August 2008 Archives


Brazil supreme court chief wiretapped by intelligence service: report
Bernard Hibbitts on August 31, 2008 8:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Brazilian intelligence service Abin [official website, in Portuguese] has pledged to investigate published reports that its agents wiretapped a variety of top Brazilian officials, including Supreme Federal Court [official website] president Gilmar Mendes. Veja [media website], a Brazilian weekly newsmagazine, made the claim in an article in its latest issue, published late last week. The officials said to have been wiretapped also include top associates of current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as well as several members of the country's Congress. Abin said in statement Saturday that Brazil's Justice Ministry [official website] will also investigate the claims, and news agency Agencia Brasil reported Sunday that Menes with meet with Lula on the matter later this week.

The Veja article quoted Mendes as saying he did not believe the government authorized any wiretaps on him. The reason for the alleged wiretaps remains unclear, although Brazilian media speculate that they may have been undertaken in connection with local elections seen as possible bellweathers of the chances of Lula's party in the country's 2010 presidential election. AP has more.






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Italy to pay Libya $5b compensation for colonial rule as Berlusconi apologizes
Bernard Hibbitts on August 31, 2008 7:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The leaders of Italy and Libya Saturday signed a accord under which Italy pledged to invest $5 billion [press release, in Italian] in Libya as compensation for its colonial rule over the north African state from 1911 to 1943. Meeting with Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi before a crowd which included descendants of Libyan resistance fighters, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly apologized [transcript, in Italian] for his country's conduct, expressing "in the name of the Italian people our regret and apologies for the deep wounds that we have caused you." Under the agreement Libya promised to take action against illegal immigration, which Berlusconi described as a scourge organized by "slave traders". Italy and Libya have been working on a compensation treaty for years. The present agreement does not address claims of repatriated Italians against their own government for losses incidental to the end of colonial rule in Libya. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Libya [JURIST news archive] was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1911, when it was invaded by Italian troops [backgrounder] and occupied. The country formally became an Italian colony in 1934. Italy surrendered control of it to advancing British and French forces in 1943 in the midst of World War II. The modern state of Libya became fully independent with the end of a Franco-British UN-authorized mandate [backgrounder] in 1951.






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Rhode Island Catholic diocese reaches settlement in four abuse suits
Steve Czajkowski on August 30, 2008 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence [official website] reached a settlement agreement Friday with four claimants who say they were abused by priests [JURIST news archive] several decades ago and that church officials had taken steps to cover up previous allegations of abuse. Christopher Young, Donald Leighton, Marc G. Banville, and two sisters of a fourth unnamed man who has died, agreed to settle their lawsuits for a total of $1.3 million. Young, Leighton, and Banville filed their claims in 2003 after they failed to reach a settlement with the diocese in 2002, when it settled [NY Times report] the claims of 36 others who said they were victims of molestation for $13.5 million. The men alleged that they were abused by three different priests on different occasions from the 1970's through the 1980's. The Bishop of Providence, Thomas Tobin [official profile], and diocese officials deny any misconduct in connection with the settlement. AP has more. The Providence Journal has local coverage.

Other dioceses across the country have reached similar settlements. In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] the creation of a $1.25 million fund and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego [diocesan website] announced an agreement [JURIST report] to pay $198.1 million to settle claims of sexual abuse by their clergy. A Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2007 approved a $660 million settlement [JURIST report] between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [diocesan website] and plaintiffs in 508 outstanding clergy sex abuse lawsuits. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against its own priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.






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UK court gives government another week to answer Guantanamo evidence demand
Steve Czajkowski on August 30, 2008 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] London's High Court Friday gave UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official profile] a week to defend his office's refusal [FCO press release] earlier this month to turn over documents relating to the alleged extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] and torture of Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile], the last British resident still detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The High Court ruled [PDF, judgment; JURIST report] last week that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] must turn over evidence [Independent report] that is "essential" to Mohamed's defense that information against him was obtained through torture. The FCO refused to turn over the information, citing national security issues. Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 on accusations that he conspired to assist al Qaeda in attacking civilians. A decision on whether the High Court will force the disclosure of the material is set for September. BBC News has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Mohamed asserts that after he was arrested in Pakistan, he was turned over to US officials who then transferred him to Moroccan agents who tortured him; he was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. In December, in a letter [DOC, text] sent by his lawyer to Miliband, he asked the UK government [JURIST report] to ensure that photographic evidence of his alleged torture be preserved. For most of 2007, Binyam was one of five UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Three of those were released [press release; JURIST report] from US custody in December. The official status of a fourth detainee remains unclear.






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Pakistan authorities reinstate 4 more ousted judges
Bernard Hibbitts on August 30, 2008 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani authorities Saturday reinstated four more judges ousted from their positions in November when former President Pervez Musharraf proclaimed emergency rule. The reappointment of four judges of the Lahore High Court follows an announcement Wednesday that eight other judges in Sindh province were being restored to office [JURIST report]. The latest reappointments bring the total of resinstated judges to 12, out of the total of 60 superior court judges removed, including former Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. PTI has more.

Representatives of Pakistan's lawyers' movement have denounced the "selective" reappointments as an effort undermine their campaign for total reinstatement. Pakistan media reports claimed last week that the governing Pakistan People's Party plans to reappoint some 16 ousted judges [PakTribune report], a move opposed by its former coalition partner [JURIST report], the PML-N, led by ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.






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Rwanda genocide tribunal annuls conviction of ex-army officer
Michael Sung on August 30, 2008 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] quashed a 25-year prison sentence against former Rwandan army officer Tharcisse Muvunyi [ICTR case materials] Friday, ruling that there was insufficient evidence for his conviction on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Muvunyi will face a retrial on a charge of inciting genocide. Muvunyi is accused [indictment, PDF] of participating in several public meetings during the months of April and May 1994, during which he and other local government officials allegedly called on the Hutu majority population to kill Tutsi civilians. Muvunyi, the former Commander of a Rwandan military school, was convicted [JURIST report; ICTR judgment and sentence, PDF] in September 2006 for his role in the ethnic separation and subsequent killing of orphaned children and the killing of at least 140 students and Red Cross workers. AFP has more.

The ICTR was established in 1995 to try those suspected of having committed genocide during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder]. The mandate for the ICTR is set to expire in December 2008, although the court has announced that it will be unable to complete its work [JURIST report] before that time. In June, the prosecutor of the ICTR asked the UN Security Council [official website] to extend the ICTR's mandate [JURIST report] so that the tribunal can complete its trials.






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Federal appeals court upholds prison sentence in witness tampering case
Steve Czajkowski on August 30, 2008 8:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that the conviction and 210 month prison sentence of Juan Francisco Salazar, who was convicted of tampering with a witness in a drug trial, were proper. A jury found Salazar guilty of violating 18 USC 1512(b)(2)(A) [text] after evidence was presented that he threatened to rape and kill Sarah Rolon, in order to prevent Rolon's husband, Ira Rolon, from testifying against his brothers. Ira Rolon had been indicted with Elijah and Rocky Salazar on charges of possession and distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine in Oklahoma, but he pleaded guilty and became a prosecution witness against the two.

Salazar argued that the evidence against him was insufficient and that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [official website] erred in applying the sentencing guidelines under 18 USC 1512(j) when it sentenced him to almost 18 years in prison. The Court rejected that contention, saying:

Under the manifest-miscarriage-of-justice standard, Salazar must show either that the record is “devoid of evidence of guilt” or that the evidence is “so tenuous that a conviction is shocking”... It is quite obvious that Salazar falls far short of satisfying the very narrow manifest-miscarriage-of-justice standard. Indeed, his sufficiency challenge would fail under the more lenient standard of review had he properly preserved this challenge.

As noted, when Salazar was sentenced, ten years was the statutory maximum for a violation of § 1512(b)(2)(A). In that regard, Salazar claims the district court erred by applying the penalty provisions of § 1512(j) and sentencing him to 210 months’ imprisonment, which he asserts was impermissibly above the above-referenced ten-year maximum. Section 1512(j), however, provides for a higher sentence...Our having held § 1512(j) was properly applied by the district court in calculating Salazar’s sentence, the maximum statutory penalty Salazar faced was life imprisonment. Accordingly, his 210-month sentence did not exceed the prescribed statutory maximum and Apprendi is not implicated.





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Eighth Circuit orders school to give gay rights group equal access
Joe Shaulis on August 29, 2008 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Minnesota school district must give a student group advocating gay rights [JURIST news archive] the same access to school facilities as other groups. Two students belonging to Straights and Gays for Equality (SAGE) sued the Osseo Area School District [official website] under the federal Equal Access Act (EAA) [text], which prohibits secondary public schools from discriminating against student groups on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical or other content of their speech. The plaintiffs alleged that administrators at Maple Grove High School (MGHS) [school website] had violated the EAA by designating SAGE as "noncurricular" and prohibiting it from raising money, taking field trips and using school-sponsored avenues of communication - privileges given to curriculum-related groups. The school district appealed a district court order granting a permanent injunction under which SAGE was to have "the same access for meetings, avenues of communication, and other miscellaneous rights" as curricular groups. Affirming the district court, Circuit Judge Lavenski R. Smith [official profile] wrote for a three-judge panel:

Here, MGHS does not prohibit SAGE from meeting at the school or utilizing some avenues of communication, but it limits SAGE's access to communication avenues and meeting times and places. Curricular groups receive more extensive use of school communication avenues. Thus, the issue is not whether MGHS provides SAGE access to some avenues of communication but whether it provides equal access to available avenues of communication as provided to other noncurriculum related groups. We hold that it does not.
The court found that the district had designated some noncurricular groups, such as the school's Spirit Club, as curricular, giving them privileges denied to SAGE. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit [ACLU materials] in September 2005 and won a preliminary injunction the following year. The Eighth Circuit also upheld [opinion, PDF] the preliminary injunction. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has more.

In April, the Sixth Circuit [official website] dismissed [PDF text] a lawsuit [ACLU press release] brought by a Kentucky high school student over a policy prohibiting students from expressing their opposition to homosexuality and requiring them to undergo anti-harassment training. The court held [JURIST report] 2-1 that Morrison failed to show he had been harmed by the policy prior to its repeal, or that winning the lawsuit would remedy the issue. The school district changed the policy to exempt speech that would ordinarily be protected under the First Amendment. The ruling followed an earlier decision [PDF text] by the same Sixth Circuit panel allowing the case to proceed.





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Pakistan law minister rules out reinstating chief justice
Joe Shaulis on August 29, 2008 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani Law Minister Farooq H. Naek told reporters [Daily Mail report] Thursday that ousted Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] cannot be reinstated because the current chief justice was legitimately appointed [JURIST report]. Naek said that Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar [official profile; JURIST news archive] should be recognized as holding the office and that the Pakistani Constitution [text] does not permit the appointment of two chief justices. Reacting to Naek's comments, Aitzaz Ahsan [profile], president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association, said that Dogar had not been recognized as chief justice [Khaleej Times report] by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] before her assassination last year. Associated Press of Pakistan has more.

Lawyers blocked streets throughout Pakistan [JURIST news archive] on Thursday to demand the reappointment of Chaudhry and dozens of other judges removed last year [JURIST report] by former President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive]. The protests follow Wednesday's reappointment of eight ousted judges [JURIST report] to the Sindh High Court [official website] in Karachi, a development that leaders of the nationwide lawyers' movement [AHRC backgrounder; PBS report] described as a "conspiracy" to undermine support for total reinstatement. Pakistan's coalition government dissolved [JURIST report] Monday after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif [party profile; JURIST news archive] withdrew his Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party [party website] over the failure to reach an agreement with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] that would reinstate the ousted judges.






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Argentina ex-generals convicted of murdering senator in 'dirty war'
Joe Shaulis on August 29, 2008 12:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Two former generals were convicted Thursday of killing a senator during the so-called "dirty war" in Argentina [JURIST news archive] and have been sentenced to life terms of house arrest. A court in Tucuman province found Antonio Bussi [New York Times profile] and Luciano Menendez [Project Disappeared profile and materials, in Spanish] guilty of kidnapping, torturing and murdering Guillermo Vargas Aignasse in 1976, during the coup that began a seven-year military dictatorship [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder]. Prosecutor Alfredo Terraf had sought maximum penalties for both men, who were sentenced to house arrest because of their advanced age. Bussi, 82, was quoted [AFP report] as telling the court that he had been "politically persecuted" for his role in a "just and necessary war." Menendez, 81, received a separate life sentence [JURIST report] last month when he and four others were convicted of the 1977 kidnapping, torture and killing of four political dissidents. Menendez, who commanded the secret prison called La Perla [HRT backgrounder], was originally taken into custody in 2005 after a judge ordered his arrest [JURIST report]. AP has more. From Buenos Aires, La Nación has local coverage, in Spanish.

As many as 30,000 people were kidnapped or "disappeared" during the Argentine military dictatorship. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases. In March, Argentine politician and former police chief Luis Abelardo Patti was also arrested for crimes allegedly committed during the period. In May, Juan Evaristo Puthod, a victim of the violent suppression, was kidnapped but later released [JURIST reports] before testifying in a third case.






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Mexico Supreme Court upholds first-trimester abortion law
Joe Shaulis on August 29, 2008 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] The Mexican Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday ruled [session transcript, PDF, in Spanish] that a law permitting first-trimester abortions [JURIST news archive] in Mexico City does not violate the Mexican Constitution [PDF text, in Spanish]. The federal attorney general and the National Human Rights Commission [official websites, in Spanish] brought a lawsuit [case materials; JURIST report] last year challenging provisions of the Mexico City Criminal Code and Health Law [PDF text, in Spanish] that allow unrestricted abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Following 17 hours of public hearings [links to recorded video], the Supreme Court voted 8-3 to uphold the provisions. According to a court press release [text, in Spanish], Chief Justice Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia [official profile, in Spanish] noted that the decision neither approves nor disapproves of abortion but rather embraces the principle that the court should not establish crimes or penalties. He said: "We have determined the constitutionality of a law approved by a representative body, and in this case we have participated in a decision of great national significance." AP has more. From Mexico City, El Universal has local coverage, in Spanish.

Proponents of abortion rights praised the decision and predicted liberalization of abortion laws throughout Mexico [JURIST news archive] and Latin America. Dr. Raffaela Schiavon, head of the women's rights group Ipas [advocacy website] in Mexico, said [press release]:

This decision is of transcendental importance, not only for human rights, but as a stand for the secular state against religious fundamentalism. It is a lesson for the future, not only for Mexico City, but for the entire country and for the whole region.
Since Mexico City legislators passed the law [JURIST report] last year, more than 12,000 women have undergone legal abortions, compared with fewer than 70 in the four years prior. Elsewhere in Latin America, the Uruguayan Senate last year also voted to decriminalize abortion, while the Colombian Supreme Court in 2006 legalized exceptions to that nation's abortion ban [JURIST reports], permitting the procedure for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or endangering a woman's health.





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Karadzic again refuses to enter pleas on ICTY war crimes charges
Devin Montgomery on August 29, 2008 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb leader and war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] again refused to enter a plea [JURIST report] on Friday to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in a hearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. The judge presiding over the hearing, Iain Bonomy [ICTY biography] entered a not-guilty plea on Karadzic's behalf. Karadzic, who has repeatedly challenged the ICTY's authority and legitimacy [JURIST reports], also said he planned to challenge the court's jurisdiction at his next hearing, and that the ICTY was no more than an arm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website]. Bonomy was appointed last week after the court announced [JURIST reports] that there would be a new panel of judges assigned to the case. Karadzic had requested the new panel [JURIST report], arguing that presiding Judge Alphons Orie [DPA profile] and other judges initially assigned were biased against him, but the court said its decision was independent of the accusations. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Karadzic, who has been indicted [text] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, was arrested [JURIST report] in Serbia in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. Later that month, Serbian authorities transferred [press release] Karadzic to the custody of the ICTY. Karadzic was originally indicted [text] by the ICTY prosecutor in 1995, but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report] until his arrest. He is accused of involvement in the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] massacre and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.






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US civilian jury acquits ex-Marine of Fallujah killings
Joe Shaulis on August 29, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal jury on Thursday acquitted former US Marine Sgt. Jose Luis Nazario Jr. [defense website; JURIST news archive] of voluntary manslaughter and other charges [JURIST report] in the first civilian trial for crimes allegedly committed by a member of the US military in Iraq. After six hours of deliberation, a jury in US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] found Nazario not guilty of ordering his squad to shoot four unarmed Iraqi men in a house they had just searched in Fallujah in 2004. In addition to manslaughter, Nazario was charged [criminal complaint, PDF] with assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Because Nazario had left the military before facing charges, he was tried in civilian court under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (MEJA) [text], rather than in the military justice system. The MEJA gives federal courts jurisdiction over civilians who allegedly committed crimes in combat zones while associated with the US military. Defense attorney Kevin McDermott predicted [AP report] the acquittal would discourage similar prosecutions. The Los Angeles Times has more.

Two Marines who served with Nazario, Sgt. Ryan Weemer and Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson [JURIST news archives], have been court-martialed in connection with the Fallujah killings. Another civilian trial involving a former service member is scheduled for April [JURIST report] in Kentucky, where former Army Pfc. Steven D. Green [JURIST news archive] faces charges in the March 2006 rape and killing of a 14-year old Iraqi girl [JURIST news archive] and the killings of her family in Mahmudiya. This week, a judge there ruled [JURIST report] that charging Green as a civilian did not violate his constitutional rights.






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Bolivia president sets date for constitutional referendum
Devin Montgomery on August 29, 2008 8:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] announced Thursday that a national referendum on his proposed reforms to the country's constitution will be held on December 7. If approved, the reforms would distribute more of Bolivia's land and energy resource income to the country's indigenous population. Morales said that a national referendum which permitted him to retain his office earlier this month provided the mandate for him to push for the changes, but several of the provincial governors also confirmed by the referendum oppose the plan [JURIST reports] and have said they will not hold the December vote in their regions. According to a Thursday release [text, in Spanish], Morales is considering an offer by the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] to mediate the conflict. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In May, the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] approved the referendum on Morales' leadership, which he personally proposed [JURIST reports] last December in order to legitimize his campaign for the constitutional changes. In 2006, governors from six of Bolivia's nine states vowed to break off relations with Morales following the 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.






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Pakistan lawyers block streets demanding restoration of judges
Joe Shaulis on August 28, 2008 3:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers blocked streets in the major cities of Pakistan [JURIST news archive] on Thursday to demand the reappointment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] and other judges removed last year [JURIST report] by former President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive]. Aitzaz Ahsan [profile], president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association, vowed [Reuters report] that the blockades would continue until Chaudhry is reinstated. The protests follow Wednesday's reappointment of eight ousted judges [JURIST report] to the Sindh High Court [official website] in Karachi - a development that leaders of the nationwide lawyers' movement [AHRC backgrounder; PBS report] described as a "conspiracy" to undermine support for total reinstatement. AFP has more.

Pakistan's coalition government dissolved [JURIST report] Monday after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif [party profile; JURIST news archive] withdrew his Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party [party website] over the failure to reach an agreement with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] that would reinstate the ousted judges. Although PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari [CV; JURIST news archive] has asked Sharif to return to the coalition, he has refused [party press release; Times of India report], saying, "We prefer national interest at the cost of personal interest."






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Sudan president vows to ignore ICC arrest warrant
Joe Shaulis on August 28, 2008 2:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Wednesday threatened to ignore any arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court [official website; JURIST news archive]. Bashir, speaking to legislators Wednesday in semi-autonomous southern Sudan, said he would not "deal with or respond to" the ICC, according to AFP. Bashir's speech rallied support against the ICC and predicted that ICC charges against him would harm the country's oil-based economy. AFP has more.

In July, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] applied for a warrant to arrest Bashir [JURIST report] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for atrocities committed in the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. Moreno-Ocampo this month criticized Sudan's own investigation [JURIST report] of war crimes in Darfur, calling it "part of the cover-up." Sudan's justice minister recently appointed several prosecutors to investigate and try war crimes suspects in internationally monitored courts [JURIST reports].

In another development in Sudan [JURIST news archive] Wednesday, security forces reportedly seized copies [AFP report] of the English-language Sudan Tribune [media website] for the 17th time this month. The editor of the Tribune said Thursday that government censors this week warned the newspaper it would be closed by Sept. 1 if it fails to replace its editorial board, among other conditions. In a report on its website Thursday, the newspaper said the government had barred publication of an article quoting Sudan's foreign minister as criticizing security forces for the deaths of 30 people during the raid of a Darfur refugee camp. According to the Tribune report, newspaper censorship has increased since the ICC indicted Bashir.






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ICTY adjourns Serb nationalist leader's war crimes trial pending appeal ruling
Joe Shaulis on August 28, 2008 2:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] has suspended the war crimes trial of Serb nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj [BBC profile; ICTY case materials, PDF] pending an appellate ruling on whether the defendant may represent himself. In a press briefing [text] Wednesday, the court announced that hearings had been adjourned until the court's Appeals Chamber "rules on the Prosecution’s appeal for the proceedings to be stayed until the Trial Chamber itself has ruled on its Motion challenging the accused's self-representation." Prosecutor Serge Brammertz [official profile] last month presented a motion asking the court to appoint counsel for Seslj, arguing that his self-representation was obstructing proceedings. The court on Wednesday further entered an order [PDF text] giving Seselj one month to respond to the prosecution's motion to impose counsel. AFP has more.

The ICTY had previously stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself [JURIST report] after he failed to appear in court, despite an earlier appeals court ruling that he could represent himself [JURIST report] provided he not engage in courtroom antics that "substantially obstruct the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case." The Appeals Chamber later ruled he could represent himself. The ICTY has charged Seselj [indictment, PDF; pre-trial brief, PDF] with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes. When the trial began last year, the prosecution made an opening statement [JURIST report] accusing Seselj of inciting atrocities [JURIST report] through hateful speeches he made during the Balkan Wars. He is the founder of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party [party website, in Serbian].






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UK presses UN panel for expanded rights to Arctic seabed minerals
Leslie Schulman on August 28, 2008 1:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Wednesday submitted requests to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) [official websites] to claim exclusive harvesting rights to an area of the seabed surrounding Ascension Island, a British possession in the remote South Atlantic technically part of St Helena, the British overseas territory that where Napoleon spent his last years in exile from 1815-21. Under the Law of the Sea Treaty [text], a country has exclusive harvesting rights to a zone extending 200 nautical miles from its shore, but when a continental shelf extends farther a nation may claim up to 350 miles from the baseline or 100 miles from the 2,500 meter depth. According to FCO officers Wednesday, the United Kingdom also plans to submit similar territorial claims for seabeds surrounding the Hatton-Rockall area west of Scotland, as well as the Falkland Islands, also in the southern Atlantic. Denmark and Iceland currently have pending claims to the Hatton-Rockall area, as do Argentina and Chile to the Falkland Islands. BBC News has more.

Questions about Arctic sea oil and gas rights have become more pressing lately, as global warming estimates predict that previously unattainable ice-locked resources will be within reach by mid-century. New technologies also make previously unattainable under-seabed minerals extractable. In May, the five states bordering the Arctic met to discuss allocation of harvesting rights [JURIST report] to minerals under Arctic seabeds. Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] into the Arctic Sea, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require massive amounts of infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.






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Norway trial begins for Bosnian Croat accused of 1992 war crimes against Serbs
Leslie Schulman on August 28, 2008 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A Bosnian immigrant to Norway accused of mistreating Bosnian Serbs imprisoned during the 1992-95 Bosnian war [timeline] went on trial Wednesday in Oslo, marking the start of the first war crimes trial to take place in Norway since World War II. Norwegian citizen Mirsad Repak pleaded not guilty to war crimes, crimes against humanity, rape and torture of Serbian prisoners detained in the Dretelj detention camp in 1992. According to Repak, a former member of the Croatian Defence Forces, he was following orders from superiors. If convicted, Repak could get up to 20 years in prison. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The government of Norway [JURIST news archive] passed legislation [JURIST report] in March to expand prosecutable criminal activity to include terrorism, genocide, and war crimes. Before the law was enacted, Norwegian law did not include such crimes and any criminals suspected of acts falling under those categories were handed over to international war crimes tribunals. Repak's defense argues that the newly passed legislation cannot be applied retroactively to any crimes committed in 1992, and that the laws are thus unconstitutional. According to the government, the law was passed with a specific clause permitting application of the law to war crimes committed in the past.






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DOJ seeks lighter sentences for ex-lobbyist Abramoff
Joe Shaulis on August 28, 2008 11:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department (DOJ) [official website] has asked federal judges in Florida and Washington, DC, to give lenient sentences to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive], who has cooperated in the prosecution of several legislative and executive branch officials. Since 2006, Abramoff has been serving a six-year prison term [JURIST report] on fraud and conspiracy charges filed in Florida; next week, he is scheduled to be sentenced in Washington to as much as 11 years for tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy. The DOJ recommended Wednesday that the Florida sentence be reduced to four years and that the Washington court impose a sentence of five years. If the judges follow those recommendations, Abramoff would be released in late 2011. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website]. AP has more. Politico has additional coverage. The Washington Post has local coverage.

The DOJ said Abramoff's cooperation has helped secure the convictions of several former executive and legislative officials, including Robert Coughlin II, deputy chief of staff in the DOJ Criminal Division; Deputy US Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles; US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH); David Safavian, former chief of staff of the US General Services Administration [JURIST reports]; and Tony Rudy, deputy chief of staff and press secretary to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Money-laundering and conspiracy charges [indictment text] against DeLay remain pending. Last week, a Texas appellate court allowed money-laundering indictments to stand [JURIST report] against two alleged co-conspirators of DeLay.






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Lebanon court issues warrants for Gaddafi, other Libyan officials
Joe Shaulis on August 28, 2008 9:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Lebanon [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday charged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [official website; JURIST news archive] and six other officials with the 1978 disappearance of a prominent Lebanese cleric and issued warrants for their arrests. In Beirut, investigating magistrate Samih al-Haj charged Gaddafi with inciting the abduction of Imam Mussa Sadr [profile], who had traveled to Tripoli to meet Libyan officials. Libya [JURIST news archive] has denied involvement in the disappearance, claiming that Sadr left the country for Italy. The charges carry sentences ranging from seven years' imprisonment to the death penalty. AFP has more.

The arrest warrant was issued after Gaddafi failed to acknowledge a summons [PressTV report] to appear at the Lebanese Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] for a court hearing earlier this year. The case had been closed until 2004, when Lebanon reopened it at the urging of the Hezbollah movement [party website; CFR backgrounder] and Sadr's relatives.






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'Visual voicemail' inventor sues telecoms for patent infringement
Kiely Lewandowski on August 27, 2008 5:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Inventor Judas Klausner filed a patent infringement suit Tuesday against nine companies, including Google, Inc., Verizon Communications, and LG Electronics [corporate websites], alleging that they infringe on his visual voicemail technology patent. The technology involves providing a visual list of voicemail through which a user can view and retrieve individual messages. In anticipation of Klausner's attack, Verizon brought an action [complaint, PDF] seeking a declaratory judgment that their proprietary visual voicemail services do not infringe on the inventor's patents. Reuters has more.

Klausner, inventor of the personal digital assistant (PDA) and the electronic organizer, has successfully brought suit for infringement against multiple telephone companies, voice-over-internet providers (VoIP) [FCC backgrounder], and internet service providers, including AOL, Time Warner, and eBay. Klausner filed [complaint, PDF] a similar claim against Apple Computer and AT&T late last year, alleging that the technology used by Apple's iPhone infringes on the same visual voicemail patents. The parties settled in July [Reuters report] after the patents were licensed to Apple, but the financial details of the settlement were not disclosed. Last October, internet VoIP Vonage settled a patent lawsuit [JURIST report; press release] concerning Vonage's use of Verizon's technology.






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China releases political activist after 16 years
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 4:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese authorities have released activist Hu Shigen [profile] after 16 years of imprisonment, the group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] announced Tuesday. Hu had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement and organizing a counterrevolutionary group. HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom said in a press release [text]:

We welcome the release of Hu Shigen, but it is tragic that Hu had to suffer so many years of abuse, serious health problems, and harsh conditions. He should have been released immediately in November 2005, when the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that his detention was arbitrary.
Hu must reportedly abide by a five-year deprivation of political rights, including those of free speech, assembly and association. AP has more.

A former lecturer at Beijing Language Institute [academic website], Hu helped to found the China Freedom and Democracy Party [party website] and planned events commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre [BBC backgrounder]. A human rights group reported last year that political arrests in China were on the rise [JURIST report], having doubled from 2005 to 2006. Last month, Amnesty International criticized human rights abuses in China [JURIST report], including the detention and abuse of activists.





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Washington non-consensual organ-harvesting case to be resolved by state court
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] has asked the Washington Supreme Court [official website] to determine whether the sister of a man whose bodily tissues were harvested for medical research without consent may sue for damages. In an order [PDF] issued Tuesday, a Ninth Circuit panel found that plaintiff Robinette Amaker had raised dispositive issues of unsettled state law, certifying to the Washington court the questions of whether Amaker, as the decedent's sister, has standing to sue for tortious interference with a corpse and whether the state's now-repealed version of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act [materials] created a private right of action. The court wrote:

This case presents an opportunity for the state supreme court to identify which claims may be brought in cases arising out of non-consensual organ donation. Likewise, the court may wish to consider the interplay between the Anatomical Gift Act and claims for tortious interference with a corpse...Amaker argues there is tension between the two [district court] holdings: she was legally permitted to donate [her brother's] organs, but she did not have the legal right to dispose of the body. The Washington court may wish to remedy this tension, or it may conclude that the policy rationales behind the common law claim and the [Uniform Act] compel this outcome.
When the man died, the King County Medical Examiner's Office [official website] could not reach his next of kin, and so sent tissue from his brain, liver and spleen to the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) [organization website]. The medical examiner's office has faced several lawsuits [KIRO-TV report] over its defunct tissue-harvesting program, which raised nearly $1.5 million over 10 years. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more.

In 2005, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels refused [press release; JURIST report] to stay the execution of Gregory Scott Johnson, a convicted murderer [denial of post conviction relief] who hoped to give both a kidney and his liver to his sister, who suffered from hepatitis. The governor said he would have been amenable to a short delay if Johnson's donation offered "a clear, demonstrated medical advantage to his sister."





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Ninth Circuit finds Falun Gong members eligible for asylum
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 2:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Chinese couple are eligible for asylum because they reasonably feared persecution as members of the Falun Gong sect [group website; BBC backgrounder]. Zhao and Duan came to California in 2001, several months after an incident in which Chinese police had entered their home, arrested them and beaten them during a four-day detention. The couple were released after paying a fine and agreeing not to practice Falun Gong. The Ninth Circuit panel relied on Falun Gong asylum cases it had decided in 2004 and 2006 [opinions, PDF]. Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote:

Much like in the two previous cases, the Chinese authorities have already identified Zhao and Duan as Falun Gong adherents and have shown an interest in monitoring their movements. In fact, unlike [those cases], Zhao and Duan have already been arrested, detained for four days, physically abused, coerced into signing a promise to refrain from their practice, and ordered to report to the police once a week. Zhao was abused to the point that he sought medical attention and was threatened with death or disappearance.
The holding reverses a determination by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [official website], which had found that that petitioners Shoufu Zhao and Zhenying Duan had shown neither past persecution nor a well-founded fear of persecution, as required by a federal statute [8 USC 1101(a)(42)(A) text]. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

China [JURIST news archive], which banned Falun Gong [Guardian report] in 1999, has repeatedly faced criticism for its human rights record [JURIST report]. Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [PDF text] detailing ongoing human rights abuses in the country, including the use of the death penalty, detention and abuse of rights activists, and Internet censorship.





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Israel imprisons Palestinian ex-mayor for aiding Hamas
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] announced Tuesday that a military court had sentenced a former West Bank mayor to six years in prison after finding him guilty of belonging to and assisting the militant group Hamas [JURIST news archive; CFR backgrounder]. Former Mayor Hatam Ridah Jarrar (also "Grar"), of the city of Jenin, was convicted last week of membership in a terrorist organization. An army statement quoted the court's sentence as saying that Jarrar had used his position to aid Hamas [Reuters report]. According to the statement, the court treated Jarrar's status as an orthopedic surgeon as an aggravating factor [AFP report] in sentencing because he was "expected to save human lives." Jarrar also must serve three years' probation. Ha'aretz has more.

Jarrar had spent more than two years in custody since the Israeli military detained more than 20 Palestinian officials [JURIST report] following the 2006 abduction of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit [JURIST news archive] in Gaza. This June, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a law [JURIST report] allowing the indefinite detention of unlawful combatants suspected of belonging to terrorist groups. Israel [JURIST news archive] and Hamas have so far failed to negotiate a prisoner exchange [JURIST report].






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Kansas church to defy federal appeals ruling upholding funeral protests ban
Kiely Lewandowski on August 27, 2008 12:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Followers of the Kansas-based fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church [JURIST news archive; BBC report] plan to stage a protest at the funeral [press release] for late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) [profile] Saturday, despite a federal appeals court ruling last week that upheld an Ohio law limiting funeral protests. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] last week upheld Ohio's funeral protest law [text] against a constitutional challenge raised by Westboro member Shirley Phelps-Roper. Westboro church members have been going around the country picketing military funerals in recent years, claiming US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. Phelps-Roper claimed that the Ohio law was unconstitutionally overbroad, in violation of the First Amendment. The district court rejected Phelps-Roper's challenge, concluding that the provision was a constitutional content-neutral regulation of the time and manner of protests and that the state of Ohio has a significant interest in protecting its citizens from disruptions during funeral events. The Sixth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF], stating that the law was reasonable and that:

Individuals mourning the loss of a loved one share a privacy right similar to individuals in their homes or individuals entering a medical facility...Unwanted intrusion during the last moments the mourners share with the deceased during a sacred ritual surely infringes upon the recognized right of survivors to mourn the deceased. Furthermore, just as a resident subjected to picketing is 'left with no ready means of avoiding the unwanted speech,' mourners cannot easily avoid unwanted protests without sacrificing their right to partake in the funeral or burial service.
USA Today has more.

In April, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius [official website] signed similar legislation [JURIST report; press release] banning protests within 150 feet of a funeral one hour before, during, and two hours after the end of a service. At least 37 other states have passed similar laws in response to the Westboro pickets, and a federal law [JURIST report] restricting protests at Arlington National Cemetery and other federal cemeteries has also been passed.





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Federal court upholds charges against ex-US soldier in Mahmudiya killings case
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge has rejected constitutional challenges to civilian charges against former US Army Pvt. Steven D. Green in connection with the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl [JURIST news archives] and the killing of her family in Mahmudiya, Iraq (also "Mahmoudiya"). US District Judge Thomas Russell [official profile] of the Western District of Kentucky [official website] ruled Tuesday that charging Green with voluntary manslaughter as a civilian following his discharge from the Army did not violate his due process rights. Defense lawyers had argued [JURIST report] that Green should have been tried in the military justice system rather than charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act [text], which Congress amended in 2004 to permit the prosecution of US civilians who commit crimes in combat zones. Jury selection for Green's trial, scheduled for April 2009, began this month [JURIST reports]. The government is seeking the death penalty against Green, who intends to raise an insanity defense [JURIST reports]. AP has more.

Four other soldiers [JURIST report] from the Army's 101st Airborne Division have already been convicted in military court for crimes stemming from the rape and killings. Spc. James P. Barker and Sgt. Paul E. Cortez [JURIST reports] received prison sentences of 90 and 100 years respectively after they pleaded guilty to participating in the attack. Pfc. Bryan L. Howard, who stayed at the soldiers' checkpoint but had prior knowledge of the plan, was sentenced to 27 months after pleading guilty [JURIST report] in March to conspiracy to commit rape and premeditated murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Pfc. Jesse Spielman was sentenced to 110 years in prison after being convicted [JURIST report] on four counts of felony murder, rape, conspiracy to commit rape, and housebreaking with intent to commit rape. All four will be eligible for parole in 10 years.






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ICTY indicts former spokesperson for disclosing confidential Milosevic decisions
Abigail Salisbury on August 27, 2008 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] has ordered the prosecution of Florence Hartmann [book publicity interview], former spokeswoman for ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte [BBC profile], on two counts of contempt for allegedly disclosing protected information [AP report] about the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive]. The ICTY issued an Order in Lieu of an Indictment [PDF, text] on Wednesday, which alleges that Hartmann knowingly divulged confidential decisions in the Milosevic case both in her memoirs [Amazon profile, in French] and through subsequent public statements.

Hartmann drew media attention to herself earlier this month by repeating allegations [JURIST report] that former US President Bill Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac had planned a campaign [JURIST report] to capture Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but later backed down following a change in policy. Hartmann has also said that Russia aided in moving Karadzic to safety in Belarus, and alleged that the West helped in order to hide information about the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].






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Federal judge unseals 8 more Rosenberg grand jury transcripts
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday ordered the federal government to release eight more grand jury transcripts from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage case [trial transcript, PDF; JURIST backgrounder]. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein [official profile] emphasized the historical value of the testimony, given in 1950 and 1952 by witnesses who either did not consent to the release or could not be located. The ruling, which the government may appeal within two months, clears the way for testimony from all but three witnesses to be unsealed. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

In January, George Washington University's National Security Archive petitioned the court [text, PDF; memorandum, PDF] for the release of the transcripts, arguing that "The overwhelming historical interest outweighs any secrecy interests that may have survived." Last month, Hellerstein ordered the disclosure of 36 witnesses' testimony [JURIST report] while denying the archive's request [New York Times report] to unseal the testimony of Ethel Rosenberg's brother and key witness David Greenglass [profile], who objected to the release. The Rosenbergs were found guilty [verdict transcript] in 1953 on charges of violating US espionage statutes [50 USC 4 materials]. They were sentenced to death and executed the same year.






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Pakistan government reappoints 8 judges removed by Musharraf
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The Pakistani government reinstated eight judges in the Sindh High Court [official website] in Karachi on Wednesday. The judges had previously refused to take office until the reinstatement of all 60 judges dismissed last year [JURIST report] by former President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive], including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. Rashid Razvi, head of the Karachi bar council, told AFP [AFP report] that the appointments were a "conspiracy" intended to undermine support for the legal profession's campaign [AHRC backgrounder] for total reinstatement. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) reportedly plans to reappoint another 16 judges [PakTribune.com report] in the near future. The Times of India has more.

On Monday, Pakistan's coalition government dissolved [JURIST report] after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif withdrew his Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party over the failure to reach an agreement with the PPP to reinstate the ousted judges. Musharraf announced his resignation [JURIST report] from the presidency earlier this month, largely to avoid impeachment for the judges' dismissals and other alleged abuses of authority.






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Russia recognition of Georgia territories violates international law: NATO
Joe Shaulis on August 27, 2008 8:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The North Atlantic Council (NAC) [NATO backgrounder], made up of representatives from 26 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website] member nations, urged Russia [JURIST news archive] to reverse its recognition of the independence of two Georgian territories [AP report] on Wednesday. The representatives denounced the decision as violative of international law, and released a statement [text] elaborating on their position:

Russia's decision violates the many UN Security Council resolutions it has endorsed regarding Georgia's territorial integrity, and is inconsistent with the fundamental OSCE principles on which stability in Europe is based. Russia's actions have called into question its commitment to peace and security in the Caucasus.

Georgia's recovery, security and stability are important to the Alliance. NATO calls on Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and to fulfill its commitments under the six-principle agreement signed by President Saakashvili and President Medvedev.
The NATO ambassadors' statement follows similar condemnations issued
Tuesday by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada [text], among other nations. US President George W. Bush called the decision
inconsistent with numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions that Russia has voted for in the past, and is also inconsistent with the French-brokered six-point ceasefire agreement which President Medvedev signed. ... The six-point agreement offered a peaceful way forward to resolve the conflict. We expect Russia to live up to its international commitments, reconsider this irresponsible decision, and follow the approach set out in the six-point agreement.

The territorial integrity and borders of Georgia must be respected, just as those of Russia or any other country. Russia's action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations. In accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions that remain in force, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia, and they must remain so.
France, which holds the EU [official website] presidency, issued a statement [text] on Tuesday through its Foreign Ministry [official website, English version], saying that Russia's decision also violates the UN Charter [text] and 1975 Helsinki Declaration [text] of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). The UN Security Council [official website] most recently adopted a resolution [text] affirming the integrity of Georgia's borders in May. Australia's ABC News has more. From Tblisi, the Messenger has local coverage.

On Wednesday, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev [official website] participated in an interview [text] with Al Jazeera, in which he commented that "what we are talking about here is a fairly standard if rare international procedure, that of recognizing a new state, a new subject of international law." Medvedev had announced his decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in a speech [text] on Tuesday, calling it "the only possibility to save human lives." Medvedev cited the 1970 Declaration on the Principles of International Law Governing Friendly Relations Between States, the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Declaration as his legal basis for the decision. Russia and Georgia have both filed complaints [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court as a result of the recent conflict, with each alleging that the other has committed war crimes.





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Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Algeria
Abigail Salisbury on August 26, 2008 4:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Tuesday announced [press release] that two Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to Algeria. The DOD hailed the move as proof of the effectiveness of its review processes, and stated that another 65 detainees are scheduled for transfer. Plans for the transfer were first made public [press release; JURIST report] in July, and it is estimated that 265 detainees remain at the base. The Bradenton Herald has more.

Algerian Justice Minister Tayeb Belaiz indicated in March that officials from his country had visited Guantanamo to identify Algerian detainees [JURIST report], and said that although the country would accept repatriation of the 17 then still held there, some might face criminal charges upon their return. Another Algerian, Sufyian Barhoumi [charge sheet, PDF] was among a group of three Guantanamo prisoners charged [JURIST report] in May with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on alleged involvement with an al Qaeda bomb-making group in Pakistan and Afghanistan.






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ICTR begins genocide trial of former Rwanda military officer
Leslie Schulman on August 26, 2008 4:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Lieutenant-Colonel Ephrem Setako [ICTR case materials] went to trial Tuesday [ICTR press release] before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website]. Setako is the former director of the Judicial Affairs Division of the Rwandan Ministry of Defence, and served as a colonel for the Rwandan armed forces during the 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder]. He is accused of inciting, ordering, or authorizing the mass killings of Tutsi civilians, as well as distributing weapons used in the massacre. Setako was arrested in Amsterdam on February 25, 2004, and subsequently pleaded not guilty [ICTR press release] to six counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violating the Geneva Convention. UN News Centre has more.

The ICTR was established by the UN in 1995 to try those suspected of having committed genocide during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis, in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, were killed. Earlier this month, an independent Rwandan commission issued a report [BBC report] accusing France of knowing of the genocide and providing training assistance to Hutus, as well as directly aiding in the killings. French officials have denied the allegations [NY Times report].






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States sue EPA over Clean Air Act compliance for oil refineries
Leslie Schulman on August 26, 2008 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo [official website] announced on Monday that twelve states have filed suit [press release] against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] for its alleged failure to enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act [text; EPA materials] requiring oil refineries to adopt measures curbing the pollution contributing to global warming. The lawsuit, filed in the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website], alleges that the EPA is required to issue so-called New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) [EPA materials] to oil refineries, power plants, and any other facility the EPA concludes emits air pollution posing a danger to public health. These standards, once issued, require the facility to install new technologies mitigating the release of such pollutants. According to the complaint, on June 24 the EPA finalized new air pollution control standards [PDF text] for oil refineries without issuing an NSPS, violating the Clean Air Act's protocols. Along with New York, the other states joining in the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, and Delaware. AP has more.

The lawsuit is the latest attempt by New York and several other states to force the EPA to comply with Clean Air Act terms requiring global warming pollution regulation. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] vacated [decision, PDF; JURIST report] a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] rule [Federal Register notice] prohibiting state and local governments from monitoring air pollution below acceptable levels set by the EPA for "stationary" sources such as power plants and factories. Earlier this year, 14 states sued the EPA over new smog regulations [JURIST report]. In 2006, a group of states sued the EPA [JURIST report] over its alleged failure to regulate smog emissions from power plants.






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District court upholds Massachusetts law mandating abortion protester 'buffer zone'
Joe Shaulis on August 26, 2008 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Joseph Tauro [official profile] held [PDF text] Friday that a Massachusetts statute [text] establishing a 35-foot buffer zone outside facilities which perform abortions [JURIST news archive] does not violate protesters' constitutional rights. Tauro found that the law does not unconstitutionally burden First Amendment rights or the guarantees of equal protection or due process. In upholding the statute as a valid time, place and manner regulation of speech, Tauro wrote:

[T]he law does not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further these public safety goals. ... "[T]he government is not required to choose the least restrictive approach in content-neutral regulation." Here, the Legislature appears to have carefully considered and balanced the Act's effects on speech with the Commonwealth's legitimate governmental interests. The result was a 35-foot fixed buffer zone that targeted the problematic areas (areas immediately adjacent to [clinic] entrances and driveways), during the problematic times.
Tauro noted that other federal courts, including the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive], have upheld similar fixed buffer zones.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill amending the statute [JURIST report] last year, substituting the fixed buffer zone for a "floating" one that prohibited protesters from coming within six feet of other individuals without their consent. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official website] defended the law on Monday, saying it protects public safety and ensures access to medical care while preserving alternate opportunities for expression. She commented [press release; AP report], "The previous buffer zone statute was a step in the right direction, but was difficult, if not impossible, to enforce."





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China committee considers criminal code amendments
Devin Montgomery on August 26, 2008 12:40 PM ET

[JURIST] A change to Chinese criminal law [1997 text] which would strengthen insider trading prohibitions was introduced before the country's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (SCNPC) [government backgrounder] on Monday. If adopted during the committee's week-long session, the amendment would prohibit employees from using not only classified, but also other non-public information to buy stocks. The committee will also consider amendments which increase penalties for those who illegally use or copy military license plates in order to gain additional vehicle privileges, and for those who organize or participate in pyramid schemes [Xinhua reports]. Xinhua has more.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken steps to increase controls over insider trading, and announced [press release; JURIST report] earlier this month that it had reached a tentative agreement [PDF text] with ten US stock exchanges to centralize insider trading controls among the institutions. Under that plan, the programs to prevent and detect insider trading will be centrally controlled by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and a section of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) [corporate websites], instead of having each exchange run its own program. 






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Swiss drop money-laundering charges against Pakistan presidential candidate
Joe Shaulis on August 26, 2008 12:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Swiss Prosecutor General Daniel Zappelli announced on Monday that he will not pursue money-laundering charges against Pakistani presidential candidate Asif Ali Zardari [CV; BBC profile], who is the widower of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Zappelli explained that Geneva was left with insufficient evidence to continue after authorities in Pakistan [JURIST news archive] dropped their own corruption and smuggling charges [JURIST report] against Zardari, who heads the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website]. Zardari and Bhutto had been suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million paid by companies which contracted with the Pakistani government to perform customs inspections, but Pakistani authorities dismissed charges against Bhutto shortly after she was assassinated last year [JURIST reports]. Zappelli has unfrozen $60 million in seized assets [Reuters report] but Geneva's government will receive over $3 million. AP has more. PakTribune.com has local coverage.

If elected, Zardari would be the successor to Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive], who announced his resignation [JURIST report] earlier this month in order to avoid impeachment for his alleged abuses of authority, including the mass dismissal of judges [JURIST report] last year. On Monday, Pakistan's coalition government dissolved [JURIST report] after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif withdrew his Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) [official website] party over the failure to reach an agreement with the PPP to reinstate the ousted judges.






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Former Guantanamo detainees petition US Supreme Court to hear rights appeal
Devin Montgomery on August 26, 2008 10:33 AM ET

[JURIST] British nationals and former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal Al-Harith have petitioned [cert. petition, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website] to hear a lawsuit [advocacy backgrounder] in which they seek religious rights and protection from torture for those still at the facility. In the petition, docketed [08-235 text] Monday, the men argue that a lower court's dismissal of their claims [JURIST report] should be reversed after Boumediene v. Bush [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court ruled that that detainees have the right to file habeas corpus petitions in federal court. The men argue that the Court should hear the case because of the gravity of the issues addressed and the claimed error of the lower court:

Guanta?namo continues to present numerous jurisprudential challenges to the judiciary. This case provides a critical opportunity for this Court to affirm strongly the guarantee to Guanta?namo detainees of an irreducible minimum of human rights. It is essential for this Court to reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision, which manifests indifference to religious abuse and torture and flouts the Guanta?namo jurisprudence carefully developed and expounded by this Court.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] had previously dismissed the plaintiffs' Alien Tort Statute [text] claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, along with their Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text] claim because of their status as "enemy combatants."  The Supreme Court is scheduled to decide whether to grant certiorari on or before September 24. AFP has more.

The appellants in the case are among eight former British detainees who in April sued [JURIST report] the UK's MI5 and MI6 [official websites] intelligence services over alleged complicity with the US in their abduction and subsequent treatment, which included interrogation. In that suit the appellants, who were released from Guantanamo [JURIST report] in March 2004, were joined by four other UK citizens released from the detention center in December and April [JURIST reports] of 2007.





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US to provide funding for Cambodia genocide court: ambassador
Joe Shaulis on August 26, 2008 10:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The US will begin providing direct financial aid to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] once the genocide tribunal takes adequate measures against corruption, stated outgoing US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli [official profile] on Monday during his final press conference in Phnom Penh. The UN-sponsored court was established to try former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leaders accused of committing genocide during the 1970s, but has received little funding from international donors due to allegations of kickbacks and other irregularities [Phnom Penh Post report]. Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith announced Sunday that a draft anti-corruption law would be presented to the National Assembly [official website] next month when the newly elected body convenes. The proposed law, advocated by donor nations [JURIST report], has been in the works for more than a decade. AFP has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.

In June, the ECCC announced it had significantly reduced its budget [JURIST report] and would complete its work a year early, in 2010, because of the shortfall. An independent audit earlier this year cleared the ECCC of financial mismanagement [JURIST report]. Among the Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial is former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], also known as Duch, who was indicted last month [JURIST report] on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions.






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Arkansas ballot to contain proposed ban on unmarried foster parents
Joe Shaulis on August 26, 2008 8:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Arkansas Secretary of State [official website] Charlie Daniels has certified a ballot measure [text; AR AG opinion, PDF] which could prohibit gays, lesbians and other unmarried cohabiting couples from becoming either foster or adoptive parents. Daniels announced [press release] Monday that the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee [advocacy website] had submitted petitions containing the valid signatures of more than 85,000 registered voters - nearly 25,000 more than needed to place the measure on the November ballot. The proposed act provides, in part, that

(a) A minor may not be adopted or placed in a foster home if the individual seeking to adopt or to serve as a foster parent is cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage which is valid under the constitution and laws of this state.
(b) The prohibition of this section applies equally to cohabiting opposite-sex and same-sex individuals.
The measure further stipulates that "it is in the best interest of children in need of adoption or foster care to be reared in homes in which adoptive or foster parents are not cohabiting outside of marriage." The group Arkansas Families First [advocacy website] has announced plans to challenge the ballot measure in court [press release] because of alleged duplications, forgeries and other irregularities in the petitions submitted to Daniels. AP has more.

The ballot measure follows a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court decision [PDF text] that struck down an administrative regulation [JURIST report] specifically prohibiting homosexuals from rearing foster children. Reacting to that decision, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested that such a ban be implemented through legislation [JURIST report]. Arkansas, like many states, has amended its constitution [PDF text] to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive]. An initiative prohibiting same-sex marriage is on the ballot in California this year despite an attempt to remove it [JURIST reports]. That measure would overcome a California Supreme Court decision [JURIST report] holding that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the state constitution.





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Thailand prosecutors ask court to seize assets of ex-PM Thaksin and wife
Abigail Salisbury on August 25, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors in Thailand have asked the nation's Supreme Court to seize over $2 billion from the frozen accounts and holdings of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who already forfeited nearly $400,000 when they fled to the UK while on bail from corruption charges. Earlier this month, the Court announced plans to try the two in absentia [AP report; JURIST report] after the couple refused to return from the UK and accused the Court of bias [JURIST reports] against them. Arrest warrants were issued [Bangkok Post report] when they failed to appear in court. The Thai government is reportedly seeking their extradition [Bloomberg report] from the UK. Xinhua has more. The Telegraph has additional coverage.

Last month, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin for his role in a 2003 resolution reducing fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. In April, Pojamarn pleaded not guilty to charges [JURIST reports] stemming from a 2003 agreement with the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website] to purchase land said to be worth three times more than the $26 million she paid for it. Lawyers for Thaksin have been jailed [JURIST report] for attempting to bribe court officials in one of Thaksin's cases, and current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] is facing possible impeachment proceedings [JURIST report] due in part to his party's close association with Thaksin.






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Pakistan coalition dissolves due to inability to reach agreement on judges
Abigail Salisbury on August 25, 2008 2:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Pakistani prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] head Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] on Monday followed through with threats [JURIST report] to withdraw his party from the coalition government. Sharif had set Friday as the deadline for the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to agree on the reinstatement of all of the judges ousted last year by President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive], who recently resigned [press release; JURIST report] from office. Sharif has focused his push for reinstatement on former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], and has said that he considers the Supreme Court as currently constituted to be illegitimate. Reuters India has more. AP has additional coverage.

Prior to Musharraf's resignation, Sharif had called for the leader to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" done to the country in the years since his military coup [BBC backgrounder] unseated Sharif in 1999. In 2000, Sharif was convicted for his involvement in an attempt to prevent Musharraf's plane from landing in Pakistan during the 1999 coup. This conviction has been central to the litigation [JURIST report] determining Sharif's eligibility to run for office in the future.






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Guantanamo detainees desired martyrdom: US Navy investigators
Deirdre Jurand on August 25, 2008 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website] said Friday that notes found in the clothes of three Guantanamo detainees who committed suicide [JURIST report] in 2006 indicated that they were seeking martyrdom. Military investigations of the suicides began [JURIST report] immediately after the two Saudi and one Yemeni men were found in their cells, and the military quickly rejected calls for independent civilian investigations. The military similarly rejected requests by the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia [JURIST reports] to reform the investigation process. The NCIS has now reportedly closed the investigation. AP has more.

Military officials said that the three detainees, who hanged themselves using nooses made from sheets and clothes, had participated in hunger strikes and were among those who had been force-fed [JURIST report]. None of the detainees had previously attempted suicide. Reacting to the deaths, rights groups condemned prisoners' continued indefinite detention at Guantanamo. Amnesty International [advocacy website] said the deaths "are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention" and should serve as "an indictment on [Guantanamo's] deteriorating human rights record." The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website], which represents several hundred detainees, called for the detainees to "be taken to court or released."






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Texas appellate court refuses to dismiss charges against DeLay associates
Joe Shaulis on August 25, 2008 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] The Texas Third Court of Appeals [official website] has allowed money-laundering indictments to stand against two alleged co-conspirators of former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) [JURIST news archive], rejecting their argument that the state laws used to prosecute them were unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. The Austin-based intermediate appellate court on Friday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a trial court's denial of habeas relief sought by John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, who were originally indicted [JURIST report] in 2004. The defendants are accused of accepting $190,000 in illegal campaign contributions from corporations and transferring the money to the Republican National Committee [party website], which then allegedly donated the same amount to candidates for the Texas Legislature. The court concluded that restrictions on corporate campaign contributions in the Texas Elections Code [PDF, text] need not survive strict scrutiny, and Justice G. Alan Waldrop wrote:

[W]e believe that a person of ordinary intelligence is capable of intending and designating his or her contributions to a political committee to be for lawful purposes unrelated to supporting or opposing a political candidate. Whether misuse of such funds by the political committee or innocent redistribution of such funds for unlawful purposes may have implications for the contributor or raise additional constitutional concerns is not before us in this appeal.
An attorney for DeLay predicted [Austin American-Statesman report] on Monday that the charges against the defendants would eventually be dismissed because the defendants are accused of accepting checks, while the appellate court concluded that the term "funds" applied only to cash until the language was amended in 2005. AP has more. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.

DeLay himself still faces money-laundering and conspiracy charges, although another conspiracy charge was dismissed [JURIST report] last year. Following his indictment in 2005, DeLay stepped down as House majority leader, later resigning from Congress and eventually withdrawing his candidacy for re-election [JURIST reports]. Separately, a former aide to DeLay pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in 2006 to conspiring with lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] and others to bribe public officials. The US Senate Indian Affairs Committee that year issued a report [JURIST report] calling the connections between Abramoff and another former DeLay aide "astonishing." US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements [JURIST report] after accepting money and gifts in exchange for taking actions on behalf of Abramoff and his clients.





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US soldier deported from Canada sentenced to prison for desertion
Deirdre Jurand on August 24, 2008 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge in Colorado sentenced US Army Pfc. Robin Long [advocacy website] Friday to 15 months in prison, dishonorable discharge and demotion after Long pleaded guilty to desertion with intent to remain away permanently. Long fled to Canada in 2005 in moral opposition to the war in Iraq and filed for refugee status [Refugee Protection Division website] there, but a Canadian immigration judge denied [opinion, RTF] his motion in August 2007, writing:

I find nothing in the claimant’s evidence that would support a finding that he could not rely upon the state to protect him from persecution or any other harm. There is no support for a finding that it was objectively reasonable for the claimant not to have sought protection in his country.
Canadian officials deported [JURIST report] Long to the US in July. US authorities initially charged him with desertion with intent to shirk hazardous duty, a more serious offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice [885. Art. 85 text], but Long pleaded to the lesser offense of desertion with intent to remain away permanently the same day as the scheduled start [press release] of his court-martial proceedings. The New York Times has more. The Toronto Star has additional coverage.

In early July, Canada's House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution to grant US military deserters asylum [Globe and Mail report]. In November 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] declined to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman [JURIST news archive] and Brandon Hughey [advocacy website], two US military deserters who had unsuccessfully applied for asylum [JURIST report] before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) [official website]. The IRB had concluded [decision text; JURIST report] that the two men would receive a fair trial if they were returned to the US and that they would not face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment.





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ICTY assigns Scottish judge to oversee Karadzic war crimes trial preparations
Deirdre Jurand on August 24, 2008 8:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] announced Friday that a Scottish judge will preside over the preparatory stages of the upcoming war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive]. The designation of Judge Iain Bonomy [ICTY biography], who served on the ICTY trial court for late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive], followed Thursday's announcement [JURIST report] that there would be a new panel of judges assigned to the case. Karadzic recently requested the new panel [JURIST report], arguing that presiding Judge Alphons Orie [DPA profile] and other judges initially assigned were biased against him because they had overseen ICTY cases brought against various other former Bosnian Serb leaders, and would want to maintain their own lines of reasoning. To illustrate his argument, Karadzic pointed to the case of Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY backgrounder], who was sentenced [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] to 27 years imprisonment for crimes similar to those of which Karadzic is accused. According to ICTY spokesperson Nerma Jelacic, the moves were made to ensure proper trial management and not because of the request from Karadzic. Bonomy is scheduled to hear Karadzic's pleas on August 29. BBC News has more. The Scotsman has additional coverage.

Karadzic, who has been indicted [text] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, was arrested [JURIST report] in Serbia in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. Later that month, Serbian authorities transferred [press release] Karadzic to the custody of the ICTY. Karadzic was originally indicted [text] in 1995, but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report] until his arrest. He is accused of involvement in the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] massacre and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.






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DC Circuit rules Sarbanes-Oxley board provisions constitutional
Steve Czajkowski on August 23, 2008 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in a 2-1 decision Friday that provisions in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [PDF text] establishing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) [official website] are constitutional. In 2006, the Free Enterprise Fund, a non-profit public interest organization promoting economic growth, lower taxes, and limited government, and a Nevada accounting firm, Beckstead and Watts, LLP [corporate website], challenged [JURIST report] certain portions of the legislation alleging that it violated separation of powers doctrine because it did not give the President sufficient control over the agency. The Court majority wrote:

In appellants’ view this statutory scheme vests Board members “with far reaching executive power while completely stripping the President of the authority to appoint or remove those members or otherwise supervise or control their exercise of that power.” Appellants’ Br. at 1. But their facial challenge ignores the entirety of the statutory scheme and runs afoul of the Supreme Court’s instruction regarding the nature of the President’s constitutional relationship with independent administrative agencies. Supreme Court precedent as we have it does not support appellants’ singular focus on removal powers as the be-all and end-all of Executive authority, but rather compels a more nuanced approach that examines the myriad means of Executive control.

We hold, first, that the Act does not encroach upon the Appointment power because, in view of the Commission’s comprehensive control of the Board, Board members are subject to direction and supervision of the Commission and thus are inferior officers not required to be appointed by the President. Second, we hold that the for-cause limitations on the Commission’s power to remove Board members and the President’s power to remove Commissioners do not strip the President of sufficient power to influence the Board and thus do not contravene separation of powers, as that principle embraces independent agencies like the Commission and their exercise of broad authority over their subordinates. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to the Board and the United States.
In 2007, the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] in favor of the PCAOB, finding that the plaintiffs' facial challenge failed to establish that no set of circumstances could exist under which the Act would be valid. Beckstead has said that it will either appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court or attempt to have another hearing before the full panel of the appeals court. Bloomberg has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Consistent with the overall purpose of Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB was created in response to the collapse of Enron and the other corporate fraud scandals [JURIST news archives] that made headlines in 2002. The five-member PCAOB is appointed and overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website].





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US immigration authority abandons voluntary deportation program
Steve Czajkowski on August 23, 2008 11:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] Friday abandoned a pilot program [fact sheet; press release] it created to allow certain illegal immigrants to coordinate their removal from the US with ICE without the risk of home raids, arrest or detention. The Scheduled Departure Program was a pilot program [JURIST report] started on August 5 that ran through August 22 in five major cities [program overview], designed for illegal immigrants without criminal records who had ignored official removal orders. The program was considered by many to be a failure after only eight people turned themselves in. It was estimated that 457,000 were eligible for the program, including 30,000 located in the test cities of Charlotte, Chicago, Santa Ana, Phoenix, and San Diego. Jim Hayes [official profile], acting director of ICE's Office of Detention and Removal (DRO) [ICE Operations sheet], did not express disappointment in the program, but told [AP report] the Associated Press Thursday, "Quite frankly, I think this proves the only method that works is enforcement." Immigration rights groups such as Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) [advocacy website] and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles [advocacy website] had expressed doubt about the program from the start, saying there was little incentive for immigrants to turn themselves in. The San Antonio Express has more.

ICE maintains a number of additional initiatives [fact sheet] to combat illegal immigration, including an increased number of raids. In May, 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 the same month targeting 495 people who had ignored deportation orders, resulting in the arrest of more than 900 illegal immigrants [ICE press release].






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Two US Marines held in contempt in Fallujah killings civil trial
Steve Czajkowski on August 23, 2008 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] found two US Marines in contempt of court Friday after the two declined to testify against their former squad leader in a trial over the killing of Iraqi detainees during the Multinational Force-Iraq's November 2004 offensive [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Fallujah [archived USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. Judge Stephen Larson held Sgt. Ryan G. Weemer [JURIST news archive] and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson in contempt after the two invoked their Fifth Amendment [text] right against self-incrimination when asked to testify against former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario [JURIST news archive] in his civil trial [JURIST report]. Assistant US Attorney Jerry Behnke asked Larson to sentence the men to six months in jail in order to compel their testimony, but the judge refused even though he had previously sentenced [JURIST report] the men to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury about the same events. A hearing is set for September 29 on the contempt charges. AP has more. The Los Angeles 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 in a job interview with the US Secret Service that he had seen indiscriminate killings in Fallujah. Both Weemer and Nelson face court-martial on charges of murder and dereliction of duty [USMC charge sheet] as active members of the military in connection with the same incident as Nazario. They were indicted in March [press release; JURIST report] and December [JURIST report] respectively.






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Seventh Circuit rules use of immigrant documents in criminal trials constitutional
Deirdre Jurand on August 23, 2008 9:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Judges for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the use of specific documents from an illegal immigrant's alien-registration file during the immigrant's criminal trial is constitutional. The issue came before the court when the defendant, Franklin Burgos, appealed his conviction on one count of illegal reentry into the US [8 USC 1326(b)(2) text] subsequent to a conviction for commission of an aggravated felony, arguing that the US government's use of his deportation warrant and certificate of nonexistence of record (CNR) violated the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause [LII backgrounder; amendment text]. In holding that there was no violation of the Confrontation Clause because the records did not constitute testimony against the defendant, the court wrote:

These documents have many attributes in common with business records. A warrant of deportation records the movement of a deported alien; the signing witness attests to the alien’s departure from the country. The warrant’s primary purpose is to memorialize the deportation, not to prove facts in a potential future criminal prosecution. ...

[B]ecause the database underlying the CNR is not maintained for the primary purpose of proving facts in criminal prosecutions, the CNR itself, attesting to the absence of a record within that database, is a nontestimonial business record.
The court also found that even if the trial judge denied Burgos' request for new counsel, judges have wide discretion in granting changes of counsel, and a denial in this case would not have constituted abuse of discretion.

US immigration prosecutions have continued to increase [JURIST report] this year, jumping nearly 50 percent from February to March and nearly 75 percent from the previous year, according to a report [text; press release] released in June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) [official website] 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 criminal charge in immigration prosecutions.





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Ninth Circuit rules subprime borrower due no damages for lender disclosure failures
Deirdre Jurand on August 23, 2008 8:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA) [text] does not provide for statutory relief for a lender's failure to conspicuously disclose certain information about a loan to the borrower and to give the borrower certain information before offering the loan. The issue came before the court as an appeal from an earlier decision [text, PDF] by the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel [official website], which held that a debtor who had borrowed money through a subprime payday loan [FDIC backgrounder] could not later recover for the lender's failure to abide by conspicuous-disclosure [15 USC s. 1632(a) text] and information-sharing [15 USC 1638(b)(1) text] requirements. In affirming that decision, judges for the Court of Appeals wrote:

[A] consumer may not recover statutory damages under § 1640(a) for violations of § 1638(b)(1) and its corresponding regulations, 12 C.F.R § 226.17(b). As the Trustee has not enforced any liability under § 1640(a)(2), she is not entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to § 1640(a)(3). ...

A violation of § 1632(a) cannot form the basis for statutory damages, as it does not fall within the closed list of § 1638(a) subsections, violations of which can support an award of statutory damages.
The circuit court also affirmed the bankruptcy court's decision that the plaintiff had not shown that the debtor detrimentally relied on the loan information available to him, and so found that he was not entitled to actual damages.

In June, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] announced that more than 400 people had been indicted [press release; JURIST report] in connection with what has been termed the US "sub-prime mortgage collapse." Most 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.





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Russian court denies early release for former Yukos Oil executive
Devin Montgomery on August 22, 2008 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian court on Friday rejected an application for parole made by former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive], who applied for early release [JURIST report] from Krasnokamensk penal colony [Guardian Khodorkovsky backgrounder] in July. Khodorkovsky headed the now-bankrupt OAO Yukos Oil Co. [Time backgrounder] and was sent to prison by the Russian government in 2005 to serve an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. A court judge said the application was rejected because Khodorkovsky had disobeyed guards' orders, refused to participate in a training program, and is facing 20 more years in prison if convicted on new charges [press release; Bloomberg report] of theft and money laundering. AFP has more. RIA Novosti has local coverage.

Prosecutors had first indicted Khodorkovsky on the additional money laundering charges in February 2007, after announcing plans to do so [JURIST reports] in January of that year. A Russian court had originally ordered that he be transferred to a Moscow prison while the charges were investigated, but that order was later vacated despite a lawsuit by his lawyers [JURIST reports] seeking the move. Khodorkovsky, an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has always maintained his innocence and insisted that the charges against him are politically motivated, but Russian prosecutors have denied the accusations [JURIST report].






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Cambodia prosecutors seek added charges against Khmer Rouge leader
Devin Montgomery on August 22, 2008 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday appealed [statement, PDF] the indictment of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], also known as "Duch," saying it should have included additional charges. The court had issued a closing order [PDF text; JURIST report] earlier this month to officially indict Duch on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. In a statement [PDF text] responding to the appeal, the court made no comment other than to say that the appeal would delay the trial, which was to be tribunal's first since it was was established in 2006. Duch, who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, is one of five top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] currently in ECCC custody. AFP has more. The Phnom Penh Post has local coverage.

In April, ECCC officials said that the court expected to complete its investigation [JURIST report] of Duch by July. Duch was arrested in 1999 on genocide charges and was subsequently charged with war crimes by a military court in March and with crimes against humanity [JURIST reports] by the ECCC in July. It is thought that those charges were brought to keep Duch in custody while the ECCC began its initial operations. A panel of ECCC judges ruled late last year that Duch should not be granted bail [JURIST report] while preparations for his trial continue.






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Second Circuit rules attorney fees may be included in corporate restitution awards
Devin Montgomery on August 22, 2008 9:36 AM ET

Photo source or description
JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Thursday that lawyers' fees may be included in restitution awards granted to corporate fraud victims. The Second Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision to order Joseph Amato and John Fasciana to pay $12.8 million in restitution, including over $3 million in lawyers' fees, to their former employer, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) [corporate website], for inflating performance figures in order to receive undeserved commissions, and otherwise embezzling money from the company. Amato and Fasciana had argued that the award of the fees was not allowed under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA) [text] because the costs were not directly caused by their actions, but the court disagreed:
...even assuming attorney fees and auditing costs must be a direct and foreseeable result of the offense -- such a requirement was clearly met here. Defendants perpetrated a complicated fraud against a large corporation and a number of its clients, as well as the states to which those clients were required to turn over... funds. That this fraud would force the corporation to expend large sums of money on its own internal investigation as well as its participation in the government's investigation and prosecution of defendants' offenses is not surprising. There is no doubt that EDS's attorney fees and auditing costs were a direct and foreseeable result of defendants' offenses.
In July, The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] ruled [decision, PDF; JURIST report] that criminal courts have no authority to direct restitution payments [backgrounder] to anyone other than a victim. That issue came before the court in a case where the defendant was ordered to make scheduled restitution payments to a victim under the MVRA. The two had tried to make a deal reducing the amount, and a lower court had sent the remaining payments to a third party in order to settle a debt for the defendant.



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Brokerage firms reach auction rate securities agreement with regulators
Steve Czajkowski on August 22, 2008 9:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Three of the largest brokerage firms in the US reached a settlement [press release] with the New York Attorney General's office [official website] and securities regulators representing 48 states on Thursday, agreeing to pay $10 billion to investors who purchased auction rate securities. The agreement is the result of an effort to settle claims that Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank [corporate websites] had misled investors about the safety of auction rate securities during marketing and sales of the investments. According to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo [official profile], the banking firms will buy back all such securities held by retail investors, a group including all individuals, charities, non-profits, and small to medium size businesses. Commenting on the agreement, Cuomo said:

Today is a win for investors and a win for the market, and to date we’ve returned close to $50 billions back into the pockets of investors... At the heart of this investigation, is improving confidence for the investor and for the market, and today we’ve taken another giant step forward towards fulfilling this goal.
The settlement also requires the banks to make payments to any investors who sold the securities for a loss, and require them to pay penalties in the amounts of $125 million for Merill Lynch, $22.5 million for Goldman Sachs, and $15 million for Deutsche Bank. This particular settlement is part of a larger investigation [press release] into 30 different firms which sold approximately $60 million in auction rate securities to retail investors. The Wall Street Journal has more. The New York Sun has additional coverage.

In 2006 Merill Lynch agreed [JURIST report] to pay $164 million to settle 23 class action lawsuits involving Merrill Lynch's research of online companies in the 1990s. Also in 2006, four former Merrill Lynch executives found guilty of charges connected with an Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] Nigerian barge scam, had their convictions overturned [opinion text, PDF; JURIST report] by the Fifth Circuit [official website]. Experts believe that due to the success of the former Merrill Lynch executives, the appeal [JURIST report] of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profile] has a good chance of success. Skilling was convicted under the theory of "deprivation of honest services," which allows for the prosecution of those who enabled fraud but did not personally benefit from it.





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Third Circuit upholds Pennsylvania home school reporting law
Devin Montgomery on August 22, 2008 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Thursday that a Pennsylvania law imposing reporting and curriculum review requirements on parents who home school their children does not violate federal freedom of religion protections. The case was brought by six families who had argued that Act 169 [text], the state law requiring the reviews, illegally burdened their right to freely exercise their religion. The appeals court disagreed and rejected claims the families had brought under the First and Fourteenth amendments [LII backgrounders], as well as the Civil Rights Act [text], saying the regulation did not impose an increased burden on these families:

Act 169 is a neutral law of general applicability. It neither targets religious practice nor selectively imposes burdens on religiously motivated conduct. Instead, it imposes the same requirements on parents who home-school for secular reasons as on parents who do so for religious reasons. Furthermore, nothing in the record suggests Commonwealth school officials discriminate against religiously motivated home education programs (e.g., denying approval of home education programs because they include faith-based curriculum materials). [sic]
The court ordered that the families' remaining claim, that Act 169 violated Pennsylvania's 2002 Religious Freedom Protection Act [text], be remanded to state court.

Religious freedoms in the US have long been a  prominent concern, and in February 2007, former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales initiated [transcript; JURIST report] the First Freedom Project (FFP) [official website], a Department of Justice (DOJ) initiative aimed at stricter enforcement of laws against religious discrimination and educating the public about their rights in this area. As part of the program, the DOJ held training seminars [DOJ materials] across the US, and the FFP website hosted instructions on how to file a religious discrimination complaint [DOJ materials]. The program was prompted by a DOJ report [text] released earlier that month, describing how its Civil Rights Division [official website] had "dramatically increased enforcement" of religious discrimination laws between 2001 and 2006.





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ICTY assigns new judges to Karadzic war crimes trial
Steve Czajkowski on August 22, 2008 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] assigned a new panel of judges Thursday to the upcoming war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive]. The changes come following Karadzic's recent request [JURIST report], in which he argued that presiding Judge Alphons Orie [DPA profile] and other judges assigned to the case are biased against him because they have overseen ICTY cases brought against various other former Bosnian Serb leaders, and would want to maintain their own lines of reasoning. To illustrate his argument, Karadzic pointed to the case of Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY backgrounder], who was sentenced [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] to 27 years imprisonment for crimes similar to those of which Karadzic is accused. According to ICTY spokesperson Nerma Jelacic, the moves were made to ensure proper trial management and not because of the request from Karadzic. Bloomberg has more.

Karadzic, who has been indicted [text] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, was arrested [JURIST report] in Serbia in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. Later that month, Serbian authorities transferred [press release] Karadzic to the custody of the ICTY. Karadzic was originally indicted [text] in 1995, but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report] until his arrest. He is accused of involvement in the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] massacre and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.






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Pakistan ex-PM plans to abandon coalition if reinstatement agreement not reached
Devin Montgomery on August 21, 2008 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Pakistan prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] head Nawaz Sharif has threatened to withdraw from the government if all of the judges ousted last year by President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] are not reinstated by Friday, according to a report [AFP report] published Thursday. Lawyers' groups in the country have also demonstrated [News report] against the failure of Pakistan's ruling coalition to reach an agreement on reinstating the judges, after the negotiations between the PML-N and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) failed [JURIST report] on Wednesday. Sharif said that the controversy centers around the reinstatement of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], and that his party will withdraw from the government if he is not restored to his position. Also Thursday, Pakistan Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum, who was appointed by Musharraf, resigned [Xinhua report] following the former President's decision to step down [press release; JURIST report] on Tuesday. PPP senator Latif Khosa took Qayyum's place.

Earlier this month, the coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports], but subsequently refused to resign or go into exile, and because be had failed to follow through on a promise to ask parliament for a confidence vote. In June, the PML-N called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Kansas City Diocese reaches settlement with abuse victims
Devin Montgomery on August 21, 2008 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] ] The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City [official website] announced [Flash, video; press release] on Thursday that it has agreed to pay $10 million to settle 47 sexual abuse claims against the church. The deal also required the church to publicly renounce the alleged behavior and to take additional steps to prevent future instances of abuse. Kansas City Bishop Robert W. Finn made the public announcement:

We apologize for the fully unacceptable behavior that prompted these lawsuits to be brought against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. With compassion for the victims of this behavior and with sadness over any failure by the diocese to serve as a proper steward of safety and security for our young people and our parishioners, I am here as an individual leader of the diocese to demonstrate institutional accountability for these sad events. I pray that with the settlement of this matter, the healing for all may truly begin...

...In reaching a settlement with lawyers representing the families involved in this case, we took painstaking steps to fully vet all issues enabling thoroughness to be the hallmark of this process. Assured that we have met that standard, we have agreed to fund $10 million in payments to the victims and to adhere to a number of nonmonetary stipulations that should assure our community, our congregation and these families that the diocese will continue in its exercise of vigilance and in its devotion to training and education so that we may be confident there will never, ever be a repeat of the behaviors, the offenses, or the claims that have been associated with this matter.
Many of the priests accused of sexual abuse continue to insist that they are innocent. AP has more. The Kansas City Star has local coverage.

Other dioceses across the country have reached similar settlements. In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] the creation of a $1.25 million fund and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego [diocesan website] announced an agreement [JURIST report] to pay $198.1 million to settle claims of sexual abuse by their clergy. A Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2007 approved a $660 million settlement [JURIST report] between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [diocesan website] and plaintiffs in 508 outstanding clergy sex abuse lawsuits. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against its own priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan. The Archdiocese of Portland filed for Chapter 11 [JURIST report] in 2004, and the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport soon followed suit in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits [JURIST news archive] against clergy. 





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ICC prosecutor reviewing Georgia conflict for war crimes
Abigail Salisbury on August 21, 2008 1:40 PM ET

[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] announced [press release] on Wednesday that his office is reviewing allegations [Reuters report] that war crimes have been committed during the recent conflict over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. On Monday, Russian officials had expressed their intent to file a complaint [JURIST report] against Georgia with the ICC, and said that their government is considering filing another complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website]. Russia's Foreign Ministry has also called for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to be tried for war crimes before the ICC. Last week, Georgia filed a complaint [text, PDF; press release, PDF] against Russia with the ICJ, alleging that invading Russian troops have also engaged in the murder, rape and mass displacement of civilians [JURIST report].

Moreno-Ocampo has recently come under heavy criticism for his prosecutorial tactics and choices. Earlier this week, the president of Human Rights Watch [official website], mediation advisors, and other NGO leaders expressed doubt regarding his judgment [The Guardian report; JURIST report] and concern that his behavior could threaten the credibility of the court. Moreno-Ocampo has also received sharp criticism from both the League of Arab States (LAS) and the African Union (AU) [official websites] for his decision to seek the arrest [JURIST report] of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. In June, a Sudanese ambassador was quoted as calling Moreno-Ocampo a "terrorist" [JURIST report].






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UK court rules Foreign Office must release evidence to Guantanamo detainee
Abigail Salisbury on August 21, 2008 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] London's High Court on Thursday ruled [PDF, judgment] that the UK Foreign Office must turn over evidence [Independent report] "essential" to the defense of Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile], the last British resident still detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Lawyers representing Mohamed at his US military commission trial had appeared [JURIST report] before the High Court in July, arguing that the Foreign Office possessed evidence showing that Mohamed was tortured and went through extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive]. A Foreign Office spokesperson commented [press release]:

For strong reasons of national security, to which the Court accepted we were entitled to give the highest weight, we could not agree to disclose this information voluntarily. These and other issues relating to national security will be considered at a further hearing next week.
Mohamed's lawyers have also asked the Irish government [Irish Times report] to turn over information about CIA rendition flights [JURIST news archive] which allegedly landed in Ireland in 2002 and 2004 while transporting Mohamed.

Mohamed says he was arrested in Pakistan and turned over to US officials who later transferred him to Moroccan agents who tortured him; he was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. In December, in a letter [DOC, text] sent by his lawyer to UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, he asked the UK government [JURIST report] to ensure that photographic evidence of his alleged torture be preserved. For most of 2007, Binyam was one of five UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Three of those were released [press release; JURIST report] from US custody in December. The official status of a fourth detainee remains unclear.





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Sixth Circuit upholds Tennessee school ban on wearing Confederate flag
Abigail Salisbury on August 21, 2008 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court's grant of summary judgment to a Tennessee public high school in a lawsuit brought by three students who claimed the school's ban on wearing the Confederate flag [university course backgrounder] violated their First Amendment, Equal Protection, and Due Process rights under the US Constitution. The students had argued that they wanted to wear the flag on their clothing to express their pride in their southern heritage. The Sixth Circuit carefully limited its holding in the case:

We caution, however, that our decision today does not establish a precedent justifying a school’s ban on student speech merely because other students find that speech offensive: we simply hold that the school’s dress code as applied to ban the Confederate flag is constitutional because of the disruptive potential of the flag in a school where racial tension is high and serious racially motivated incidents, such as physical altercations or threats of violence, have occurred.
The court reasoned that there was no First Amendment violation because "the school reasonably forecast that images of the Confederate flag would substantially and materially disrupt the school environment," held that the Equal Protection guarantee was not infringed because "the dress code’s ban on racially divisive symbols" satisfied intermediate scrutiny, and determined that the students had forfeited their Due Process claim by not sufficiently developing it. AP has more.

In 2003, the Fourth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the dismissal of a suit filed by Matthew Dixon, a man who was fired for displaying Confederate flag stickers at work [New York Times report]. South Carolina's Coburn Dairy, Inc. fired Dixon for continuing to display the stickers on his toolbox after a black co-worker complained. Dixon argued that the company violated his First Amendment rights and state employment laws, but the company maintained that Dixon was fired because he violated the company's harassment policy.





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Iraq signs Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Abigail Salisbury on August 21, 2008 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The Preparatory Commission [official website] for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) announced [press release; Xinhua report] on Wednesday that Iraq has signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) [PDF text]. Only a few of the world's major nations are not CTBT signatories. The US signed the CTBT in 1996, but has cited national security concerns as justification for withholding ratification, and boycotted [JURIST reports] a 2005 UN conference designed to encourage the treaty's passage. The Preparatory Commission announced Thursday that it is completing advance set-up work for its Integrated Field Exercise [press release] in Kazakhstan, where during September it will search for any evidence of recent nuclear testing. The Exercise is meant to demonstrate the effectiveness of the CTBT's verification procedures.

Last November, Iraq announced its intention [JURIST report] to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) [PDF text] and become a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website]. The CWC prohibits the use or undeclared storage of chemical weapons by member nations. Iraqi President Jalal Talibani [BBC profile] commented that acceding to the Convention would allow Iraq to seek help from other members in eradicating environmental problems caused by the use of chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign [HRW backgrounder] against ethnic Kurds. Iraq has yet to complete the joining process, and still must deposit instruments of accession with the UN.






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US senator loses bid to move corruption trial to Alaska
Kiely Lewandowski on August 21, 2008 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] A US district court judge ruled Wednesday that US Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) [official website; JURIST news archive] cannot transfer his corruption trial to Alaska from Washington, DC. Rejecting Stevens' argument that he needed to be in Alaska to campaign for re-election, US District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that the offense alleged in the indictment occurred in Washington and any change in venue would cause unnecessary delay and additional expense. Stevens released a statement on the decision, stating [text]:

I urged my attorneys to request a venue change because I wanted Alaskans to have a first-hand opportunity to learn the facts of this matter. I understand the court’s decision today, and continue to have every faith in the fairness of the American judicial system and the court’s commitment to conduct a speedy trial. I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that I am innocent of these charges.
The Washington Post has local coverage. The New York Times has more.

Stevens was indicted [PDF text; JURIST report] last month on seven counts of making false statements [18 USC s. 1001(a) text] relating to an alleged corruption scheme and for falsifying his Financial Disclosure forms. Stevens allegedly accepted about $250,000 in gifts over an eight-year period from the founder of oil services and engineering company VECO Corp [corporate website] and in exchange reportedly used his influence in Washington to improperly benefit the company and its employees.





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Chicago group files challenge to Illinois public school funding system
Kiely Lewandowski on August 21, 2008 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chicago Urban League (CUL) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit insisting that Illinois' current school funding scheme be declared unconstitutional in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 [text]. CUL challenges [complaint, PDF] the state's method for raising and distributing education funds to local school districts, which it claims results in "constitutionally inadequate educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Illinois public school children." CUL asserts that the state's public school funding scheme is "fatally flawed" because it relies too heavily on local property taxes, therefore reinforcing past discrimination and ensuring that certain school districts have "no capacity to raise the revenues they desperately need to close the funding gap," explaining:

the continuous and unmitigated harm that results each year from the state's persistent failure to meet its constitutional obligation to treat all students equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, to provide all Illinois students with access to equal education opportunity and to provide a system of schools offering a "high quality" education, is irreparable and unconscionable.
CUL President Cheryle R. Jackson said [press release]:
Our children, especially African Americans and Latinos, have been left behind because of poorly funded schools while their white counterparts in wealthy communities are thriving. Their basic right to a quality education is being denied. Through our litigation and civic engagement around this issue, we want to make sure no more children are given a second-class education.
The Chicago Tribune has local coverage; Reuters has more.

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] on New Mexico's public school funding system, and found that the US Department of Education is permitted by statute to refer to the number of students in a school district as well as the per-student expenditures in school districts when determining whether a state "equalizes expenditures" among public school districts.





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Iraq planning to prosecute prison torture suspects: rights officials
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry have said that they plan to prosecute those suspected of torturing inmates of the country's prison system, according to a Wednesday report [AFP report]. The country signed on to the UN's Convention Against Torture [text] on Sunday, but has not yet explicitly prohibited the practice. Prosecutors say they will find a way to use existing laws to charge offenders. The officials say the have documented dozens of cases of torture in Iraqi-run detention facilities, and that United Nations Special Investigator on Torture Manfred Nowak [UN materials], who has voiced grave concern over conditions in the country [BBC report], plans to visit Iraq in October. In 2005 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] issued a report [HRW materials, press release] citing numerous incidents of torture and prisoner abuse in the country since the 2003 US invasion.

In November 2005 US troops found 173 prisoners [JURIST report], many abused, in a secret bunker run by the Interior Ministry. Earlier that year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that Iraq's detention practices may violate international law and expressed concern [JURIST report] over the failure of Coalition forces to publish the results of their investigation into the torture allegations. In December 2005 Iraq Interior Minister Bayan Jabr [CBS profile] fired [JURIST report] Nouri al-Nouri, the country's senior inspector handling human rights issues, in connection with a torture scandal involving dozens of prisoners at a Baghdad prison. Jabr himself has been accused of running secret prisons [JURIST report] and controlling death squads, charges he has downplayed or denied [JURIST report].





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Indonesia to suspend execution of Bali bombers during Ramadan
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 2:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Indonesian Attorney General Hendarman Supandji announced [Jakarta Post report] Wednesday that the men convicted of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder] will not be executed until after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which the death penalty is not implemented. Supandji said that he could not approve the executions because he has not yet received certification from the country's Constitutional Court that the men, Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim [BBC profiles] have exhausted all of their appeals. Earlier this month, the court accepted the men's challenge [JURIST report] to the country's use of firing squad executions, a punishment they argue amounts to "torture" and is contrary to Islamic law [VOA report]. That challenge alone would not be sufficient reason to postpone the executions. AFP has more.

All three men are members of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and their lawyer had promised to bring their constitutional challenge against the penalty after the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected their third appeal [JURIST reports] of the charges in July. Their first appeal had been rejected late last year, prompting an unusual second appeal, which was later withdrawn [JURIST reports]. In May, Indonesian police arrested [JURIST report] another JI member, Faiz Fauzan, in connection with the another set of Bali bombings [BBC report] in 2005. In March, an Indonesian judge handed down 15-year sentences [JURIST report] to two JI leaders, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana [BBC profiles] after convicting them of other terrorism charges.






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Iran executes man for crime he committed as a minor
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Iran has executed a man for a stabbing he committed while still a minor, according Wednesday reports from local media. The execution is said to violate the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child [text], to which Iran is a signatory, but officials for the country argue that it and similar executions are allowed because the offenders reached the age of majority before being executed. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has said [press release] that Iran leads the world in executing the most people for crimes committed as children and advocacy campaign Stop Child Executions keeps a list [advocacy materials] of those facing execution. Last April, an Amnesty International report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. AFP has more.

Earlier this month, Iran commuted the sentences [JURIST report] of four people scheduled to be executed by stoning and suspended the use of the punishment, after nine people were given the sentence [BBC report] in July for adultery and sexual offenses despite a moratorium on the practice [JURIST report]. In July, Iran hanged 29 people [JURIST report] in Tehran in a move that human rights groups suggested was intended to challenge international criticism [JURIST report] of its death penalty policies. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to such crimes as murder and rape, although an Iranian airport customs officer was executed for corruption [JURIST report] in January.






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City of New York reaches settlement in unlawful arrest suit
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 12:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The City of New York agreed to pay approximately $2 million to settle a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; CCR backgrounder] brought by protesters who had claimed they had been illegally arrested, according to Tuesday statements made by the city's Law Department. In April 2003, city police arrested anti-war protesters while they were holding a demonstration outside the offices of military investment firm Carlyle Group [corporate website], asserting that they were obstructing a sidewalk and engaging in disorderly conduct, but the protesters were later either released or acquitted of the charges. The group argued that the city violated their rights to free speech and assembly, maliciously prosecuted and falsely imprisoned them, and failed to reprimand officers who had assaulted and battered them. In agreeing to the settlement, the city admitted no wrongdoing, but in a statement [CCR release] from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website], which helped to file the claims, one protester was quoted as having said that she hoped the settlement would change city and national policy:

We hope our victory helps convince the City to stop violating people's rights as a matter of policy and stop wasting taxpayers' money doing so... It should also serve as a reminder that Washington's illegal war in Afghanistan and Iraq is also being fought at home – against its own citizens and in the name of war profiteers like Carlyle and Halliburton. We intend to continue our resistance until this stops.
The New York Times has more.

The city has come under a great deal of criticism for its handling of protesters, and in April the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] settled [settlement, PDF; JURIST report] its lawsuit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] in which the NYCLU had challenged the department's protocol for dealing with large protests. In August 2007, The US District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered [PDF text; JURIST report] the NYPD to redact and turn over hundreds of field intelligence reports containing information it had gathered through covert surveillance of organizations planning demonstrations at the 2004 Republican National Convention.  The NYCLU has also forced the NYPD to destroy hundreds of fingerprint records [JURIST report] obtained as a result of other mass arrests of peaceful protesters. 





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Third Circuit rules FDA regulations do not bar state claim for mercury poisoning
Nick Fiske on August 20, 2008 11:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Tuesday that existing US Food and Drug Association (FDA) [official website] regulations do not preempt a New Jersey woman's state claim that she was poisoned by the mercury in canned tuna. The suit alleges that Tri-Union, producers of Chicken-of-the-Sea [company website] brand tuna, failed to warn consumers about the potential danger of mercury poisoning that resulted from the consumption of its products. The Third Circuit rejected Tri-Union's argument that her claim was preempted by the FDA's regulatory scheme regarding the presence of mercury in fish:

This is a situation in which the FDA has promulgated no regulation concerning the risk posed by mercury in fish or warnings for that risk, has adopted no rule precluding states from imposing a duty to warn, and has taken no action establishing mercury warnings as misbranding under federal law or as contrary to federal law in any other respect. [The] lawsuit does not conflict with the FDA’s “regulatory scheme” for the risks posed by mercury in fish or the warnings appropriate for that risk because the FDA simply has not regulated the matter.

The FDA has only issued a consumer advisory regarding the risks posed by mercury in fish and established a guideline regarding mercury concentrations to guide its enforcement decisions. Neither of these agency acts constitutes a federal legal standard or binding regulatory action on the subject which could give rise to a conflict, and indeed neither expresses a policy or viewpoint or approach inherently inconsistent with [the] lawsuit. In the final analysis, this case involves an agency effort to preempt an area of law traditionally within the states’ police powers
The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court's opinion.

In dismissing the claim, the district court relied on a letter [text] sent by the FDA to then-California Attorney General Bill Lockyer [official profile] after he filed a state suit against a number of tuna canners, including Tri-Union, for their failure to warn consumers that their tuna products contained dangerous mercury compounds in June 2004. The letter, signed by then-Commissioner of the FDA Lester Crawford [official profile], warned that Lockyer's suit would “frustrate the [FDA’s] carefully considered federal approach” regarding the regulation of mercury in fish. The Superior Court of California ultimately found that Lockyer's suit was preempted by federal law [San Francisco Chronicle report] in May 2006.





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Federal court prepares to try ex-Marine for Iraq killings
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Jury selection began Tuesday in the the trial of a former US Marine who faces voluntary manslaughter charges [JURIST report] for alleged involvement in the deaths of four Iraqi civilians in 2004. Sergeant Jose Nazario cannot face trial by court-martial because he is no longer in the military, and is therefore being tried under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 [text], which gives federal courts jurisdiction over civilians who allegedly committed crimes abroad while still associated with the US military. Some have criticized the government's use of the law against Nazario, arguing that it was designed to prosecute government contractors, but others cite specific language in the Act as evidence that it was also intended to include retired military personnel:

An Act...to establish Federal jurisdiction over offenses committed outside the United States by persons employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces, or by members of the Armed Forces who are released or separated from active duty prior to being identified and prosecuted for the commission of such offenses, and for other purposes.
The trial is being held by the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] and Nazario faces more than 10 years in prison in convicted. BBC News has more. The San Diego Union-Tribune has local coverage.

In March, US Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer was charged [press release; JURIST report] with one count of murder and one count of dereliction of duty, and in December Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson was charged [JURIST report] with murder and dereliction of duty charges in connection to the same incident as Nazario.  Both of those men face court-martial as active members of the military. In March 2007, a US military court-martial found 101st Airborne Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard guilty of three counts of negligent homicide [Article 32 hearing transcript, DOC], but not guilty of premeditated murder for the deaths of three Iraqi detainees [JURIST news archive] held after a May 2006 raid in Thar Thar, a town near Samarra in the northern Salahuddin province of Iraq. In January 2007 US Army Specialist William Hunsaker received an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges [JURIST report] related to the same incident as Girouard.





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DC Circuit strikes down EPA ban on state pollution monitoring
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2008 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Tuesday vacated [decision, PDF] a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] rule [Federal Register notice] prohibiting state and local governments from monitoring air pollution below acceptable levels set by the EPA for "stationary" sources such as power plants and factories. The court wrote that the rule violated Title V of the Clean Air Act [text] because the EPA's monitoring protocols themselves violated the Act, and because the rule prevented state and local governments from making up for its shortcomings. In the decision, the court posed the question facing local governments obligated to issue permits to the facilities:

... how should a permitting authority respond to an emission standard that has a periodic monitoring requirement inadequate to the task of assuring compliance? For example, suppose there is a standard that limits emission from a given stationary source to X units of pollutant per day. Suppose also that the standard requires annual monitoring. Where annual testing cannot assure compliance with a daily emission limit, may the permitting authority supplement the monitoring requirement “to assure compliance with the permit terms and conditions,” as the Act commands?
The EPA had argued that it had the discretion to decide what measures were or were not adequate under the Act, but the court disagreed:
Title V is a complex statute with a clear objective: it enlists EPA and state and local environmental authorities in a common effort to create a permit program for most stationary sources of air pollution. Fundamental to this scheme is the mandate that “[e]ach permit . . . shall set forth . . . monitoring . . . requirements to assure compliance with the permit terms and conditions.” By its terms, this mandate means that a monitoring requirement insufficient “to assure compliance” with emission limits has no place in a permit unless and until it is supplemented by more rigorous standards. [citations omitted]
AP has more.

The EPA has recently faced increasing conflict with states seeking tighter pollution controls. In July, California Attorney General Jerry Brown [official website] formally notified [letter, PDF; JURIST report] the EPA that the state would file a lawsuit against the agency if it refused to issue rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles as well as industrial and agricultural machinery. In January, California filed suit to appeal the EPA's previous denial of a request for a waiver [JURIST reports] that would have allowed California and 16 other states to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks.  In May, a report by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that the White House had influenced that decision and the administration later refused to turn over requested documents [JURIST reports] concerning the decision to the committee, citing executive privilege.





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Ninth Circuit upholds school policy on observation of special education children
Nick Fiske on August 20, 2008 7:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday upheld [opinion; PDF] a California public school district's policy that parents may only observe their disabled children in the classroom for twenty minutes in order to evaluate the school's proposed education plan. The parents of a student (L.M.) with autism [advocacy site] filed suit after the psychologist they hired to evaluate the proposed plan was allowed only twenty minutes in the classroom, even though the district's own experts viewed L.M. in his home for three hours. The court rejected the parents' allegations that the district's policy violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [text] by denying their child access to a free and appropriate public education. The court also ruled against the parents' argument that the policy infringed upon their right to due process by interfering with their ability to participate in a placement hearing. The court explained:

The District’s policy...was harmless because Parents nevertheless had a full opportunity to participate in the process to fashion an appropriate educational plan for L.M. with help from an informed and knowledgeable expert. There is no evidence to support a finding that Parents’ right to participate was significantly affected.
The court also denied the parents' request for a "stay put" order which would allow their child to remain in his current private educational program until litigation of the matter concluded, because the program did not constitute "current educational placement" under IDEA.

Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] found that a district court erred [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] when it refused to grant qualified immunity to school officials who placed a child in a special education program designed to control his repeated outbursts. The child's mother had originally sought relief under IDEA because her child suffered from severe mental and emotional health problems, but this claim was dismissed by a lower court. In 2007, the US Supreme Court held [JURIST report] that parents of special needs children have independent, enforceable rights under IDEA, overturning a Sixth Circuit decision holding that rights under IDEA are held only by the child. When US President George W. Bush signed IDEA into law [JURIST report] in 2004, he stated that it had been designed to ensure that students with disabilities would have special education teachers with the necessary skills and training. Bush was subsequently criticized for underfunding the related programs.





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Ninth Circuit rules people on 'no-fly' list can challenge status in federal courts
Devin Montgomery on August 19, 2008 2:39 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Monday that those placed on the government's "no-fly list" can challenge their inclusion on the list in federal district courts. The issue came before the court in a case brought by a woman on the list, in which a district court had ruled that it lacked jurisdiction because of a law [statute text] exempting Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] orders from federal trial court review. Reversing the decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the Terrorist Screening Center [official website] which actually maintains the list is a subsection of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is therefore subject to review by the district courts:

Our interpretation of section 46110 is consistent not merely with the statutory language but with common sense as well. Just how would an appellate court review the agency’s decision to put a particular name on the list? There was no hearing before an administrative law judge; there was no notice-and comment procedure. For all we know, there is no administrative record of any sort for us to review. So if any court is going to review the government’s decision to put Ibrahim’s name on the No-Fly List, it makes sense that it be a court with the ability to take evidence.[citations omitted]
The court also held that the woman could not bring two related claims because they were “inescapably intertwined” with TSA orders. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

In July, the US terror watchlist [FBI FAQ], which includes the no-fly list, was criticized [JURIST report] by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] for being too large, containing inaccuracies, and lacking safeguards to prevent the unnecessary targeting of passengers for additional security screenings. In March, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] issued a report [PDF text] saying that FBI had submitted inaccurate information to the list [JURIST report], that the information was rarely reviewed before its submission, and even if discrepancies become apparent they were often left unchanged. In response to the audit, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said that the agency was working with the DOJ and other partner agencies [press release] to "ensure the proper balance between national security protection and the need for accurate, efficient, and streamlined watchlist processes."





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Karadzic requests new judges for ICTY war crimes trial
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 19, 2008 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] has moved to replace the judges [order designating judges, PDF] at his upcoming war crimes trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], according to documents released on Tuesday. Karadzic argues that presiding Judge Alphons Orie [DPA profile] is biased against him because he has overseen ICTY cases brought against various other former Bosnian Serb leaders and would want to maintain their line of reasoning. As an example of these past cases, he cited the prosecution of former Bosnian Serb parliamentary leader Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY backgrounder], who was sentenced [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] to 27 years' imprisonment in 2006 for various war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. Karadzic has asked for the removal of the other judges assigned to his case for similar reasons. Reuters has more.

Karadzic, who has been indicted [text] on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, was arrested [JURIST report] in Serbia in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. Later that month, Serbian authorities transferred [press release] Karadzic to the custody of the ICTY. Karadzic was originally indicted [text] by the ICTY prosecutor in 1995, but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report] until his arrest. He is accused of involvement in the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] massacre and other war crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.






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Senate Judiciary Committee calls for delay of new FBI guidelines
Devin Montgomery on August 19, 2008 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee leaders Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official websites] sent a letter [PDF text; press release] to Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Monday, calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to postpone implementation of new Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official websites] guidelines until Congress has had a chance to review the changes. Opponents of the controversial guidelines argue [ACLU release] that the changes, if adopted, could allow for inappropriate profiling and would allow agents to open terror investigations without evidence of any crime being committed. The senators wrote that Congress should be consulted because of the change in protocol regarding racial profiling [guidelines] in FBI investigations [PDF backgrounder]:

The guidelines... reflect a laudatory effort to ensure that front-line agents are given clear rules to follow in pursuit of their investigations. Nevertheless, efforts to harmonize the rules governing criminal and national security matters also raise potential civil liberties concerns, given the broader latitude currently given to investigators to consider race and ethnicity in national security matters...

The important aims of the guidelines, and their potential implications for civil liberties, require a meaningful dialogue between Congress and DOJ. Notwithstanding the work of our staff, Congressional consultation is difficult during the recess period. Moreover, these issues are sufficiently important to merit a public hearing. After all, although prior consultation on such guidelines is not mandatory, the level of public and Congressional confidence in the guidelines will inform later legislation and oversight activities.
The letter stressed that the guidelines should not be adopted until after FBI Director Mueller testifies before the committee in September. AP has more.

Mukasey defended the proposed guidelines [JURIST report] before the committee in July, saying they would take into account not only race or religion but also factors such as travel to foreign terror "hot spots." Earlier that month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] spoke out against the plan, calling it "unconstitutional and un-American" [press release; JURIST report] and saying that it could allow security agents to target Muslims and Arab-Americans for harassment.





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Kosovo interim authorities sign transfer of power agreement
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 19, 2008 1:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) signed an agreement on Monday detailing the upcoming power transfer in Kosovo [JURIST news archive], which will mean new responsibilities for the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) [official websites]. The memorandum covers EULEX's duties regarding judicial, policing and other operations. Serbia, which has vehemently opposed independence for Kosovo, denounced the deal as a violation of international law [press release]. Russian officials said the nation would lodge a complaint [Balkan Insight report] with the UN to challenge EULEX's legality. EULEX is expected to assume a limited executive role in implementing the rule of law as UNMIK nears the end of its 120-day timetable for reducing operations. The International Civilian Office [official website] will oversee progress under Kosovo's status settlement. Kosovo's new constitution [text] went into effect [JURIST report] in June. The Sofia Echo has more.

Both Serbia and Russia have previously condemned the EULEX mission as illegal. In February, Russia condemned [press statement; JURIST report] a decision [press release, PDF] by the European Union [official website] to send the EULEX task force of police, prosecutors and judges into Kosovo, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official profile] calling it "in breach of the highest international law." Russia earlier rejected Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia [JURIST report], warning that such unilateral action without the approval of the United Nations sets a dangerous precedent for "frozen conflicts" around the world.






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Russia to file complaint against Georgia with International Criminal Court
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 19, 2008 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian officials on Monday confirmed that the nation will file a complaint against Georgia with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and said that the government is considering filing another complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official websites]. The filings would be related to war crimes allegedly committed against ethnic Russians in the breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. Russia's Foreign Ministry [official website] has also called for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign [press release] and be tried for war crimes before the ICC. Last week, Alexander Bastrykin, chairman of Russia's Prosecutor General's Office, said that his staff is collecting evidence [JURIST report] of war crimes allegedly committed by Georgian forces in South Ossetia. The Moscow Times has more.

Last week, Georgia filed a complaint [PDF text; JURIST report] against Russia with the ICJ, alleging that invading Russian troops have engaged in murder, rape and mass displacement of civilians during the recent conflict between the countries. Georgia also accused Russia of ongoing violations of the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [text] since 1990 based on its removal of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia is seeking an ICJ order that Russia pay compensation, withdraw its troops, and allow all displaced ethnic Georgians to return home.






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California court rules doctors cannot deny treatment to gay patients on religious grounds
Devin Montgomery on August 19, 2008 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of California [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Monday that gay and lesbian patients cannot be denied medical treatment because of doctors' religious beliefs. The issue came before the court in a case where a lesbian couple who were denied an artificial insemination procedure by a clinic claimed the refusal violated anti-discrimination provisions in California's Unruh Civil Rights Act [materials, PDF]. The clinic and doctors who were the defendants in the case claimed that under both the California Declaration of Rights [text] and the US Constitution [First Amendment backgrounder], their right to free exercise of religion permitted them to refuse treatment. constitutions as part of their right to exercise their religion. Disagreeing with this interpretation, the court wrote:

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, from which defendant physicians seek religious exemption, is “a valid and neutral law of general applicability.” As relevant in this case, it requires business establishments to provide “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services” to all persons notwithstanding their sexual orientation. Accordingly, the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion does not exempt defendant physicians here from conforming their conduct to the Act’s antidiscrimination requirements even if compliance poses an incidental conflict with defendants’ religious beliefs. [citations omitted]
The court went on to say that physicians could avoid the conflict by simply refusing to practice the procedure at all or by asking another physician in their clinic to conduct the procedure. AP has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has local coverage.

In June, the court's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] which overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] took effect [JURIST report] after withstanding challenges from both in-state conservative groups and out-of-state attorneys general [JURIST reports] who objected 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 banning same-sex marriages on the November ballot [materials, PDF; proposition website]. 





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Pakistan coalition still seeking agreement on reinstatement of judges
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 19, 2008 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's ruling coalition on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement on reinstating the judges who were ousted last year by President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive]. Officials had originally projected that a plan would be established Tuesday for restoring the judges within the next few days, and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] head Nawaz Sharif has threatened to withdraw from the coalition if judges, including former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], are not returned to office within 24 hours. The negotiations come one day after Musharraf announced that he was resigning from office [press release; JURIST report] in order to avoid impeachment proceeding by the country's parliament. The coalition government is also discussing who will succeed Musharraf as president, but Pakistan People's Party head Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] has implied that the presumptive nominee will come from his party. It is not clear yet whether Musharraf will face prosecution for alleged human rights violations committed while in office. DPA has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, the coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports], but subsequently refused to resign or go into exile, and because be had failed to follow through on a promise to ask parliament for a confidence vote. In June, the PML-N called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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UN panel urges Russia to comply with racial discrimination convention
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 19, 2008 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [official website] on Monday called on Russia to take action against growing instances of ethnic violence and Neo-Nazi activity within its borders. CERD said that Chechens, Roma, and other ethnic and religious minorities are the most common victims and noted allegations that Russian police frequently refuse to intervene to stop such attacks. The panel also urged Russia to investigate reports that in 2006 officials forcibly deported ethnic Georgians living in Russia. Georgia has said that the incident reflected official state policy at the time and last week filed a complaint [PDF text; JURIST report ] with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website]. Monday's comments are related to CERD's scheduled review [UN materials] of Russia's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [text]. Reuters has more.

This is not the first time that Russia has been criticized for racist attacks. A January report [JURIST report] issued by the SOVA Center [advocacy website] rights group found that hate crimes [JURIST news archive] in Russia rose 13 percent in 2007, but also found that police have done little to stop attacks. In June 2007, Human Rights First [advocacy website] reported that hate crimes are on the rise throughout all of Europe [JURIST report], after conducting a study examining recent hate crimes in France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. That study found that Russia has a "proliferation of violent hate crimes directed against ethnic, religious and national minorities."






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Peru institutes state of emergency after indigenous groups protest energy law
Devin Montgomery on August 19, 2008 9:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The government of Peru on Monday instituted a state of emergency [Peruvian Times report] in the northern region of the country, banning public gatherings, limiting travel, and increasing police presence for 30 days. The measure comes in response to large protests held by indigenous groups who oppose a new law reducing the majority by which a tribe must agree to sell communal land to oil and natural gas companies. Government officials said that the actions were necessary [Andina report, in Spanish] to protect the power generation stations which were the focus of the occasionally-violent protests, but an advocacy group for the Amazon natives [AIDESEP website] has defended their right to protest [press release] what they say is an encroachment on their decision making process. Earlier this month, the UN held a celebration [JURIST report] of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples [official website], where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed the UN's dedication [statement] to ending the "expropriation of [indigenous peoples'] traditional lands." AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

The controversial new law is part of a trade agreement negotiated during the administration of US President George W. Bush, who has tried to make it easier for energy companies to acquire land from US trading partners. Bush has made several other recent policy changes in an effort to increase the country's oil supply. In July, he issued a memorandum [presidential statement; JURIST report] lifting an executive ban on offshore oil drilling [JURIST news archive] which had been put in place in 1990 by his father, then-President George H. W. Bush. In June, Bush called on Congress, which is still preventing offshore drilling, to relax restrictions on oil exploration [statement text; JURIST report].






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Sudan court gives death sentence to rebels convicted of Khartoum terrorist attack
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 18, 2008 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A Sudanese court on Monday sentenced eight Darfur rebels to death, including the half brother of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [organization website] leader Khalil Ibrahim. Abdul Aziz Ashur and others were found guilty on charges related to a May rebel attack on the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, in which at least 200 people died. In June, Sudanese security forces arrested more than 100 JEM members [HRW press release; JURIST report] in connection with the attack. Later that month, 39 accused Darfur [JURIST news archive] rebels appeared [JURIST report] before special courts to be tried under a 2001 anti-terrorism law. News.com has more.

Sudanese officials accuse [AP report] JEM members of terrorism, rebellion and conspiring against the constitution. In June, 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 called 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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ICC prosecutor tactics criticized by rights groups
Devin Montgomery on August 18, 2008 1:14 PM ET

Photo source or description
JURIST] The president of Human Rights Watch [official website], mediation advisors, and other NGO leaders have recently begun to more openly criticize prosecutorial and other judgments [The Guardian report] made by International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile]. Moreno-Ocampo has already received sharp criticism from both the League of Arab States (LAS) and the African Union (AU) [official websites] for his decision to seek the arrest [JURIST report] of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. These international bodies assert that the indictment of a sitting head of state would set a dangerous and destabilizing precedent. New concerns reported Monday focus on Moreno-Ocampo's alleged employment misconduct and aggressive prosecutorial methods.  Critics reportedly believe the behavior could threaten the credibility of the court. Also Monday, al-Bashir appeared at an African economic conference held in Turkey [AP report], and some rights groups called on Turkey to support the ICC.

Earlier this month, Moreno-Ocampo criticized the Sudanese government's attempt to conduct its own probe [JURIST reports] into Darfur human rights violations. Sudan could potentially remove war crimes suspects like al-Bashir from the ICC's jurisdiction if its domestic courts employ safeguards to ensure accountability and respect for human rights, as outlined in Article 16 of the ICC's Rome Statute [PDF text]. The UN Security Council has repeatedly asked Sudan to comply with the investigation of al-Bashir [JURIST report], but Sudan has refused to do so, calling Moreno-Ocampo a "terrorist" [JURIST report] and suggesting that he should be removed from office. Before al-Bashir's indictment the Sudanese government had already rejected the ICC's jurisdiction and refused to surrender two previously-named war crimes suspects [JURIST report].



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Canada judge warns judiciary on politicized public inquiries
Devin Montgomery on August 18, 2008 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Richard Scott, head of the Canadian Judicial Council [official website] conduct committee [materials], warned on Sunday that judges should exercise caution in agreeing to head up extra-judicial public inquiries designed to address politically controversial issues. Scott, who is also the chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal [official website], said that by straying too far from their normal duties as judges, members of the judiciary risked the appearance of being seen as partisan. Scott's comments come after the Federal Court of Canada [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in June that media comments by Quebec Justice John Gomery [CBC profile], who led the public inquiry into the sponsorship scandal [CBC backgrounder] involving the Liberal Party [party website] government of former prime minister Jean Chrétien [official profile], had demonstrated bias against Chrétien [judgment, PDF] and his chief of staff Jean Pelletier [judgment, PDF]. In October, another Manitoba judge is scheduled to lead a similar committee established to investigate money that former Conservative Party prime minister Brian Mulroney received without paying taxes [Globe and Mail report]. Canwest has more.

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 now 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 misappropriating nearly $1.6 million in government funds as part of the scandal.






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Yemen parliament rejects electoral amendments
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 18, 2008 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The Yemeni Parliament [official website, in Arabic] on Monday voted against a bill which would have amended the country's electoral laws by restricting government officials from influencing the ballot. The bill would also have required electors to register in either their place of birth or residence rather than their place of work. Yemen's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) [party website] voted against the bill, while members of the main opposition party, Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) [Nationmaster backgrounder], boycotted Monday's vote as they pushed President Ali Abdullah Saleh [official website, in English] to release fellow party members detained since clashes with police in April. Eight senior YSP officials are currently being tried on charges of incitement and secession. AFP has more.

In April, demonstrations by students and southern Yemenis [AFP report] against alleged northern bias in government jobs turned violent as at least one man killed was killed in confrontations with police. Several YSP members were taken into custody, accused of inciting deadly unrest. YSP lawmakers have called for Saleh to order the release of all "political prisoners." In June, Yemen sentenced [JURIST report] 14 accused Zayidi Shi'ite [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] rebels, among them outspoken Yemeni journalist Abdel Karim al-Khaywani [advocacy profile], for their roles in an ongoing Shi'ite uprising. All but one of the rebels received prison sentences of up to ten years, with the last rebel receiving the death sentence for plotting attacks on Yemeni military bases. Yemeni authorities accuse Zayidi Shi'ite of trying to impose Shi'ite Islamic law [BBC backgrounder] on the country, but group members say they are only defending their community from a hostile government.






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Malaysia DNA bill and oath swearing intensify Anwar sodomy charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 18, 2008 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] A bill introduced in the Malaysian parliament on Monday would require all criminal suspects to submit DNA samples, a measure that has been tied to to the ongoing investigation into sodomy charges [JURIST report] against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] since the government promised to table it last month [JURIST report]. Also on Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi [official website] said that Anwar should decide whether to deny the allegations by swearing an oath, since on Friday the former aide accusing Anwar of sodomy swore on the Koran that his accusations were true. Earlier this month, Anwar pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, which in Malaysia is punishable by 20 years in prison, regardless of consent. Anwar has said the accusations are part of a government campaign to upset his plans to run in an August 26 by-election, and he filed a lawsuit against his accuser [JURIST report] in late June. AP has more. The Star has additional coverage.

Malaysian authorities briefly arrested Anwar last month, less than a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest [JURIST reports]. Last week, Anwar released a medical report [PDF text; JURIST report] that he said refuted the sodomy allegations. Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister under former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad [BBC profile] until he was fired in 1998 following earlier sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges. Last month the Federal Court of Malaysia ruled he could challenge the constitutionality [JURIST report] of his original dismissal from office.






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Senegal may drop charges against Chad ex-dictator Habre
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 18, 2008 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Senegal may drop charges against former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] who was sentenced to death in absentia [JURIST report] in Chad on Friday, according to Monday media reports. Senegalese Justice Minister Madicke Niang said that Habre could not be tried twice on the same charges, although human rights activists argue that Habre's indictment in Chad for armed rebellion was different from the human rights abuse charges he faces in Senegal. Senegal has long been criticized for allegedly delaying Habre's trial, although it recently adopted constitutional amendments [JURIST report] to allow for his prosecution. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Habre has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. Senegal courts have long refused to extradite Habre, despite Belgium's issuance of an international arrest warrant [JURIST reports] under 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 and the Senegalese government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. A Senegalese court dismissed a previous action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that it lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere.






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Indonesia terrorism convicts not granted sentence reductions
Deirdre Jurand on August 18, 2008 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Indonesian prisoners who have been convicted of terrorism, drug offenses, illegal logging and corruption this year did not receive the sentence reductions that most of the prisoners traditionally receive on Indonesia's Independence Day [backgrounder], August 17. Indonesian officials previously said that sentence reductions were a constitutional right afforded to all criminals regardless of their crimes, as part of Indonesia's prisoner remission program conducted annually [Australian report] to mark the country's independence from Dutch colonial rule. Prisoners in good standing typically received a remission unless they were on death row or serving life sentences, but this year, increasing concerns over crime and the country's image as one of the most corrupt [rankings list; regional analysis, PDF] worldwide contributed to the change of policy. This Independence day, it is estimated that 55,000 prisoners received sentence reductions of up to six months, and another 5,700 were released. AP has more. The Jakarta Post has additional coverage.

For Independence Day in 2006, Indonesian authorities cut the sentences of 54,000 prisoners, including to 10 men involved in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings. Those remissions sparked public outcries [AFP report], particularly in Australia. Nearly half of the victims of the 2002 nightclub bombings hailed from Australia. In June 2006, Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] denounced the release of an Indonesian Muslim cleric convicted on conspiracy charges in relation to the bombings. His sentence was reduced [JURIST reports] during the 2005 remission program.






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Musharraf resigning Pakistan presidency to avoid impeachment
Devin Montgomery on August 18, 2008 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] announced Monday he was resigning from office [press release] in order to avoid impeachment proceeding by the country's parliament. In a television address [ANI report], Musharraf denied any wrongdoing, but said that the proceedings alone would damage the country. Earlier on Monday, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) [official websites] coalition leaders had said that they had finalized an impeachment charge sheet [News report] against Musharraf and were planning to bring it before parliament as early as Tuesday. Despite repeatedly denying [press release] rumors that he planned to step down, Musharraf began his address by citing improvements he said Pakistan had made under his leadership and concluded:

Impeachment and chargesheet is the right of the Parliament and I have the right to defend myself against these charges. I am confident that no charge can be proved against me. All my actions were for the good of the people and the country. All my major decisions were the consent of all concerned and all stake-holders, e.g. services, bureaucracy, civil society, etc. I am not at all worried about the Charge-Sheet because nothing can be proved. But the larger issue is what is it going to cost Pakistan - its economy, political and social order, honour and prestige of the highest office of the state. Such are the considerations upper-most in my mind.

Whether I'm impeached or not, the country's stability will be compromised. The office of the president will also be insulted. Pakistan is my love; now and always, my life is for Pakistan. I have defended and will continue to defend Pakistan. I want to be able to bring Pakistan out of the current crisis so I think perhaps should do something. But I also do not want to do something that may generate uncertainty in the country. I also want to save the Parliament from horse-trading. Even if the impeachment is defeated, the relations between the President's office and the coalition govt. will not heal. Institutions will be endangered. Therefore, with this situation in view and having consulted my legal and political advisors, I have decided to resign from my post.

I have decided to resign from the office of President and my resignation will be handed over to the Speaker of the National Assembly. I want the people to be the judges and let them decide my fate. I am a human being and may have committed follies.
There has been speculation that Musharraf may leave the country to avoid criminal prosecution, but opponents have criticized the possibility [IANS report] and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the US would not grant him asylum [Dawn report]. AFP has more. The News has local coverage.

Earlier this month, the coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports], but subsequently refused to resign or go into exile, and because be had failed to follow through on a promise to ask parliament for a confidence vote.  In June, the PML-N called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.





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DOJ preparing to charge Blackwater guards in Iraq killings: report
Nick Fiske on August 17, 2008 2:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department has sent so-called target letters [backgrounder] to six Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] guards involved in the September 16 killings of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report], the Washington Post [media website] reported Sunday. Sources told the Post that the letters, which provide an opportunity for the recipients to contest grand jury evidence, indicate the Justice Department will likely seek indictments against at least some of the guards under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) [text]. Indictments against the Blackwater employees under the MEJA would mark the first time that State Department contractors were prosecuted under the Act, which allows criminal charges to be filed against contractors working for the Department of Defense. The sources explained that a final decision on whether to indict the men may not be made until October. The Washington Post has more.

The Blackwater incident caused domestic outrage in Iraq and has prompted legal controversy in the US. In November, the New York Times and the Washington Post [texts] reported that an FBI investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report] and last month Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced that private security contractors operating in Iraq may be stripped of their immunity from prosecution [JURIST report] under a US-Iraqi agreement currently in negotiations. Advocacy group Human Rights First [advocacy website] issued a report [PDF text] in January asserting that existing federal law is sufficient to prosecute private contractors using excessive violence in their overseas capacities, and that the US government is to blame for failing to "develop a clear policy with respect to the accountability of private contractors for crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan." The report says that the MEJA could be extended to State Department contractors, but that the US has failed to do so.






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Hearing postponed for US soldier charged in death of Iraqi detainee
Deirdre Jurand on August 17, 2008 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] The US-led Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-Iraq) [official website] announced Saturday that the first hearing of a US soldier charged in connection with the death of an Iraqi detainee will begin on September 5 [press release]. Staff Sgt. Hal M. Warner, who was stationed about 130 miles north of Baghdad, was charged [press release; JURIST report] early this month with premeditated murder, assault, accessory after the fact, making a false official statement and obstruction of justice in connection with the death of Ali Mansur Mohamed, a detainee originally thought to have been released from Coalition custody sometime around May 16. Warner was originally scheduled to appear for an Article 32 preliminary hearing [JAG backgrounder] August 15. The trial for 1st Lt. Michael C. Behenna, also charged with premeditated murder, assault, making a false official statement and obstruction of justice in connection with Mohamed's death, has not been scheduled. AFP has more.

In March, US Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer was charged [press release] with one count of murder and one count of dereliction of duty for his involvement in the shooting death of a detained Iraqi insurgent during MNF-Iraq's November 2004 offensive [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Fallujah [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The charges against Weemer followed December 2007 charges against Marine Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson for murder and dereliction of duty, and August charges [JURIST reports] against former Marine Sgt. Jose Nazario for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the same incident. In March 2007, a US military court-martial found 101st Airborne Staff Sgt. Raymond Girouard guilty of three counts of negligent homicide [Article 32 hearing transcript, DOC], but not guilty of premeditated murder for the deaths of three Iraqi detainees [JURIST news archive] held after a May 2006 raid in Thar Thar, a town near Samarra in the northern Salahuddin province of Iraq. In January 2007 US Army Specialist William Hunsaker received an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges [JURIST report] relating to the same incident.






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Myanmar activists sentenced to prison for protest commemoration march
Deirdre Jurand on August 17, 2008 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Officials of Myanmar opposition group the National League for Democracy (NLD) said Sunday that the government has sentenced five of its members to prison for participating in a march commemorating the mass student protests [BBC backgrounder] against the junta held on August 8, 1988. The 2008 protest, held in the Rakhine province, included 48 people, and police arrested the five NLD members on charges of creating public alarm and unlawful assembly. Government officials sentenced each on Friday to two and one-half years in prison. Rakhine NLD official Thein Naing told the media that the sentencing occurred without giving the party members the chance to consult a lawyer. Other party officials have expressed hope that a UN envoy's visit to Myanmar [UN News Centre report] scheduled to begin Monday will help ease tensions between the NLD and the government. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.

In July, 14 members of the NLD were charged [DPA report] with causing political unrest by staging a protest outside NLD headquarters where they shouted slogans calling for the release of NLD party leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The demonstration took place on June 19, Suu Kyi's 63rd birthday. Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text]. The military junta extended [JURIST report] Suu Kyi's house arrest into a sixth year in May, sparking an international outcry and demonstrations by the NLD.






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Belarus government frees jailed opposition leader
Deirdre Jurand on August 17, 2008 8:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Belarusian officials released opposition politician Alexander Kozulin [CFR profile and interview] from prison Saturday after two years' detention for staging political protests. Kozulin was sentenced to more than five years in prison in July 2006 for leading unauthorized protests over the controversial re-election [JURIST reports] of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] earlier that year. Authorities granted him temporary leave [JURIST report] in February this year to attend his wife's funeral, a move US State Department officials said [press release] at the time was laudable but insufficient. On Saturday, State Department officials applauded his latest release, saying the US "look[s] forward to other positive steps from the Belarusian authorities that could open the possibility of a significant improvement in relations between the United States and Belarus." It is unclear whether the current release is permanent or also temporary to allow Kozulin to attend the pending of his funeral father-in-law. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

The US State Department severely criticized Belarus' human rights record [JURIST report] in March. The UN General Assembly Third Committee, as well as the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [JURIST reports], have similarly denounced Belarus for human rights abuses. Lukashenko has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarus pending the release of all political prisoners, including Kozulin.






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Pakistan ruling party not granting Musharraf immunity from charges
Steve Czajkowski on August 16, 2008 10:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The possibility that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] will face impeachment increased Saturday as a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [official website], the main ruling party in the country, said it will not protect him from criminal charges if he does not announce he will step down. AP quoted Pakistan foreign minister and PPP member Shah Mahmood Qureshi [official profile] as saying that "If [Musharraf] fails to decide to quit within the next two days, the impeachment process will take its course." On Friday Pakistan's Minister of Information and Broadcasting said that a draft charge-sheet against Musharraf had been finalized and turned over to the Minister of Law and Justice [official website]. Three provincial assemblies have already passed resolutions favoring impeachment, including the Punjab Provincial Assembly [official website] which voted [JURIST report] on Monday. AP has more. The Times of India has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, Musharraf affirmed his June vow [Dawn report] that he will neither step down nor go into exile in the face of impeachment threats. Impeachment would require the endorsement of two-thirds of legislators in a joint session of parliament.






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Chad court sentences ex-dictator Habre to death in absentia
Steve Czajkowski on August 16, 2008 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] and eleven other rebel commanders were sentenced to death Friday in a Chadian court for crimes against the state after a mass trial in which dozens were tried. Habre is currently living in Senegal where he is to be eventually tried [JURIST report] on charges for murder and torture. The court, lead by Judge Ngarhondo Dgide, issued no warrants for the defendants and they mounted no legal defense during the hearings. Among those sentenced were Mahamat Nouri [Nationmaster profile], Habre's defense minister, and Timane Erdimi, the cousin of current Chadian President Idriss Deby [BBC profile]. Both Erdimi and Habre's lawyer said they had heard nothing official about the proceedings. At the same trial 32 others were sentenced in absentia to life in prison with hard labor for attempting to "overturn constitutional order". The International Herald Tribune has more. Al-Jazeera has additional coverage.

Habre has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. 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 and the Senegalese government later determined [JURIST report] he would face charges in a criminal court, rather than in front of a special tribunal. Previously the Senegalese courts dismissed an action against him in 2001 [HRW case backgrounder], claiming that they lacked jurisdiction over crimes committed elsewhere. In July this year Senegal formally adopted [JURIST report] a constitutional amendment giving the nation's courts jurisdiction over Habre's trial.






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China court sentences former Shanghai official to death for corruption
Deirdre Jurand on August 16, 2008 9:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese media reported Friday that the Shanghai Municipal First Intermediate People's Court sentenced a former city official to death [JURIST news archive] after being convicted of multiple corruption charges on Thursday, though the sentence will not be imposed for another two years. Former deputy director of the Shanghai Housing, Land and Resources Administration Bureau [official website, English version] Yin Guoguan was suspected of using city pension funds to make loans for real estate purchases. The court sentenced him to death for accepting bribes and for possession of ammunition, six years in prison for abuse of authority, and four years in prison for possessing property of unknown origin. The death sentence could eventually be reduced to a sentence of life in prison. AP has more. Xinhua has local coverage, in Chinese.

China has taken a hard line on corruption in recent years, punishing several officials with lengthy prison terms or execution [JURIST report]. In January, the Chinese government issued new anti-corruption rules [JURIST report] for public officials. In December 2007, a former prosecutor received a suspended death sentence [JURIST report] after being convicted of accepting bribes and embezzling money. In September 2007, a former official of the Agricultural Bank of China was executed [JURIST report] for taking bribes and embezzling nearly $2 million. In July 2007, the former commissioner of China's State Food and Drug Administration was executed for accepting $850,000 in bribes [JURIST report].






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Serbia presents bid for ICJ opinion on Kosovo independence
Steve Czajkowski on August 16, 2008 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic [official profile] presented a formal request [press release] to the UN General Assembly [official website] Friday seeking a determination by the International Court of Justice [official website] on the legality of Kosovo's February declaration of independence [JURIST report; JURIST news archive] from Serbia. Jeremic sought to have the anticipated request [JURIST report] included on the agenda for the General Assembly's upcoming 63rd Session [meeting schedule] in September. Jeremic said his goal is to obtain an advisory opinion on the legality of the unilateral independence proclamation, to stop further recognition of Kosovo's independence, and to ultimately return to negotiations with Kosovo. AFP has more.

Kosovo declared its independence after negotiations on a UN-supervised independence plan stalled last year in part due to objections [JURIST reports] from Russia and Serbia's insistence that the province should only be given autonomous status short of full independence.






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Philippines high court hears arguments in rebel peace agreement case
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 15, 2008 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] on Friday heard arguments in a case challenging a proposed peace agreement between the country's government and rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [group website; BBC backgrounder]. The proposal would grant expanded boundaries to the country's southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) [official website], but opponents, including Mindanao Christians, say that the pact violates the country's constitution. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will address the constitutionality of the agreement or whether it might order a constitutional amendment to designate the ARMM expansion as a separate state. AP has more.

Last week, a Supreme Court judge enjoined [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] government agents from signing the peace agreement. The government of the Philippines first suggested that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005, and this month it announced [JURIST reports] that the sides had finalized the peace deal and would sign it on August 5. The court last week agreed with motions by two southern provincial governments for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the signing. Shortly after the deal was reached, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website] urged the country's lawmakers to push for long-term resolution in the region in her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) [text; government materials].






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US Navy guards charged with abusing detainees at Camp Bucca
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 15, 2008 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Six US sailors have been charged for allegedly abusing Iraqi detainees held at Camp Bucca [GloalSecurity backgrounder], the US Naval Forces Central Command [official website] said Thursday. The six are said to have physically assaulted at least two detainees whom they were guarding, and locked eight others in a cell that had been covered with pepper spray. Seven other sailors reportedly faced non-judicial punishment for their involvement in the incidents. Al Jazeera has more. CNN has additional coverage.

Camp Bucca was at the center of controversy in 2003 when the so-called Taguba report [PDF text] detailed instances of detainee abuse and found that the detention camp was well over its carrying capacity. Many former Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] detainees were transferred to Camp Bucca after reports of detainee abuse in the Baghdad prison surfaced. In July, four former Abu Ghraib detainees filed lawsuits [CCR materials; JURIST report] against two private US military contractors and three of their employees, alleging torture, war crimes and civil conspiracy. The former detainees said that employees of CACI International and L-3 Communications [corporate websites], which performed interrogation and interpretation work for the US military, violated the Geneva Convention, the Army Field Manual [texts] and US law by torturing and conspiring to torture the detainees. They also alleged that CACI and L-3 were negligent in failing to prevent the torture.






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Fifth Circuit orders anti-Castro militant to stand trial for US immigration violations
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 15, 2008 12:35 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles [JURIST news archive; case materials] will stand trial in the US for alleged immigration violations, effectively blocking extradition efforts by Cuba and Venezuela. Both countries say that the US is bound by international treaties, including the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation [texts], to hand over Carriles, but the US has so far refused to do so. Carriles, a Venezuelan-born Cuban citizen, is wanted in both Cuba and Venezuela on terrorism charges relating to the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airplane [Aviation Safety Network backgrounder]. The Los Angeles Times has more.

Carriles was arrested in 2005 for illegally entering the US and had been under the custody of immigration officials until his release on bail [JURIST reports] in April 2007. Cuba criticized Carriles' release, and accused the US of violating international anti-terrorism treaties by freeing him and dismissing charges [JURIST reports] against him. Also in April 2007, Venezuela announced plans to challenge the US [JURIST report] before the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] and other international bodies for refusing to prosecute or extradite Carriles for the terrorist bombing. The US government has cited the UN Convention Against Torture [text] as justification for denying Cuban and Venezuelan requests [JURIST report] to extradite Carriles, asserting that Carriles could face torture in those countries.






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US military judge disqualifies Pentagon advisor from another Guantanamo trial
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 15, 2008 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] A military judge on Thursday ordered that military commissions [JURIST news archive] legal advisor Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile] will not participate in the Guantanamo trial of Afghan detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. The judge, Army Col. Steve Henley, held that Hartmann had made public statements suggesting he was overly favorable to prosecutors [JURIST report] despite the purported neutrality of his role. Former Guantanamo prosecutor Col. Morris D. Davis [official profile, PDF] testified that Hartmann has pressed prosecutors to bring charges against Jawad, believing that the trial would excite the American public. Jawad's lawyers sought to have charges against him dismissed due to alleged misconduct by Hartmann, but the judge denied their motion. AP has more.

Hartmann has previously been accused of bias towards prosecutors. At a Wednesday hearing, US Army Gen. Gregory Zanetti [official profile], deputy commander at Guantanamo Bay, testified [JURIST report] that Hartmann routinely bullied his counterparts and was inappropriately aggressive in seeking indictments against detainees. In May, lawyers for detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] unsuccessfully moved to have charges against their client dropped because of similar allegations [JURIST report] against Hartman. Earlier that month, Hartman was disqualified [JURIST report] from participating in the military commission trial of detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], but he has refused to resign [JURIST report] from his post.






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UK libel law discourages free speech: UN rights committee
Steve Czajkowski on August 15, 2008 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The United Nations Committee on Human Rights [official website] has criticized British libel laws for stifling freedom of speech, according to Thursday media reports. In a report [text linked under "Concluding Observations"] issued after its 93rd session in Geneva, the Committee said restrictive laws may encourage media agencies and scholars to abandon reporting on serious public issues, especially in cases involving the Internet. The report also expressed concern that the laws encourage the phenomenon know as "libel tourism," where petitioners use the London High Court [official website] to sue foreign publishers under laws that are seen as friendly to the claimant. The Committee said:

The State party should re-examine its technical doctrines of libel law, and consider the utility of a so-called "public figure" exception, requiring proof by the plaintiff of actual malice in order to go forward on actions concerning reporting on public officials and prominent public figures, as well as limiting the requirement that defendants reimburse a plaintiff's lawyers fees and costs regardless of scale, including Conditional Fee Agreements and so-called "success fees," especially insofar as these may have forced defendant publications to settle without airing valid defences. The ability to resolve cases through enhanced pleading requirements (e.g., requiring a plaintiff to make some preliminary showing of falsity and absence of ordinary journalistic standards) might also be considered.
The Committee also expressed concern that the Official Secrets Act 1989 [text] has been used to prevent former government officials from bringing issues of public interest to light. The Telegraph has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Experts first raised concerns after Khalid bin Mahfouz [Forbes profile], a Saudi businessman, used UK courts [Washington Post report] to sue Dr. Rachel Ehrenfield, the director of The American Center for Democracy [advocacy website], for defamation. Ehrenfield had accused Mahfouz of funding terrorism in her book "Funding Evil." Mahfouz won a judgment in 2005 for more than $225,000 after the court granted jurisdiction based upon 23 copies of the book being sold in the UK along with one chapter of the book that was available over the Internet. In July, a judge for the High Court ordered [JURIST report] a British man to pay approximately $44,000 in damages for creating a fake profile on social networking website Facebook [corporate website] and posting defaming information about an acquaintance, Mathew Firsht. Also in 2005, film director Roman Polanski was allowed [JURIST report] to pursue a libel suit via video tape against Vanity Fair [media website] despite his status as a fugitive at the time.





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Second Circuit dismisses 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 15, 2008 11:01 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit [opinion, PDF] brought by survivors of the 9/11 attacks against the nation of Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archives] and four of its princes, ruling that the defendants were protected from prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text]. The plaintiffs accused the princes of donating money to anti-American charities, which then funneled the funds to al-Qaeda:

The plaintiffs ask the Court to draw a “reasonable inference” that because of sharia, there exists “an active, not passive, relationship among an Islamic bank, its owners, and its large depositors.” In other words, the owners of [Swiss bank] DMI and its subsidiaries “are close business partners with bank ‘customers’ in a partnership or collaboration to manage and invest customers’ capital in a mutually beneficial way.” Osama bin Laden, his bodyguard, and other al Qaeda operatives had deposits with DMI and its subsidiaries. (Also, bin Laden himself invested $50 million in one of DMI’s subsidiaries.) Therefore, argue the plaintiffs, the September 11 attacks “were a direct result of the material support that Prince Mohamed . . . provided al Qaeda.” Mohamed disputes this characterization of sharia banking; but even assuming its accuracy, it does not reflect that Mohamed engaged in “intentional” conduct “expressly aimed at the United States.
The court held that for the lawsuit to proceed it was not enough to show that the princes knew that the money would be used for al-Qaeda attacks. Instead, plaintiffs would have to show that the princes intended for the money to be used for that purpose. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

This is not the first time that US courts have rejected 9/11 litigation against Saudi Arabia. In 2005, US District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Richard Casey dismissed [PDF text; JURIST report] Saudi Arabia, its defense minister and its ambassador to the UK as defendants in litigation stemming from the terrorist attacks, ruling that all had sovereign immunity [LII backgrounder]. The plaintiffs in that case were suing over 200 defendants who allegedly helped fund and support Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Casey allowed a claim to proceed against the Saudi Binladen Group [corporate website], the successor to a construction company founded by bin Laden's father, because additional discovery is necessary to determine whether the company "purposefully directed its activities at the United States."





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Russia dropped cluster bombs on Georgia civilians: Human Rights Watch
Abigail Salisbury on August 15, 2008 9:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced [press release] on Friday that its researchers have proof that Russian forces have dropped cluster bombs on Georgian civilians [AP report] during the recent conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. Cluster bombs release large numbers of smaller explosives which spread out before detonating upon impact, a design meant to maximize bodily injury of a large group of people. On Tuesday, Georgia filed a complaint [text, PDF; press release, PDF] against Russia with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], alleging that invading Russian troops have also engaged in the murder, rape and mass displacement of civilians [JURIST report]. Russian officials have stated that they have their own evidence showing that Georgian forces have committed war crimes.

At the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions [official website] in May, diplomats agreed on a draft treaty [text, PDF; JURIST report] banning the use, manufacture, and stockpiling of cluster munitions [ICRC materials; JURIST news archive]. No representatives were sent to the conference from the US, China, Russia, Israel, India, or Pakistan, whose governments collectively make up the world's largest producers and users of cluster bombs. A loophole [HRW press release] allows continued military and other cooperation between parties and non-parties to the treaty, which must still be ratified by individual signatory nations before entering into full effect.






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Thailand court to try ex-PM Thaksin and wife in absentia
Abigail Salisbury on August 15, 2008 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Thailand ruled on Friday that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will be tried in absentia on corruption charges [AP report]. The couple are in the UK, where last week they announced their refusal to return to Thailand due to alleged judicial bias [JURIST reports]. The Supreme Court issued warrants for their arrest [Bangkok Post report] when they failed to make a court appearance. The Thai government is reportedly seeking their extradition [Bloomberg report] from the UK.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] rejected [JURIST report] Thaksin's challenge that the commission bringing charges against him is governed by a statute which violates the right to individual liberty. Last month, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin for his role in a 2003 resolution reducing fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. In April, Pojamarn pleaded not guilty to charges [JURIST reports] stemming from a 2003 agreement with the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website] to purchase land said to be worth three times more than the $26 million she paid for it. Lawyers for Thaksin have been jailed [JURIST report] for attempting to bribe court officials in one of Thaksin's cases, and current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] is facing possible impeachment proceedings [JURIST report] due in part to his party's close association with Thaksin.






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Labor groups file election law complaint against Wal-Mart
Steve Czajkowski on August 15, 2008 6:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The AFL-CIO [official website] and three other labor groups filed a complaint [PDF text] with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) [official website] on Thursday, alleging that Wal-mart Inc. [corporate website; JURIST news archive], the largest employer in the US, violated federal election laws by forcing employees to attend meetings where political and presidential campaign issues were discussed. According to a report [text] by the Wall Street Journal , the labor groups Change to Win, WakeUpWalMart.com, Americans Rights at Work [official websites], and the AFL-CIO filed the complaint based on Wal-Mart meetings which were intended to convince lower-level department heads that electing a Democratic president would make it easier for workers to unionize, which in turn could lead to lower salaries and violations of privacy. According to the labor organizations, federal regulations allow companies to promote voting for a presidential candidate to high-level managers but not to lower-level managers and department heads. The Washington Post has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

At issue is the Employee Free Choice Act [HR 800 materials], which would require a company to recognize a union as soon as a majority of a company's employees signed cards saying they want to organize a union. Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill) [campaign website] supports the legislation, while Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.) [campaign website] does not. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled [opinion text; JURIST report] 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. Previously 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.






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Ninth Circuit upholds denial of Oregon domestic partnership referendum
Abigail Salisbury on August 15, 2008 6:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Thursday that Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury [official profile] did not violate the constitutional rights of voters who signed a petition to hold a referendum on a state law [Oregon House Bill 2007, PDF] establishing same-sex domestic partnerships. Bradbury struck over 200 signatures from the petition after officials found that many of the signatures did not match those on voter registration cards. He then announced that the petition was approximately 100 signatures short of the required number. Voters were not permitted to contest the decision by introducing extrinsic evidence, and so signators brought suit, alleging violations of due process and equal protection guarantees. The Ninth Circuit held that any burden placed on the plaintiffs' fundamental right to vote was minimal and held that there had been no constitutional violations:

[T]he Secretary’s procedures already allow chief petitioners and members of the public to observe the signature verification process and challenge decisions by county elections officials. The value of additional procedural safeguards therefore
is negligible, and the burden on plaintiffs’ interests from the state’s failure to adopt their proposed procedures is slight at most.
Plaintiffs had unsuccessfully asserted that Oregon was required to provide them with an opportunity to "rehabilitate" the stricken signatures, and also argued that the lack of uniform statewide rules for verifying referendum signatures violated Bush v. Gore [Cornell case materials].

The US District Court for the District of Oregon [official website] ruled [AP report; JURIST report] in February that the domestic partnership law should be allowed to take effect after it was suspended [JURIST report] last December. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed [JURIST report] the bill into law last May after it was passed by the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate [JURIST reports]. The law would have taken effect on January 1 of this year had there been no lawsuit.





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Fifth Circuit rules on jurors using Bible during sentencing deliberations
Abigail Salisbury on August 15, 2008 5:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Thursday refused to grant a writ of habeas corpus to convicted murder Khristian Oliver [Texas Criminal Justice profile], who had argued that his Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when the jury took Bible passages into account when deliberating on his eventual death sentence. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [official website] had made a factual finding that the Bible did not influence the jury’s decision, and the Fifth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that Oliver did not present clear and convincing evidence rebutting that finding. The parties agreed that a particular Bible passage was consulted by jurors:

And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him. Numbers 35:16-19 (King James).
The Circuits are split on the proper approach to interpreting whether the Bible constitutes an improper external influence. The Fifth Circuit on Thursday held that in such a situation, "the juror has crossed an important line."

The state of Texas has come under criticism lately for executing two foreign nationals after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ordered [press release and text] the US to stay such executions. Earlier this month, Texas executed [JURIST report] convicted murderer Heliberto Chi [Texas materials; docket information], a Honduran man who had argued that he was improperly prevented from contacting his government in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text]. Last month, lawyers for Mexico made a similar argument [JURIST report] before the ICJ in an unsuccessful attempt [JURIST report] to block the execution [JURIST report] of Mexican citizen Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder; JURIST news archive].





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US reaches settlement on Libya terror lawsuits
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The United States and Libya reached an agreement [US DOS press release; press statement] on Thursday to settle all pending lawsuits brought by US terror victims against Libya, including 26 lawsuits related to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder; JURIST new archive] over Lockerbie, Scotland. The move is part of a continuing effort to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries. Under the agreement, a fund will be started to compensate both US and Libyan victims of terrorism. The agreement also gives Libyan officials immunity from future terror-related lawsuits brought by US citizens. Some relatives of Flight 103 victims expressed anger at the deal. AP has more.

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush signed [press release; JURIST report] into law the Libyan Claims Resolution Act [S3370 materials], which allows the Secretary of State to settle remaining civil claims brought by US citizens against Libya for bombings allegedly carried out by groups linked to the government in the late 1980s. In May, the US and Libya agreed to seek resolution of the outstanding claims against the country after President Bush had already urged Congress [JURIST reports] to exempt the country from provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [HR 4986 materials; JURIST report], which otherwise allows victims of state-sponsored terrorism to sue for that country's assets held in the US. In 2004, Bush lifted decades-old sanctions [JURIST report] against Libya after it agreed to dismantle its weapons programs and to acknowledge its history of state-sanctioned terror.






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Second Circuit to reconsider Arar rendition lawsuit
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 2:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] Thursday agreed to an en banc rehearing [order, PDF; CCR press release] of a case brought by Canadian citizen Maher Arar [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] seeking a declaratory judgment against US government officials for deporting him to Syria. The court originally dismissed [decision, PDF; JURIST report] Arar's lawsuit in July, ruling that he had failed to state a claim for which it had jurisdiction to grant relief. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website], which requested the rehearing, said that the decision to reconsider the case was "extremely rare." Bloomberg has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Arar was detained by the US in 2002 after flying to New York from Tunisia on his way home to Canada. He was later transferred to Syria, where he alleges he was tortured. Arar had argued [CCR press release] that he should be able to challenge the US government's policy of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] under the Torture Victim Protection Act [text] and the Fifth Amendment [text] of the US Constitution. In October 2007, US lawmakers apologized [JURIST report] to Arar during a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee [official website]. In January 2007, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Arar [JURIST report] on behalf of the Canadian government and announced a settlement of $10.5 million (CAD) compensation for pain and suffering.






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US stock exchanges agree to centralize insider trading regulation
Devin Montgomery on August 14, 2008 1:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced [press release] on Wednesday that it has reached a tentative agreement [PDF text] with ten US stock exchanges to centralize insider trading controls among the institutions. Under the plan, the programs to prevent and detect insider trading will be centrally controlled by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and a section of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) [corporate websites], instead of having each exchange run its own program. Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text], the markets are required to institute self-regulating controls, and the SEC has said the plan should make those controls more effective. In a press release [text], FINRA Senior Executive Vice President Stephen Luparello praised the plan:

While U.S. equity markets have always coordinated very well with each other to detect and investigate insider trading, this agreement takes insider trading surveillance to a new level because it consolidates within FINRA and NYSE Regulation what used to be 11 discreet programs at each market center... As a result, potential insider traders, whether acting alone or in concert with others, and regardless of where they trade in the U.S., will be more readily identified in this new, more unified structure.
The SEC will vote on whether to officially sign off on the plan after a period reserved for public comment. AFP has more.

Qwest Communications [corporate website] released its second quarter earnings report [press release; materials] this week, announcing an agreement [JURIST report] to pay an additional $40 million to settle a class action shareholder lawsuit resulting from an insider trading scandal [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] affirmed [opinion text; JURIST report] the dismissal of a shareholder securities suit against Biogen Idec [corporate website], in which the class of plaintiffs accused directors of violating the Securities Exchange Act by intentionally misrepresenting the safety of its multiple-sclerosis drug, Tysabri [informational website], in order to sell their shares at high prices.





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New Orleans judge quashes indictments against 'Danziger Seven' police officers
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 12:41 PM ET

[JURIST] A New Orleans judge on Wednesday threw out indictments against the so-called "Danziger Seven" [advocacy website], police officers accused of murder in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. District Judge Raymond Bigelow ruled that prosecutors had violated state law by revealing grand jury testimony to a witness in the case and had also issued incorrect instructions to the grand jury. The "Danziger Seven" were so named because of allegations that they shot mentally handicapped Ronald Madison [NDA resolution] as he crossed the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans to escape gunfire. Police say that Madison moved as if to pull out a gun just before they opened fire, but these statements were contradicted by autopsy results [CNN report] showing Madison had been shot in the back. Parish District Attorney Robert L. Freeman, Jr. said that prosecutors might appeal the decision [press statement]. CBC News has more.

New Orleans police faced intense criticism for their behavior after Katrina. Many have been accused of both brutality and deserting their posts [JURIST report]. US federal prosecutions and convictions of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality have significantly increased in recent years, it was reported last year [USA Today report]. Unspecified Department of Justice statistics indicated that prosecutions for the use of excessive force or other violations of victims' civil rights had risen 25 percent from 224 to 281 in 2001-2007 compared to the previous seven-year period. In a 1998 report [HRW materials] Human Rights Watch called police brutality "one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States." HRW maintains an archive of letters and press releases from advocacy groups on the subject, and in 2006 raised concerns over prisons affected by Hurricane Katrina [letter].






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Indonesia Bali bombers appeal argues death sentence against Islamic law
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Indonesia's Constitutional Court has accepted a death penalty challenge filed by three men condemned for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder]. Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim [BBC profiles] argue that death by firing squad amounts to "torture" and is contrary to Islamic law [VOA report]. Lawyers say that the court does not have the authority to delay the men's scheduled execution, but that it would be "respectful" for the government to issue a stay until the court completes its review. The three men, all members of Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], requested they be executed by beheading [BBC report] rather than firing squad in a 2006 Supreme Court appeal. Australia's ABC News has more.

A lawyer for the three men had promised to bring their constitutional challenge after the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the third appeal [JURIST reports] in July. Their first appeal had been rejected late last year, prompting an unusual second appeal, which was later withdrawn [JURIST reports]. In May, Indonesian police arrested [JURIST report] another JI member, Faiz Fauzan, in connection with the another set of Bali bombings [BBC report] in 2005. In March, an Indonesian judge handed down 15-year sentences [JURIST report] to two JI leaders, Zarkasih and Abu Dujana [BBC profiles] after convicting them of other terrorism charges.






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Georgia files complaint against Russia with International Court of Justice
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 10:44 AM ET

[JURIST] Georgia filed a complaint [PDF text; press release, PDF] against Russia with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Tuesday, alleging that invading Russian troops have engaged in murder, rape and mass displacement of civilians during the recent conflict between the countries. Georgia also accused Russia of ongoing violations of the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [text] since 1990 based on its removal of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia is seeking an ICJ order that Russia pay compensation, withdraw its troops, and allow all displaced ethnic Georgians to return home. AP has more.

On Wednesday, Alexander Bastrykin, chairman of Russia's Prosecutor General's Office, said that his staff is collecting evidence [JURIST report] of war crimes allegedly committed by Georgian forces in the breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. Georgian officials have also accused Russian forces [JURIST report] of human rights violations and mass detentions in the region. On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] ordered an end to military action [press release] in the region, but Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili [official website] said Wednesday that Russian troops had continued to advance [speech transcript].






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Head of Malaysia tourism board faces corruption charges
Devin Montgomery on August 14, 2008 10:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board [official website] head Mirza Mohammad Taiyab [Star profile] on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to corruption charges based on allegations that he received free dental work in return for granting a government contract. His indictment is the latest of several brought by the country's Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) [official website], in what government officials have said is a new push to combat violations of the country's anti-graft laws [statute materials]. Anti-corruption advocates were unimpressed with Mirza's arrest, saying there were much larger instances of corruption in need of investigation. Mirza is scheduled to be tried in February 2009 and faces up to two years in prison if convicted. AP has more. The Star has local coverage.

Last month the ACA arrested the country's immigration board head and six others for allegedly receiving bribes [Star report] in exchange for the granting of work permits. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Ahmad Badawi [official website] has said that such high-profile arrests prove the efficacy of the agency [Star report] but critics of the government have held protests of judicial corruption in the country since the release of 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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Nigeria cedes disputed peninsula to Cameroon following ICJ ruling
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 14, 2008 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Nigeria officially turned over the entirety of the disputed Bakassi peninsula [UN backgrounder] to neighboring Cameroon on Thursday, in compliance with a 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling [ICJ materials]. Basing its ruling on an old colonial agreement between England and Germany, the ICJ had ruled that the territory and its oil reserves should be handed over to Cameroon. Implementation of the ICJ ruling was handled by a special UN-appointed commission [UN backgrounder], under which a withdrawal was eventually negotiated. Although the Nigerian military withdrew from the northern part of the peninsula [JURIST report] in 2006, the countries had agreed that rest of Bakassi would remain under Nigerian civilian control for two more years. BBC New has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Most residents of Bakassi were Nigerian fishermen, most of whom have had to leave the peninsula to be resettled elsewhere in the country. Many have criticized government resettlement efforts, which set aside landlocked areas to house the displaced fishermen, as destroying their way of life. Nigeria and Cameroon's dispute over the territory [backgrounder] had let to violent conflicts between 1981 and 1994.






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Military commissions advisor too aggressive: Guantanamo official
Devin Montgomery on August 14, 2008 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Gen. Gregory Zanetti [official profile], deputy commander at Guantanamo Bay, testified [Miami Herald report] Wednesday that military commissions [JURIST news archive] legal advisor Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile] routinely bullied his counterparts and was inappropriately aggressive in seeking indictments against detainees. Zanetti's testimony fit in with earlier allegations [JURIST report] that Hartmann worked too closely with commission prosecutors despite his purportedly neutral role. Col. Lawrence Morris, the chief prosecutor in the case, said the complaints against Hartmann were more a function of personality conflicts than of actual misconduct. The testimony came at a hearing in the case of detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], whose lawyers are seeking to have charges against him dismissed due to alleged misconduct by Hartmann. AFP has more.

In May, lawyers for detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] unsuccessfully moved to have charges against their client dropped because of similar allegations [JURIST report] against Hartman.  Earlier that month, Hartman was disqualified [JURIST report] from participating in the military commission trial of detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], but has refused to resign [JURIST report] from his post. In April, former Guantanamo prosecutor  Colonel Morris D. Davis [official profile, PDF] said Hartmann had questioned the need for open trials [JURIST report] at Guantanamo and was upset with the slow pace of the proceedings begun by Davis. Davis resigned [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] from his position in October 2007, saying that politics were interfering with the prosecutions process.






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Energy company sentenced for violating US ocean dumping laws
Kiely Lewandowski on August 14, 2008 8:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Energy company Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals (KMBT) [corporate website] was sentenced Wednesday for its improper disposal of potash (potassium chloride) in violation of the Ocean Dumping Act [text]. In 2003, a KMBT employee dumped 160 metric tons of potash into the ocean after the substance came into contact with water and was therefore unsaleable. KMBT will pay a $156,000 fine and make an $84,000 community service payment to the Oregon Governor's Fund for the Environment. Calling KMBT's actions a "costly" violation of federal law, an EPA agent who investigated the incident said [DOJ press release]:

It is hard to imagine a clearer violation of the Ocean Dumping Act...Intentionally using the ocean as a garbage can for off spec potash is not only morally wrong, it's a crime. [KMBT] has paid a serious price for not taking care of this properly at the dock.
KMBT said [corporate press release] that as part of the settlement:
The government and the company acknowledge in a joint factual statement filed with the court that no harm was done to the environment; the former employee's actions constituted a violation of company policy; the company did not benefit financially from the incident; and no [KMBT] personnel outside of the [incident] either approved or had any knowledge of the former employee's arrangements.
Portland Business Journal has local coverage.

In 2006, KMBT settled [JURIST report] with the US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration [official website] for damage caused by its Pacific network of petroleum pipelines. Problems with the company's pipelines in the region have led to over 40 spills and ruptures, including a 2004 explosion in California that killed five construction workers. KMBT agreed to spend $90 million over five years to improve its oil pipelines in the region.





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Second Circuit rules publisher to retain rights to Steinbeck novels
Kiely Lewandowski on August 14, 2008 7:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] held Wednesday that publisher Penguin Group [corporate website] will retain the right to publish ten John Steinbeck [National Steinbeck Center bio] novels. The heirs involved in this copyright action already receive a percentage of the sales proceeds, but initiated this action because they believed they were entitled to a greater portion. The Second Circuit recognized the provision of the Copyright Act [text] granting authors and certain family members the power to terminate prior assignments of copyright because so many "young authors enter into long-term contracts with publishers when their bargaining power is weak and their prospects for success uncertain," but held that this power is limited. The Second Circuit held [opinion, PDF]:

[U]nder our view, authors or their statutory heirs holding termination rights are still left with an opportunity to threaten (or make good on a threat) to exercise termination rights and extract more favorable terms from early grants of an author's copyright. But nothing in the statute suggests that an author or an author's statutory heirs are entitled to more than one opportunity, between them, to use termination rights to enhance their bargaining power or to exercise them...In this case, Elaine Steinbeck had the opportunity in 1994 to renegotiate the terms of the 1938 Agreement to her benefit...By taking advantage of this opportunity, she exhausted the single opportunity provided by statute to Steinbeck's statutory heirs to revisit the terms of her late husband's original grants of licenses to his copyrights. It is no violation of the Copyright Act to execute a renegotiated contract where the Act gives the original copyright owner's statutory heirs the opportunity and incentive to do so.
The district court below had granted summary judgment for one of Steinbeck's sons and a granddaughter, finding that their 2004 "notice of termination" to Penguin Group superseded a 1938 copyright agreement between the publisher and the author. Bloomberg has more. AP has additional coverage.

Results of a Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) [advocacy website] report [PDF text; press release; JURIST report] released last year indicated that fair use exceptions [Copyright Office backgrounder] to US copyright laws create more than $4.5 trillion in revenue in the US annually, employ millions of workers, and represented one-sixth of the total US GDP in 2006. The Fair Use exception [text] to US copyright law permits limited unauthorized use of copyrighted material for scientific, educational, journalistic, or research purposes.





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California prison receiver asks court to order $8b for prison health facilities
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 13, 2008 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] California's court-appointed prison medical overseer J. Clark Kelso [official profile] has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] to force the state to pay $8 billion over the next five years to improve prison hospitals, according to court papers filed Wednesday. Kelso has previously said that California prisons [JURIST news archive] need an influx of $7 billion to bring inmate healthcare up to constitutional standards, but that the state senate has been unwilling to authorize a bond to borrow money for the project. Kelso appealed to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to use his emergency powers to raise the needed funds [JURIST report], but has more recently accused him of also failing to heed a federal order to secure the money. On Monday, Schwarzenegger himself filed a lawsuit [Mercury News report] seeking to reduce many state employees' pay to federal minimum wage in an effort to force legislators to meet budget deadlines. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

In January, a federal judge ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the healthcare provided in California prisons does not meet constitutional standards even though medical services have improved significantly since the court assumed oversight [JURIST report] of the system in 2005. Bringing the state's prison system up to constitutional standards could take as long as four years, according to officials at the California Health Care Receivership [official website]. In July 2007, the court ordered the formation of a special three-judge panel [JURIST report] to supervise and reduce California's prison population after finding that California's prison overcrowding was preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from adequately providing mental health care.






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Thailand officials deny Thaksin accusations of judicial bias
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2008 1:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Thailand Supreme Court vice president Krairiksh Kasemsant and army General Anupong Paochinda on Wednesday said there was no evidence to support accusations by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] that the country's judiciary is biased against the former leader. Thaksin,who faces numerous corruption charges, most recently made the claim Monday when he announced that he and his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] would not return to Thailand [JURIST report] from a trip to the UK. The two had been out on bail, and the Supreme Court issued warrants for their arrest [Bangkok Post report] when they failed to make a court appearance. The Thai government is reportedly seeking their extradition [Bloomberg report] from the UK and will retain their nearly $400,000 in bail. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] rejected [JURIST report] Thaksin's constitutional challenge to the commission that had brought charges against him. Thaksin had argued that the commission's governing statute imposed an unreasonable violation of his and his wife's rights to individual liberty. From Thailand, the Nation has local coverage.

In July, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin for his role in a 2003 resolution that reduced fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. In April, Pojamarn pleaded not guilty to charges [JURIST reports] of conflict of interest and malfeasance stemming from a 2003 agreement with the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website] to purchase land said to be worth three times more than the $26 million she paid for it. Lawyers for Thaksin have been jailed [JURIST report] for attempting to bribe court officials in one of Thaksin's cases, and current Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] is facing possible impeachment proceedings [JURIST report] due in part to his party's close association with Thaksin. Thaksin and Pojamarn had been in self-imposed exile from Thailand after Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006, but had returned to the country earlier this year [JURIST reports].






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US senator calls on Musharraf to resign from Pakistan presidency
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 13, 2008 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] should resign from office immediately, US Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) [official website] said in a statement released on Monday. The same day that Pakistan's Punjab Provincial Assembly [official website] voted [JURIST report] to ask Musharraf to resign or face possible impeachment by the country's parliament, Harkin said [text]:

Members of Pakistan's Punjab province local assembly's vote today continues to pressure President Musharraf to leave office. In the coming days, other provinces will have their say through a process of non-binding votes. I urge all political parties not to lose sight of the impact on the Pakistani people - long-standing friends of the Americans.

Today in Pakistan, the judges removed by Musharraf have yet to be restored, inflation is at an all time high and clashes occur frequently in tribal areas between Pakistan forces and 'Taliban' insurgents. One thing is for certain: it is time for the violence, blood shed and fear to cease and the confidence of the Pakistani
people to be restored.

In order to re-establish the rule of law, return the High Court judges to their official posts and get back to solving the day-to-day challenges of the Pakistani people, President Musharraf should strongly take into consideration the will of the Pakistani people and step-down. There are significant challenges that the leaders of Pakistan must confront in order to ensure the most basic needs for the people of Pakistan, and President Musharraf no longer seems to enjoy the confidence of the Pakistani people that will be necessary to move the country forward.

I have great respect, admiration and affection for the Pakistani people. I have spoken out many times in the US Senate for closer ties between the people of the US and the people of Pakistan. I count among my friends and leaders in different Pakistani political parties. My hope is for a better life for all Pakistani people, under a rule of law, in free, open, democratic society.
Of the Punjab Provincial Assembly's 371 members, 321 voted for the impeachment motion, including the majority of Musharraf's own Pakistan Muslim League-Q [party website] party. In response to the vote and impeachment plans [JURIST report] led by the country's coalition government, Musharraf stated he will fight the allegations of wrongdoing and asserted that the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) simply wants to impose their rule [PTI reports] over his own. ANI has more.

Last week, Musharraf affirmed his June vow [Dawn report] that he will neither step down nor go into exile, despite the recent pressure from opposition forces. Also last week, Pakistan's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf [JURIST report], a move that would require the endorsement of two-thirds of legislators in a joint session of parliament. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) 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. PPP leaders took a tougher stance in June, 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]. Also in June, PML-N leader and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.





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Russia searching for evidence of Georgia war crimes in South Ossetia
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2008 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Alexander Bastrykin, chairman of Russia's Prosecutor General's Office, said Wednesday that his staff is collecting evidence [ITAR-TASS report] of war crimes allegedly committed by Georgian forces in the breakaway region of South Ossetia [BBC report]. European Union leaders are planning to meet in Brussels to discuss the conflict [AFP report] and UK Foreign Minister David Miliband said that action should be taken if country can substantiate the allegations. On Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] ordered an end to military action [press release] in the region, but Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili [official website] said Wednesday that Russian troops had continued to advance [speech transcript].

Russian legislators on Monday adopted a measure calling for the establishment of an international tribunal [Itar-TASS report; JURIST report] charged with investigating allegations of genocide in the region, but Russia's Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika [Russiaprofile.org bio], later asserted that no such body is required [Interfax report] since any grievances could be resolved in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Also Monday, Georgia and Russia each accused the other of organizing mass civilian arrests and detentions [JURIST report]. Rights groups have warned that killings of civilians would constitute war crimes [JURIST report].






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France judges investigate torture allegations against Libya leader
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 13, 2008 11:53 AM ET

[JURIST] French judges have launched an investigation into torture allegations by a Palestinian doctor who was detained in Libya [JURIST news archive] for eight years after being accused of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV, a judicial official said Tuesday. Last year, Ashraf Jima Hajuj filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in France against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [official website], relying on France's accession to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text], which allows signatory countries to take legal action against torture suspects who enter their territory. Gaddafi had arrived in France that week for a five-day visit, but as a head of state, he may enjoy immunity. In January, Hajuj also filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) [official website] against Libya, alleging he was tortured during his detention. Decisions by the UNHRC are not binding, but it could ask that Libya pay damages. AFP has more.

Hajuj was among six foreign medics [BBC Q&A; JURIST news archive] sentenced by a Libyan court to life in prison [JURIST report] in July 2007 for allegedly infecting hospital patients with HIV. Libya released [JURIST report] the six that month after obtaining an agreement from the European Union to normalize and develop closer political and economic ties and increase medical and infrastructure aid. The medics have consistently maintained their innocence, saying they were scapegoated for unsanitary conditions in the Libyan hospital where they worked. Bulgaria, the home country of the nurses involved, has insisted that the medics were tortured into admitting guilt [HRW report].






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Federal court enjoins enforcement of wilderness protection rule
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2008 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Wyoming [official website] on Tuesday granted the state an injunction [decision, PDF] prohibiting the National Forest Service (NFS) [NFS materials] from enforcing a 2001 rule [PDF text] prohibiting the construction of roads and other developments in designated wilderness areas. Writing for the court, Judge Clarence Brimmer said that the rule violated both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act [texts]. The state had brought a complaint against the agency in 2003, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed [opinion] after the rule was superseded by an order from President George Bush in 2005. A judge in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California reinstated the 2001 rule [decision, PDF] in 2006, but Brimmer found that decision to be erroneous. The California ruling is pending appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and wilderness advocates have said they plan to appeal the Wyoming decision to the Tenth Circuit. AP has more.

In July, an en-banc panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] released a ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] granting broad deference to the NFS when making decisions regarding the impact of logging on national forests. In late June, the same panel ruled [PDF text, AP report] that the NFS generally has the prerogative to determine which trees are candidates for clearing after after a forest fire, but directed the agency to more thoroughly consider whether any logging should be done in certain wilderness areas. In May, the court reversed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a lower court order denying an injunction against a NFS plan to allow commercial logging in another forest to help pay for a wildfire prevention program.






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Mukasey against prosecuting DOJ officials involved in hiring scandal
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 13, 2008 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Justice (DOJ) officials accused of politicizing the hiring process will likely not face criminal prosecution, Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] told members of the American Bar Association [official website] on Tuesday. Mukasey criticized [prepared remarks; recorded video] DOJ officials for considering political affiliation in assessing job applicants, but noted that employees hired under the politicized process were not necessarily less qualified:

[S]ome commentators have suggested that we should criminally prosecute the people found in the reports to have committed misconduct. Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it. And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute. But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws...

...Other critics have suggested that we should summarily fire or reassign all those people who were hired through the flawed processes described in the joint reports. But there is a principle of equity that we all learned in the schoolyard, and that remains as true today as when we first heard it: two wrongs do not make a right. As the Inspector General himself recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee, the people hired in an improper way did not, themselves, do anything wrong. It therefore would be unfair – and quite possibly illegal given their civil service protections – to fire them or to reassign them without individual cause.

Also, that some of the officials involved in hiring gave improper consideration to politics does not mean that the people they hired are unqualified for their jobs. I am a former federal judge. I will disclose to you in this room, as I did more than once in the courtroom where I used to preside, that I did not sit for a competitive examination to get that job, nor did any of my colleagues, and I do not flatter myself with the thought that my selection was in any rigorous sense a merits appointment. Politics can and does play a role in the appointment of federal judges, but it doesn't follow from that that federal judges are unqualified to do their jobs.
Congressional Democrats criticized Mukasey for his comments, accusing him of being too quick to dismiss prosecution. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said [press release]:
Attorney General Mukasey's blanket conclusions appear premature based on the facts and evidence that congressional investigators and the Inspector General have uncovered so far. The White House stonewalling continues, with aides refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and testify about their role in the politicization of the Department of Justice. The Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, seems intent on insulating this administration from accountability. We must continue to pursue the truth and facts, and hold any wrongdoers accountable.
AP has more. RTTnews has additional coverage.

Last month, the DOJ Offices of Inspector General and Professional Responsibility concluded in a report [PDF text; JURIST report] that department aides illegally made hiring decisions based on consideration of applicants' political and ideological beliefs. In early 2007, officials began investigating allegations [JURIST report] that former DOJ aide Monica Goodling [JURIST news archive] and two other aides considered the political affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor positions in the Department, contrary to federal law [OSC backgrounder] and internal practices. The report also concluded that Goodling and one of the other aides committed misconduct through their actions. It recommended that the DOJ consider the aides' actions if any sought DOJ employment, while noting they could not currently be sanctioned because they had all resigned. Mukasey responded [press release] that the DOJ had made institutional improvements since the investigation began and would implement the Offices' new recommendations.





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US Supreme Court declines to consider interest owed on Exxon oil spill damages
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 13, 2008 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday declined to rule [order, PDF] on whether Exxon Mobil [corporate website] owes interest on a punitive damages award entered against it for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill [EPA backgrounder]. In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 [opinion; JURIST report] to reduce a punitive damages award to be paid by Exxon from $2.5 billion to $500 million, but did not rule on the issue of interest. Exxon then petitioned the Court for clarification of that issue. On Tuesday, the Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the matter to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. Exxon has argued that if it is required to pay interest on the award, it should only have to pay that which has accrued since the Supreme Court awarded damages, rather that which has accrued since a federal jury first awarded damages in 1994. AP has more.

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, and also considered Exxon's cleanup and compensation efforts. On Wednesday, the US Coast Guard [official website] resumed investigatory hearings into another tanker collision [JURIST report] which caused the spilling of approximately 400,000 gallons of oil into the Mississippi River on July 23, resulting in the temporary closure of a 100-mile stretch of the waterway.






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Coast Guard begins hearings on Mississippi River oil spill
Nick Fiske on August 13, 2008 9:21 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Coast Guard [official website] on Wednesday resumed its investigatory hearings into a collision between a barge and a tanker [Washington Post report] which caused the spilling of approximately 400,000 gallons of oil into the Mississippi River on July 23, resulting in the temporary closure of a 100-mile stretch of the waterway. Three foreign crew members from the Tintomara, the Liberian tanker ship that crashed into a barge loaded with fuel oil, are expected to be among the first witnesses questioned. Formal legal proceedings began in New Orleans on Tuesday, but Lt. Cmdr. Melissa Harper, the Coast Guard officer in charge of the trial-like investigation [Times-Picayune report], adjourned the hearing in order to give the parties one more day to review the voluminous documents. The tug boat pushing the barge was driven by an apprentice pilot, John Paul Bavaret II, who has elected to represent himself. Following Harper's questioning of the witnesses, Bavaret and the other interested parties, including the barge's owner, a staffing company, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) [official website], and the nation of Liberia, will all have a chance to question the crew members. A formal list of witnesses expected to be called during the investigation has not yet been released. KATC has local coverage.

While it is unclear if the Coast Guard will seek criminal charges against any of the crew involved in the Mississippi river spill, earlier this year federal charges were brought against Capt. John Joseph Cota, the California maritime pilot accused in the November 2007 spill of approximately 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil in the San Francisco Bay. Following preliminary Coast Guard and NTSB investigations, Cota was charged with two felony counts of making false statements to the Coast Guard on required annual medical forms, along with misdemeanor environmental violations [JURIST reports] of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act [texts] due to his allegedly negligent behavior.






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India peacekeeping troops accused of committing sex crimes in Congo
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2008 9:17 AM ET

Photo source or description
JURIST] The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said on Tuesday that the organization has found significant evidence that Indian peacekeeping troops have committed sex-crimes [press release] while stationed with the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) [official website]. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) [official website] began the investigation in May after receiving reports that some troops had paid for sex with Congolese minors. Condemning the alleged abuses if true, Ban's spokesperson stated:
The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the outcome... He reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, that such behaviour, if substantiated, is wholly unacceptable and that disciplinary action to the maximum degree permitted by Indian law should be taken as soon as possible against those found to be involved in such misconduct... The Secretary-General highly values India’s long-standing and valuable support for United Nations peacekeeping. He expresses his respect for all those peacekeepers from India and other troop-contributing countries who serve with honour and commitment, and stresses that the misconduct of a few should not diminish the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the large number of Blue Helmets who serve the cause of peace.
In response to the report, the Indian army has begun its own internal investigation [PTI report] into the allegations, a move praised by the UN. The alleged abuses were exposed during an earlier UN investigation into reports [UN News report] that some Pakistani and Indian troops had been involved in gold and arms smuggling in the African country. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.

The allegations of child exploitation made against the troops are particularly egregious given that the use of child soldiers [HRW materials] by militia leaders in the country was one of the primary human rights violations the forces have tried to remedy. One such leader, Thomas Lubanga [ICC materials; BBC profile], is currently being held in the Netherlands as the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] hears a prosecutor's appeal [PDF; JURIST report] against his release [JURIST report] which was ordered after alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Lubanga had been the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], and is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report; BBC report] and other human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder]. 



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US Homeland Security to settle suit alleging naturalization delays
Nick Fiske on August 13, 2008 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] on Tuesday reached a settlement agreement [PDF text] in a federal class action suit brought by two pro-immigration advocacy groups seeking to force the government to rule on the naturalization applications of over 350 immigrants living in Washington state. The settlement, still subject to approval by a US district court judge, would require the government to decide on the applications of all remaining class members by October 18 and reimburse the plaintiffs for $185,000 in attorneys fees. The Northwest Immigration Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed the lawsuit [Seattle Pi report] last October after immigrants complained that delays in the processing of their applications for citizenship violated federal law, which states in relevant part:

[A] decision to grant or deny the application shall be made at the time of the initial examination or within 120-days after the date of the initial examination of the applicant for naturalization.
Immigrants may seek naturalization before a district court under 8 USC 1447(b) [text] if the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services [official website] has failed to make a determination within 120 days. The government has stated that the delays were necessary for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] to run security checks on applicants. The government was not required to admit any fault, wrongdoing or liability as a result of the settlement. The Seattle Times has local coverage.

In June 2007, the ACLU filed a separate class action lawsuit [petition, PDF; press release] against federal immigration officials, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of immigration detainees, alleging that inadequate medical and mental health care [JURIST report] at detention facilities has caused "unnecessary suffering [and] avoidable death." Later that year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said DHS policies for detainees with AIDS do not meet international and domestic standards of care [report text; JURIST report], and that the DHS consistently fails to enforce its own minimum standards. The DHS recently released a report [text, PDF] stating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] officials do not always follow proper medical protocols [JURIST report] when dealing with immigrants.





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DC Circuit rules Bush administration officials immune to CIA leak lawsuit
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 12, 2008 3:14 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit against members of the Bush administration which was brought by Valerie Plame [Washington Post profile], the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative whose disclosed identity precipitated the 2003 CIA leak scandal [JURIST news archive]. The appellate court found that the officials who allegedly leaked information about Plame's identity were acting within the scope of their employment, and such government workers are generally protected by qualified immunity. Dissenting in part, Justice Rogers disagreed with the court's finding that the lawsuit “would inevitably require judicial intrusion into matters of national security and sensitive intelligence information,” and wrote:

The disclosure concerns identified by the court as counselling hesitation are either unfounded or premature because there has been no discovery or presentation by the Wilsons to the district court of how they will attempt to prove their claims. Contrary to separation of powers, then, the court effectively cedes to Congress the judiciary’s defined role to decide issues arising under the Constitution
Last month, US District Judge John Bates had dismissed [JURIST report] the lawsuit, ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction over her tort claim. AP has more.

The suit, filed [JURIST report] last year against Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove [official profile], and former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [JURIST news archive], asserted that they and 10 unnamed administration officials violated Plame's rights to privacy, free speech, and equal protection under the US Constitution by conspiring to expose her, threatening her career and endangering her family. Plame contends that the defendants revealed her identity as an undercover CIA operative in retaliation for the statements made by her husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson [BBC profile], in which he denied Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase materials for a nuclear weapon. Libby was convicted in March 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the case and sentenced [JURIST reports] to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. President George W. Bush commuted [JURIST report] his prison sentence last year.





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Germany constitutional court upholds Bavaria smoking ban
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 12, 2008 1:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] on Tuesday upheld [ruling, in German; press release, in German] a state ban on smoking in public restaurants and bars in Bavaria. The Bavarian ban is the strictest in the nation, where public smoking is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Last month, the Constitutional Court ruled [text, in German; JURIST report] that several other state anti-smoking laws allowing bars to designate a separate room for smokers unconstitutionally discriminated against one-room establishments. The court held that that all publicly-accessible businesses must be treated equally before the law, so either smoking must be banned in bars entirely or the laws must be rewritten to create exemptions for smaller businesses. The Bavarian law was held to be constitutional because it does not include an exception for separate smoking rooms. AP has more.

In 2006, the federal government of Germany rejected a proposed nationwide ban on smoking in restaurants out of concern that it would intrude on police powers guaranteed to the states in the wake of federalism reforms which had been approved [JURIST reports] that summer. Under the new constitutional reforms, Germany's 16 states have the power to regulate restaurants and businesses. Elsewhere in Europe, legislatures of England and France [JURIST reports] have approved nationwide smoking bans in public places. In the US, voters in three states approved state-wide smoking bans [JURIST report] in the 2006 November elections, while Rhode Island amended its smoking ban after a state judge struck down [JURIST report] several provisions of the law as irrational and therefore unconstitutional in 2005.






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Federal court denies transfer for Uighur Guantanamo detainees
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 12, 2008 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] last week denied [opinion, PDF] a request made by six ethnic Uighur Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainees to be transferred to less restrictive facilities within the base. The petitioners argued that their solitary confinement in a higher security section of the base caused them mental suffering, but the court ruled that the detainees did not sufficiently demonstrate that they would suffer irreparable harm if they were not moved. Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled:

What is clear is that no court has ever ruled that detainees, designated as enemy combatants, have a right to challenge the conditions of their confinement pursuant to the constitutional writ of habeas corpus. Furthermore, courts are reluctant to second-guess day-to-day operations of domestic prison facilities, especially when doing so intrudes upon the military and national security affairs. This deference combined with the paucity of evidence of irreparable injury and the petitioners' failure to articulate a specific constitutional right and standard from which to analyze the facts of this case presses the court to deny the petitioners' motion for a TRO and a preliminary injunction.
Guantanamo Bay currently houses 17 other Uighur enemy combatants who have been cleared for transfer out of the facility.

In 2006, lawyers for several Chinese detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in US federal court seeking their release due to alleged flaws in the process by which they were deemed enemy combatants. The group of seven ethnic Uighurs were deemed enemy combatants by Guantanamo's Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) [DOD materials], while five other Uighurs were cleared and subsequently released [JURIST report] from Guantanamo Bay. The new lawsuit alleged that the CSRTs relied on essentially the same evidence that was used to clear the five, and asserts that the detainees continued to be held as the result of a political agreement between China and the US.





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Ninth Circuit rules on release conditions for child pornography convicts
Devin Montgomery on August 12, 2008 12:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Monday that computer and PO box use restrictions placed on those convicted of child pornography offenses [statute text] are reasonable as long as they are reasonably connected to their conviction and are construed narrowly enough to allow legitimate computer and mail use. The issue came before the court due to a challenge made by Robert Goddard against restrictions placed upon him as conditions of his supervised release [statute text] after he was convicted of downloading and possessing child pornography. The court clarified the limitations placed on computer use and upheld the PO box and other restrictions:

We believe that two of the computer conditions are problematic if broadly construed, because they could be read to prohibit all use of a computer except for work and to make the use of a work computer impracticable. However, these conditions involve no greater a deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary if narrowly construed to allow personal computer use as approved by the probation officer and not to condition routine or automatic software additions, deletions, upgrades, updates, installations, repairs, or other modifications on prior approval. So construed, we approve the computer conditions and conclude that the remaining conditions are also reasonable. [citations omitted]
Last month, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo [official profile] wrote a letter [text, PDF; JURIST report] stating that his office would bring legal action against Comcast Cable Communications [corporate website] unless the company agrees to block child pornography websites and strengthen its reporting requirements. In May, the US Supreme Court held in United States v. Williams [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] that the PROTECT Act [text], aimed at preventing the pandering or solicitation of child pornography, was not unconstitutionally broad or vague, unlike similar laws [Child Pornography Prevention Act] challenged in the past. The decision reversed a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.





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Cambodia genocide tribunal indicts former Khmer Rouge prison chief
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 12, 2008 12:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday issued a closing order [PDF text; press release] to officially indict former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch profile], also known as Duch, on charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. Duch is the first suspect to be charged since the tribunal was established in 2006. No trial date has been set, although sources expect it to commence in September. Duch, who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, is one of five top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive; BBC backgrounder] currently in ECCC custody. AP has more.

In April, ECCC officials said that the court expected to complete its investigation [JURIST report] into Duch by July. Duch was arrested in 1999 on genocide charges and was subsequently charged with war crimes by a military court in March and with crimes against humanity [JURIST reports] by the ECCC in July. It is thought that those charges were brought to keep Duch in custody while the ECCC began its initial operations. A panel of ECCC judges ruled late last year that Duch should not be granted bail [JURIST report] while preparations for his trial continue.






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Denmark begins trial of two bomb plot suspects
Devin Montgomery on August 12, 2008 10:58 AM ET

[JURIST] A Danish court on Monday began the trial of two men accused of planning a bomb attack on the country. The pair admitted to manufacturing an explosive compound, but have denied that they were planning an attack or that they intended to use it to make a bomb. A representative of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) [official website] has said the unnamed men, one from Pakistan and the other from Afghanistan, are also suspected of having ties to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors in the case are heavily relying on covert surveillance evidence collected by PET and foreign intelligence agencies, including chat logs discussing the June bombing of the Danish embassy [press release] in Pakistan. The men could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, and a verdict in the trial is expected in October. AP has more. The Copenhagen Post has local coverage.

Covert and electronic surveillance [JURIST news archive] methods such as those used by prosecutors in the case have recently become more widespread and have been criticized by privacy groups. In 2006, a Danish court ordered the continued detention of two men charged [JURIST report] in connection with an alleged terror plot set to take place in Denmark, but also ordered the release of five others who had been charged. The country was the focus of a worldwide controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] published by a Danish newspaper in 2005, which in early 2006 prompted other attacks on Danish embassies abroad.






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Western nations blocked Karadzic arrest: ICTY spokesperson
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 12, 2008 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Attempts to bring war crimes suspect and former fugitive Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to trial were long delayed by the US, France, and England, a former spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official site] said in a interview published in Serbian newspaper Blic [media website] on Sunday. Florence Hartmann accused former US President Bill Clinton and former French President Jacques Chirac of interfering to prevent the arrest of Karadzic, and suggested that the US had only relented when it realized that his freedom was a stumbling block to stability in the region. Hartmann made similar accusations [JURIST report] last year in her memoirs [book website], saying that the US and other western countries repeatedly impeded ICTY efforts to arrest Karadzic. In her book, Hartmann also said that Russia aided in moving Karadzic to safety in Belarus, and alleged that the West helped in order to hide information about the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Sapa-DPA has more.

Last week, Karadzic submitted a document [PDF text; JURIST report] to the ICTY asserting that he was granted an immunity deal by former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke [PBS biography], conditioned on his removing himself from public life. He went on to ask the Tribunal to order the appearance of not only Holbrooke, but also former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright [DOS profile] and two other officials allegedly involved in the deal. Holbrooke and Albright have denied the accusations, but Purdue University Professor Charles Ingrao [faculty profile], leader of a research group [Scholars' Initiative website] dealing with issues of the former Yugoslavia, said in an interview [Bosnian Institute report] that he has independent evidence verifying Karadzic's claims.






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Federal judge refuses to enjoin enforcement of airport gun ban
Devin Montgomery on August 12, 2008 9:21 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] on Monday refused to grant a temporary injunction allowing concealed firearms in non-secure areas of the Atlanta International Airport. Gun ownership advocacy group GeorgiaCarry.org (GCO) [advocacy website] and state Representative Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) [official profile] had sought to temporarily prevent the airport from enforcing a total gun ban [press release, PDF] while the court considers a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; case materials] challenging the ban's constitutionality. GCO and Bearden argue that the ban also violates a state law [PDF text; statute materials] allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in state parks, public transit and other areas. The airport has issued a request to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website], asking the federal agency to sign off on the ban in order to preempt the state law. AP has more. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has local coverage.

Challenges to firearm restrictions [JURIST report] have become increasingly common since the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court affirmed a decision invalidating the District of Columbia's handgun ban [JURIST report]. Heller marked the first occasion that the Supreme Court directly addressed the Second Amendment since 1939's US v. Miller [case materials].






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South Ossetia conflict prompts discussion of creating genocide tribunal
Abigail Salisbury on August 12, 2008 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Russian legislators on Monday adopted a measure calling for the establishment of an international tribunal [Itar-TASS report] charged with investigating allegations of genocide in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia's Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika [Russiaprofile.org bio], responded to the request on Tuesday, asserting that no such body is required [Interfax report], since any grievances could be resolved in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. On Sunday, Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin [Kommersant report] had described deaths in South Ossetia as numbering in the thousands, and said that those responsible should be tried in a special international court.

Also Tuesday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that the conflict with Georgia can end when troops partly demilitarize and a non-use of force agreement is signed [Reuters report]. Georgian officials later stated that Russian forces continued to attack well after Medvedev announced an order to halt military action [CNN report]. On Monday, Georgia and Russia each accused the other of organizing mass civilian arrests and detentions. Rights groups have warned that killings of civilians would constitute war crimes [JURIST report], but Russian officials argued Saturday that Russia sent troops into South Ossetia to protect civilians [BBC report].






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Mauritania militia forms state council to confer legal powers on leader
Abigail Salisbury on August 12, 2008 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The newly-formed state council of the military group which overthrew [JURIST report] the government of Mauritania [CIA factbook profile] last week passed a law on Tuesday conferring on its leader, Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, all the powers of deposed President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi [BBC profile]. On Monday, the group released [BBC News report] Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef [IBT report] and three other officials close to the president, but retained custody of Abdallahi.

At one time, Aziz supported Abdallahi, but the two split after Abdallahi made political concessions to conservative Muslim groups. In 2005, Aziz also backed a coup [JURIST report] to remove then-President Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Taya [BBC report]. Taya himself had come to power in a coup two decades prior and survived numerous other attempts [JURIST report] to overthrow his administration.






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ICC prosecutor condemns Sudan war crimes probe
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 11, 2008 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Sudan is merely going through the motions with its planned probe [JURIST report] into Darfur human rights violations, said International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] in an interview [text] with the Sudan Tribune on Monday. Moreno-Ocampo commented that Sudan does not have the political will to bring human rights offenders to justice, noting that an earlier Sudanese investigation into genocide claims was led by Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun [JURIST report], himself wanted by the ICC:

They did it many times. They end up investigating no one. They even appointed Haroun to head a committee on Darfur human rights. This is part of the cover up and they have been saying this for years. The only individuals prosecuted are those who resist illegal instructions to attack people in Darfur such as pilots or soldiers.
UPI has more.

Sudan Justice Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat said last week that he had named one primary prosecutor and three assistants to investigate and try war crimes suspects from the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. The ICC in the Netherlands currently handles such proceedings, but if Sudanese domestic courts are created with appropriate human rights and accountability safeguards, the ICC is required to hand over jurisdiction under Article 16 of the Rome Statute [PDF text]. The announcement is seen largely as a reaction to the controversial effort [JURIST report] to seek an arrest warrant [application, PDF; ICC press release] for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. Both the League of Arab States (LAS) and the African Union (AU) [official websites] have criticized [JURIST report] the warrant and underlying indictment, saying they threaten peace in the unstable country and that Sudan will create its own internationally-monitored courts [JURIST report].





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Philippines legislators vote to create Muslim rights commission
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 11, 2008 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] The Philippines House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill [HB 4253 text] on Monday to create a new national commission meant to guarantee the rights of Muslims citizens. The bill creates a National Commission on Muslim Filipinos to replace the existing Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) [official website], created in 1987. The new commission will be responsible for addressing complaints of rights violations brought by Muslim citizens, for overseeing the development and distribution of lands traditionally held by Muslim Filipinos, and for advising the president on issues relevant to the country's Muslim population, as well as other duties previously held by the OMA. House Speaker Prospero Nograles praised the measure [government press release; House of Representatives press release] as a way to "ensure the rights and well-being of our Muslim brothers." The Philippine Daily Inquirer has more.

The government of the Philippines has been engaged in a long-standing conflict with Muslim rebels in the country's southern provinces. In July, the government reached a peace agreement with rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [group website; BBC backgrounder], granting expanded boundaries to the country's southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) [official website]. The two sides said they had also reached tentative agreements [AFP report] on the distribution of mining revenues from the region, a timeline for local elections, and the implementation of new regulations. The government first suggested [JURIST report] that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005. Earlier this month, a judge for the Supreme Court of the Philippines enjoined [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] government agents from signing the peace agreement.






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Russia trades accusations with Georgia over alleged mass civilian detentions
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 11, 2008 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Georgia is forcibly detaining Russian citizens within its borders in violation of international law, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] said in a Monday communication with Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliev. In the communication, Medvedev instructed Nurgaliev to ensure that the rights of ethnic Georgians in Russia are protected:

I have received information, and you have probably also heard this, that the Georgian authorities are forcibly detaining Russian citizens on Georgian territory. This is, of course, in complete violation of international law. I do not know why they are doing this. Maybe they think they can use these people as a human shield. This is a completely unacceptable situation.

I also want to say - and I want you to take this under your personal control – that all citizens of foreign states, who are legally in Russia, must not be subjected to any kind of discrimination and can remain in Russia in accordance with the agreements that our country has with the countries from which these people have come. Supervision of these matters is the Ministry of Internal Affairs' responsibility and I ask you to ensure it is carried out.
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] denied the allegations as "an absolute lie" [press release.] Also Monday, Georgia levied similar accusations of mass detentions against Russia [press release]:
According to the reliable information held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Russian servicemen and separatists carry out mass arrests of peaceful civilians of Georgian origin still remaining on the territory of the Tskhinvali region and subsequently concentrate them on the territory of the village of Kurta.

Georgia appeals to the International Red Cross and other humanitarian and international organizations and the international community as a whole to immediately take decisive and effective measures for the evacuation of this population from the conflict zone.
CNN has more.

International human rights groups on Saturday condemned any violence Russian or Georgian forces might commit against civilians in the separatist region of South Ossetia [BBC backgrounder], warning that those actions may amount to war crimes. After a period of smaller conflicts, on Friday the Republic of Georgia [official backgrounder; JURIST news archive] announced that to restore constitutional order, it was launching a large scale military offensive [NY Times report] in the region, which broke away from Georgia following a 1991-1992 war. On Saturday, Russia sent troops [BBC report] into South Ossetia in what it called a mission to protect civilians. Analysts say the current fighting marks the continuing deterioration [JURIST report] in Georgian-Russian relations. Recent conflicts have included accusations by Georgian authorities [JURIST report] that Russia instigated protests calling for an overthrow of the government last November, and allegations of Russia's role in a coup plot [JURIST report] in August 2007.





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Pakistan assembly votes for Musharraf resignation
Devin Montgomery on August 11, 2008 11:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Punjab Provincial Assembly [official website] on Monday voted [PTI report] to ask President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] to resign or face possible impeachment by the country's parliament. Of the body's 371 members, 321 voted for the motion, including the majority of Musharraf's own Pakistan Muslim League-Q [party website] party. In response to the vote and impeachment plans [JURIST report] led by the country's coalition government, Musharraf stated he will fight the allegations of wrongdoing and asserted that the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) simply wants to impose their rule [PTI reports] over his own. For the potential impeachment to succeed, it would require the endorsement of two-thirds of legislators in a joint session of parliament. The lower house of parliament was scheduled to meet later on Monday [Hindustan Times report] to consider the move. BBC News has more.

PPP and coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PMNL-N) leaders 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. PPP leaders took a tougher stance in June, 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]. The PML-N then called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Qwest to settle shareholder suit for an additional $40 million
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 11, 2008 11:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Qwest Communications [corporate website] will pay an additional $40 million to settle a class action shareholder lawsuit, according to an agreement released Monday in the company's second quarter earnings report [press release; materials]. Of that number, $5 million comes from insurance revenue by former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio [JURIST news archive] and former CFO Robert Woodruff. In 2006, a federal judge approved a $400 million settlement [AP report] that did not include Nacchio or Woodruff, but the two former Qwest officials appealed, arguing that Qwest was required to indemnify them from future litigation. A federal court must still approve the new settlement terms. AP has more.

Federal prosecutors indicted Nacchio in December 2005 on 42 counts of insider trading [JURIST report]. He and other former Qwest executives still face civil fraud charges [JURIST report] brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] on allegations that Qwest improperly reported approximately $3 billion in revenue related to its 2000 merger with US West. Another former Qwest employee, ex-vice president Marc Weisberg, pleaded guilty to wire fraud [JURIST report] in December 2005 and helped prosecutors build their case against Nacchio.
Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] granted [order, PDF] prosecutors' petition for an en banc rehearing on whether Nacchio's insider trading conviction should be overturned. In March, a Tenth Circuit panel struck down [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] Nacchio's previous conviction and ordered a new trial.






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Myanmar activist Suu Kyi meets with lawyer to discuss detention
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 11, 2008 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Detained Myanmarian democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has met with a lawyer to discuss the legality of her detention, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party said Sunday. This was apparently the first time in five years that Suu Kyi has been allowed to consult with a legal representative. In May, the ruling junta extended Suu Kyi's house arrest for another year [JURIST report], a decision that has angered many international human rights organizations and activists. The extension is said to violate a Myanmarian law barring the government from detaining a person for over five years without trial, although a June editorial in state newspaper New Light of Myanmar [media website] said that the law authorized detentions for up to six years. AP has more.

Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, has spent 11 of the past 17 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text]. Last year, the military government had implied that she might be released [JURIST report] after the country's new constitution was approved. In May, the junta announced that Myanmar's draft constitution [JURIST news archive] had been overwhelmingly approved [JURIST report] in a national referendum after two rounds of voting with 92 percent of votes cast favoring the proposed charter and 98 percent of the country's 27 million eligible voters turning out.






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Bolivia president plans to use referendum victory to push reforms
Devin Montgomery on August 11, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian national referendum [JURIST reports] results released Monday show that President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] won an estimated 63% of the votes on Sunday, enough to stay in office. Morales himself proposed the referendum [JURIST report] last December in response to accusations that his process for rewriting the Bolivian constitution has been illegitimate, and said Monday that he will use his demonstrated support to push for nationalization of major industries and concentration of power in the central government. Despite Morales's claim that the vote would bring unity to the country [press release, in Spanish], opponents of the changes have held protests [BBC report] calling for more autonomy for provincial governments in the country. AFP has more.

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.






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Thailand high court issues arrest warrants after ex-PM Thaksin stays in UK with wife
Devin Montgomery on August 11, 2008 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Thailand issued arrest warrants [Bangkok Post report] on Monday for former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] after the two failed to return to Thailand from the UK on Sunday. Thaksin and Pojamarn had been released on bail, but recently sent a letter to the Thai government saying they would not be returning from the UK [Bangkok Post report] because they do not believe they could receive fair trials in the current judicial system. The Thai government is reportedly seeking their extradition [Bloomberg report] from the UK and will retain their nearly $400,000 in bail. Late last month, A Thai court convicted Pojmarn [JURIST report] of tax evasion for transferring $16.3 million worth of stock to her step-brother and secretary, and the government brought additional corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin, alleging that he and 47 others were involved in misconduct related to the country's lottery system. AFP has more.

In July, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed corruption charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin for his role in a 2003 resolution that reduced fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. In April, Pojmanrn pleaded not guilty to charges [JURIST reports] of conflict of interest and malfeasance stemming from a 2003 agreement with the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website] to purchase land said to be worth three times more than the $26 million she paid for it. Lawyers for Thaksin have been jailed [JURIST report] for attempting to bribe court officials in one of Thaksin's cases, and current Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] is facing possible impeachment proceedings [JURIST report] due in part to his party's close association with Thaksin. Thaksin and Pojamarn had been in self-imposed exile from Thailand after Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006, but had returned to the country earlier this year [JURIST reports].






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Israel must suspend plan to demolish homes of suspected terrorists: HRW
Deirdre Jurand on August 10, 2008 12:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday asked the Israeli government to stop official plans [letter text] to demolish or confiscate the homes of those suspected of terrorism, calling such plans a violation of international law. The request by HRW came after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official website, in Hebrew] on Wednesday ordered the demolition [Jerusalem Post report] of a home owned by the family of a suspected terrorist. HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said of the demolition plans:

Proposals to allow the Israel Defense Forces to resume the collective punishment of house demolitions would mark a substantial step backward in Israel’s respect for human rights – a return to illegality. ...Punishing people for the crimes of others is no solution to terrorism. Israel should focus on bringing to justice those who actually plan or carry out attacks.
HRW officials wrote that the demolition policy violates both Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits all property destruction in occupied territories except as "absolutely necessary" for military reasons. They also alleged violations of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention [texts] because the demolitions are collective punishments affecting people who are not suspected terrorists.

In February 2005, then-Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz [BBC profile] ordered a halt [JURIST report] to the destruction of homes of suspected terrorists after a committee report showed that the policy was inflaming tensions with Palestinians. The policy was initiated in 2000 in an attempt to deter terrorists who did not want to leave their families homeless, or to encourage families to turn in those plotting attacks. Under the plan, about 670 homes were destroyed. Israeli and international human rights groups have objected to the policy, condemning it [B'Tselem backgrounder] as a form of collective punishment affecting innocent individuals.





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Khadr lawyers sue Canada PM seeking to compel release demand
Abigail Salisbury on August 10, 2008 11:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] has filed suit [Globe and Mail report; Federal Court of Canada docket] against Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official profile] in an effort to compel Harper to demand his release. Following last month's discovery of documents [text, PDF] showing that the Canadian government knew Khadr had been mistreated [JURIST report], Harper has come under heavy criticism [JURIST report] for refusing to interfere with US proceedings against Khadr. Harper has stated his belief that the Guantanamo process is necessary to discover the truth.

Khadr faces life imprisonment for April 2007 charges [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying. Khadr is one of four [JURIST report] Guantanamo detainees facing prosecution under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF]. On March 13, a US military judge also 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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Indonesia group protests US Congress letter seeking prisoner release
Deirdre Jurand on August 10, 2008 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Members of the Muslim group Hizbut Tahir Indonesia (HTI) [group website, in Bahasa] held a demonstration outside the US Consulate General and the US embassy in Jakarta Sunday to protest a letter [text, PDF] sent by members of US Congress asking for the release of two Papuan prisoners. In 2005, an Indonesian court sentenced Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage [Amnesty International backgrounder], both members of the opposition group Free Papua Organization (OPM) [group website], to 10 and 15 years in prison respectively after finding them guilty of treason for raising a Papuan flag. In the letter, the members of Congress wrote:

We urge you to take action to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Karma and Mr. Pakage. Any security officials who mistreated Mr. Karma or who may have employed inappropriate force against peaceful demonstrators should be prosecuted. Such steps would be an important indicator that Indonesia, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, takes its international obligations to fully respect universally recognized human rights.
The protesters stressed that US officials should not interfere with the affairs of other sovereign nations and called on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [BBC profile] to reject the US request. Indonesian officials have said [ANTARA report] that their official response will include the protesters' request for US noninterference. ANTARA News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In February 2007, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [text; JURIST report] indicating that Indonesia had convicted and jailed at least 18 people for advocating a sovereign government for the province of Papua. Article 28 of Indonesia's 1945 Constitution [text] guarantees freedom of expression, but HRW wrote that subsequent legislation has denied Indonesians this right. In July 2007, the Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website] voided Articles 154 and 155 of the Indonesian criminal code prohibiting acts of inciting hatred against the government or the distribution of materials voicing opposition against the government, ruling [JURIST report] that Dutch colonial-era articles violated the freedom of expression guaranteed in the country's constitution.





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Bolivia holds presidential confidence referendum
Abigail Salisbury on August 10, 2008 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Bolivia on Sunday held a national referendum [JURIST report] on whether to keep Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile], Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, and Bolivia's nine governors in office. Morales himself actually proposed the idea of a recall election [JURIST report] last December in response to accusations that his process for rewriting the Bolivian constitution has been illegitimate, but following Saturday reports of pre-election violence, some experts speculated that the referendum may lead to greater problems in the nation [AFP report]. Bolivians are required to vote [RTE News report] in the referendum, and face a large fine if they refuse. The officials must win more than 53.74 percent of the vote to keep their positions. AP has more.

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.






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US citizen sentenced to nearly 16 years for spying for China
Steve Czajkowski on August 9, 2008 6:03 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] on Friday sentenced [DOJ press release] Tai Shen Kuo, a naturalized US citizen and Louisiana businessman, to 188 months in prison for his part in a conspiracy to deliver national defense information to China [JURIST news archive]. Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] also required Kuo to forfeit $40,000 after he pleaded guilty to the espionage charges on May 13. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], between March 2007 and February 2008 Gregg William Bergersen, an analyst at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency [official website], a group within the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website], gave Kuo classified information on US military sales to Taiwan [JURIST news archive] and US military communications security. The DOJ also stated that Kuo gave gifts to Bergersen and promised to give him a position in his company. BBC News has more.

Bergersen was charged [affidavit, PDF] and arrested [JURIST report] in February and later pleaded guilty [DOJ press release; JURIST report] to conspiracy for disclosing national defense information. Last month he was sentenced [JURIST report] to five years in prison. In another Chinese espionage case, Dongfan "Greg" Chung, a former Chinese-American engineer at Boeing [corporate website], was arrested in February and charged with stealing corporate trade secrets [PDF indictment] related to aerospace programs and turning them over to China. Chung's and Bergersen's activities were allegedly linked by Chi Mak [CI Centre backgrounder; JURIST report], a Chinese-American engineer sentenced [JURIST report] in March for conspiring to smuggle sensitive naval intelligence data to China.






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SEC investigating bank over auction-rate securities sales
Deirdre Jurand on August 9, 2008 12:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. [corporate website] disclosed Friday in its quarterly report [text; materials] that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] is investigating possible breaches of procedure by one of the bank's subsidiaries in auction-rate securities sales and purchases. Auction-rate securities [New York Times report] are long-term bonds with varying interest rates that change based on weekly or monthly auctions. In the report, bank officials wrote:

The Company self-disclosed to the SEC that Mellon Financial Markets LLC ("MFM") placed orders on behalf of issuers to purchase their own Auction Rate Securities. The SEC is conducting an investigation of those transactions. MFM is cooperating fully with the SEC in its investigation.
AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

On Thursday, the SEC agreed to a preliminary settlement with financial firm Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. [corporate website; SEC press release] over the firm's auction-rate securities practices, and Friday the agency entered into a similar settlement with the firm UBS [corporate website; SEC press release]. UBS is also facing a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] filed late last month by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo [official profile] for allegedly misrepresenting auction-rate securities as low-risk despite the actual volatility of such investments. AP has more.





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UN celebrates adoption of indigenous rights declaration
Deirdre Jurand on August 9, 2008 11:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN observed its fourteenth International Day of the World’s Indigenous People [official website] Saturday, marking the first observance since the September 2007 adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text, PDF; FAQ, PDF]. In 1994, the General Assembly declared [A/RES/49/214 text, PDF] that the day would be observed every August 9 in an effort to "promote the enjoyment of the rights of indigenous people and the full development of their distinct cultures and communities." The Assembly reaffirmed that declaration [A/RES/59/174 text, PDF; official website] in 2004. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said [statement] of the UN's continued observance of the day in 2008:

The fundamental motivation was the Assembly’s recognition of the need to place the United Nations clearly and strongly behind the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, in order to put an end to their marginalization, their extreme poverty, the expropriation of their traditional lands and the other grave human rights abuses they have faced and continue to encounter. Indeed, the suffering of indigenous peoples includes some of the darkest episodes in human history.
The UN's official celebration [program and materials] of the day included statements by UN officials, a cultural performance and a panel discussion on Conciliation and Reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and States. The UN News Centre has more.

The Declaration adopted [press release; JURIST report] by the General Assembly in 2007 is a non-binding treaty outlining the global human rights [JURIST news archive] of about 370 million indigenous people and banning discrimination against them. 143 member states voted to adopt the treaty and 11 abstained. Four member states - Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States - voted against adopting the treaty, citing concerns that its text conflicted with their countries' own laws, among other contentions.





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Rights groups warn of possible war crimes in Georgia republic breakaway region
Steve Czajkowski on August 9, 2008 11:05 AM ET

[JURIST] International human rights groups on Saturday condemned any violence Russian or Georgian forces might commit against civilians in the separatist region of South Ossetia [BBC backgrounder], warning that those actions may amount to war crimes. After a period of smaller conflicts, on Friday the Republic of Georgia [official backgrounder; JURIST news archive] announced that to restore constitutional order, it was launching a large scale military offensive [NY Times report] in the region, which broke away from Georgia following a 1991-1992 war. On Saturday, Russia sent troops [BBC report] into South Ossetia in what it called a mission to protect civilians. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] Europe and Central Asia Director Holly Cartner stated [press release]:

All sides must remember that attacks on civilians, or acts intended to terrorize civilians, clearly violate international humanitarian law, and may constitute war crimes. This would be true even if they are carried out in reprisal for indiscriminate attacks by the adversary.
The International Crisis Group [official website] issued a similar statement [text], calling on both sides to end the conflict and uphold humanitarian law. Reuters has more.

After South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia in 1991, violence in the region continued until the following year, when an agreement was reached to deploy peacekeepers from Georgia, Russia, and South Ossetia itself. There was a lull in the conflict until Mikhail Saakashvili [official website] became president of Georgia in 2004, and announced his intentions to bring breakaway regions back under Georgian control. Analysts say the current fighting marks the continuing deterioration [JURIST report] in Georgian-Russian relations. Recent conflicts have included accusations by Georgian authorities [JURIST report] that Russia instigated protests calling for an overthrow of the government last November, and allegations of Russia's role in a coup plot [JURIST report] in August 2007.





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DC Circuit dismisses Fannie Mae shareholder suit
Abigail Salisbury on August 8, 2008 8:39 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] on Friday dismissed [decision, PDF] a shareholder suit against government-sponsored lender Fannie Mae [corporate website] for alleged wrongdoing by the board of directors. Shareholders accused the board of failing to take appropriate steps in 2004 to prevent accounting violations, and also asserted that the board should not have approved $31 million in severance benefits for two officers who resigned as a result of the violations. Upholding the district court's decision [JURIST report], the DC Circuit held that it had the authority [US Code § 1723] to hear claims against Fannie Mae, but that the appellants were not excused from making demand on the board [FRCP Rule 23.1 text] prior to filing suit. Judge Kavanaugh commented, "The story of Fannie Mae told by these reports is disturbing." Later in the opinion, he wrote:

According to plaintiffs, the complaint alleges that the directors crossed that line by failing to adequately respond to several “red flags”: (1) a $200 million audit difference originating in 1998; (2) a whistleblower’s complaints that Fannie Mae was improperly manipulating earnings; (3) signs that Fannie Mae management was using improper hedge accounting practices; and (4) sister company Freddie Mac’s disclosure in 2003 that it had understated profits. We disagree that these allegations create a“substantial likelihood” of personal liability for the directors. On each claim, the Board or its relevant committee looked into the matter and relied on internal or external accounting experts and officials responsible for those matters. [citations omitted]
Also Friday, Fannie Mae announced a second quarter loss in excess of $2 billion [New York Times report], prompting careful evaluation of recent legislative action [JURIST report] and leading to increased speculation about a government "bailout" [Forbes report].

In October 2004, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation into whether Fannie Mae broke accounting rules to boost earnings and executive bonuses, but dropped [JURIST reports] the investigation in August 2006. In May 2005, Fannie Mae agreed to pay $400 million [JURIST report] as part of a settlement with regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission. In April of this year, former CEO Franklin Raines agreed to pay $24.7 million [press release; JURIST report] to settle a related civil lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) [official website].





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Musharraf will not step down as Pakistan president: allies
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 8, 2008 3:37 PM ET

[JURIST] According to high-level supporters on Friday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive] has affirmed his June vow [Dawn report] that he will neither step down nor go into exile, despite the recent pressure from opposition forces. Secretary General of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q [party website] party Mushahid Hussain said that Musharraf will fight against impeachment, with plans to portray himself as an honest leader in comparison to Pakistan People's Party (PPP) head Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) head Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive], both of whom have faced corruption accusations in the past. On Thursday, Pakistan's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf [JURIST report], a move that would require the endorsement of two-thirds of legislators in a joint session of parliament. The New York Times has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

PPP and coalition partner PML-N 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. PPP leaders took a tougher stance in June, 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]. The PML-N then called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Sudan to try five for killing of US diplomat
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 8, 2008 2:56 PM ET

[JURIST] An August 17 trial date has been set for five Sudanese men accused of killing John Granville, an aid worker affiliated with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website], Sudan's state media reported Friday. Following the January shooting of John Granville and his driver, a previously-unknown extremist group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid [VOA report] claimed responsibility for the shootings. Granville was the first US diplomat killed in Sudan since the deaths of US Ambassador Cleo Noel and US Embassy staffer George Curtis Moore [Arlington Cemetery memorials] in 1973. Reuters has more.

Granville's death has been cited as an example of the increasing dangers faced by US diplomats abroad. In June, Zimbabwean police detained US and UK diplomatic envoys [JURIST report] for several hours at a roadblock Thursday, threatening them and beating one of their drivers, in what US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee described as an "illegal action." US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the Zimbabwean government's actions had "flouted all international convention" [press briefing, video]. Zimbabwean officials said that the detention was for the convoy members' safety after they left a rally that had turned violent.






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Federal judge awards Native Americans $455M in land trust mismanagement case
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 8, 2008 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge James Robertson on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] in a 12-year class action lawsuit [plaintiffs website; JURIST news archive] concerning the US government's alleged mismanagement of trust funds for a group of some 500,000 Native Americans. Plaintiffs led by Eloise Cobell had argued that the federal government owed them $58 billion, representing its profits from land use violative of trust terms, but the government said that only $455.6 million was missing from the account. Robertson accepted the government's number, finding that the method used to calculate the $58 billion figure was inaccurate and that there was no evidence of active fraud by the US Department of the Interior [official website]:

My conclusions, after attempting to apply a suitably adjusted set of equitable principles to the facts of this case, are that plaintiffs have properly asserted a claim for restitution; that this Court has both the jurisdiction and the power to adjudicate that claim; and that the evidence supports an award in the amount of $455,600,000, a number that is within the range of the government's own admitted "uncertainty" about the amount necessary to restore the proper balance to the IIM trust. I have rejected the plaintiffs' claim of entitlement to an additional sum representing "benefit to the government."
Robertson said in April that he would set a dollar figure [plaintiffs press release; JURIST report] on the US government's alleged mismanagement when the case went to trial in June [JURIST report]. A judge will decide how to restore and distribute the missing money at a future hearing. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Congress established the Indian trust in 1887 to hold proceeds from government-arranged leases of Indian lands. In an incendiary opinion [text] in 2005, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth required the Interior Department to apologize to the plaintiffs [JURIST report] for its handling of the trust, and to admit that information being provided to them regarding outstanding lost royalties on earnings from Indian land may be unreliable. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit removed Lamberth [JURIST report] and reassigned the case to Robertson. In March 2007, the plaintiffs rejected [JURIST report] a $7 billion settlement proposal from the US government. In January, Robertson ruled [text, PDF; JURIST report] that the DOI "unreasonably delayed" the accounting of billions of dollars of American Indian money, holding that it was impossible for the Interior Department or for Congress to remedy the breach.





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Honeywell reaches $6M environmental settlement with Arizona
Devin Montgomery on August 8, 2008 12:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The aerospace division of Honeywell International [corporate website] has agreed [settlement, PDF] to pay $5 million in fines and $1 million for a cleanup project for environmental violations at its Phoenix, Arizona facility, according to a Thursday release [PDF text] from Arizona officials. In the lawsuit [PDF text], the state had alleged that the Honeywell had committed 38 infractions of state environmental laws [statute materials], including the Arizona Water Quality Control Act, Arizona Hazardous Waste Disposal Act, and the Arizona Underground Storage Tank Act, over the past 30 years. In the joint release from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Attorney General [official website], the state asserted that the company had improperly stored numerous hazardous materials and failed to report incidents of ground water contamination, but Honeywell maintains that it is not liable for the violations. AP has more. The Arizona Republic has local coverage.

In June, the US Department of Justice filed a complaint [PDF text; JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against Honeywell, alleging that the company knowingly sold more than 1,700 defective bulletproof vests to US law enforcement and military agencies during a five-year period. The DOJ also accused Honeywell of hiding knowledge that its patented Zylon [NASA backgrounder] fabric, which was used in the vests, would deteriorate over time, alleging that Honeywell pressured vests manufacturer Armor Holdings [corporate website] not to warn customers of this defect. Honeywell denied the allegations.






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India high court judge withdraws from corruption case
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 8, 2008 12:19 PM ET

[JURIST] An Indian Supreme Court judge on Friday withdrew from hearing a judicial bribery case [IANS report] after lawyers accused the court of protecting corrupt judges. Justice B.N. Agrawal [official profile] said that he refused to consider unsubstantiated accusations against the court, adding that the behavior of the accusers, former Union Law Minister Shanti Bhushan [Rediff interview] and his son Prashant Bhushan [Outlook archive], was "contemptuous" toward the court. Two other high court justices declined to step down, and Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan [official profile] will decide how the case will proceed without Agrawal. The case at issue involves allegations that judges embezzled 70 million Rupees from the Ghaziabad district court treasury between 2001 and 2007. Calcutta News has more.

In April, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] called for the establishment of special courts [JURIST report] to deal specifically with corruption charges. Balakrishnan later told reporters that Singh did not mean that the judiciary itself was corrupt, but rather that it has to deal with a large number of cases brought by the Central Bureau of Investigation [official website]. In response to questions about checks against possible judicial corruption, Balakrishnan told reporters that Supreme Court [official website] justices are required to submit an accounting of their assets when they assume their post and to amend that accounting when they acquire new property. He also said that because justice positions are constitutional rather than governmental, this asset list and some other information on the justices were not publicly available through India's Right to Information Act [RTI materials], but that the Indian Parliament [official website] did have the power to enact laws requiring more judicial accountability if they chose to.






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ACLU files lawsuit challenging South Carolina election rule
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 8, 2008 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed a lawsuit [materials; press release] challenging a so-called "sore loser" election law [SC Code Ann. § 7-11-10 text] in South Carolina. Under the law, a candidate that seeks a nomination from multiple parties will be banned from appearing on the ballot if any one of those parties rejects his candidacy. The ACLU is representing Eugene Platt [campaign website], a candidate for the state House who won the endorsement of the Green Party but not the Democratic Party. The South Carolina Election Commission [official website] blocked Platt from running as the Green Party candidate. The ACLU argues that the "sore loser" law violates the right to free association guaranteed by the First Amendment [text] of the US Constitution. The Post and Courier has local coverage. The Fort Mill Times has additional coverage.

In January, the ACLU of Michigan [advocacy website] filed a federal suit challenging a Michigan election law [JURIST report] that limited access to information on presidential primary voters to the Democratic and Republican parties. The complaint [text, PDF] alleged that Section 615c [text] of the Michigan Election Law [text] was unconstitutional because it excludes other smaller parties, as well as individuals, citizen groups and news media, from seeing lists of voter preferences and gives preference only to the two major parties in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell Law backgrounders]. In March, a federal judge struck down [JURIST report] the Michigan law.






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Tenth Circuit dismisses claim school timeouts violate Constitution
Steve Czajkowski on August 8, 2008 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion text] a claim brought by the mother of a special education student that her child's Fourth and Fourteenth amendment [text] rights were violated when he was given "timeouts." Jennifer Couture sued the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) [official website] and three individual school officials for placing her child, referred to as M.C. by the court, in a secluded room in order to control his behavior. M.C. suffers from severe mental and emotional health problems, and in 2002 he was placed in a special education program designed to control his repeated outbursts. The Court ruled that the district court erred in not granting qualified immunity to the three individual defendants:

Temporarily removing M.C., given the threat he often posed to the emotional, psychological, and physical safety of the students and teachers, was eminently reasonable...We therefore find that there was no Fourth Amendment violation here, and that the three individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.

The district court found that the timeouts were designed both to punish M.C., and to educate him. Under either rationale, there has been no constitutional violation...To determine what process is due, courts must balance: (1) the private interests that will be affected by the official action; (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation; and (3) the burden on the government from additional procedural requirements... We are reluctant to limit a teacher’s ability to manage her classroom by requiring her to give the student a “hearing” of some form.
Originally Ms. Couture had filed an administrative action against APS and the individual defendants based on violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [text], the Rehabilitation Act [text, DOC], and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [official website]. These claims were dismissed and Ms. Couture appealed to the Federal District Court of New Mexico [official website], where she added the claims that her son's constitutional rights were violated.

In 2005, the US Supreme Court [official website, JURIST news archive] ruled [JURIST report] that parents who challenge special education programs for not meeting their children's needs must bear the burden of proving the programs' inadequacies, and that school officials need not meet any burden of proof in the matter. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed IDEA [JURIST report], legislation designed to ensure that students with disabilities would have special education teachers with the necessary skills and training. Bush was subsequently criticized for underfunding the related programs.





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Third Circuit clarifies Title VII requirements
Devin Montgomery on August 8, 2008 9:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] Thursday that in a mixed-motive employment discrimination case, the plaintiff must show he or she objectively met minimum requirements for the job. The issue had not been addressed by other circuits, and came before the court in a lawsuit by former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] employee Wagih Makky, who alleged that he had been inappropriately placed on unpaid administrative leave because of his status as an Egyptian Muslim, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [statute text]. Makky had designed security protocols for TSA but was placed on unpaid administrative leave in 2005 after an administrative board had denied his renewal request for top secret security clearance [DSS backgrounder], a prerequisite for his position. The court held that because he lacked this necessary qualification, it could not address whether or not there was another, discriminatory reason for his dismissal:

Makky does not dispute that his position required him to have access to National Security Information. The lack of a security clearance in a position such as Makky’s is akin to the lack of a license in a position such as a medical doctor because without a security clearance Makky’s subjective qualifications are irrelevant. A security clearance is the minimum requirement needed to hold Makky’s position. Thus, as of January 2005, when Makky’s clearance was suspended, he was not qualified on the most basic level to perform his job.
The court held that it did not have jurisdiction to review the underlying denial of his clearance, and that he now lacked the adequate clearance to obtain confidential documents relating to the administrative board's decision.

The TSA board had said that one of the reasons for the denial of Makky's clearance renewal was his association with suspicious persons, even though he said he had declared no new acquaintances in Egypt since he was originally granted the clearance. TSA has been criticized [TSA redress site] for the criteria used to determine who is associated with suspicious activity, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] reported [press release; JURIST report] in July that the country's terrorism watch list includes more than one million names, which government officials say represent approximately 400,000 people [Washington Times report] because of the inclusion of aliases.





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First Circuit dismisses claim drug safety was misrepresented to drive up stock price
Abigail Salisbury on August 8, 2008 9:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] on Thursday affirmed [opinion text] the dismissal of a shareholder securities suit against Biogen Idec [corporate website], in which the class of plaintiffs accused directors of violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text] by intentionally misrepresenting the safety of its multiple-sclerosis drug, Tysabri [informational website], in order to sell their shares at high prices, resulting in proceeds in excess of $84 million. In affirming the district court's ruling that the plaintiffs did not plead facts giving rise to a strong inference of scienter in accordance with the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 [text] the Court of Appeals held:

Here, we have already discounted the inferences of scienter from claims about failure to disclose the risk of non-PML opportunistic infections and of safety concerns with combination therapy. Even if defendants' statements were arguably misleading, plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged that the statements were intentionally so; that is, that defendants had any reason to know their statements were misleading before February 18, 2005, the day of the meeting where the defendants first learned of the PML diagnoses. Thus, any insider trading which occurred during the class period until February 18, 2005 cannot be used to support a strong inference of scienter, since "[i]nsider trading cannot establish scienter on its own." [citations omitted]
Tysabri was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] in November 2004, and share prices increased immediately. Within months, two patients developed infections from ongoing clinical trials, and one died. Biogen took the drug off the market [Bloomberg report; Biogen press release] in February 2005, and the share price fell 42.5% amid heavy trading.

Last month, the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce [official website] began an investigation [information request, PDF; press release] into whether the FDA had allowed the sale of drugs that agency officials knew had been manufactured and sold using faulty data [JURIST report].





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Guantanamo detainee files rights commission complaint against US
Devin Montgomery on August 8, 2008 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Guantanamo Bay detainee Djamel Ameziane [advocacy profile, DOC] Wednesday filed a complaint [DOC text; press release] against the US with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [governing statute; official website], alleging that he had been tortured, given inadequate medical treatment, and denied other basic rights. The complaint was filed on Ameziane's behalf by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law [advocacy websites], and was the first to be brought by a detainee. The groups contend that Ameziane's treatment violates conditions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man [materials] and that Ameziane has been denied timely review of his habeas corpus petition by the US, despite the US Supreme Court ruling [text; JURIST report] in Boumediene v. Bush, where it held that detainees have the right to bring such petitions. The advocacy groups stated:

Djamel Ameziane is a prisoner at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been held virtually incommunicado, without charge or judicial review of his detention, for six and a half years. While arbitrarily and indefinitely detained by the United States at Guantánamo, Mr. Ameziane has been physically and psychologically tortured, denied medical care for health conditions resulting from his confinement, prevented from practicing his religion without interference and insult, and deprived of developing his private and family life. The stigma of Guantánamo will continue to impact his life long after he is released from the prison. These harms, as well as the denial of any effective legal recourse to seek accountability and reparations for the violations he has suffered, constitute violations of fundamental rights under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (“American Declaration”). The U.S. government, as a signatory to the Declaration, is obliged to respect these rights vis-à-vis Mr. Ameziane by virtue of holding him as its prisoner.
The groups asked the IACHR to issue "precautionary measures" to prevent the US from committing further alleged abuses against Ameziane, to consider his release in a timely manner, and to ensure that he is not returned to a country where he could face abuse once he is released. AFP has more.

In June, a special investigator for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) [official website] joined [OSCEPA report; JURIST report] numerous international groups and rights activists in calling 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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Texas executes second foreign national since ICJ order
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 7, 2008 7:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Convicted murderer Heliberto Chi [Texas materials; docket information] on Thursday became the second foreign national to be put to death [Proceso Digital report, in Spanish] in Texas since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ordered [press release and text] the US to stay such executions. The US Supreme Court refused to grant [AP report; PDF order] either a stay or certiorari just hours before the Honduran man was executed at 6 pm local time. Lawyers for the Honduran government have argued that Chi was improperly prevented from contacting his government in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text]. Last month, lawyers for Mexico made a similar argument [JURIST report] before the ICJ to block the execution [JURIST report] of Mexican citizen Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which took place on Tuesday. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.

The governor of Texas announced his refusal to comply [JURIST report] with the ICJ order last month. In March, the US Supreme Court ruled [decision; JURIST report] in Medellin v. Texas [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that neither a 2005 memorandum [text; JURIST report] from President Bush ordering Texas to rehear several cases against Mexican nationals nor the March 2004 ICJ decision [materials] were binding on Texas officials who had refused to rehear Medellin's case. Last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Chi's lethal injection execution [JURIST report] while the US Supreme Court considered Baze v. Rees (07-5439) [docket; JURIST report], a case reviewing whether lethal injection is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.






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Karadzic asks ICTY to order testimony of US officials
Abigail Salisbury on August 7, 2008 3:47 PM ET

[JURIST] War crimes suspect and former fugitive Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has submitted a document [text, PDF] to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official site] asserting that he was granted an immunity deal by former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke [PBS biography], conditioned on his removing himself from public life. The ICTY made the document available Thursday, and in it Karadzic wrote that he had not been allowed to fully explain himself in court Wednesday. He claimed that:

Mr Holbrooke undertook on behalf of the USA that I would not be tried before this Tribunal and that I should understand that for a while there would be very sharp rhetoric against me so that my followers would not hamper the implementation of the Dayton agreement. The USA kept its promise to ease the pressure on the SDS and Mr Holbrooke himself boasted in the press that he had persuaded me to withdraw not only from public but also from party offices. There is evidence of this in the media, which contain proof that there was an agreement. [sic]
He went on to ask the Tribunal to order the appearance of not only Holbrooke, but also former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright [DOS profile] and two other officials allegedly involved in the deal. Holbrooke and Albright have denied the accusations, but Purdue University Professor Charles Ingrao [faculty profile], leader of a research group [Scholars' Initiative website] dealing with issues of the former Yugoslavia, said in an interview [Bosnian Institute report] that he has independent evidence verifying Karadzic's claims. AFP has more.

Western media has sharply criticized both Thursday's submission and last week's letter [text, PDF; JURIST report] in which Karadzic argued to the Tribunal that it is impossible for him to receive a fair trial. Southeastern European media sources, however, have often been more receptive to Karadzic's argument. Karadzic has vowed to represent himself [JURIST Forum] in defending against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, largely related to his alleged oversight of the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] massacre and other killings of Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the 1990s. He faces life in prison if convicted.





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Hamdan sentence could mean fewer than six months in prison
Devin Montgomery on August 7, 2008 2:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] was sentenced Thursday to five and a half years in prison [AP report] following his conviction [JURIST report] Wednesday of providing material support for terrorism [charge sheet, PDF] through his association with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. Hamdan had pleaded for leniency after apologizing for the deaths caused by his counterparts, and was given credit for the five years he has been detained since charges were first brought against him, meaning he could be released in as few as six months. The verdict was the first rendered by a military commission trial at Guantanamo Bay. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the conviction [press release], saying it "represent[ed] nothing more than an illusion of justice" and called for an end to the commission system. Prosecutors in the case had sought a sentence of at least 30 years. AP has more.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001, when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. In April, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial, and in May a military judge delayed the trial [JURIST reports] until July. A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently rejected [JURIST report] a bid by Hamdan's lawyers to stay his trial, ruling that a civilian court should refrain from reviewing the case until the military commission issues a final judgment. In July, the military court denied [JURIST report] Hamdan's motion to dismiss the charges against him, holding that the military commission assigned to his trial had jurisdiction to hear the case.






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Enron officers may be eligible for new trials
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 7, 2008 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] executives convicted on charges related to the 2001 accounting scandal may be eligible for new trials, depending on the outcome of an appeal [JURIST report] by former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profile]. Skilling was convicted under a theory of "deprivation of honest services," which allows for the prosecution of people who enabled fraud but did not personally benefit from it. Experts say his appeal has a good chance of success after the Fifth Circuit rejected [JURIST report] that theory in a 2006 case involving four former Merrill Lynch executives. If successful, other Enron executives may also challenge their convictions under the theory. McClatchy has more.

In September 2007, Skilling appealed his conviction [JURIST report; verdict backgrounder] on 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud, claiming errors by prosecutors and the trial judge. In April 2007, former Enron Vice President Christopher Calger [Houston Chronicle profile], who was also charged under the "honest services" theory, withdrew a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after the 2006 Merrill Lynch verdict was overturned. In the Merrill Lynch case, the convictions of the executives were overturned when the court found that they had acted for the benefit of Enron and not to benefit themselves personally.






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Maldives president signs new constitution increasing judicial independence
Devin Montgomery on August 7, 2008 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [official websites] on Thursday signed into law [press release] a new constitution [PDF text] for the country, providing for multi-party elections, an independent judiciary, and a more powerful legislature. The constitution also provides a number of enumerated rights for citizens and establishes several special commissions on issues including human rights and corruption. The document was drafted by the People’s Special Majlis [official website], which was convened for the purpose in 2004 and was dissolved by the President [press release] after Thursday's signing ceremony. The country's first competitive presidential elections since 1978 will be held in October and Gayoom has announced he will run for a seventh term. Reuters has more. Miadhu News has local coverage.

The Maldives constitution was last modified [PDF text] in 1998, and Thursday's changes came in response to international criticism [AI report, PDF] of 2003 government actions against protesters of prison conditions [AI reports] in the country. The government asserts that it has already instituted a number of other reforms [government report, PDF] in recent years.






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Pakistan coalition government to seek Musharraf impeachment
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 7, 2008 11:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's coalition government said Thursday that it would push to impeach current President Pervez Musharraf [official website; JURIST news archive], a move that would require the endorsement of two-thirds of legislators in a joint session of parliament. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) head Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] said Thursday that Musharraf had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST report], but subsequently refused to resign or go into exile. He also accused Musharraf of not following through on a promise to ask parliament for a confidence vote. PPP and coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) 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] in June 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]. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In June, the PML-N called for Musharraf's impeachment [JURIST report] and released a "charge sheet" outlining misuse of presidential authority, including the dismissal of the country's superior court judges. Also in June, 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 and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he has done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Overbilling lawsuit prompts debate over ethical duties to smaller clients
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 7, 2008 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] A Pennsylvania judge has ruled [order, PDF] to allow Christian foster parent organization Bair Foundation [advocacy website] to proceed with its lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the well-known law firm Reed Smith [firm website], rejecting four preliminary challenges by Reed Smith. The lawsuit alleges that Reed Smith overcharged Bair for representation in an employment discrimination lawsuit, billing Bair almost one million dollars despite originally telling the group that legal fees would only run $50,000. Bair asserted that the large firm model, which focuses on billable hours and pulling in large profits, is inappropriate for dealing with smaller nonprofit clients:

In implementing its ambitious strategy of capturing global clients, which Reed Smith boasts results in "a constant increase in revenue per partner," it has acknowledged that comparatively small regional or local law firms can or perhaps should service smaller clients. This is so because such firms typically charge much lower fees than "white shoe" international law firms like Reed Smith and are therefore more affordable to these smaller clients.

However, Reed Smith has inexplicably continued to represent certain much smaller clients which lack substantial financial resources, such as Bair, a not-for-profit charitable foundation.
Bair sued for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, legal negligence, and unjust enrichment. The judge dismissed the unjust enrichment claim. The Legal Intelligencer has more.

Reed Smith has touted its pro bono [Reed Smith backgrounder] work, but some argue that such large firms are ill-equipped to effectively serve clients that don't fit the firm's "global" target size. The case has sparked a great deal of commentary [New York Malpractice Blog report] among legal bloggers debating the ethical duties of law firms in dealing with nonprofit and smaller clients. Many legal professionals believe [Ohio Employer's Law Blog post] that smaller clients might be better served by smaller firms. When Bair first filed the lawsuit last year, one critic speculated [Legal Blog Watch post] that "Reed Smith owed a fiduciary duty to its client to explain its fee structure, and to explore whether that fee structure was suitable for a smaller client."





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Congressman urges Rice to postpone India nuclear agreement
Devin Montgomery on August 7, 2008 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee [official websites], released a letter obtained by JURIST on Thursday in which he urged the Bush administration to postpone an international nuclear trade deal with India until the country is required to provide permanent security to nuclear facilities and stop nuclear weapons testing. Berman said that without the requirements, the agreement would violate a 2006 US law [HR 5862 materials] and give other NSG countries an advantage in trade with India, and urged the administration to push for a deal consistent with a resolution [HR 711] he introduced in 2007. The deal under consideration by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) [official website] would provide an exception to International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) rules [PDF, text] to allow NSG member states to trade nuclear materials with India, despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [PDF, text]. In the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Berman wrote:

I am a friend of India and a supporter of U.S.-India nuclear cooperation. Yet I find it incomprehensible that the Administration apparently intends to seek or accept an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines for India with few or none of the conditions contained in the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. Such an exemption would be inconsistent with U.S. law, place American firms at a severe competitive disadvantage, and undermine critical U.S. nonproliferation objectives. It would also jeopardize congressional support for nuclear cooperation with India, this year and in the future.

Last year I introduced H. Res 711, a resolution that expresses the sense of the House that the President should withhold support from any proposed exemption for India in the NSG guidelines that is not fully consistent with the Hyde Act and that does not incorporate a number of key provisions, including: the immediate termination of all nuclear commerce by NSG member states if India detonates a nuclear explosive device or if the IAEA determines that India has violated its safeguards commitments; a requirement that the safeguards agreement concluded between India and the IAEA provides for safeguards in perpetuity for all nuclear facilities, materials, equipment and technology designated as “civil”, in accordance with IAEA standards, principles and practices; a prohibition on the transfer of enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production technology by any NSG member state to India; and a stipulation that NSG supplier states may not grant India consent to reprocess nuclear fuel except in a facility that is under permanent and unconditional safeguards.
Berman also wrote that in order for the agreement to be fully considered by Congress, a final deal should be delayed until after the November elections. Reuters has more. From India, PTI has additional coverage.

The US and other nuclear powers have become increasingly accepting of India's nuclear program, but in May they cited Iran's program as a major threat to the goals of the NPT [JURIST report] in a joint statement [PDF text] issued at the end of a two-week meeting [official website] of 106 NPT member nations. The countries urged Iran, currently under UN sanctions for its nuclear program, to accept an incentive package [JURIST reports] in exchange for abandoning uranium enrichment. That statement also addressed the nuclear situation in North Korea [JURIST news archive], which opted out of the treaty in 2003 to restart disarmament negotiations. 





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Malaysia opposition leader pleads not guilty to sodomy charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 7, 2008 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Thursday pleaded not guilty to sodomy charges [JURIST report] based on allegations by a former aide. The presiding judge ordered Anwar released on bail, ruling that he was not a flight risk. Anwar has denied the accusations, saying that they are part of a government campaign to to upset his plans to run in an August 26 by-election, and filed a lawsuit against his accuser [JURIST report] in late June. Under Malaysian law, sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison regardless of consent. Human rights groups have also questioned the timing of the charges. Human Rights Watch Asia [advocacy website] Thursday called for the government to drop the charges [press release], while Amnesty International [advocacy website] described the allegations as "politically motivated" [press release]. AFP has more. The Financial Times has additional coverage.

Malaysian authorities briefly arrested Anwar last month, less than a day after a warrant was issued for his arrest [JURIST reports]. Last week, Anwar released a medical report [PDF text and explanation; JURIST report] that he said refuted the sodomy allegations. Anwar was Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister under former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad [BBC profile] until he was fired in 1998 following earlier sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges. Last month the Federal Court of Malaysia ruled he could challenge the constitutionality [JURIST report] of his original dismissal from office.






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Ninth Circuit orders district court to accept guilty pleas of illegal immigrants
Kiely Lewandowski on August 7, 2008 8:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ordered [decision, PDF] a district court to accept guilty pleas entered by three illegal aliens facing immigration charges. The defendants had entered unconditional guilty pleas to charges that they re-entered the country after having been removed previously, a violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) [statute provision]. The lower court had refused to accept the guilty pleas because it found they were not entered in accordance with  procedural rules [FRCrP Rule 11(b) text] governing pleas, and a US Attorney charged the men with more serious violations of the INA punishable by longer prison terms. Holding that the pleas were not in violation of the rule and ordering their acceptance, the Ninth Circuit stated:

The government lost its power to file additional charges the moment defendants pled guilty knowingly, voluntarily, and unconditionally before the magistrate judges. Defendants' pleas may not have taken final legal effect at that moment, as defendants remained free to withdraw their pleas...But whatever legal significance may attach to a guilty plea taken by a magistrate judge, the plea also carries significant real-world consequences. A defendant's guilty plea is a confession, freely and publicly made, that he is a criminal. This has immediate and enduring effects on the defendant's standing in the community, and for that reason and many others is often an excruciating experience. If the confession meets the requirements of Rule 11(b) - requirements that exist for the defendant's own protection - then the government has no power to force the defendant to go through the ordeal again to serve its own purposes.
Last week, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained a government handbook [PDF download; press release] issued to the lawyers defending illegal immigrants arrested in May raids [JURIST news archive] on a meat-processing plant in Iowa. The ACLU then accused federal prosecutors of pushing guilty pleas [JURIST report] on the immigrants. The handbook included pre-printed forms to be used for filing guilty pleas, but had no information on contesting the charges. Representatives from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [testimony transcripts, PDF] have defended [JURIST report] the government's arrest and conviction processes in those cases, saying that the immigrants' constitutional rights were strictly applied.





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India high court restores ban on Muslim student group
Kiely Lewandowski on August 7, 2008 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] temporarily reinstated a government ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) [Jamestown Foundation profile] on Wednesday, reversing the holding of the Delhi High Court [official website], which had just lifted the ban on Tuesday. The lower court had reasoned that because the government had failed to supply any new evidence of SIMI's involvement in illegal activity, the seven-year ban on the group should be lifted. The Indian government quickly appealed the ruling, claiming that lifting the ban would considerably harm the country's anti-terrorism efforts. The Supreme Court's ruling gives the government three weeks to present new evidence of SIMI's unlawfulness in order to make the ban permanent. Reuters has more.

The Indian government outlawed SIMI in 2001 pursuant to India's Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 [PDF text], alleging the group is tied to several recent bombings [SATP materials] in the country, but advocates [Milli Gazette op-ed] say charges against the group were brought for political reasons alone. Several countries including Egypt, Spain [JURIST news archives], and Canada [JURIST report] have banned Islamic groups or political parties for alleged ties to terrorist activities in recent years, while the UK has lifted some bans [JURIST news archive] on groups no longer considered threats.






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Iraq parliament ends session without agreeing on draft election law
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Parliament [official website] has failed to agree on a draft election bill prior to adjourning for the summer on Wednesday. Kurdish legislators have strongly opposed the bill's proposal to establish a provincial council in Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] made up of equal numbers of Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmeni representatives. Kurds constitute the majority in the area, and have argued that this arrangement does not reflect the region's true population. Some have said that the delay in passing the draft law could postpone provincial elections until next year, although deputy parliamentary speaker Khalid al-Attiyah said that elections can proceed on schedule if the draft law is passed by September. Earlier this month, Iraqi law makers reached an agreement to temporarily divide control of Kirkuk [JURIST report] among the city's ethnic groups, as part of a compromise bill providing for provincial elections in the city. AP has more.

Last month, Kurdish parliamentarians staged a walkout [JURIST report], delaying a vote on the proposed provincial election bill that they said was unconstitutional. The bill passed despite the boycott, but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] and the two other members of the Iraqi Presidency Council later refused to sign it [JURIST report] because it had been passed by an incomplete parliament. In February, Iraq's Presidency Council rejected an earlier draft provincial elections law [JURIST report] that detailed the relationship between Iraq's central and local governments, sending the legislation back to parliament. The draft law was part of a package of legislation approved [JURIST report] by the parliament earlier that month that also included the 2008 budget and an amnesty bill [JURIST report] that will lead to the release of roughly 5,000 prisoners.






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Thailand constitutional court rejects challenge to corruption commission
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] ruled Tuesday that the law establishing the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) [official website] is appropriate under the country's current constitution [PDF text]. Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] had filed a constitutional challenge to the NCCC statue, arguing that the law was an unreasonable violation of their rights to individual liberty. Thaksin had also alleged that the body's authorizing statute violated Thailand's 1997 constitution and the 2006 interim charter [texts], but the court declined to consider those arguments, finding the challenges moot because those charters are no longer in effect. The Bangkok Post has more.

Thai prosecutors have brought multiple corruption charges against Thaksin and his wife since Thaksin's ouster in a September 2006 bloodless coup [JURIST report]. Last month, the Thai Attorney General's Office filed charges [JURIST report] against Thaksin relating to a 2003 resolution that reduced fees paid by mobile phone companies to state telecommunications agencies. Thaksin has also been charged in relation to an alleged corruption scheme [JURIST report] concerning the country's lottery system. Thaksin is currently the subject of 24 legal actions. Also last month, a Thai court convicted Pojamarn Shinawatra of tax evasion [JURIST report] for transferring $16.3 million worth of stock to her step-brother and secretary, who were also convicted.






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Venezuela high court upholds corruption blacklist
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 11:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The Venezuelan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] Tuesday upheld [press release, in Spanish] a list blocking 272 political candidates from running for office because of suspected corruption. Critics had argued that the list [Venezuela Information Centre analysis] was unconstitutional because many of those included had not been convicted of any crime. Some also alleged that the list focused on opponents of current Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [official profile, in Spanish; BBC profile], but the court held:

[T]he court concludes that the restriction of human rights is acceptable in accordance with the laws that are given for reasons of general interest, for the safety of other members of society and for the common good, in accordance with the provisions of Articles 30 and 32.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

This requirement is fully compatible with the provisions of Articles 19 and 156, 32 cardinal of the National Constitution.
The list was first compiled in February by Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian, who said that creating such a list was within his authority as comptroller [Organic Law of the Comptroller General Office, in Spanish]. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Opponents have accused Chavez of pushing increasingly autocratic reforms, including constitutional changes [JURIST report] that would eliminate presidential term limits and augment the president's emergency powers. Last year, the Venezuelan National Assembly approved [press release, in Spanish] a set of proposed amendments to the country's constitution by a 160-7 vote. The proposed amendments passed a preliminary vote [JURIST report] in the Assembly in August, and all of the constitutional reforms were subject to a two-part national referendum on December 2. Chavez said the constitutional changes were necessary to advance Venezuela's socialist revolution, but Human Rights Watch warned that they would violate international law [press release] by allowing the president to suspend due process guarantees during times of emergency. In December, election observers reported low voter turnout for the referendum [JURIST report].





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Iran stops use of stoning as method of execution
Devin Montgomery on August 6, 2008 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran has commuted the sentences of four people scheduled to be executed by stoning and has suspended the use of the punishment, local media reported Wednesday. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, the head of the country's judiciary, had originally placed a moratorium on the punishment in 2002, but nine people were given the sentence [BBC report] in July for adultery and sexual offenses. International rights advocates have increased pressure [AI release] on Iran to ban the punishment, and the country announced an investigation into the judge [JURIST report] who ordered the stoning execution of a man convicted of adultery in July 2007. Others who had faced the punishment will now receive either life in prison or other forms of corporal punishment. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In July, Iran hanged 29 people [JURIST report] in Tehran in a move that human rights groups suggested was intended to challenge international criticism [JURIST report] of its death penalty policies. Last April, an Amnesty International report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to such crimes as murder and rape, although an Iranian airport customs officer was executed for corruption [JURIST report] in January.






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Serbia war crimes prosecutor indicts 2 on Zvornik killing charges
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 11:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbia's Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] indicted [press release, MHT] two war crimes suspects Tuesday in connection with the 1992 killing of 700 Muslim civilians in the town of Zvornik. Former Zvornik mayor Branko Grujic and former local defense chief Branko Popovic are accused of using their positions to detain and kill civilians. In 2005, prosecutors charged [indictment, MHT; BBC report] Grujic, Popovic and five others with murdering at least 19 Bosnian Muslim civilians. Theirs was the first war crimes case to be transfered from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to Serbian courts. AP has more. Beta has additional coverage.

On Sunday, Serbian President Boris Tadic [official website] said that the country will fully cooperate with the ICTY to find and arrest Ratko Mladic [ICTY materials, PDF; amended indictment, PDF] and Goran Hadzic [ICTY materials, PDF; indictment, PDF], two war crimes suspects still wanted by the court after the arrest [JURIST report] of Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] in July. Both men were Serbian leaders during Yugoslavia's ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Mladic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for overseeing the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] prison massacre and other killings of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, while Hadzic faces crimes against humanity charges for killings of non-Serbs and for abuses in Croatian prison camps. Tadic's pledge to cooperate with the court comes despite widespread protests [JURIST report] against the prosecution of Karadic by Serbian nationalist groups.






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Special Darfur prosecutor appointed by Sudan justice minister
Deirdre Jurand on August 6, 2008 11:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Sudan Justice Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat said Wednesday that he had named one primary prosecutor and three assistants to investigate and try war crimes suspects from the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in the Netherlands currently handles such proceedings, but if Sudanese domestic courts are created with appropriate human rights and accountability safeguards, the ICC is required to hand over jurisdiction under Article 16 of the Rome Statute [PDF text]. The announcement is seen largely as a reaction to the controversial effort [JURIST report] to seek an arrest warrant [application, PDF; ICC press release] for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. Both the League of Arab States (LAS) and the African Union (AU) [official websites] have criticized [JURIST report] the warrant and underlying indictment, saying they threaten peace in the unstable country and that Sudan will create its own internationally-monitored courts [JURIST report]. The newly appointed prosecutor will report to the Justice Ministry every month, and if the prosecutor gathers enough evidence against a suspect, he may present the case to a state court. AFP has more. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

The LAS released its proposal [press release, in Arabic; JURIST report] for creating the courts in July, following an emergency meeting [JURIST report] to mediate the dispute over the ICC's warrant for al-Bashir. The AU also released a resolution [PDF text] the same month, requesting that the ICC defer to Sudanese courts once they are legitimized. The UN Security Council has repeatedly asked Sudan to comply with the investigation of al-Bashir [JURIST report], but Sudan has refused to do so, calling Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] a "terrorist" [JURIST report] and suggesting that he should be removed from office. Before al-Bashir's indictment the Sudanese government had already rejected the ICC's jurisdiction and refused to surrender two previously-named war crimes suspects [JURIST report].






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Mauritania military stages coup and detains president
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 11:12 AM ET

[JURIST] A military group staged a coup in Mauritania [CIA factbook profile] early Wednesday, detaining President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi [BBC profile] and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waqef [IBT report]. The coup's apparent leader, Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, also backed a 2005 coup [JURIST report] that removed then-President Maaoya Sid'Ahmed Taya [BBC report]. Aziz had previously supported Abdallahi, but the two split after Abdallahi made political concessions to conservative Muslim groups. Aziz will now head a new state council, according to a statement broadcast by a state-run television station. The coup overturns the first democratically elected government in the country in more than 20 years. AP has more.

This is the second coup in the country since 2005. That year, a junta led by Aziz took temporary control of the country while then-president Taya, who had allied with the US in the war on terror and increased law enforcement efforts against extremists [AP report], was out of the country. Taya came to power in a coup two decades prior and survived numerous other attempts [JURIST report] to overthrow his administration.






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Federal judge unseals FBI anthrax investigation documents
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 6, 2008 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of hundreds of documents [court materials] related to the FBI's probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder]. Among other papers, the released documents include 14 search warrants issued against government scientist and biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins [NPR report], who had recently emerged as a suspect in the mailings. Last week, Ivins apparently committed suicide [Los Angeles Times report] after learning that the Department of Justice (DOJ) planned to prosecute him in connection with the attacks. Officials close to the investigation said that the documents were first released in briefings made to victims' families and that the investigation into the crime has all but ended. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that it will pay former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven Hatfill [WP profile] $2.8 million to settle his claim that the DOJ violated the US Privacy Act [text] by providing information about him to journalists during its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, in which he was at one point named a "person of interest." The DOJ initially agreed to seek a settlement in late June after Hatfill filed his lawsuit [JURIST reports]. The settlement may moot a contempt case against former USA Today reporter and past JURIST student staff member Toni Locy [JURIST news archive], who is now awaiting a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Locy had refused to disclose her related sources in discovery, and Hatfill lawyer Christopher Wright later stated [letter, PDF] that Locy's evidence was no longer needed by his client.






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Hamdan found guilty by Guantanamo military commission jury
Deirdre Jurand on August 6, 2008 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The jury in the military commission trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] found Hamdan guilty on Wednesday of providing material support for terrorism, marking the first verdict rendered by a military commission trial at Guantanamo Bay. The jury [Miami Herald report], made up of six military officers, was selected on July 21, and the trial lasted for two weeks before deliberations [JURIST report] began Monday. They found Hamdan guilty on the charge [charge sheet, PDF] of providing material support for terrorism but innocent on the charge of conspiracy. He now faces a sentence of up to life in prison. BBC News has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001, when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system. In April, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial, and in May a military judge delayed the trial [JURIST reports] until July. A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia subsequently rejected [JURIST report] a bid by Hamdan's lawyers to stay his trial, ruling that a civilian court should refrain from reviewing the case until the military commission issues a final judgment. In July, the military court denied [JURIST report] Hamdan's motion to dismiss the charges against him, holding that the military commission assigned to his trial had jurisdiction to hear the case.






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ICE launches voluntary deportation program for illegal immigrants
Deirdre Jurand on August 6, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] launched a new program [fact sheet; press release] Tuesday that allows certain illegal immigrants to coordinate their removal from the US with ICE without the risk of home raids, arrest or detention. The Scheduled Departure Program, a pilot program that will run through August 22 in five major cities [program overview], is designed for illegal immigrants without criminal records who have ignored official removal orders. According to the ICE press release:

The agency recognizes there are those less inclined to accept the intentions of such a compassionately conceived enforcement initiative, but remains committed to providing sensible alternatives that balance the welfare of the individuals and families in question with its clear obligation to uphold the law.

The Scheduled Departure Program will not alter a participant's immigration status or provide any immigration benefit. The program is not a form of voluntary departure or voluntary return. Participants will continue to have a final order of removal, deportation or exclusion.
ICE stressed that illegal immigrants without formal removal orders, those with criminal records and those who pose a threat to national security would not qualify for the program and would be detained, but said [program brochure, PDF] that participation by those who qualified would ease the transition process and the impact on the immigrants' families. ICE also began an ad campaign in the five participating cities, but critics have said the program will be ineffective because eligible immigrants will not voluntarily surrender. AP has more.

ICE maintains a number of additional initiatives [fact sheet] to combat illegal immigration. In May, 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 the same month targeting 495 people who had ignored deportation orders, resulting in the arrest of more than 900 illegal immigrants [ICE press release]. In general, 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 website] at Syracuse University. 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.





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Texas executes Mexico national in face of ICJ order
Devin Montgomery on August 6, 2008 8:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The state of Texas executed Mexican national Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL backgrounder; JURIST news archive] late Tuesday evening after the US Supreme Court narrowly refused [decision, PDF] to stay his sentence [information sheet]. Medellin's appeal was based on a July order [order and press release, PDF; JURIST report] by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], which had attempted to halt his execution and mandated a review to determine whether Medellin and four other Mexican nationals on death row in Texas were inappropriately denied the chance to speak with Mexican counselor officers in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text]. Medellin had argued that his execution should be stayed because either state or federal bodies could decide to recognize the order in the future, but the Supreme Court majority disagreed, saying the possibility was too remote to warrant a stay:

The beginning premise for any stay, and indeed for the assumption that Congress or the legislature might seek to intervene in this suit, must be that petitioner’s confession was obtained unlawfully. This is highly unlikely as a matter of domestic or international law. Other arguments seeking to establish that a violation of the Convention constitutes grounds for showing the invalidity of the state court judgment, for instance because counsel was inadequate, are also insubstantial... The Department of Justice of the United States is well aware of these proceedings and has not chosen to seek our intervention. Its silence is no surprise: The United States has not wavered in its position that petitioner was not prejudiced by his lack of consular access.
The execution was carried out despite opposition from international leaders including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with the Mexican government, which had appealed the sentence to ICJ [JURIST report] in June. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled [decision; JURIST report] in Medellin v. Texas [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that neither a 2005 memorandum [text; JURIST report] from President Bush ordering Texas to rehear several cases against Mexican nationals nor the March 2004 ICJ decision [materials] that order was based on were binding on Texas officials who had refused to rehear Medellin's case. Medellin's latest appeal before Texas authorities was rejected last week by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [official website; CCA materials]. Critics of Medellin's appeal often point to the fact that he failed to assert his status as a Mexican national during his trial.





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Fourth Circuit dismisses Abu Ghraib contractor defamation suit
Nick Fiske on August 6, 2008 8:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that a radio talk-show host's inflammatory remarks about a company which conducted interrogations for the US military at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] were protected under the First Amendment. In 2005, CACI International [corporate website] filed a defamation suit in federal district court against Randi Rhodes and her radio station, Air America Radio [official websites], for comments that Rhodes made on the air accusing CACI of "among other things, torture, rape, murder, and misrepresenting its authority. . . at Abu Ghraib" and likening CACI and other independent contractors operating in Iraq to those "that operated in apartheid South Africa." In affirming the lower court's grant of summary judgment to Rhodes and Air America, the Fourth Circuit court explained that:

The conduct of the military and its designated civilian surrogates during wartime is a matter of the highest public concern, and speech critical of those responsible for military operations is well within the constitutionally protected area of free discussion. ...Such a commentator must simply maintain a standard of care such as to avoid knowing falsehood or reckless disregard of the truth.
The court declined to find that the comments were made with actual malice because Rhodes relied on a number of sources, including the Taguba and Fay Jones [texts, PDF] reports, which provided evidence to support her allegations and prevented CACI from proving that the statements were made with reckless disregard for the truth. The court also dismissed CACI's defamation claims concerning a number of Rhodes' comments, including the reference to apartheid, on the grounds that they did not assert actual facts against the contractor and as such allowed for "rhetorical hyperbole and other types of imaginative or exaggerated expression." AP has more.

In July, four former Abu Ghraib detainees filed lawsuits [CCR materials; JURIST report] against CACI and another private contractor, L-3 Communications [corporate website], alleging torture, war crimes and civil conspiracy. The actions followed a similar suit [JURIST report] filed in May by an ex-detainee who alleged that the contractors engaged in torture and conspiracy at the prison. Last year, US District Judge James Robertson refused to dismiss [order, PDF; JURIST report] a class action lawsuit [CCR materials] against CACI in which an amended complaint [text, PDF; JURIST report] alleged that CACI was responsible for the torture of more than 250 former detainees held in Iraqi prisons.





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Spain court to hear suit against China officials for pro-Tibet protest violence
Nick Fiske on August 6, 2008 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Spain's National Court [official website, in Spanish] agreed Tuesday to hear a suit filed by pro-Tibet advocacy groups alleging that seven Chinese officials committed acts of genocide in connection with China's attempts to suppress protests against Chinese rule in Tibet [BBC backgrounder] in March. The suit, filed July 7 by the Tibet House Foundation, Support Tibet Committee [advocacy websites, in Spanish], and Tubten Wanghen Sherpa Sherpa, accuses Chinese officials, including Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, of organizing a violent response to the demonstrations that resulted in the deaths of at least 200 protesters and the arrest of about 6,000. Following the court's decision to hear the case, the director of the Support Tibet Committee told an AFP reporter [AFP report] that he was "stunned with joy for the victims and the Tibetan people." Reuters has more. The Epoch Times has local coverage.

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. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in March. China says that 19 people died after skirmishes between pro-Tibet protesters and Chinese authorities during the demonstrations, but the Tibetan government-in-exile [official website] said that 130 had died [JURIST report]. The Dalai Lama has denied accusations that he was behind the riots and has said that he supports true autonomy for Tibet, not outright independence.






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Pakistan woman alleged to be al-Qaeda agent appears in US court
Mike Rosen-Molina on August 5, 2008 1:56 PM ET

[JURIST] The first woman scheduled to stand trial in the US on charges related to suspected al-Qaeda ties has been extradited to the US and appeared before the District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Tuesday on terrorism charges. Aafia Siddiqui [FBI materials], who comes from Pakistan, was charged [complaint, PDF; DOJ press release] with assault and the attempted murder of a US officer after allegedly opening fire on agents at the Afghan detention facility where she was being held last month. According to the complaint:

AAFIA SIDDIQUI, the defendant, who will be first brought to and arrested in the Southern District of New York, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly did use a deadly and dangerous weapon and did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with a person designated in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1114, namely, officers and employees of the FBI and the United States armed services, while engaged in and on account of the performance of official duties, to wit, SIDDIQUI obtained a United States Army Officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at officers and employees of the FBI and the United States armed services.
If convicted, she could face 20 years in prison on each charge. AFP has more. The Times has additional coverage.

Siddiqui's family has insisted that she is not an al-Qaeda agent and that the FBI has publicized misleading information about her. They say that Siddiqui, a former student at Brandeis University and MIT in Boston, may have been a victim of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] after she vanished from Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. Family lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp [firm profile] alleged that Siddiqui may have been wrongly detained and tortured at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.





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US criticizes Egypt defamation conviction of rights activist
Devin Montgomery on August 5, 2008 1:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] on Monday criticized Egypt's sentencing [JURIST report] of Saad Eddin Ibrahim [professional profile] to two years in prison for defaming the country. Ibrahim has been a prominent human rights activist and outspoken critic of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak [official profile], and has dual US and Egyptian citizenship. He is a professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo and founded the Ibn Khaldoun