003. In March, UK Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne [profile] admitted that British soldiers had violated the rights of detainees [JURIST report] in Basra in 2003, and that the MOD would specifically admit to substantive breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF].






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Pakistan lawyers to continue push for judges' reinstatement
Deirdre Jurand on June 15, 2008 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [profile; JURIST news archive] told the Associated Press Sunday that despite the end of the "long march" the country's lawyers' movement will continue protesting [JURIST news archive] for the reinstatement of judges ousted after President Pervez Musharraf's declaration of emergency law [text, PDF; JURIST report] in November 2007. The "long march" began in Lahore Monday and ended [JURIST reports] with a peaceful gathering of some 300,000 in front of the Parliament House in the capital, Islamabad last Friday, culminating in speeches in the small hours of Saturday morning local time. AP has more.

A Supreme Court Bar Association committee said earlier this month that a constitutional amendment package [JURIST report] proposed by the the Pakistan People's Party, the dominant party in the ruling coalition, is just an attempt to delay the judges' reinstatement [JURIST reports]. PPP leaders have acknowledged that it will likely take months for parliament to pass the package and some top lawmakers have expressed skepticism that the measures will be approved at all.






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South Africa high court justices accused of political bias
Deirdre Jurand on June 15, 2008 12:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The top judge in South Africa's Cape High Court accused judges of the Constitutional Court of South Africa [official website] Friday of political bias after they filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the country's judicial disciplinary body earlier this month against him. The Constitutional Court judges said in a unusual public statement [text, DOC] that they were filing the complaint against Judge John Hlophe to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) [backgrounder, DOC] because he had violated the constitution [text, Schedule 2, Item 6] by attempting to influence the judges in a pending corruption case against African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Hlophe's lawyers said that they issued the statement before actually submitting a proper complaint to the JSC and thereby jeopardized the Constitutional Court's case against Zuma. "The conduct was deeply vindictive and grossly inconsistent with any procedural fairness requirements that it cannot but be concluded that the motives in issuing the statement were motivated by undesirable political consideration," the complaint charges. Hlophe has temporarily stepped down, but the Constitutional Court judges have already missed a JSC deadline [Star report] to submit evidence and testimony and the JSC has subpoenaed two of the judges [SAPA report] to testify against him. The Star has more.

Hlophe's alleged unconstitutional behavior is in connection with a March hearing to determine whether raids on Zuma's home violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial [JURIST report]. Zuma has been facing corruption allegations [BBC timeline] and other charges for several years; he was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures. In December 2007, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority [official website] served an indictment [JURIST report] on Zuma, charging him with corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering related to alleged bribes received from arms manufacturer Thint, a subsidiary of the France-based Thales Group [corporate website]. His trial is scheduled to begin in August. As leader of the ruling ANC, Zuma is in a position to become the country's next president when current South African President Thabo Mbeki retires.






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Afghanistan prison break frees over 800 inmates after Taliban attack
Steve Czajkowski on June 14, 2008 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] Approximately 870 inmates escaped from the main prison in Kandahar City in southern Afghanistan Friday when members of the Taliban [JURIST news archive] conducted a bomb and rocket attack. Prison officials said that nine police were killed. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) [official website] estimates that the number of escaped prisoners is closer to 1,100. A Taliban spokesperson said the attack had been planned for two months. Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai [official profile], a deputy minister in Afghanistan's Justice Ministry [official website] said that the Sarposa prison did not meet international standards and that there had been plans to renovate it. AP has more.

Sarposa was the site of a hunger strike [JURIST report] last month by an estimated 200-300 detainees protesting the slow nature of the Afghanistan judicial system. The strike ended after a visit by Afghan lawmakers who said the detainees' cases would be reviewed by new judges. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] said previously that the prisoners were demanding speedy trials and the advice of counsel at court hearings. It is unclear how many Kandahar detainees, if any, have been tried before a court of law; rights groups complain that many rulings against detainees have been made on the basis of allegations by US authorities. Canadian military personnel have been working with Afghan officials to try to improve conditions and procedures [CTV report] at the facility.






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Netherlands pressing on with ratification of EU reform treaty after Ireland rejection
Steve Czajkowski on June 14, 2008 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Netherlands Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende [official profile] said Friday that he would press on with ratification of the the EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive] formally known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text] even after Irish voters rejected it [JURIST report] in a referendum Thursday. The Irish vote casts a shadow over the future of the pact as it must be approved by all 27 EU states in order to take effect. The Dutch parliament's lower house approved [European Voice report] the treaty by a vote of 111-39 earlier this month, and the upper house is expected to do the same in July. Balkenende called the Irish "no" vote "disappointing" but declined to say more until he hears from the Irish government at the next EU summit. Balkenende previously insisted [press release, backgrounder] the treaty "does justice to the views held by a large proportion of the population about Europe". EU Business has more.

France and Germany meanwhile echoed a general call [press release, PDF] by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso [official profile] for the remaining countries who have not ratified the treaty to continue with the process notwithstanding the Irish vote. European Union leaders signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, and eighteen countries have so far ratified the document [JURIST archive]. In 2005, a draft European constitution [JURIST news archive] failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda. EU leaders are expected to meet in Brussels next week to discuss how to move ahead in light of the Irish vote.






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Khadr hearing going ahead after Supreme Court ruling: US military judge
Benjamin Klein on June 14, 2008 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military commission pre-trial hearing for Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] will go ahead Wednesday as planned notwithstanding Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on detainee habeas rights [JURIST report], military judge Col. Patrick Parrish ruled Friday. Khadr defense attorney Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler had requested additional time to study the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on Khadr’s status. Parrish's ruling is not publicly available. In the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States [Duke Law backgrounder] the court ruled that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as "enemy combatants." The ruling has already case doubt on the future of the military commission process, although Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday that military commission trials of detainees would continue, emphasizing that the ruling addressed procedural issues in the Guantanamo legal process rather than the detentions themselves.

Khadr, 21, faces life imprisonment for crimes 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. AP has more.






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Pakistan lawyers reach parliament, hold mass protest
Andrew Gilmore on June 13, 2008 5:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A protest march by members of the Pakistani lawyers' movement [NYT backgrounder] reached the Parliament House in the capital Islamabad on Friday night, JURIST's correspondent in Pakistan reports. The so-called "long march" began [JURIST report] in Lahore Monday, and is aimed at pressuring the government of President Pervez Musharraf into reinstating judges ousted after the declaration of emergency law [text, PDF; JURIST report] in November 2007, including Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. JURIST's correspondent estimates that more than 300,000 people are in attendance at the protest, and reports that the marchers have received a warm welcome in Islamabad, with local residents providing food to the attendees. The protest includes speeches by numerous bar officials and opposition leaders, including the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; party website], and is expected to conclude with a day-long sit-in at the Parliament House intended to paralyze the capital and government operations. From Pakistan, The News has local coverage. Geo-TV has additional local coverage.

JURIST's correspondent says concerns about security and over-politicization of the event kept Chaudhry from participating in the long march. Dawn News reported that the Pakistani government and representatives of the legal community have agreed [Dawn report] to maintain law and order in the capital during the protests. Members of the lawyers' movement promised last month to hold the march if the new Pakistani government failed to reach an agreement on reinstating the judges. AP has more.

6/14/08 - JURIST's Pakistan correspondent reports that late at the early-morning rally outside the parliament Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan [profile; JURIST news archive] announced that there would be no sit-in and that afterwards the protestors peacefully dispersed. Aitzaz said "we do not have resources to hold a sit-in in front of the parliament house", a statement which surprised many. JURIST's Pakistan correspondent speculates that there was an understanding between the lawyers' leaders and Pakistan's Interior Ministry that the Ministry would not hinder anyone from joining the protest and that the protest would leave the Federal Capital as soon as possible. Aitzaz also said a couple of days ago 'do not expect any bloody revolution from us'. Our correspondent observes: "The Long March is over; no further time frame has been given for the restoration of judges and the question remains 'what next'?"






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ACLU files suit against Texas juvenile prison system, alleges inmate abuse
Deirdre Jurand on June 13, 2008 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Thursday against the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) [official website], alleging that five girls imprisoned at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex [official website] were subjected to punitive solitary confinement, physical abuse and invasive strip searches. The ACLU alleged that the treatment violated the girls' rights under the US Constitution and international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child [text]. TYC officials responded [press release] that the agency is working to address the issues raised in the lawsuit. AP has more.

In May 2007, TYC announced it would release 226 inmates after an investigation [JURIST reports] revealed that their sentences had been improperly extended in retaliation for filing grievances. In June 2007, Congress passed a bill [implementation strategies] to reform the Texas juvenile prison system, creating the Office of Inspector General [official website] to internally police the system. The Ron Jackson girls' facility is estimated to hold about 190 inmates.






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Federal court allows Jewish group to sue Russia for return of religious texts
Andrew Gilmore on June 13, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [official website] Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that certain parts of a lawsuit brought by the Chabad Lubavitch [group website] Jewish Orthodox movement against the Russian government could proceed. Chabad Lubavitch seeks the return of an archive of 18th century religious texts that it alleged the Russian government had appropriated in violation of international law during World War II. Both parties had appealed a district court ruling [text, PDF] that allowed part of the lawsuit dealing with the archive, but dismissed claims against Russia seeking the return of a library of similar texts abandoned in 1915 by rabbis fleeing Russia. In Friday's ruling, the court affirmed federal jurisdiction over the claims, and allowed the plaintiff's claims regarding the archive and library texts to proceed to discovery. The court ruled against Russia's assertions regarding forum non conveniens, sovereign immunity, and act of state doctrine.

The plaintiffs accused Russia of violating international law when the government seized the archive materials from the Nazi regime in 1945. Prior to Russian custody, the religious texts had been seized by the Nazi military in Poland in 1939 and transferred to Germany. The district court had dismissed Chabad Lubavitch's claims against Russia [JURIST report] for the return of the 1915 library materials, finding that the allegations involved internal Russian matters rather than violations of international law.






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Burundi court releases six police officers convicted of murdering WHO official
Devin Montgomery on June 13, 2008 2:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A Burundi [JURIST news archive] court Thursday released six former police officers convicted of killing a World Health Organization (WHO) [official website] official because two key witnesses against the accused escaped from custody. In May of 2005, four of the men were sentenced [BBC report] to death and two were sentenced to twenty years in jail for their role in the 2001 murder of WHO representative Kassi Manlan [WHO statement]. The court that convicted the men never formally alleged a motive for the killing, but defense lawyers say it was to prevent Manlan from investigating high-level politicians for defrauding a WHO malaria program. Reuters has more.

Burundi has severe corruption problems, and the research group Global Integrity [website] has given the country an integrity score [Global Integrity materials] of "very weak", amounting to 54 on a 100 point scale. In February of this year, opposition leaders in the country sought UN protection [JURIST report] after allegedly receiving death threats from ruling party officials. In November 2006 President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile] made limited admissions to Amnesty International [advocacy website] accusations [press release; JURIST report] that the military and police used brutality and even torture to deal with suspected rebels. In October 2006 Human Right Watch [advocacy website] accused Burundi’s National Intelligence Service of committing widespread extra-judicial killings [HRW report; JURIST report].






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Egypt deporting Eritrean refugees in violation of UN advisory
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 13, 2008 2:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] Friday condemned [press release] Egypt for plans to deport approximately 1,200 detained Eritrean refugees despite the possibility that they may face torture in their home country. The group called for Egypt to allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] to communicate with the refugees to investigate their claims for asylum; UNHCR said that the agency had been blocked from contacting the refugees, most of whom are escaping religious persecution or a military draft, since February. UNHCR could not confirm Amnesty reports that 400 refugees had already been deported in the last week, but said that such action would have violated a UN advisory against returning asylum seekers to Eritrea. Reuters has more.

In January, the Egyptian government said that it would not deport hundreds of Sudanese detainees who lack status as refugees or asylum seekers. The detainees were arrested after a three-month sit-in protest in front of UN offices in Cairo resulted in a violent clash with Egyptian police on December 30, resulting in 27 deaths [BBC report]. The Sudanese protesters sought resettlement in a third country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website, English version] has said that following extensive interviews [press release] with the detainees by the UNHCR, none will be deported to Sudan, and that Egypt [JURIST news archive] will take steps to grant legal status to those who do not qualify for international protection.






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Ireland voters reject EU reform treaty
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 13, 2008 10:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said Friday that a referendum to ratify the new EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive] has failed, with early results showing 53.4 percent of Irish citizens voting against it [RTÉ.ie report]. The result could halt European Union plans to implement the instrument, properly known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text], as it cannot take effect unless it is ratified by all signatories. Treaty proponents blamed its defeat on confusing language, saying most voters were unable to understand the document's significance. Ireland is the only EU nation to put the treaty to a public vote [BBC Q/A], although the UK High Court last month agreed [JURIST report] to consider whether the British government must also hold a referendum on the treaty. BBC News has additional coverage. The Irish Independent News has local coverage.

Leaders from the 27 countries that make up the European Union signed the reform treaty [JURIST report] last December, and fourteen countries have ratified the document [JURIST archive]. In 2005, an earlier draft for a European constitution [JURIST news archive] also failed when voters in France and the Netherlands [JURIST reports] rejected the proposal in national referenda.






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US Marine refuses to testify about Fallujah killings, is jailed for contempt
Andrew Gilmore on June 13, 2008 10:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A US District Court Judge Thursday ordered US Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan G. Weemer [JURIST news archive] jailed for refusing to testify about the deaths of Iraqi detainees during the Multinational Force-Iraq's November 2004 offensive [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Fallujah [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Weemer reportedly refused to testify about the role of former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario [JURIST news archive] before a federal grand jury Thursday in the alleged killings for fear of self-incrimination. Weemer, who at the time of the incident was a corporal, was charged [JURIST report] in March with one count of murder and one count of dereliction of duty. Last month, another marine, Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, was also jailed for contempt of court [LA Times report] for refusing to testify about the Fallujah incident. AP has more. The North County Times has local coverage.

In July 2007, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) [official website] announced investigations of at least 10 Marines [JURIST report] after 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. Last month, the Marine Corps said Nelson will face a court martial [JURIST report] later this year for murder. Also in May, a federal judge ruled that Nazario could stand trial [JURIST report] in civilian court over the deaths.






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UN rights chief, activists applaud Supreme Court Guantanamo decision
Deirdre Jurand on June 13, 2008 9:52 AM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] Thursday commended [press release] the US Supreme Court for its ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees classified as enemy combatants. Arbour, who in August 2007 submitted an amicus curiae brief [filing, PDF] in support of the detainees, said that the court's "recognition that security and liberty are not trade-offs, but can be reconciled through the framework of the law" was in line with traditional American jurisprudence. Officials at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website], which represents several Guantanamo detainees, called the ruling a "landmark win" [press release] because it said civil courts could now review the lawfulness of Guantanamo detentions. Amnesty International [advocacy website], which also submitted an amicus brief [filing, PDF] for the detainees, described the decision [press release] as a "stark indictment of wrongdoing at Guantanamo." Australia's ABC News has more.

The Supreme Court has ruled against the government in previous cases concerning the legal rights of enemy combatants. The Court decided in 2002 that foreign-born Guantanamo detainees could challenge their detention in US civil courts [Rasul v. Bush opinion; JURIST report]. In June 2006, the Court held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the military commission system as initially constituted violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. In the most recent case, 25 human rights groups and supporters, including international parliaments, lawyers' associations and military groups, submitted amicus briefs [CCR case page, with links] for the detainees.






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Rwanda arrests military officers for 1994 genocide involvement
Steve Czajkowski on June 13, 2008 9:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) [official profile], the national army of the republic of Rwanda, said Thursday that it has arrested four of its officers in connection with the killings of 13 clergyman and two civilians during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The arrests followed investigations by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] and the Rwandan government. ICTR prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow [official profile] spoke about the investigations in a statement [text] to the UN Security Council last week:

Rwanda has collaborated with us in this process as requested by the Council in its Resolution 1503 (2003). We have together been able to establish a prima facie case that on 5 th June 1994 RPF soldiers killed some thirteen clergymen, including five Bishops and two other civilians at the Kabgayi Parish in Gitarama. Some of the perpetrators of this crime are reported to have died whilst others are now serving within the Rwanda Army. Following inquiries the Rwanda Prosecutor General has communicated to me his decision to shortly indict and prosecute four serving senior military officers of the Rwandan Army with murder and complicity to murder as war crimes in connection with this incident.
AFP has more. Kenya Today has additional coverage.

The four suspects were members of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), the former armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) [HRW backgrounder], which rose to power in 1994. The RPA subsequently became known as the RDF. Reuters reports that the four officers are charged with commanding [Reuters report] the troops who killed the clergymen at a church compound in the city of Gitarama after finding that their own family members had been killed while seeking shelter from Hutu militiamen.





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Canada government introduces tough copyright reform bill
Steve Czajkowski on June 13, 2008 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice [official profile] introduced new federal copyright legislation [press release, backgrounder] in the House of Commons [Parliament of Canada website] Thursday. The reforms update the existing law [Copyright Reform Process website] by taking into account new technologies developed over the last decade and setting tough new penalties for uploading and downloading copyrighted material and breaking "locks" on protected devices like cellphones and DVDs. Prentice described Bill C-61 [text] in a speech [text] on Thursday:

With this bill, we have introduced important measures to support industries whose success depends on copyright — software companies and filmmakers, for example. We are providing stronger protection of digital locks online so that companies that choose to use them in their business models will have the support of the law. We have also introduced stronger provisions to address Internet piracy.
Many Canadian arts and media organizations welcomed the changes, but the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC) [advocacy website] described the legislation [press release] as an "American-style approach to copyright" that is not helpful to Canadian artists. An opposition Liberal Party spokesman derided it as creating a "police state" [CBC report]. The bill was originally to be introduced last December but was criticized for its close resemblance to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [summary; PDF text]. The National Post has more. The Ottawa Citizen has additional coverage.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a consortium of seven trade associations representing 1,900 US companies producing and distributing copyrighted materials, released a report [text, PDF] in February asserting that China, Russia and Canada are the main violators of US copyright law [JURIST report]. IIPA and US officials have described Canadian copyright law as the most lax among the G7 nations.





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EU to oversee Kosovo rule of law development: UN SG
Andrew Gilmore on June 13, 2008 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile; JURIST news archive] Thursday released a report [PDF text; UN News Centre report] outlining plans to give the European Union (EU) a greater role in implementing the rule of law in Kosovo. The report, delivered to the UN Security Council, stated that the UN will scale down its Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website], turning over increased policing and judicial responsibilities to EU authorities. The announcement comes after Kosovo made its unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia [text; JURIST report] in February. It is scheduled to adopt a new constitution on Sunday. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Ban's report drew criticism [RIA Novosti report] from Russia, which insists that such an EU role in Kosovo would be illegal. In February, Russia condemned the EU decision to send a task force of police, prosecutors and judges into Kosovo to support the rule of law after the expiration of the current UN mandate, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling it a breach of international law [JURIST reports]. Reuters has more.






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Bush, Mukasey criticize Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo habeas petitions
Deirdre Jurand on June 13, 2008 8:44 AM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Thursday expressed disappointment [press conference transcript] at the Supreme Court's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo Bay detainees. Bush pledged that administration officials would honor the ruling, but said that they would also study it to determine if other legislation could be passed to better serve national security. The Court ruled that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] did not limit detainees' right to federal judicial review, but Bush said that the Act set appropriate guidelines for managing detainees. At a Friday G-8 meeting in Japan, US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official website] also criticized the Court's decision [AFP report], saying it will result in hundreds of detainee appeals to the federal courts. He added that military commission trials of detainees would continue, emphasizing that the ruling addressed procedural issues in the Guantanamo legal process rather than the detention itself. AP has more.

This is the not the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled against the government in a case concerning the legal rights of enemy combatants. In June 2006, the Supreme Court held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the military commission system as initially constituted violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.






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Iraq PM says sovereignty violated by proposed US status agreement
Devin Montgomery on June 13, 2008 8:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Friday said that the proposed version of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which will govern the legal status of US troops in Iraq beginning in 2009, violates Iraqi sovereignty. Al-Maliki told reporters that he particularly objects to provisions that would grant total legal immunity to US troops, allow the US to detain prisoners independent of Iraqi review, and give the US control over Iraqi airspace. Earlier this week, Iraqi lawmakers expressed their strong opposition to the proposal [McClatchy report], but US President George W. Bush told reporters [transcript] Wednesday:

First of all, I think we'll end up with a strategic agreement with Iraq. You know, it's all kinds of noise in their system and our system. What eventually will win out is the truth. For example, you read stories perhaps in your newspaper that the U.S. is planning all kinds of permanent bases in Iraq. That's an erroneous story. The Iraqis know -- will learn it's erroneous, too. We're there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq.
The two countries will need to sign a new SOFA in order for troops to remain in Iraq after their current UN mandate expires in December [Security Council release]. Reuters has more. AFP additional coverage.

The US has similar status agreements with other countries around the world. According to a report [CFR materials] by the Council on Foreign Relations [official website], legal immunity for US troops is one of the military's most desired provisions. That immunity is a particularly divisive issue in Iraq, which has previously asked the UN to nullify [JURIST report] the immunity granted to troops under the original mandate [Security Council Resolution 1546] due to past misconduct by US troops, including the Haditha killings and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal [JURIST news archives]. Iraq has also asked the UN to lift the provision allowing the US to hold prisoners without Iraqi review [JURIST news report].





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Top UK opposition MP resigns to protest 42-day terrorism detention bill
Deirdre Jurand on June 12, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK shadow Home Secretary resigned [statement text; video] his parliamentary seat Thursday in protest at House of Commons passage Wednesday of an anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that would allow authorities to detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days [JURIST news archive]. Conservative Party frontbencher David Davis [party profile] called the Labour Party government's bill an "insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms," and said that by resigning and forcing a by-election in which he will run, he could take the issue to his constituents for public debate. The House of Lords must still pass the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2007-2008 for it to become law, but Davis suggested that politically motivated government officials might invoke the Parliament Act [backgrounder, PDF] to allow the bill to pass without House of Lords consent.

Current British law authorizes detention without charge for 28 days [JURIST report], but proponents of the 42-day detention limit have argued that the 28-day limitation endangers national security. Critics of the bill, including Davis, say that it would be an unacceptable abridgment of basic rights, and Davis said Thursday that if he is re-elected, he will continue to fight against it. The Guardian has more.






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Ethiopia judiciary, legislature target ethnic separatists: HRW report
Andrew Gilmore on June 12, 2008 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Ethiopian human rights practices in the eastern Ogaden region have come under attack in a new report [text, PDF; press release] from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], made public Thursday. The report details atrocities committed by both the Ethiopian military and the ethnic Somali group the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) [official website], who are seeking independence for the Ogaden region. It outlines the failures of the Ethiopian judiciary to provide protection for those subject to government detention or mistreatment due to corruption, insufficient capacity, and the supremacy of federal security forces over the judiciary. HRW also criticized the regional parliament's collectivization of punishment against people and communities suspected of involvement with the ONLF. HRW alleges that the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian military amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and called on the UN Security Council to urge Ethiopia to conduct a "thorough, transparent, and independent investigation" into the alleged abuses. AFP has more.

Thursday's HRW report adds to recent criticism of Ethiopia's human rights record. In October 2007, the US House of Representatives passed the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 (H.R. 2003) [text; JURIST commentary], aimed in part at encouraging the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The bill is currently before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In July 2007, HRW accused Ethiopian troops of violating international humanitarian law [JURIST report] by burning homes and forcibly relocating civilians in Ogaden. In March 2007, HRW also accused Ethiopia of complicity with the US and Kenya in secretly detaining Somalis [JURIST report] accused of being Islamic militants. Ethiopia had admitted [JURIST report] in April 2007 that it detained terror suspects but denied that the detentions were secret.






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Arizona legislature bars state enforcement of federal REAL ID act
Andrew Gilmore on June 12, 2008 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The Arizona State Legislature [official website] passed legislation [HB 2677, PDF] Wednesday barring the state from implementing the REAL ID Act of 2005 [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. The Arizona House voted 51-1 for the bill Wednesday; the Arizona Senate had approved the bill 21-7 on May 6. The bill prohibits the state from participating in or implementing the REAL ID Act, and requires the Arizona Department of Transportation [official website] to report to the legislature any attempts by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to secure the enforcement of the Act. The Arizona legislation comes after similar laws barring compliance with the federal statute were passed [ACLU backgrounder] in a number of states, including Alaska, Washington, Georgia, Minnesota and Idaho. The Arizona Daily Star has more.

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 have 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 2007, Homeland Security responded to these concerns by extending the deadline for compliance by 18 months; all states have since been granted compliance extensions [JURIST reports].






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Returning Zimbabwe opposition official arrested on treason charges
Deirdre Jurand on June 12, 2008 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police arrested opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] Secretary General Tendai Biti [profile] Thursday on suspicion of treason. Biti left Zimbabwe after the disputed March 29 elections [JURIST news archive] in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] challenged current Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]; police arrested him as soon as he arrived back in the country Thursday. Police suspect that he wrote a document explaining a plan to fix the elections and that he published false and prejudicial information against the state by announcing an MDC election victory before the official results were released. The charges constitute treason [Section 20 text, PDF] under Zimbabwean criminal law. If convicted, Biti could face the death penalty [sentencing code section 337(b) text, PDF]. AFP has more.

Tsvangirai himself was also detained [BBC report] Thursday while campaigning. Last week he was stopped at a roadblock and then held for nine hours [Reuters report] for drawing and addressing a crowd of people.






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Texas holds first execution since Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection
Andrew Gilmore on June 12, 2008 12:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Convicted rapist and murderer Karl Eugene Chamberlain [State of Texas profile] was executed by lethal injection at a Texas prison Wednesday evening. His death marked the state's first execution since the US Supreme Court's April ruling in Baze v. Rees [opinion, PDF], in which the Court held that execution by lethal injection did not violate the Eight Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Texas has the highest execution rate [AP report] of all US states. Since the Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment in 1976, 406 inmates have been executed in the state. AP has more. The Huntsville Item has local coverage.

Earlier this month, a Texas appeals judge announced the creation of an oversight committee to evaluate and improve the state's criminal justice system, including its execution procedures. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website], there were 42 executions in the US last year, 26 of which took place in Texas. Texas was also at the center of an international controversy over the death penalty when a court in the state set August 5 [JURIST report] as the execution date for a Mexican national incarcerated in Texas. The US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that President Bush did not have the authority to direct state courts to comply with an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that attempted to grant review of such cases. Mexico has since asked the ICJ to enjoin execution of its citizens [JURIST report] in the US until it can determine obligations under the ruling.






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New ASEAN rights body should not be too ambitious: Singapore official
Andrew Gilmore on June 12, 2008 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Singapore Second Foreign Minister Raymond Lim said in a speech Wednesday that the new human rights body of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] should not set initial standards too high [AFP report] for the organization's member states. The terms and powers of the new human rights body will be determined in Singapore next month at the 41st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. Lim added that promulgating the rules and terms of the new body would be difficult, and that strict deadlines should not be set for its creation. From China, Xinhua has more.

In November 2007, member states adopted the ASEAN Charter [text, PDF; JURIST report], which is designed to unite the nations into an economic block similar to the European Union. Article 14 of the Charter provides for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body in order to promote and protect human rights and other fundamental freedoms in member states. In July 2007, ASEAN members agreed in principle [JURIST report] to the creation of the human rights body. Myanmar [JURIST news archive] had opposed the establishment of the human rights group, and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam [JURIST news archives] had also sought to delay its creation.






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Supreme Court finds jurisdiction over citizens detained abroad by US military
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 12, 2008 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled Thursday in the consolidated cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] that federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by American citizens detained abroad by US military personnel, even if the military is operating under a multinational force. Although the Court found such a right exists, it rejected the appeals of two Americans held in US custody in Iraq who had sought to use US courts to challenge their foreign convictions, holding that:

Munaf and Omar are alleged to have committed hostile and warlike acts within the sovereign territory of Iraq during ongoing hostilities there. Pending their criminal prosecution for those offenses, Munaf and Omar are being held in Iraq by American forces operating pursuant to a UN Mandate and at the request of the Iraqi Government. Petitioners concede that Iraq has a sovereign right to prosecute them for alleged violations of its law. Yet they went to federal court seeking an order that would allow them to defeat precisely that sovereign authority. Habeas corpus does not require the United States to shelter such fugitives from the criminal justice system of the sovereign with authority to prosecute them.

For all the reasons given above, petitioners state no claim in their habeas petitions for which relief can be granted, and those petitions should have been promptly dismissed.
Read the Court's opinion per Chief Justice Roberts, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Souter. AP has more.

Mohammad Munaf [JURIST news archive] was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2005 kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad, and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in April 2007 that it lacked authority to interfere [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] with the Iraqi court case. Two months earlier, however, the same court had ruled that Shawqi Omar [JURIST news archive], arrested for allegedly harboring insurgents in Iraq, had a right to argue his case in US courts. The appeals court blocked Omar's transfer to Iraqi courts [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. In March, Munaf's conviction was overturned [JURIST report] by an Iraqi appeals court. Lawyers for the detainees argued that because they are in US custody, they should have access to US courts.





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Supreme Court rules Guantanamo detainees have habeas corpus privilege
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 12, 2008 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] held in the consolidated cases of Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] Thursday that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees who have been classified as "enemy combatants." Overturning a decision [PDF text; JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, the Court held that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] did not deprive detainees of the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said:

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention. That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law.
Read the Court's 5-4 opinion per Justice Kennedy, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Souter. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissent [text], joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Justice Scalia also filed a dissent [text], joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito. AP has more.

This is the not the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled against the government in a case concerning the legal rights of enemy combatants. In June 2006 the Supreme Court held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the military commission system as initially constituted violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.





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Sudan ambassador says ICC prosecutor a 'terrorist', calls for removal
Deirdre Jurand on June 12, 2008 10:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Sudanese UN ambassador Abdel-Mahmood Mohamed told Reuters [report] Wednesday that International Criminal Court (ICC) [official backgrounder] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] is a terrorist. He said that the ICC's plan [Reuters report] to divert the plane of Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Harun [TrialWatch profile] in order to arrest him constitutes terrorism and piracy, for which Moreno-Ocampo should be removed from office. Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir [BBC profile] agreed, telling an Egyptian news service that the ICC is a terrorist organization. An ICC spokeswoman said last week that the court attempted the plan in December, when Harun was scheduled to make a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, but Harun learned of the plan and called off his trip. Mohamed also criticized the unspecified other countries that had cooperated with the plan, and said that officials in Sudan are considering what actions to take against Moreno-Ocampo. The Sudan Tribune has additional coverage.

Last week Sudan accused the Chief Prosecutor of hindering the peace process for Darfur [Reuters report] by preparing a "fictitious and vicious" case against its government officials after Moreno-Ocampo alleged that top Sudanese officials had been directly involved [JURIST report] in the planning, execution, and cover-up of atrocities committed against Darfur residents. In December 2007, Sudan rejected [JURIST report] Moreno-Ocampo's previous report to the UN Security Council, in which he condemned Sudan for failing to hand over Harun. In February 2007, Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC to issue a summons [JURIST report] for Harun for "crimes against the civilian population in Darfur," and in May 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant [text, PDF; JURIST report] for him. Al-Bashir has since refused to cooperate [JURIST report] with the ICC.






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Supreme Court rules in Marcos assets, litigating agent, sentencing guideline cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on June 12, 2008 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down five decisions Thursday, including Republic of the Philippines v. Pimentel [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court ruled that an interpleader action to determine ownership of assets held by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos [official profile] cannot continue because an indispensable party is protected by sovereign immunity. The Republic of the Philippines and the Philippine Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) [official website] claim ownership of funds improperly moved out of the Philippines by Marcos and invested with US investment bank Merrill Lynch, as does Mariano Pimentel, the representative of a class of 9,539 people holding an unsatisfied human rights judgment [opinion] against Marcos' estate. Merrill Lynch initiated the interpleader action to settle ownership of the funds, listing the Philippines, PCGG, and Pimentel, among others, as claimants. The Philippines and PCGG asserted their sovereign immunity from the suit and moved to dismiss the entire action, arguing that they are indispensable parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b) [text]. The Court ruled that the Philippine government was an indispensable party, overturning a decision [PDF text] by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and remanding the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the interpleader action:

The Court of Appeals' failure to give sufficient weight to the likely prejudice to the Republic and the Commission should the interpleader proceed in their absence would, in the usual course, warrant reversal and remand for further proceedings. In this case, however, that error and our further analysis under the additional provisions of Rule 19(b) lead us to conclude the action must be dismissed.
Read the Court's opinion per Justice Kennedy, along with concurrences and dissents in part from Justices Stevens and Souter [texts]. Reuters has more.

In Taylor v. Sturgell [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court found that a litigant is not barred from pursuing a Freedom of Information Act [text] claim if another litigant had previously pursued a similar claim. Taylor filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 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 had already unsuccessfully pursued a similar claim. The US Court of Appeals for the District Court affirmed [PDF text] the district court based on a "virtual representation" theory, noting that Taylor and the earlier litigant sought disclosure of the same documents and were represented by the same lawyer. The Court Thursday rejected that "virtual representation" theory, finding:
We have never defined the showing required to establish that a nonparty to a prior adjudication has become a litigating agent for a party to the earlier case. Because the issue has not been briefed in any detail, we do not discuss the matter elaboratively here. We note, however, that courts should be cautious about finding preclusion on this basis. A mere whiff of "tactical maneuvering" will not suffice; instead, principles of agency law are suggestive. They indicate that preclusion is appropriate only if the putative agent’s conduct of the suit is subject to the control of the party who is bound by the prior adjudication.
Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

The Court also ruled in Irizarry v. United States [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], holding that a judge is not required to give advance notice to both sides in a criminal case if he plans to pass a sentence that deviates from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Court found that a "sentence outside the Guidelines carries no presumption of unreasonableness." The Eleventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the guidelines are only advisory and so notice is not required. Read the Court's opinion per Justice Stevens, and a concurrence [texts] by Justice Thomas. Justice Breyer filed a dissent [text], joined by Justices Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg.

The Court also ruled in the consolidated cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar and Al-Odah v. United States of America and Boumediene v. Bush [JURIST reports].





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Myanmar state media defends Suu Kyi house arrest extension into sixth year
Kiely Lewandowski on June 12, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Myanmar law allows the continued detention of pro-democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the government-run New Light of Myanmar [media website] insisted in an editorial Wednesday. The editorial cited Myanmar's 1975 "Law Safeguarding the State from Dangers of Subversive Elements," which it said permitted detentions for up to six years. It noted [AFP report] that other countries have laws allowing the detention of individuals determined to be security threats and likened Suu Kyi to a "naughty child" because she poses a danger to the state. AP has more.

The military junta extended [JURIST report] Suu Kyi's house arrest into a sixth year in May, sparking an international outcry and a demonstration by members of her National League of Democracy. Suu Kyi has spent 11 of the past 17 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text].






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Israel Supreme Court upholds indefinite detention of unlawful combatants
Andrew Gilmore on June 12, 2008 9:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website] Wednesday upheld [decision] a controversial law allowing the government to detain unlawful combatants suspected of belonging to terrorist groups. The Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law [text, PDF] allows the Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] to issue an order to detain any person who is reasonably suspected of direct or indirect participation in "hostile acts against the State of Israel, or [who] is a member of a force perpetrating hostile acts against the State of Israel." The law applies to any person not qualifying as a prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 [text]. Under the law, unlawful combatants suspected of involvement in terrorism can be held indefinitely, although judicial review of detentions under the law are required every six months. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled [Ynetnews.com report] that the law's infringement upon personal rights was justified by its goal of limiting acts of terrorism against Israel. Ha'aretz has more.

The Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law has been the subject of much criticism [academic backgrounder; JURIST commentary] since it entered into effect in 2002. In June 2006, the Israeli Attorney General refused to apply [JURIST report] provisions of the law to a group of Hamas MPs and ministers detained by Israel.






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Malaysia constitutional amendment needed to protect judiciary: law minister
Kiely Lewandowski on June 12, 2008 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim [firm profile] Wednesday said legal reforms are needed to safeguard the independence of the country's judiciary. His remarks came in response to recent allegations that during his term of office, former PM Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad threatened to remove judges unless they rendered satisfactory verdicts. Ibrahim indicated that the reform would come as an amendment to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia [text, PDF]. The amendment will be designed to endure greater judicial independence and increase the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary branches. Ibrahim added th