October 2008 Archives


US military judge denies prosecution resentencing request in Hamdan trial
Steve Czajkowski on October 31, 2008 7:52 PM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge denied [ruling, PDF] a request [motion, PDF] by prosecutors Thursday to reconsider the prison term for Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], the former driver for Osama Bin Laden [JURIST news archive]. US military and civilian prosecutors filed the motion in September, arguing [JURIST report] that the Guantanamo military commission which heard his case improperly gave him credit for time spent in custody. Hamdan was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in August, following his conviction [JURIST reports] on providing material support for terrorism [charge sheet, PDF]. The trial judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, gave Hamdan credit for 61 months served, which he calculated at a different standard than that of a ordinary enemy combatant. While Hamden will be eligible for release in January, the US government has said that once his sentence is up, it can detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. AP has more. The Miami Herald has additional coverage.

Hamdan was initially taken into custody in 2001, and in 2006 he successfully challenged President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially construed 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 of this year, Hamdan announced that he planned to boycott his military commission trial. In July, a military judge denied [JURIST report] Hamdan's motion to dismiss his charges, holding that the military commission assigned had jurisdiction to hear the case against him.






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Serbia eligible for EU in 2009 if legal conditions met: draft report
Kayleigh Shebs on October 31, 2008 4:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A draft of a European Commission [official website] report obtained by a Serbian newspaper this week has confirmed that Serbia [JURIST news archive] should remain eligible for candidacy within the European Union in 2009 provided the country continues to make progress on fighting corruption, forming an independent judiciary, and complying fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Serbia’s previous attempt to obtain candidacy stalled in 2006 [JURIST report] when the EU criticized Serbia’s inability to find known war criminals within its borders. This latest EU report appears to acknowledge the steps Serbia has taken towards bringing war criminals to justice, most notably the July capture of Radovan Karadzic [JURIST report]. The final report is scheduled to be released November 5. RIA Novosti has more. From Serbia, B92 has local coverage.

Concerns about corruption and the apprehension of war criminals have been a consistent obstacle for other Balkan countries, such as Croatia [JURIST report], which have sought admission to the EU. Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Croatia are all EU candidates, but only Turkey and Croatia are moving forward in the accession process.






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Federal appeals court upholds Missouri Halloween sex offender law
Jay Carmella on October 31, 2008 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official site] on Thursday upheld a Missouri state law [SB 714 s. 589.426 text, PDF] designed to prevent registered sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities. The law requires sex offenders to post a sign reading "No candy or treats at this residence," turn off porch lights, avoid Halloween-related activity with children, and remain in their homes on Halloween between 5:00 PM to 10:30 PM unless there is just cause to leave. The decision overturns a ruling [JURIST report] by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri [official site] on Monday that found that two provisions of the law were too restrictive and could not be enforced. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt [official website] praised the Thursday’s decision in a statement [press release]:

As Missouri's governor I have signed tough legislation to increase the penalties for sexual predators, particularly those who commit crimes against our children. I am pleased that the court ruled that our new provisions to protect Missouri’s children from sexual predators on Halloween can be enforced.
AP has more.

The federal court’s decision breaks a judicial trend towards overturning sex offender laws found to be too restrictive. Georgia, New Jersey and Indiana [JURIST reports] are among the states that have recently overturned laws. The increased scrutiny stems in part from a report [text] by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] in September 2007 that said it is unclear whether sex offender laws “do more harm or good."





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US jury convicts son of Liberia ex-president of torture
Devin Montgomery on October 31, 2008 10:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A jury for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] on Thursday found Charles McArthur Emmanuel, son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive], guilty of charges [JURIST report] that he was involved in torture and other crimes in Liberia between 1999 and 2002. Emmanuel, a US citizen raised in Boston, had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges and was the first person indicted under a 1994 federal anti-torture statute [18 USC 2340A text]. Both rights groups [HRW release] and US prosecutors applauded the conviction, and in a Department of Justice press release [text] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [JURIST news archive] said:

Today’s conviction provides a measure of justice to those who were victimized by the reprehensible acts of Charles Taylor Jr. and his associates... It sends a powerful message to human rights violators around the world that, when we can, we will hold them fully accountable for their crimes.
Emmanuel was found guilty of all eight charges included in his 2006 indictment [DOJ press release], including five counts of torture, one count of using a firearm to commit a violent crime, and two related conspiracy charges. His sentencing is set for January 9, 2009 and he faces as much as life in prison. AFP has more.

In July, US District Judge Cecilia Altonaga upheld [JURIST report] the torture charges, rejecting Emmanuel's argument that the federal statute under which he was charged exceeded Congressional authority because it criminalizes behavior of foreign government officials outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Last December, a federal judge denied bail [JURIST report] for Emmanuel, ruling that he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.





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Albania prosecutor refuses to investigate Serbian organ trafficking allegations
Kiely Lewandowski on October 31, 2008 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbian prosecutors Thursday condemned Albania's refusal to initiate an investigation into allegations of organ trafficking [JURIST news archive] in Kosovo. Albanian Prosecutor General Ina Rama refused Tuesday to cooperate with Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic [official website] and said that her country will only pursue the allegations if the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] decides to reopen its investigation. Vukcevic said that Serbia will send the case to the Council of Europe. AP has more. From Belgrade, B92 has local coverage.

Rama and Vukcevic met [JURIST report] Monday to discuss allegations [JURIST report] by former ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] that about 300 Serbian and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. Serbia announced [JURIST report] in April plans to request that the ICTY resume its probe into the allegations after Vukcevic received "informal statements" [JURIST report] from ICTY investigators concerning illegal organ harvesting. Both Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe have completed reports into the allegations [JURIST reports], urging further investigation.






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UK attorney general to investigate Guantanamo detainee torture claims
Devin Montgomery on October 31, 2008 8:13 AM ET

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has asked Attorney General Baroness Scotland [official websites] to begin a criminal investigation into claims that both British and US officers contributed to the torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee and former UK resident Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile; JURIST news archive], according to a government letter [Reprieve release] released Thursday. Smith also provided Scotland with evidence relating to Mohamed's claims [JURIST report] that CIA and MI5 [official websites] agents involved in his detention and rendition to Morocco were complicit in the abuse he allegedly suffered while being interrogated there. The High Court in London ruled [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] in August that the evidence should be released because it was "essential" to Mohamed's defense that information against him was obtained through torture, but Foreign Secretary David Miliband later refused [JURIST report] the court's order. Rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] praised Smith's release of the evidence, and called on Scotland to bring criminal charges against those responsible for Mohamed's alleged abuse. The Independent has more. The Guardian has additional coverage.

Also Thursday, US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the US Department of Justice [official website] to provide Mohamed's lawyers with whatever evidence it had regarding his alleged abuse. US prosecutors earlier this month dismissed without prejudice charges they had brought against Mohamed claiming that he was involved in a plan to detonate a dirty bomb [JURIST reports], but said that they are considering whether or not to recharge him with other crimes. Sullivan, who is overseeing a lawsuit Mohammed has brought against the government, said the move was suspicious and questioned the validity of the evidence against him. The New York Times has more.

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 [DOD press release; JURIST report] from US custody in December. The official status of a fourth detainee remains unclear.






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Russia antitrust authority rules oil producers broke competition laws
Eric Firkel on October 31, 2008 7:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) [official website] Thursday announced that Russian oil companies Rosneft and LUKoil [corporate websites] broke competition laws in the Russian market by fixing monopoly-like prices this summer. The FAS found Rosneft and LUKoil fixed high prices for gasoline, diesel fuel, air fuel, and fuel oil. The agency will determine the size of fines within the next two weeks. Reuters has more. RIA Novosti has local coverage.

In July, the FAS sent inquiries [FAS press release] to major Russian oil producers LUKoil, Gazprom Neft, Surgutneftegaz, TNK-BP [corporate websites], and Rosneft over rising fuel prices. Earlier this month the agency demanded [RIA Novosti report] that they all cut prices. In September, Gazprom Neft and TNK-BP were also found in breach of competition laws. The Russian oil industry has been somewhat in disarray since the collapse of Yukos Oil [JURIST news archive], which legally ceased to exist in 2007 after the Moscow Arbitration Court completed its liquidation. Once Russia's largest oil company, Yukos was forced to declare bankruptcy [JURIST report] in August 2006 when it could not pay claimed back taxes. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] was convicted of tax evasion [JURIST report] in 2005 and is currently imprisoned in Siberia. Rosneft acquired Yukos' remaining assets.






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Federal Circuit rules against business methods patentability
Eric Firkel on October 31, 2008 6:39 AM ET

[JURIST] In a landmark intellectual property decision Thursday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 9-3 that a business concept for hedging risk in the field of commodities trading was too vague for patent protection. The case on an application by Bernard Bilski, the CEO of a company called Weatherwise, could affect the validity of thousands of patents, particularly in the financial services and software industries. Relying on the "machine-or-transformation test" established in the 1972 Supreme Court case Gottschalk v. Benson [text] and reaffirmed in the 1981 case Diamond v. Diehr [text], the court ruled that business methods do not meet the standard for patentability under US law. The majority concluded that Bilski's patent application did not meet the definition of "process" under 35 U.S.C. 101 [text] because it did not involve a machine and did not physically transform anything. The New York Times has more.

Bilski and Rand Warsaw filed their patent application on April 10, 1997. After its rejection on the grounds that an abstract idea is not patentable, they appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences [official website] which sustained all eleven objections on their patent application. The appeal was originally argued [argument, audio] before a panel of the court in October 2007. The court ordered en banc review [order, PDF], and oral argument [part 1, recorded audio; part 2] was held last May. The Circuit Court's decision could have wide-ranging consequences across a number of industries, as many currently accused of patent infringement are likely to argue that in light of Thursday's ruling many older patents are invalid. It is not yet clear if Bilski will appeal.






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ICC president says ICC at critical ten-year stage
Kiely Lewandowski on October 31, 2008 12:00 AM ET

[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] President Judge Phillippe Kirsch [official profile] told the UN General Assembly Thursday that the ICC is at a "critical stage" [transcript, PDF] ten years after its creation. Presenting his annual report [text, PDF; ICC press release; UN press release], Kirsch said that while serious war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the court continue to be committed worldwide, it is "still far too early to pass judgment" on the court's success. He added:

Most fundamentally, the success of the Court will depend on it fulfilling properly its own mandate. The Court must and will continue to do its part to ensure its judicial independence and impartiality. It will investigate and prosecute crimes within its jurisdiction in accordance with the principle of complementarity. It will guarantee the rights of the accused and of suspects. It will interpret the Rome Statute and develop a body of jurisprudence. It will protect victims and witnesses. It will give further effect to the rights of victims to participate. It will address questions of reparations to victims. And in all its proceedings, it will continue to strive for the highest standards of efficiency and transparency.

However, it is important to bear in mind at all times that the ICC – and the ICC system with its checks and balances and its limitations on the power of the Court – was created by States as a judicial mechanism to assist in the achievement of certain objectives mentioned in the preamble of the Rome Statute. The system can only work effectively if all actors in the system play their part.
Last week, the ICC Appeals Chamber decided not to release [JURIST report] former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [BBC profiler; JURIST news archive] but dismissed a request [judgment, PDF] that it lift an indefinite stay on his trial. Lubanga, once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], is charged with using child soldiers in his militia and became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in 2006. Earlier this month, ICC judges requested [court order, PDF; JURIST report] more information on an arrest warrant application for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for atrocities allegedly committed in the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. The ICC instructed Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] to submit “additional supporting materials in relation to some confidential aspects” of his application no later than November 17, 2008.





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Indonesia parliament passes broad anti-pornography law
Leslie Schulman on October 30, 2008 4:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Indonesian parliament [official website] on Thursday passed a controversial anti-pornography law [press release, in Bahasa] criminalizing all "obscene" works and "bodily movements" that could violate public morality. Proponents of the law include President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [official website; BBC profile] and his administration, who claim that the law will protect Islam and cultural art while eradicating pornography. Critics of the measure counter that the law is too broad and could hinder cultural art such as temple statues, and some were quoted Thursday as saying they would pursue legal challenges to it. The law was revised several times before being passed by parliament. AFP has more. Xinhua has additional coverage.

Approximately ninety percent of the population in Indonesia [JURIST news archive] is Muslim, though the country also has large Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist groups. The law is designed to protect younger generations from pornographic and lewd materials. It does not, however, prohibit tourists from wearing bikinis in Bali, a primarily tourist island.






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Sixth Circuit rules against Michigan voter removals
Leslie Schulman on October 30, 2008 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF; ACLU press release] an injunction granted by a federal judge earlier this month ordering Michigan voting officials to reinstate on voter rolls the names of newly-registered voters whose voter registration cards were returned to the post office as undeliverable. The ACLU of Michigan [advocacy website] had challenged [complaint, PDF] the new Michigan state law, which permitted nullification of such voter registrations, on the grounds that it violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) [official backgrounder], which sets forth conditions that must be met before an individual can be removed from voting rolls. In a 2-1 opinion, the Sixth Circuit agreed, holding:

[T]here has never been a determination [here] that the [removed] voters are ineligible....[T]he preliminary injunction is necessary to protect the individual voters of Michigan affected by the undeliverable-voter-ID-card practice....[It] ensures that each individual who has properly registered to vote but was removed due to an error that is out of his or her control will be able to case a ballot on election day.
The NVRA allows registered voters to remain on voter rolls for at least two federal elections after registration cards have been returned as undeliverable. AP has more.

There have been a growing number of controversies over voting laws and procedures in the run-up to November 2008 voting. Earlier this month, the New York Times released a report [text; JURIST report] alleging that thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states, including Michigan, have been removed from voter rolls against federal voting law. The report examined the actions of election officials in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and North Carolina, and found that the removal of a number of registered voters violated the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [text]. The campaigns of both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain [campaign websites] are recruiting thousands of volunteer lawyers [JURIST report] to help protect voters' rights on election day.





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Myanmar court sentences nine activists for disrupting prison trial
Benjamin Klein on October 30, 2008 10:57 AM ET

[JURIST] A court in military-ruled Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday sentenced nine activists to six months in prison after they complained that their trials were being held in secret, according to a statement by one of their lawyers speaking to Reuters. The presiding judge at the trial in Yangon's Insein Prison [BBC backgrounder] ruled that the activists had interrupted a public servant at a judicial proceeding by repeatedly asking for an open trial that relatives could attend. The judge asked the lawyers to leave the courtroom and then sentenced the activists to six months in prison. The activists continue to face several charges, including the violation of a law banning demonstrations, speeches, or written statements that could undermine stability. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Reuters has more.

Most of the nine activists are leading members of the Burmese opposition 88 Generation Students movement [BBC backgrounder], a group of pro-democracy dissidents who were active during the country’s uprising in 1988. Nearly all of them were arrested in August 2007 during large anti-government street rallies led by Buddhist monks which were violently suppressed [JURIST report] by the military government. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] passed a resolution [press release] last March condemning Myanmar for ongoing systematic violations of human rights and people's fundamental freedoms. The European Union (EU) has also expressed concern over human rights violations in the country and the lack of investigations in the aftermath of last year's violent government suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. According to Amnesty International [advocacy website], more than 2,100 people are imprisoned [Amnesty report] in Myanmar on account of their political or religious beliefs.






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Croatia justice minister proposes special courts to try organized crime cases
Andrew Morgan on October 30, 2008 10:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Croatia's recently appointed Justice Minister Ivan Simonovic [official profile, in Croatian] on Wednesday proposed [text, DOC, in Croatian] a set of legal reforms intended to combat the country's organized crime problem. In an address to the Croatian parliament [official website], Simonovic suggested establishing special courts to try organized crime and corruption suspects in the cities of Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek. Other proposed measures included improving witness protection methods, expanding property seizure rules, and restricting the communication access of incarcerated organized criminals. BBC News has more.

Combating organized crime is a major requirement for the former Yugoslav republic's accession to the European Union (EU) [government website]. While improvements were noted in a 2007 progress report [text, PDF], a recent rise in violence could cast a shadow on the 2008 report due out next month. Last week Ivo Pukanic, the founder and editor-in-chief of the outspoken newsmagazine Nacional [media website] was killed in a car explosion [AP report] blamed on criminal elements. Simonovic took over as justice minister in early October after Ivana Hodak, the daughter of a prominent Zagreb lawyer who is defending retired Croatian General Vladimir Zagorec against corruption charges, was shot to death [Sky report] outside her home, prompting Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to fire the then-incumbent.






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South Korea court upholds adultery ban
Benjamin Klein on October 30, 2008 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of South Korea [official website] upheld a law criminalizing adultery on Thursday, rejecting complaints that the 55-year-old law is outdated and constitutes an invasion of privacy. The challenge was brought by the lawyers of popular South Korean actress Ok So Ri, who was charged under the law [JoongAng Daily backgrounder] when her husband filed a criminal complaint against her for having an extramarital affair with an opera singer. Although only four of the nine judges supported the ban, the law remains valid; South Korean law requires a minimum of six judges oppose a statute in order to abolish it. Reuters has more. The Korea Times has local coverage.

Although it is rare for people to be jailed in South Korea [JURIST news archive] under the adultery law – in 2007, only 47 people were jailed while 592 were given suspended sentences – thousands of spouses continue to file criminal complaints. In 2005, a group of South Korean lawmakers introduced a parliamentary proposal to scrap the law, but backlash from conservative voters caused the effort to stall. Ri's challenge marks the fourth such challenge since 1989, with previous challenges brought in 1990, 1993 and 2001 [BBC report].






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Federal judge sides with DOD on FOIA exemptions for Guantanamo transcripts
David Weber on October 30, 2008 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] Wednesday for the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website], holding that unredacted transcripts allegedly containing evidence of torture used against fourteen "high-value" detainees [DNI biographies] being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] could be validly withheld from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request that had already been addressed. According to the court:

Affording defendants’ declaration the appropriate presumption of good faith, the Court concludes that the withheld information was properly withheld under Exemptions 1 and 3 [of the FOIA].
Exemption 1 protects from disclosure national security information concerning national defense or foreign policy, provided it has been properly classified. Exemption 3 prohibits agencies from releasing any materials that are specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided there are particular criteria. The court found that the Defense Department had not waived these exemptions because the records had not been officially disclosed and plaintiffs' First Amendment rights had not been violated. The ACLU condemned the decision [press release]. AFP has more.

DOD published eight unredacted transcripts and six redacted transcripts [texts] on its website, and the ACLU filed a FOIA request to have the full documents released. After DOD refused, the ACLU filed suit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in March, 2008. In FOIA cases, judges have broad discretion to hold in camera review of classified materials.





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DOJ antitrust division approves Delta-Northwest merger
Devin Montgomery on October 30, 2008 9:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice Antitrust Division [official website] on Wednesday approved [press release] a merger of Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines [corporate websites] after determining the deal would not significantly decrease competition. The department said the merger would likely decrease operational costs for the carriers that would benefit customers, and was not likely to harm the industry:

The two airlines currently compete with a number of other legacy and low cost airlines in the provision of scheduled air passenger service on the vast majority of nonstop and connecting routes where they compete with each other. In addition, the merger likely will result in efficiencies such as cost savings in airport operations, information technology, supply chain economics, and fleet optimization that will benefit consumers. Consumers are also likely to benefit from improved service made possible by combining under single ownership the complementary aspects of the airlines' networks.
Northwest will now be a subsidiary of Delta and will form the world's largest airline. In a statement on the merger [press release], Delta said it expected annual savings of more than $2 billion because of the deal. AFP has more.

Delta and Northwest had previously faced financial trouble, and in 2005 both filed [JURIST report] for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection [SEC backgrounder]. Because of its bankruptcy, Delta was able to settle a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by pilots after it announced that it would be ending its pension plan. Northwest also successfully gained concessions from both flight attendants and pilots [JURIST reports] after its filing.





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Chaudhry still 'constitutional' chief justice of Pakistan: new bar president
Andrew Gilmore on October 30, 2008 8:44 AM ET

[JURIST] Ali Ahmad Kurd, the newly-elected president [Daily Times report] of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), called [IANS report] ousted Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] the "constitutional" chief justice of Pakistan Wednesday, and said Chaudhry would "soon be restored" to his former post. Chaudhry was removed from his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] by former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf following Musharraf's November 3, 2007 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST report]. Kurd, a prominent leader of the Pakistan lawyers' movement [New York Times backgrounder], takes over from Aitzaz Ahsan [JURIST news archive], who also supported Chaudhry's return to office. From Pakistan, Dawn has more. Geo TV has additional coverage.

Although Pakistani officials have now reinstated most of the over 60 judges ousted by Musharraf under the emergency, the Law Minister of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has repeatedly insisted that Chaudhry will not be reinstated [JURIST report] because current chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was, according to him, legitimately appointed [JURIST report] and the Pakistani Constitution [text] does not permit the appointment of two chief justices. Chaudhry was the prime mover in the Pakistan Supreme Court's pre-emergency bid to constrain the country's executive, a role which brought about his initial suspension [JURIST report] by Musharraf in March 2007. He was subsequently reinstated [JURIST report] after months of agitation by Pakistani lawyers.






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UN General Assembly adopts resolution urging US to drop Cuba embargo
Ximena Marinero on October 30, 2008 8:22 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN General Assembly (UNGA) [official website] on Wednesday adopted [UNGA press release] by 185-3 a resolution [text, PDF] urging the US to lift its longstanding embargo on Cuba [US Treasury materials]. Only the US, Israel, and Palau voted No; Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained. This is the seventeenth consecutive year the Assembly has approved such a non-binding measure, with this year registering the highest number of votes in favor. The draft resolution proposed by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque [official website] called for:

all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures...[that]...affect the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction and the freedom of trade and navigation...[and to conform with]...their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law.
Member envoys supporting the resolution said the economic blockade violated Cuba's sovereignty and the human rights of its people [recorded video] contrary to the UN Charter [text]. US envoy Ronald Godard [official profile] said the US not only has the right to impose economic sanctions, but is also justified to "limit the ability of Cuba's repressive government to benefit and consolidate power through its authoritarian control over the Cuban economy." Reuters has more.

Relations between Cuba and the US [BBC timeline] have been dominated by the US economic blockade against Cuba for the past 46 years. The US has continued to impose increasingly stricter sanctions on the communist island. The most recent were enacted during the Bush and Clinton administrations, and include the Helms-Burton Act [text] and restrictions on travel and aid between families. Cuba has faced accusations of human rights violations [HRW report; JURIST report] from the international community. In February, Cuba signed two key human rights treaties [JURIST report], becoming party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.





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Top FDA officials opposed rule limiting tort claims against drug companies: report
Jake Oresick on October 30, 2008 7:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] on Wednesday issued a report [text, PDF] revealing that top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] officials opposed FDA regulations that preempt consumers’ ability to bring tort claims against drug manufacturers. The report said that career FDA officials objected to a 2006 regulation [text, PDF] revising the so-called Physician Labeling Rule because under it the agency’s approval of labeling preempted conflicting state law, significantly limiting the liability of drug makers. Prominent FDA staffers had maintained that state lawsuits complement the agency’s regulatory function by discovering risks that it cannot. The regulation also made it more difficult for pharmaceutical companies to add new warnings to existing drug labels. The report shows that Jane Axelrad, an FDA research director, expressed reservations about the rationale for lowering label content requirements:

[T]here are continued references to sponsors 'disclosing too much' risk information and its adverse impact.…We rarely find ourselves in situations where sponsors want to disclose more risk information than we think is necessary. To the contrary, we usually find ourselves dealing with situations where sponsors want to minimize the risk information.
AP has more.

The initial Physician Labeling Rule, as proposed in 2000, did not preempt state law. The FDA bolstered labeling restrictions with an August 2008 regulation [text, PDF] stating that manufacturers may not strengthen warnings except when there is "sufficient evidence of causal association with the drug."





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Ecuador selects new high court judges by lottery
Safiya Boucaud on October 30, 2008 7:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Ecuador selected a new temporary Supreme Court on Wednesday via lottery, but the judges picked plan to reject their appointments. The previous Supreme Court was abolished under a new constitution [text, in Spanish] that took effect last week. The temporary court that has now been set up in its place has designated 21 out of 31 former judges as members by lot and will operate until a permanent court takes over in 2009. Last week the judges of the previous Supreme Court released a statement [AP report] indicating their refusal to fill seats that have been selected by a process that they deemed degrading. AP has more.

The new constitution, approved in September by a referendum [JURIST, report], establishes a transitional regime that will govern until general elections in 2009. Last week the old Supreme Court took the first steps toward creating a new oral argument system [JURIST report], as required by the new charter. Critics continue to fear the 444-article document gives the president too much control over the economy and the judiciary.






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Torture prevention provisions in US-Iraq security agreement needed: HRW
Tarah Park on October 30, 2008 7:39 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday called for the addition of a clause to the pending US-Iraqi security agreement [released excerpts, text] that would shield detainees from transfer to Iraqi custody [press release] in order to avoid risk of torture. The group wants a provision that would allow prisoners a "legitimate chance" to contest their transfer, along with provisions that would permit the US to inspect Iraqi detention facilities before final transfers take place. If approved, the security agreement would require that the US receive permission before making all future arrests and that all new suspects be turned over to Iraqi control within 24 hours. The terms of the transfer of about 17,000 detainees currently being held by the US in Iraq are not specified. Iraqi authorities admit that they are not prepared to take on the prisoners until they build more prisons and train guards. HRW also urged the US to ensure that the eventual transfers comply with the UN Convention Against Torture [text] and that those who remain in US custody be guaranteed treatment that complies with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. The New York Times has more.

The proposed security agreement, along with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [CFA Materials, JURIST report], would extend US forces' involvement in Iraq until 2011. Strong political opposition to the proposed agreement has caused both sides to consider asking the the UN for an extension of its current mandate [UN press release], which authorizes US troops to remain in Iraq only until the end of the year.






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Nebraska governor calls special legislative session to amend 'safe haven' law
Eric Firkel on October 30, 2008 6:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman [official website] announced Wednesday he is calling a special session of the state legislature on November 14 to amend Nebraska's so-called 'safe haven' law [LB 157 text, PDF]. The law, which went into effect in July, was intended to protect infants and prohibits prosecution of parents when a child is left in a licensed hospital. Under broad interpretation of the term "child," however, parents have legally abandoned several children in their late teens. Since July, nearly two dozen children have been dropped off in hospitals, and Nebraska lawmakers have said that the law is too broad [JURIST report]. In a press release [text], the governor said:

This law needs to be changed to focus on its original intent, which is to protect infants...A proposed three day safe haven law that the legislature has agreed to will be introduced by Speaker Flood on my behalf.
The new law will only permit parents to drop off children up to three days old. The New York Times has more. The Omaha Newsstand has local coverage.

Nebraska was the last of the fifty US states to enact its infant safe haven law [Child Welfare Information Gateway backgrounder], but all of the others apply strictly to children under one year old. Nationwide, there are different requirements for what constitutes a "safe haven:" in some states, like Nebraska, infants may only be relinquished to a hospital; in others, licensed personnel at emergency medical services, police stations, and fire stations can accept infants. In most states, once the safe haven provider has informed the local child services department that an infant has been abandoned, the department takes responsibility for the child and petitions the court for termination of the parent's parental rights.





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Canada court convicts first suspect charged under new anti-terrorism law
Devin Montgomery on October 29, 2008 4:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Ontario Superior Court [official website] Justice Douglas Rutherford Wednesday convicted [reasons for judgment, PDF] Ottawa software developer Mohammed Momin Khawaja [CBC backgrounder] on seven counts related to an alleged plot to bomb targets in the UK. Khawaja was specifically accused of designing a remote detonator and providing other support to a group that was last year convicted [JURIST report] of planning to detonate a large fertilizer bomb. Although Rutherford indicated Khawja may not have known about the terrorist plot, he was found guilty of participating in a terrorist group, instructing a person to finance terrorism, making property available to terrorists, contributing to a terrorist group, and facilitating terrorism under Canada's controversial Anti-Terrorism Act [text; CBC backgrounder]. He was cleared of two other terrorism charges related to his intent to aid in a specific act of terrorism, but was convicted on related criminal charges for possession of and intent to use explosives. Khawja is scheduled to be sentenced on November 18 and faces up to 25 years in prison. The Globe and Mail has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In June, Khawaja pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges and his lawyer said the allegations were exaggerated and based on hearsay evidence that should have been excluded. Last year, Canadian Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley refused to require the release of confidential evidence [ruling, PDF; summary, PDF; JURIST report] against Khawaja, explaining that "disclosure of most of the information would be injurious to national security or to international relations." Khawaja was arrested [JURIST report] in March 2004, and was the first person to be charged and tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act.






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Indonesia central bank ex-chief sentenced to five years in prison for corruption
Caitlin Price on October 29, 2008 3:13 PM ET

[JURIST] An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced former Bank Indonesia (BI) [official website] chief Burhanuddin Abdullah to five years in prison on corruption charges for knowingly approving the misappropriation of $10 million of the central bank's funds. Governor of BI from May 2003 until May 2008, Abdullah was arrested in April following an investigation by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) [official website, in Bahasa] into allegations that he approved the use of BI funds to bribe members of the legislature and to pay legal fees to defend other bank officials accused of corruption. Abdullah, who was also fined $23,250, denies the charges and said he will appeal the decision. The KPK also announced [KPK press release, in Bahasa] Wednesday that four more suspects are being investigated in connection with the case, including Aulia Pohan [Jakarta Post report], a former BI senior deputy governor and relative by marriage of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [official website; BBC profile]. Reuters has more. The Jakarta Post has regional coverage.

Abdullah is the highest official to be convicted of corruption in a country which is increasingly considered one of the most corrupt [TI rankings list; regional analysis, PDF] in the world. Yudhoyono was elected on an anti-corruption platform and has since struggled to rein-in corruption in Indonesia's judicial system [JURIST report]. A KPK investigation into suspected embezzlement within the Indonesian Supreme Court [JURIST report] is ongoing. At the time of his death in January, former President Haji Mohammed Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] faced government charges for embezzling $440 million from the Yayasan Supersemar [official website], a state-funded scholarship fund, between 1974 and 1998. In March, an Indonesian court cleared [JURIST report] Suharto and his heirs of civil liability in the case.






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Syria court sentences dissidents accused of inciting sectarian strife
Safiya Boucaud on October 29, 2008 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A criminal court sitting in Damascus Wednesday sentenced twelve dissidents accused of inciting sectarian strife to two and a half years in prison, according to the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria [advocacy website]. The convicted were all leaders of the pro-democracy Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change (DDDNC) [press release] group. They were found guilty on charges [Amnesty International report] of weakening national sentiment, broadcasting false or exaggerated news that could affect the morale of the country, joining an organization formed with the purpose of changing the financial or social status of the state, and inciting sectarian strife. The activists were arrested in December 2007 and January 2008 after taking part in a meeting of the DDDNC. The original sentence was 6 years but it was reduced by the judge without any explanation. The convicted can appeal for up to 30 days. Several other DDDNC meeting participants were arrested but later released without charge. AP has more.

In April 2007, Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni was sentenced to five years in prison [JURIST report] and required to pay a fine after being convicted of spreading false information harmful to the state. In May 2006, Kamal Labwani, a Syrian political dissident who founded another pro-democracy group, was sentenced [JURIST report] to 12 years in prison for encouraging attacks against Syria after contacting a foreign country. Labwani met with White House officials during a visit to the US in 2005, and was arrested [JURIST report] when he returned to Syria.






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Australia terrorism suspect sentenced to nine months for passport fraud
Andrew Morgan on October 29, 2008 1:26 PM ET

[JURIST] An Australian state court Wednesday sentenced suspected terrorist Joseph "Jack" Thomas [advocacy website] to nine months in prison for possessing a falsified passport. Justice Elizabeth Curtain [official profile, PDF] of the Supreme Court of Victoria [official website] released Thomas in consideration for his time served in prison, the prolonged delay in his prosecution, and his lack of prior convictions. Thomas, known in the Australian media as "Jihad Jack", was convicted last week of possessing a falsified passport, but was found not guilty of receiving money and a plane ticket from an al Qaeda operative. AP has more.

The sentencing signals the end of a long legal challenge. Thomas was originally convicted [JURIST report] in February 2006 of receiving $3,500 and a plane ticket after training with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, making him the first person incarcerated under the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism Act 2002 [text, PDF] and the first person to be subject to Australia's controversial control orders [JURIST archive]. That conviction was overturned [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of Victoria's appeals division after it was shown Thomas was interrogated by Australian Federal Police officers in Pakistan under duress and without access to a lawyer. In June 2008 the Court of Appeals upheld [text, PDF] a lower court ruling ordering a new trial after Thomas willingly volunteered information in an interview with the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC).






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Russia lower house approves defense treaties with breakaway Georgia regions
Caitlin Price on October 29, 2008 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian], the country's lower house of parliament, on Wednesday unanimously approved military defense agreements [JURIST report] signed with Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia [JURIST news archive] last month. The so-called Treaties on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance allow Russia to offer military assistance and provide for the 3,800 Russian troops to be deployed to each region. After the signing, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] defended [statement text] the use of Russian troops in the regions to help "remove threats to peace" as proper under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter [text]. The treaties also establish joint cooperation on issues including citizenship and border control, criminal investigations, humanitarian aid, and infrastructure [RIA Novosti report]. The agreements now must be approved by the Federation Council of Russia [official website, in Russian], the country's upper house. If approved, the treaties will last for ten years, with automatic renewal if no objections are submitted. AP has more. From Russia, Kommersant has local coverage.

The treaties have received heavy international criticism and have made Russia one of only two countries in the world to recognize the regions' independence, along with Nicaragua. Georgia's National Security Council [official website] secretary Alexander Lomaia decried the agreements, saying that they were effectively an illegal attempt to annex the regions. The US and the European Union have also criticized the deal, and spokespersons for NATO previously denounced Russia's decision to recognize the teritories [JURIST report] as violative of international law.






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JURIST launches Facebook presence
Bernard Hibbitts on October 29, 2008 10:45 AM ET

[JURIST] JURIST has launched an official page on Facebook, the rapidly-growing social networking portal. The page is designed to give our US and worldwide audience a space in which to share their JURIST experiences and their common interest in the legal news and commentary that we offer every day, while giving readers occasional behind-the-scenes peeks at law student staff operations here at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, JURIST's host institution. After more than a decade of delivering content to hundreds of thousands of largely anonymous readers around the world, our staff is looking forward to seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the ever-growing number of JURIST readers on the Facebook service! Please join us here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/JURIST/18796551811

Leave a note on our Wall, take the Poll, or chime in on the Discussion Board while keeping up with some the best and latest JURIST content. And as always, tell us how we can make JURIST better. We look forward to seeing you on Facebook!






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US military judge grants defense lawyer access to resticted Guantanamo camp
Leslie Schulman on October 29, 2008 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] US military judge Col. Ralph Kohlmann [JURIST news archive] ruled Monday that defense attorney Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier could gain access to Camp 7 [Miami Herald backgrounder], a special camp for alleged al Qaeda members classified as "high-value detainees" at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military prison. Lachelier is the defense lawyer for Ramzi Binalshibh, who has been charged [text, PDF] with murder and war crimes for his alleged role in the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive]. She told the military court that she wants to know if Camp 7 conditions are contributing to Binalshibh's mental illnesses, including psychosis and schizophrenia, which could lead to a conclusion that he is incompetent to stand trial. Kohlmann on Monday denied requests that a defense psychologist also be allowed into the camp. Binalshibh, classified as an enemy combatant for his role in the attacks, faces the death penalty if convicted. AP has more.

Prisoners in Camp 7 are isolated from other prisoners to prevent violence against those who have provided information to interrogators, and the exact location of the camp has been kept secret to prevent a terrorist attack. The existence of the camp was not known until last December when it was mentioned [NYT report] in court papers [JURIST report] filed by lawyers for Majid Khan [GlobalSecurity profile], the first "high-value" Guantanamo Bay detainee to be allowed to meet privately with legal counsel.






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Iraq court sentences alleged insurgent to death for killings of US soldiers
Andrew Gilmore on October 29, 2008 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the Iraqi Central Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced [Multi-National Force press release] to death an Iraqi citizen affiliated with a Sunni militant organization for the 2006 abduction, torture, and killing of two US soldiers and the killing of a third US soldier. The trial and conviction are the first in which an Iraqi citizen has faced charges in an Iraqi court stemming from the killing of US military personnel. The alleged Iraqi insurgent, Ibrahim Karim al-Qaraghuli, was found guilty of the abduction, torture, and killing of Privates First Class Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca, and the killing of Specialist David Babineau. The incident occurred south of Baghdad in June 2006. Al-Qaraghuli was convicted [Washington Post report] based on the testimony of numerous witness, as well as on the basis of physical evidence linking him to the crime, including expert testimony that his fingerprints matched photographs of bloody fingerprints from the crime scene. Two co-defendants were acquitted of the same charges. The New York Times has more. McClatchy Newspapers has additional coverage.

In September 2006, US military officials said that Tucker, Menchaca, and Babineau were not involved [JURIST report] in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the murder of her family in the near-by area of Mahmudiya [JURIST news archive]. A group linked to al Qaeda released a video in July that showed two of the dead soldiers' bodies and said the troops were killed to avenge the deaths of the family killed in Mahmudiya. The rape and murders outraged Iraqi leaders [JURIST report], prompting an independent investigation [JURIST report] by Iraqis into crimes allegedly committed by US troops.






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ICTY judge warns Karadzic not to delay war crimes trial
Andrew Gilmore on October 29, 2008 6:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge Iain Bonomy [official profile] of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday warned former Bosnian Serb leader and war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] not to cause any delays in his trial and gave him 14 days [order, PDF] to respond to a motion to amend [text, PDF; JURIST report] the indictment against him. Karadzic is representing himself and was directed to comply with all deadlines set by the ICTY in his case. According to Bonomy's order, the 14-day deadline will take effect when the prosecution has provided Karadzic with materials supporting its motion to amend the initial indictment [text]. BBC News has more. From Serbia, B92 has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, Karadzic asked prosecutors to release information [JURIST report] regarding an alleged immunity deal with former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke [PBS profile]. In September, ICTY prosecutors filed the motion to amend Karadzic's indictment, as was planned [JURIST report] earlier that month. The existing indictment contains 11 charges against Karadzic, including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation and "other inhumane acts." The proposed amendments would narrow the indictment with the intent of calling fewer witnesses to testify and simplifying the trial. Karadzic was arrested [JURIST report] in July after evading capture for nearly 13 years. He was originally indicted in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine practitioner [BBC report]. He repeatedly refused to enter a plea on the charges, with an ICTY judge eventually entering a not guilty plea [JURIST reports] on his behalf. If the court approves the amended indictment, Karadzic will be asked to enter new pleas.






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Google agrees to settle two copyright infringement lawsuits for book search
Andrew Gilmore on October 29, 2008 1:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Internet search company Google, Inc. [corporate website] agreed Tuesday to settle [Google press release] two copyright infringement lawsuits stemming from its book-scanning initiative [Google Book Search website]. The two lawsuits were brought against Google by The Authors Guild [advocacy website; press release, PDF], an advocacy group seeking to preserve copyright protection for authors, and by other plaintiffs including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [organization website; AAP press release], The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Penguin Group (USA), Inc., and Simon & Schuster, Inc. [corporate websites]. Under the terms of the settlement agreement [text, PDF], which is subject to approval by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [court website], Google will pay $125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works. In return, Google will be allowed to display online up to 20% of the total pages of a copyrighted book, and will offer users an opportunity to purchase the remainder of any viewed book. The New York Times has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

The two lawsuits settled Tuesday were originally brought against Google in 2005. In September 2005, The Authors Guild alleged [JURIST report] "massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers." The lawsuit accused Google of engaging in unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Print Library Project [Google backgrounder; advocacy copyright analysis, PDF]. The AAP lawsuit, filed in October 2005 [JURIST report], alleged that Google infringed copyrights held by a number of publishing companies when it scanned the entire book collections of several universities to make them searchable online.






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US military judge excludes confession of Guantanamo detainee from trial
Leslie Schulman on October 29, 2008 12:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge ruled Tuesday that a confession given by Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohammed Jawad [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] to Afghan officials following his capture in 2002 was obtained using torture and is therefore inadmissible at his upcoming military commission [JURIST news archive] trial. Army Col. Stephen Henley found that Afghan officials threatened to kill Jawad and his family unless he admitted to throwing a grenade that injured three US soldiers in Kabul in 2002. Henley ruled that obtaining a confession using threat of death amounted to torture, and that under Guantanamo trial rules his confession is therefore inadmissible. Reuters has more.

Jawad, who was transferred into US custody after the confession to the Afghanistan government, was designated an "enemy combatant" in 2004. He was later charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] with attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury for his role in the attack, which injured two US soldiers and an Afghan translator. The case against him faces growing problems. Last month, former military commissions chief prosecutor Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld resigned [JURIST report], citing "ethical qualms" with the military commissions' defense counsel discovery procedures. In May, Jawad moved [JURIST report] to have all charges against him dismissed, alleging that he has been tortured in US custody and subjected to the so-called "frequent-flier program," in which certain inmates are moved between cells at two to four hour intervals in an attempt to cause physical stress through sleep deprivation. Jawad, the fourth Guantanamo detainee to be formally charged with war crimes under the 2006 Military Commissions Act [text, PDF], is set to face military commission on January 5, 2009.






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China legislature removes high court vice president without explanation
Lucas Tanglen on October 28, 2008 3:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Huang Songyou [official profile] was removed from his position [Xinhua report] as vice president of China's Supreme People's Court [official website, in Mandarin] Tuesday in a vote by Chinese legislators. No explanation was given for the action, but earlier this month, Huang was reportedly detained by party officials [South China Morning Post report] in an alleged corruption scandal. AFP has more.

Huang was noted for promoting judicial enforcement of constitutional rights, writing [text, PDF] in a 2001 opinion that the Supreme People's Court's had reached a milestone in ruling that citizens' basic constitutional rights should be protected. In 2004, Huang said changes to China's Criminal Procedure Law [JURIST report] were needed because China had adopted a human rights clause in its constitution.






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Former ICTY spokesperson defers plea on contempt charges
Ximena Marinero on October 28, 2008 3:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Former spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Florence Hartmann [book publicity interview] declined Monday to enter a plea on two counts of contempt she faces for allegedly releasing restricted information regarding court rulings in the case of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive]. Hartmann was the former official spokesperson for chief ICTY prosecutor Carla del Ponte [BBC profile]. At the hearing, Hartmann lawyer William Bourdon said Hartmann was invoking her right to defer her plea for 30 days while she awaits the decision of the tribunal on whether she will be required to pay her own legal costs. In public statements, Hartmann has maintained that she operated within her rights and that the accusations against her threaten freedom of speech and transparency in the affairs of international organizations such as the ICTY. Reuters has more. Le Monde has additional coverage, in French.

In August, the ICTY issued an Order in Lieu of an Indictment [text, PDF; JURIST report], charging that Hartmann knowingly revealed confidential decisions in the Milosevic case in her memoirs [Amazon book profile], published in September of 2007, and in subsequent public statements. Hartmann has continued to draw media attention, repeating allegations [JURIST report] that the US, France, and Russia obstructed the capture of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], and that the ICTY helped hide information about the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. Karadzic was indicted earlier this year and is currently challenging criminal charges in the ICTY in reliance on an alleged immunity deal with the US.






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Ukraine PM drops lawsuit against president after election order suspended
Devin Montgomery on October 28, 2008 1:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website] on Monday withdrew a lawsuit she had brought against president Victor Yushchenko [official website; JURIST news archive] and the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) [official website, in Ukrainian] challenging Yushchenko's plan to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. Tymoshenko said the challenge was dropped because Yushchenko last week suspended his plan [press release; AFP report] to hold elections on December 4, citing the need for the sitting parliament to take action on financial difficulties [press release] facing the country. Shortly after suspending the plan and reconvening the parliament, Yushchenko said he now plans to hold the elections by no later than Decemeber 14 [press release]. It is unclear whether Tymoshenko will challenge that plan. RIA Novosti has more.

Earlier this month, before suspending the plan, Yushchenko issued a decree [decree 922/2008 text, in Ukrainian; JURIST report] abolishing a Kiev court after it tried to block [JURIST report] his order dissolving parliament and directing parliamentary elections in the wake of the collapse of the governing coalition. Ukraine's leadership is divided in the wake of the 2004 Orange Revolution [Foreign Affairs backgrounder] that brought Yushchenko to power as president. The populist Tymoshenko was originally a Yushchenko ally, but more recently has become disaffected, leading to the collapse of the government [press release] over disagreements on both domestic and international issues.






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Hate crime reports drop in 2007, but sexual-orientation bias crimes up: FBI
Catherine on October 28, 2008 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Reports of hate crimes dropped approximately one percent in 2007 from the previous year but incidents of sexual-orientation bias crimes increased by six percent, according to the 2007 Hate Crime Statistics [report; press release] released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] Monday. The FBI reported 7,621 single-bias hate crime incidents -- those in which one or more offense types are motivated by the same bias -- in 2007, down from 7,720 in 2006 [FBI report; JURIST report]. The drop does not necessarily reflect an actual decrease in hate crimes perpetrated in the US as the number of law enforcement agencies that participate in the study varies from year to year, though more agencies participated this year than last. Racial discrimination accounted for 50.8 percent of all reported hate crimes, followed by religious bias with 18.4 percent and sexual-orientation bias with 16.6 percent. Crimes motivated by ethnicity/national origin (13.2%) and disability bias (1%) were also reported. AP has more.

Last year, the US Senate approved an amendment to the 2008 Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials] that would expand federal hate crimes legislation to include violent attacks against people based on their gender or sexuality. The White House threatened to veto [policy statement, PDF] the legislation, arguing [AP report] that there was "no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement." Last December, congressional negotiators agreed to remove the language [JURIST report] from the bill.






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Visa and Mastercard settle antitrust suit
Christian Ehret on October 28, 2008 12:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. [corporate websites] on Monday settled an antitrust suit with Discover Financial Services [corporate website] for $2.75 billion. Under the settlement, $1.8875 billion was apportioned to Visa [press release] and $862.5 million to Mastercard [press release] under a judgment-sharing agreement. This settlement is the result of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Discover after a US Department of Justice [official website] suit [opinion, text; complaint, text] determined Visa and Mastercard were in violation of section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act [text] by prohibiting banks from using Discover's services. Reuters has more.

American Express [corporate website] recently finalized antitrust settlements with Visa and Mastercard [press releases] for $2.25 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, that arose out of a similar complaint [JURIST report]. Visa and Mastercard were involved in another antitrust suit [JURIST report] in 2005 regarding interchange fees.






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Laos urged to release repatriated Hmong protest leaders
David Weber on October 28, 2008 12:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW)[advocacy website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday called on Laos [HRW press release] to release leaders of the ethnic minority Hmong [materials] who were forcibly repatriated from Thailand and imprisoned in Laos for their roles in a June protest demonstration Thai refugee camp, denouncing the move for "confirm[ing] the fear many Hmong asylum seekers and refugees have expressed of being persecuted if returned to their native country." The detainees allegedly led the protest [HRW report], and over 800 of the protesters were subsequently deported to Laos. In addition to calling for the prisoners' release, HRW also asked Thailand to allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website] to investigate claims of mistreatment towards the Hmong. Laos is a signatory of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights [text], which prohibits, among other things, arbitrary detention. Though Thailand has not signed the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees [text], which prohibits refoulement [CW backgrounder], HRW called the Thai repatriation efforts a "clear violation of international refugee law" and argued that customary international law creates an obligation to protect against repatriation that would jeopardize safety or freedom. AFP has more.

The Hmong have been engaged in conflict with the Laos government since the Vietnam War, during which they supported the US [DWB backgrounder, PDF]. Over 300,000 Hmong fled Laos to Thailand in the early 1970s, where several thousand still remain. In 2004, Thailand began forcibly repatriating [BBC report] Hmong refugees to Laos, where refugees reportedly fear reprisal. Some of the leaders arrested after the June protests were released after a three month detention, but five leaders are still missing.






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Ex-Milberg Weiss partners sentenced to prison for obstruction, racketeering
Devin Montgomery on October 28, 2008 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] Monday sentenced Steven Schulman and David Bershad, two former partners of the law firm now known as Milberg LLP [firm website], to six months in prison each for their role in a scheme to pay lead plaintiffs illegally in class-action lawsuits brought by the firm. Under the scheme, the firm agreed to pay class-action lead plaintiffs a portion of the attorneys' fees if the firm won a case. Bernshad pleaded guilty [plea agreement, PDF] to charges of conspiring to obstruct justice [18 USC § 1503 text] and make false statements under oath [18 USC § 1623 text] in July 2007, and Schulman pleaded guilty [WSJ report] to a racketeering [18 USC § 1962 text] conspiracy charge in October 2007. Both men already agreed to forfeit profits derived from the cases and each pay a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors in the case said that information obtained as part of the men's plea agreement was instrumental in prosecuting firm co-founder Melvyn Weiss [JURIST news archive] for his role in the scheme. AP has more.

Weiss pleaded guilty in April to one count of racketeering conspiracy related to the alleged kickback scheme, and in June was sentenced to 30 months in prison [JURIST reports] and ordered to forfeit more than $10 million in proceeds. In April, Reuters reported that Milberg LLP had entered into negotiations [JURIST report] with federal prosecutors to settle accusations. Three individuals pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme in May 2006 after a federal grand jury indicted [JURIST reports] the firm.






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Presidential campaigns recruiting thousands of volunteer lawyers: NYT
Deirdre Jurand on October 28, 2008 9:55 AM ET

[JURIST] The US presidential campaigns of both Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain [campaign websites] are recruiting large numbers of lawyers to monitor and protect voters' rights in the upcoming national election, according to a New York Times report [text]. The Obama camp initiated its Voter Protection Program [volunteer website] targeting lawyers and law students at the start of the campaign to promote voter education, and it will deploy the volunteers to the polls on election day. The McCain camp is likewise seeking [volunteer website] volunteer lawyers and law students to help during election day, and the campaign has also established a Lawyers for McCain [advocacy website] group. These campaign-specific efforts are in addition to nonpartisan efforts by groups such as Election Protection [volunteer website], which has already recruited 10,000 people and which actively seeks lawyers, law students, and paralegals to work election protection hotlines, gather voting irregularity data and to run voter protection programs. Such efforts to involve lawyers in the election process increased following the contested 2000 presidential election [Supreme Court oral argument transcript] that pitted now-president George W. Bush [official website] against former vice president Al Gore [personal website].

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states had been removed from voter rolls [New York Times report; JURIST report] against federal voting law. That report added to growing controversy over voting laws and procedures in the run-up to November 2008 voting. In early October, both the Ohio Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official websites] rejected Republican challenges [JURIST report] to a directive by the Ohio secretary of state that would co-mingle absentee and regular ballots. Last month, voting rights advocates and elections officials expressed fears [JURIST report] that a lawsuit [complaint text, PDF; press release] brought by the Wisconsin Department of Justice [official website] will effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters there by causing chaos at the polls in November. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen [official profile] filed suit against the state's Government Accountability Board [official website], seeking to force the elections agency to cross-check the identities of recently registered voters against names in other state databases pursuant to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [FEC materials].






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Missouri law limiting Halloween activities of sex offenders partly blocked
Deirdre Jurand on October 28, 2008 8:52 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri [official website] on Monday preliminarily enjoined parts of a new state law [SB 714 s. 589.426 text, PDF] requiring registered sex offenders to avoid most Halloween activities, suggesting that parts of the law as written are too broad and vague. The law, which was passed in June, requires that on October 31, registered sexual offenders avoid Halloween-related contact with children, stay inside their homes between 5 PM and 10:30 PM unless there is just cause to leave, turn porch lights off, and post a sign reading "No candy or treats at this residence." The judge upheld the last two provisions but said that the first two appeared to be unduly restrictive and might not allow for registered sexual offenders to participate in activities such as celebrating the holiday with their own children or traveling out of town during the holiday. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said [press release] of the ruling:

I am disappointed that some of the tough provisions we enacted to protect Missouri children on Halloween may not be enforced, but I am pleased that the courts agree overall this law is an important step towards further protecting our children from harm. An appeal has been filed and I strongly encourage the Court of Appeals to reverse this decision.
The New York Times has more. The Southeast Missourian has local coverage.

In 2007, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] concluded in a report [text] that it is unclear whether sex offender laws "do more harm or good," noting that they prevent further harm to children but that they also encourage the harassment and ostracism of sex offenders. Georgia, New Jersey and Indiana [JURIST reports] have recently overturned sex offender laws found to be overly restrictive.





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US senator found guilty on corruption charges
Devin Montgomery on October 28, 2008 7:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A jury for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday convicted Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) [official website] 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 had been charged [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] with accepting approximately $250,000 in gifts over an eight-year period from the founder of oil services and engineering company VECO Corp. [corporate website]. According to the indictment, the gifts included home improvements, vehicle trades and other smaller gifts. In exchange he reportedly used his influence in Washington to improperly benefit the company and its employees. Stevens has said he plans to appeal his convictions and to continue his current bid for re-election [campaign website]. Stevens stepped down [AP report] from his position on the Senate's Commerce and Appropriations Committee [official website] when he was indicted, and would have to be voted out by two-thirds of the Senate to be removed from office early. The Senate Ethics Committee [official website] has said that it will wait until the case is concluded before deciding whether to independently investigate the charges. AP has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In August, Stevens had requested that his trial be moved to Alaska so that he could continue to campaign in the state, but the presiding judge refused his request [JURIST report]. Last year, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service searched Stevens' home [JURIST report] as part of a continuing investigation into corruption in Alaska. The Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that so far seven politicians and lobbyists have been convicted in connection with the investigation, including former Alaska state Representative Tom Anderson [JURIST report]. In October 2007, Anderson was sentenced [JURIST report] to five years in prison for accepting nearly $26,000 he believed to be from private correctional facilities firm Cornell Industries [corporate website] in exchange for Anderson's influence on then-pending measures on halfway houses.






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Federal judge rules on meaning of 'enemy combatant'
Devin Montgomery on October 28, 2008 6:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge Richard Leon [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Monday ruled [order, PDF] that in order to be validly held as an "enemy combatants," Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archive] must have directly supported hostilities against the US or its allies. Leon made the ruling as a preliminary step in considering habeas corpus petitions filed by several detainees challenging their detention at the base. In his order, Leon wrote that courts should generally defer to the political branches of government on such issues, and that the key question was whether or not they had provided a definition of "enemy combatant" that comported with the President's constitutional war powers [US Const. Art. II text] and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force [PDF text]. He said such a definition had been provided in a 2004 Order Establishing Combatant Status Review Tribunal [PDF text], and he adopted it for use in the cases:

the term "enemy combatant" shall mean an individual who was part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.
AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

In September, DC District Court Chief Judge Thomas Hogan granted a government motion [order, PDF; JURIST report] to extend from August 30 to September 30 the court's filing deadline for the first fifty factual returns in the habeas appeals of the detainees. In July, Hogan had called on the government to make the Guantanamo detention appeals a top priority [JURIST report] and devote all necessary resources to ensure that they reached trial in a timely manner pursuant to the US Supreme Court's June ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], where the Court held that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees classified as "enemy combatants."





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Pfizer hopes for November settlement with 1996 Nigerian drug trial plaintiffs
Deirdre Jurand on October 27, 2008 4:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials from Nigeria and from US pharmaceutical company Pfizer [corporate website] said Monday that they hope to reach a settlement agreement by the end of next month over allegedly illegal clinical trials conducted in Nigeria by the drug company in 1996. The national government and the state of Kano filed separate lawsuits [BBC backgrounder] in 2007 accusing Pfizer of administering meningitis medication to 200 Nigerian children - including 100 with the then-experimental antibiotic Trovan [FDA backgrounder] - without the authorization of the Nigerian government or the consent of the patients' guardians. They also charge that the testing killed 11 children and incapacitated 181 others, and demanded a total of $8.5 billion in damages. Pfizer has denied the charges [statement of defense, PDF] and said that the company's actions were both ethical and beneficial [press release]. Pfizer continues to deny legal liability. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Last year, a Nigerian court rejected a request by Pfizer [JURIST report] to dismiss the Nigerian government's lawsuit on technical grounds. Also last year, criminal court proceedings against Pfizer were suspended [JURIST report] at the request of prosecutors, who needed more time to prepare for trial.






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Mexico prosecutors office admits infiltration by drug cartel
Tere Miller-Sporrer on October 27, 2008 4:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Mexican Assistant Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibanez, head of Mexico's Assistant Prosecutors Office Specializing in Organized Crime (SIEDO) [official website], said Monday a branch of a Mexican drug cartel had infiltrated her office. Following SIEDO's 'Operation Cleaning,' Miguel Colorado Gonzales, Fernado Rivera Hernadez, Jorge Alberto Zavala, Antonio Mejia Robles, and at least one other federal investigator (all from SIEDO) are accused of receiving between $150,000 and $450,000 (USD) a month from the Sinaloa syndicate in exchange for confidential information. The investigation also revealed that the cartel had at least one insider at the US Embassy in Mexico. A protected informant claimed that while he worked at the embassy as a criminal investigator, he was paid to turn over information about US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials and investigations in real time to the cartel. In 2008 he received $30,000 for his work. The informant claimed he did similar work for the cartel while employed by Interpol at the Mexico City airport. AP has more. El Universal has local coverage, in Spanish.

Sinaloa maintains links with a number of other Mexican drug cartels, includng one formerly headed by Mexican drug lord Francisco Rafael Arellano-Felix, who was released from a US prison in March. Arellano-Felix ran the Arellano-Felix cartel [PBS backgrounder] until his 1993 arrest. He served more than 11 years in prison in Mexico on drug and illegal-weapons charges, before he became the first major drug dealer to be extradited from Mexico to the US [JURIST report] in 2006.






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IAEA chief wants North Korea back in nuclear treaty
Lucas Tanglen on October 27, 2008 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] Mohamed ElBaradei [BBC profile] said Monday in his annual report to UN member states that he wants North Korea to return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [text, PDF; IAEA backgrounder] after a five-year absence, during which it tested a nuclear device. His statement comes less than two weeks after North Korea allowed IAEA monitors back [IAEA press release] on the site of the Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing plant. Disarmament experts say there is little chance of stopping North Korea's nuclear program as long as it is not subject to the treaty's verification process. Reuters has more.

Earlier this month the US removed North Korea [WP report] from the State Department's list of terror sponsors [text] after President George W. Bush agreed [JURIST report] to the step following the communist state's handover of a report on its nuclear program to China, one of the countries participating in the so-called Six Party Talks [CFR backgrounder] on the North Korean program. In February 2007, North Korea agreed [JURIST report] to end its nuclear weapons program, shut down and seal any reactors, and completely declare the extent of its nuclear activities in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel. In October 2006, the UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions [JURIST report] on North Korea in response to the country's first nuclear test [JURIST report].






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Georgia high court declares sex offender laws unconstitutional for homeless
Christian Ehret on October 27, 2008 2:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Monday that current state laws regarding sex offenders are unconstitutional as applied to homeless people. The ruling was in response to the appeal of William James Santos, a homeless sex offender indicted for failing to register a new address as required by the Official Code of Georgia section 41-1-12 [legislative materials, PDF]. In defining the term "address," subsection (a)(1) of the Georgia code specifically states that "homeless does not constitute an address." Punishments for failing to register in Georgia are severe, ranging from ten to thirty years of imprisonment. A repeated offense of failure to register is punishable by life in prison. The state court determined that the current law "does not give homeless sexual offenders without a residence address fair notice of how they can comply with the statute’s registration requirement," reversing the appellant's indictment. As an alternative, the court cited section 290.011 [legislative materials, text] of the California Penal Code which contains stipulations for homeless sex offenders to follow in order to comply with registration laws. AP has more.

Last year the Georgia Supreme Court overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a law that would prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of areas where children gather on the grounds that it was overly restrictive. Earlier this year New Jersey and Indiana [JURIST reports] also overturned similarly restrictive laws. Sex offender laws have been increasingly criticized [JURIST report] for limiting residence options and for promoting ostracization.






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UK minister calls for 'rebalancing criminal justice priorities' amidst prisons outcry
Kiely Lewandowski on October 27, 2008 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw [official profile] Monday called [speech text; press release] for a 'rebalancing of criminal justice priorities' amidst outrage expressed at newly released Ministry of Justice [official website] figures showing a sharp rise in the number of children born to female inmates. The Independent reported [news report] that according to official figures, 49 babies were born in prisons in England and Wales between April and the beginning of July this year, as compared to a total of 64 in 1995-96. Prison reform groups such as the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust [advocacy websites] quickly condemned the increase as inhumane and symptomatic of the over-incarceration of non-violent female offenders. In his speech Monday, Straw in turn criticized the strength of the UK prison reform lobby, arguing:

We hear loud and clear about the needs of offenders. But what about victims? The government as a whole has worked very hard to give a central voice and priority to victims, but we hear far less often from these lobbies about the needs of the victim. I think that they sometimes forget who the victim is, so lost do they become in a fog of platitudes and debate over the 'needs' of the offenders.
BBC News has more.

Last year, the Ministry of Justice gave authority to prison governors to grant early release to prisoners coming to the end of their sentences [JURIST report] in order to relieve prison overcrowding [BBC backgrounder]. The Ministry also announced that 1500 new prison spaces would be made available by the end of 2008. In 2006, then-Home Secretary John Reid outlined steps to combat the problem of overcrowded prisons [JURIST report], but prison populations have continued to rise since that time.





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California marriage battle sets fundraising records
Jake Oresick on October 27, 2008 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] A pending California ballot initiative to eliminate same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the state has generated more than $60 million in contributions to committees representing both sides [materials] as of Saturday, a figure believed to be a US record. Proposition 8 [text, PDF], which would amend the state constitution to limit marriage to heterosexual couples, requires a simple majority for passage. The controversial measure has inspired prolific fundraising and more than 64,000 donors from all 50 US states and 20 foreign countries have made contributions against or for. Opponents and supporters of the amendment have raised $32.3 million and $28.2 million, respectively. These figures do not include small donations within the last 30 days. AP has more. The San Jose Mercury News has local coverage.

In August the California Supreme Court [official website] denied [JURIST report] a motion to have the measure removed from the November ballot. California same-sex couples gained marriage rights in May when the state Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Proposition 22 [text], a 2000 ballot initiative that would have banned same-sex marriage, violated the state’s constitution. In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] legalizing same-sex marriage — the first US legislative effort to do so — citing his unwillingness to usurp the will of voters as expressed through Proposition 22.






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Serbia and Albania prosecutors meet to discuss organ trafficking allegations
Kiely Lewandowski on October 27, 2008 11:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic [official website] and Albanian state prosecutor Ina Rama met Monday to discuss allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo. Former Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] alleged last spring [JURIST report] in a new book on her time at the tribunal that about 300 Serbian and other non-Albanian prisoners were victims of organ trafficking during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. A spokesman for the Serbian prosecution said [B92 local coverage] that the meeting was productive, despite the "diametrically opposed" opinions held by both prosecutors about what actually happened. CP has more.

In April, Serbia announced plans to officially request [JURIST report] that the ICTY resume its probe into the allegations after Vuk?evi? received "informal statements" [JURIST report] from ICTY investigators concerning illegal organ harvesting. The same month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the leaders of Kosovo and Albania to launch an investigation. In June, the Council of Europe announced [press release; that it will prepare a report. Del Ponte has maintained that reliable sources told her that members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [advocacy website] took the organs of young, healthy prisoners for black market sales.






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Second Guantanamo detainee goes on trial before military commission
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 27, 2008 10:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Alleged al Qaeda propagandist Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul [DOD materials] went on trial Monday before a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] prison. Al Bahlul is only the second detainee to go on trial in Guantanamo since it opened in 2002. He attended the initial proceeding Monday, but sat in silence. His appointed military attorney, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, asked to be removed from the case as per his client's request, but the judge, Air Force Col. Ronald Gregory, refused. Frakt then refused to participate further, boycotting alongside al Bahlul. Gregory said that the burden would lie with the prosecution to prove al Bahlul's guilt. AP has more.

The 39-year-old Yemeni prisoner vowed earlier this year to boycott proceedings against him, saying he would attend only when a verdict was handed down or he was sentenced. Al Bahlul, alleged to have been Osama bin Laden's personal assistant and media secretary, was charged [JURIST report] in February with conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and attacks on civilians, and providing material support for terrorism. He is accused of researching the financial impact of the 9/11 attacks and releasing the "martyr wills" of 9/11 hijackers Muhammed Atta and Ziad al Jarrah as propaganda videos. If convicted, he could receive a sentence of up to life imprisonment.






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Myanmar opposition activists sentenced to prison for 2007 demonstrations
Tarah Park on October 27, 2008 10:48 AM ET

[JURIST] A Myanmar court sentenced six leading opposition activists to prison terms Friday in connection with their involvement in pro-democracy demonstrations during the abortive 2007 Saffron Revolution [Independent backgrounder]. All six are members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and each was sentenced to between two and 13 years, according to Nyan Win, a spokesman for the NLP. Senior party leader Win Mya Mya, along with another party member, was sentenced to 12 years. According to Nyan Win, they were all charged with "inciting people to harm the peace of the state" under Section 505(B) and Section 153(A) of the Myanmar criminal code [Penal Code text]. Win said that the NLD will soon appeal. This comes just one day after party leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] completed her thirteenth full year under house arrest. AP has more. The Bangkok Post has additional coverage.

In June, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) criticized Myanmar [JURIST report] for its continued human rights abuses and refusal to cooperate with humanitarian groups. The resolution called on the Myanmar government to free political prisoners, stop recruiting child soldiers and implement earlier UNHRC resolutions regarding the country's human rights situation. Earlier this month, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem (Navi) Pillay [official profile] said during a news conference [UN News Centre report; JURIST report] that Myanmar continues to incarcerate an estimated 2,000 political prisoners, even after more than 9,000 prisoners were released [JURIST report] last month. In particular, Pillay condemned the continued imprisonment of Suu Kyi, calling the detention illegal "even in respect of [Myanmar's] laws."






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Republic of Niger ordered to compensate woman held as slave
Kayleigh Shebs on October 27, 2008 10:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official websites] found the government of Niger liable Monday for failing to aid a young woman who was held in slavery for ten years. The West African court ruled under a 2003 law that made the ownership of slaves a criminal offense, and a provision of the 1999 Niger Constitution [text, PDF; in French] which bans slavery. Niger's government will be required to pay 10 million CFA francs ($19,750) in restitution to Hadijatou Mani. Observers say the ECOWAS court's binding ruling will affect every ECOWAS member state may force a number of nations to consider the legality of slavery within their borders, as well as act to protect whose who may be illegally enslaved. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Mani was sold into slavery in 1996 and released in 2005. She brought a suit [JURIST report] against the Niger government in April alleging that they failed to protect her as she was sold into and remained in slavery. The suit also challenged the Niger customary law which states that a freed slave remains the wife of her master. The human rights group Anti-Slavery International [advocacy website] estimates that as many as 43,000 people are still held in slavery within Niger. Slavery remains a common practice in many West African nations, particularly affecting women and children.






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New Israel regulation would limit illegal immigration
Jay Carmella on October 27, 2008 10:28 AM ET

Photo source or description

[JURIST] A new regulation by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior [official website, in Hebrew] would prevent illegal immigrants who had left the country returning again, the newspaper Ha'aretz reported Sunday. The regulation covering persons from a wide range of countries would subject persons entering illegally, leaving again and then attempting to re-enter again to a two year "cooling off period", and would affect thousands of people whose family members have received Israeli citizenship as foreign workers. Ha'aretz has more.

The regulation is a partial implementation of a draft Law of Illegal Aliens currently being debated in the Knesset [official website]. Critics say it is unreasonable and expect it to be rejected by the courts. Israeli immigration policies have been a focus of controversy since the initial Law of Return [text] was passed in 1950. That law gives anyone who was born Jewish, of Jewish ancestry or has converted to Judaism the right to return to Israel. In 2004, the Israeli Supreme Court [official site] recommended [JURIST report] that anyone who has converted to Judaism should receive Israeli citizenship. Last month's vote of support [JURIST report] by the Israeli cabinet for legislation that limits the court's ability to review laws passed by the Knesset, could potentially play a role in the implementation of The Law of Illegal Aliens.




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Former Guantanamo tribunals advisor target of military ethics probe
Steve Czajkowski on October 27, 2008 5:55 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Air Force [official website] is conducting an ethics investigation of Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile; JURIST news archive] over allegations that he abused his power and inappropriately influenced the prosecution of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], military officials said Saturday. Hartmann was the legal advisor to the US military commissions [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo and supervisor of the Office of Military Commissions-Prosecution (OMC-P) until he was reassigned [JURIST report] to the position of director of operations of the Office of Military Commissions last month. It has been alleged that Hartmann forced officials at Guantanamo to bring prosecution cases before they were ready, prosecuted an individual on charges that were unwarranted, and that he tried to get prosecutors to use coerced evidence notwithstanding their objections. The Air Force is also investigating complaints by two military officials that Hartmann exhibited abusive and retaliatory behavior towards them within the Office of Military Commissions. The Los Angeles Times has more. AP has additional coverage.

Earlier this year military judges presiding over the trials of Guantanamo detainees Omar Khadr, Mohammed Jawad and Salim Ahmed Hamdan [JURIST reports] barred Hartmann from taking any part in the trials of those detainees on grounds that he was unduly biased towards the prosecution. US Army Gen. Gregory Zanetti [official profile], deputy commander at Guantanamo Bay, testified in August [JURIST report] that Hartmann routinely bullied his counterparts and was inappropriately aggressive in seeking indictments against detainees. In October, newly resigned Guantanamo chief military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis said during his tenure Hartmann questioned the need for open trials [JURIST report] and was upset with the slow pace of the proceedings begun by Davis.






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Report calls for protecting rights of migrants
Steve Czajkowski on October 26, 2008 8:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN-backed Global Migration Group (GMG) [official website] released a report [PDF text; UNFPA report] Friday asserting that nations have a duty to protect the human rights of migrants even while exercising their sovereign power because it increases their ability to contribute to the development of their destination countries. The report is intended to give countries guidance in designing a human rights-based migration policy by providing a comprehensive outline of existing definitions, the international legal framework, and illustrations of the problems faced by various migrant groups. The report is expected to be presented at the Global Forum on Migration and Development [official website] to be held this week in Manila. The UN News Centre has more.

Members of the GMG include UN organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) [official website] and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [official website], along with groups like the International Labour Organization (ILO) [official website] and the World Bank [official website].






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Torture still widespread despite international conventions: UN expert
Devin Montgomery on October 26, 2008 4:28 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website; JURIST news archive] said [statement, PDF] Friday that despite numerous international conventions banning torture and other abusive treatment, its use is still widespread around the world. Reporting [press release] to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the UN General Assembly, Nowak praised the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the UN Convention Against Torture [texts] and other global and regional efforts to stem abuse, but said that the agreements alone had failed to improve conditions in numerous countries. Nowak said that the reliance of many criminal justice systems on confessions, combined with the isolation in which suspects are held creates conditions that promote and conceal abusive treatment. He also said that frequently the isolated, harsh conditions in which detainees are held themselves constitute inhuman treatment independent of any physical coercion, and that detainees with disabilities or that are held in solitary confinement are at greatest risk of mistreatment. Summarizing his findings, Nowak said in the statement:

...it is very unclear whether the scale on which torture and other forms of ill-treatment are committed worldwide has actually decreased. Based on my work as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, including numerous fact finding missions and unannounced visits to places of detention, I unfortunately have observed time and again that detainees are among the most vulnerable and forgotten groups of human beings in most societies, that the general conditions of detention are all too often appalling, constituting themselves cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and that torture is still a frequent or even standard practice in many countries of today’s world.
He called on countries which had not yet done so to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Torture [text; ratification summary], which creates mechanism design to prevent such abuse. VOA has more.

Earlier this month, thirteen UN experts urged the international community to respect the rights of detainees [statement text; JURIST report]. The statement of the 13 special rapporteurs, including Nowak and Philip Alston [official website; JURIST news archive], the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, came as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] recognized Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week [UNHCHR materials].





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Federal judge dismisses Obama citizenship lawsuit
Devin Montgomery on October 26, 2008 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] on Friday dismissed [case materials] a lawsuit challenging the citizenship status and eligibility of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to become US president. The lawsuit [complaint, PDF], filed by Pennsylvania attorney Philip Berg, had alleged that Obama did not meet the constitutional requirement [LII backgrounder] of being a "natural born" US citizen, arguing that Obama had lost his citizenship as a child when his mother married an Indonesian man, and had failed to reclaim it upon becoming an adult. Berg also alleged that there was insufficient evidence that Obama had been born in the US, and challenged the veracity of his Hawaiian birth certificate [certificate image]. Surrick dismissed the case, finding that Berg lacked standing to bring the suit because he did not face direct harm even if the allegations were true. Berg has said that he plans to appeal [press release] the suit's dismissal. AP has more.

A similar court challenge was previously made to the citizenship of Obama's presidential rival, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), arguing [NYT report] that McCain did not qualify as a "natural born" US citizen because he was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, a military installation outside of US territory. US District Judge William Alsup dismissed that lawsuit [order, PDF] in September for lack of standing.






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Eleventh Circuit grants new stay of Davis execution
Andrew Gilmore on October 25, 2008 4:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals [court website] on Friday granted [order, PDF] a provisional stay of the execution of Troy Anthony Davis [defense website], which had been scheduled [GA AG press release] for Monday, October 27. In granting the stay, the Eleventh Circuit directed the parties to address through briefs whether Davis can meet the stringent requirements of federal law that would permit him to file a second habeas corpus petition for federal review of his case. Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the killing of off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. In ordering the provisional stay of execution, the Eleventh Circuit wrote:

Upon our review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a provisional stay of execution. [citation omitted] Therefore, we grant Davis a conditional stay of execution and direct the parties to address whether Davis can satisfy the stringent requirements enunciated in 28 U.S.C. [Section] 224(b)(2). Specifically, the parties shall address the questions whether Davis previously raised his claim of actual innocence, whether he could have previously discovered the factual predicate for the claim through the exercise of due diligence, 28 U.S.C. [Section] 2244(b)(2)(B)(i), and whether he can show that the facts underlying his claim, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for the constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found (Davis) guilty of the underlying offense. ... Finally, the parties are directed to address whether Davis may be executed if he can establish actual innocence under 28 U.S.C. [Section] 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii), but cannot satisfy his burden under [Section] 2244(b)(2)(B)(i).
AP has more. The Savannah Morning News has local coverage.

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] rejected Davis' petition for certiorari [JURIST report] appealing his death sentence earlier this month, lifting their own stay on his execution. According to defense lawyers, key witnesses against Davis have recanted their testimony, and others say another person has since confessed to the killing. The Court had stayed Davis' execution [JURIST report], which had been scheduled for September [GA AG press release], pending consideration of his case. The certiorari denial allowed Georgia to set the new October 27 execution date. The Court had previously denied a petition for certiorari in the case, and the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] in March denied [court docket; opinion summary] Davis' request for a new trial.





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China PM calls for greater regulation of global financial markets
Andrew Gilmore on October 25, 2008 2:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao [JURIST news archive] called for greater regulation of global financial markets [speech, text] Saturday at the closing of the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 7) [conference website] in Beijing, China. ASEM 7 is the seventh annual inter-regional meeting [ASEM backgrounder] between the heads of state of various Asian and European states, designed to encourage closer cooperation between Asian and European states concerning political, economic, and social issues. This year's meeting focused on sustainable development, culminating in the Beijing Declaration on Sustainable Development [text, PDF], which outlines approaches for sustainable development with respect to rising commodity prices, climate change, energy security, and social cohesion. In his speech, Wen called for increased financial regulation in order to protect development throughout the world in light of the recent global financial crisis, saying:

We should draw serious lessons from the financial crisis and properly handle three relationships. First, the relationship between financial innovation and regulation. We should advance financial innovation in a steady manner according to needs and possibilities and at the same time strengthen financial regulation. Second, the relationship between virtual and real economy. We should always place importance on the development of real economy and put the economy on a solid and reliable basis. In addition, we should coordinate virtual economy with real economy and enable the former to better serve the latter. Third, the relationship between savings and consumption. We should see to it that consumption and savings are well-coordinated.
AP has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives passed a $700 billion financial rescue bill [JURIST report] in an attempt to limit the effects of the crisis on the larger US economy and international markets. The UK and other European governments [JURIST report] have since approved their own rescue packages, involving combinations of nationalization and backup funding for threatened banks.





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Khadr military commission trial delayed until January
Michael Sung on October 25, 2008 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge on Friday rescheduled the trial of Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] for January 26. US Army Col. Patrick Parrish granted the defense's motion for an independent psychological and psychiatric examination [Globe and Mail report], which may determine whether Khadr's prior statements to government investigators could be admitted as evidence in the trial. The delay also means that the trial will not resume until the next US president takes office. Both Republican Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama have indicated a desire to close detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. CBC News has more.

Khadr faces possible life imprisonment if convicted of crimes allegedly committed while he was at the age of 15 while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan [JURIST news archive]. Khadr was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.






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Yemen security officials illegally detaining hundreds: HRW
Michael Sung on October 25, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Yemeni security officials have unlawfully and arbitrarily detained hundreds of individuals [press release] as part of its campaign against northern Yemeni rebels since 2004, according to a report [PDF text] released Friday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report found that government security forces sometimes unlawfully arrested individuals who have committed no crime to pressure a wanted family member to surrender, silence journalists, or to put pressure on human rights activists. According to the report:

Human Rights Watch investigated 62 cases of disappearance and arbitrary arrest linked to the Huthi rebellion.... In nearly all of the cases, arresting officials did not identify themselves or inform the detainee or his family why he was being arrested and where he was being taken. The families of persons forcibly disappeared did not know for weeks or months after their arrest whether their loved ones were alive or not, who their captors were, or where they were being held. Some still do not know.

Most detainees, when they reappeared, did so at the Political Security Organization, the security and intelligence agency directly linked to the office of President Saleh, after having been effectively “disappeared” for weeks or months without
acknowledgement of their location. Some remain missing—the earliest unresolved enforced disappearance investigated by Human Rights Watch dates back to June 2007.
Human Rights Watch urged the Yemeni government to establish an independent commission with full authority to investigate the alleged disappearances and unlawful arrests, and prosecute officials and members of security forces involved in the illegal acts. AP has more.

Since 2004, the Yemeni government has been fighting a civil war against Huthi rebels from the Believing Youth Movement [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The movement seeks to revive the influence of Zaidi Hashemites imams, which had been previously heavily involved in government in northern Yemen until 1962.





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DC Circuit affirms dismissal of Chalabi lawsuit against Jordan
Joe Shaulis on October 24, 2008 1:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the Kingdom of Jordan [official website; JURIST news archive] by Ahmad Chalabi [BBC profile; INC profile, in Arabic], who led the US-backed Iraqi opposition movement during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The court affirmed a 2004 decision [PDF text] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] holding that Chalabi's claims were time-barred. Chalabi alleged that Jordan had engaged in a conspiracy violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act [text] (RICO) and committed various torts by seizing Petra Bank [Salon report], which Chalabi founded in 1977. In its opinion, a DC Circuit panel wrote:

Chalabi admits that the statute of limitations for his common-law tort claims is three years, and he does not dispute that his claim accrued when he learned of the plot against him in 1989. Nonetheless, he maintains that he properly pled a "continuing tort." ... [E]ven on the continuing tort theory, Chalabi recognizes that, because he was aware of his injury as of 1989, his recovery is limited to injuries sustained within the limitations period that immediately preceded the filing of his complaint. ... Thus, to have any prospect of even limited recovery, Chalabi must at a minimum show that he was injured within that time frame.

Chalabi's own complaint, and the liquidation decree that it quotes, preclude such a showing. ... Chalabi's position is akin to that of a car-theft victim who alleges that his vehicle was stolen a
decade ago and now complains that the thief is leasing it at below-market rates. Any current mismanagement is being visited upon someone else's asset.
The panel noted that the district court's dismissal based on the statute of limitations was the "easiest path to resolving this case," saving the parties the expense of discovery to ascertain whether the court had personal jurisdiction over Jordan.

Chalabi filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2004, alleging that Jordan's government had wrongfully seized the bank and continued to smear his reputation by linking him with intelligence leaks to Iran. He claimed the bank seizure and embezzlement charges against him were an effort to keep him from revealing Jordan's illegal arms deals with Saddam Hussein. As leader of the Iraqi National Congress [organization website], Chalabi was once a frontrunner to head the Iraqi government after Hussein was deposed. After counterfeiting charges against him were dismissed for insufficient evidence, Chalabi went on to serve as oil minister and then deputy prime minister [JURIST reports] of Iraq for parts of 2005 and 2006.





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Kenya parliament endorses truth and reconciliation commission
Kayleigh Shebs on October 24, 2008 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's parliament [official website] Thursday passed a bill [draft text, DOC] endorsing the formation of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) [task force study, PDF] to investigate alleged human rights violations committed in the country between Kenya's independence in 1963 and February 2008. The investigations will be conducted by a nine-member panel made up of six Kenyan nationals and three foreign members. Amnesty will not be given to any persons the TJRC deems guilty of genocide or other human rights violations. The relationship between the commission and any international tribunal that might be set up in the wake of Kenya's recent election violence at the recommendation [JURIST report] of a separate commission of inquiry headed by Justice Phillip Waki is as yet unclear. The bill creating the TJRC now goes to Kenya's attorney general for review before presentation to President Mwai Kibaki [official profile]. BBC News has more. The Nation has local coverage.

Kenyan officials have considered the formation of a TJRC since 2003. World leaders such as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a Kenyan national, pressured the government [JURIST report] to create such an organization following the violence that erupted after the highly contested presidential election [JURIST report] in December 2007. Subsequent reports found that much of the election-related violence was orchestrated by local government and community leaders [JURIST report].






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Regulatory gaps need to be fixed: SEC chairman
Steve Czajkowski on October 24, 2008 11:30 AM ET

[JURIST] US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] Chairman Christopher Cox [official profile] said Thursday in testimony [PDF text] before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] that the current credit crisis demonstrates a need for more regulation of credit default swaps and investment banking. The hearing was one part in a series examining the origin of the current financial crisis. Cox also advocated for oversight for investment bank holding companies, recognizing each regulatory agency's core competencies, and ensuring that securities regulation and enforcement remain independent. He described the need for a revised regularized system this way:

The current regulatory system is a hodge-podge of divided responsibility and regulatory seams. Coordination among regulators is enormously difficult in this fragmented arrangement, where each of them implements different statutes that treat various financial products and services differently. Today’s balkanized regulatory system undermines the objectives of getting results and ensuring accountability.
Reuters has more. RTT news has additional coverage.

Earlier this month the SEC said that it has begun an agency review [SEC statement; JURIST report] of US financial accounting procedures, including "mark-to-market" [SEC backgrounder] rules, pursuant to the passage of a $700 billion financial rescue bill [JURIST report].





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New York council amends charter to extend term limits for Bloomberg
Jay Carmella on October 24, 2008 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The New York City Council [official website] passed a resolution [text] Thursday to amend the city's charter [PDF text] by extending elected city officials' term limits from two to three terms of four years. The resolution, which took effect upon its passage by a 29-22 vote, allows Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website] to pursue his plans to seek a third term [NYT report], announced early this month. The council stressed the importance of continuity in leadership during a financial crisis. The New York Times has more.

On Wednesday, a New York State judge rejected a petition [JURIST report] brought by two City Council members trying to prevent a council vote, arguing it represented a conflict of interest because it would also extend term limits for council members. Bloomberg's resolution was proposed too late to place a measure on the ballot in November, allowing the council to consider the issue. Critics have suggested that the council ignored the wishes of the voters and that the action would prevent viable candidates from running for office in 2009 because of Bloomberg's popularity and personal wealth. Twice during the 1990s New York City voters passed referendums on term limits [NYT report].






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Nigeria top court defers ruling on presidential election challenge
Steve Czajkowski on October 24, 2008 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Nigeria [official website] said Thursday it has reserved judgment indefinitely on a challenge to the country's disputed 2007 presidential election [JURIST report] which was won by President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile]. The challenge was brought by former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar [JURIST news archive] and Muhammadu Buhari [campaign website], Yar'Adua's main challenger in the election, after it was alleged that the election was marred by rampant fraud [JURIST report]. The two men argued that there were violations of electoral laws that were capable of affecting the elections, particularly where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) [official website] had declared Yar'Adua the winner before each state announced its results. Yar'Adua rebutted that argument, saying the two had not proven that the election was not in compliance with electoral laws. Chief Justice Idris Kutigi said the court will inform the parties when a date is set for the decision. Bloomberg has more. The Daily Independent has local coverage.

In April 2007, the INEC declared Yar'Adua the winner of the country's presidential elections, prompting the filings by Buhari and Abubakar. The election tribunal, which was formed [JURIST report] prior to the election in order to handle disputes, ordered the INEC to turn over certified copies of the ballots [JURIST report] and provide information on all officials and staff employed for the elections. In February Nigeria's Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal upheld the results of the election, saying that opposition groups failed to present sufficient evidence to support their fraud allegations [JURIST report]. Buhari and Abubakar appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. Yar'Adua had said that he would resign if the Supreme Court invalidated his victory.






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Indonesia AG expects Bali bombers' execution in November
Devin Montgomery on October 24, 2008 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] A spokesman for Indonesia's Attorney General Friday said the execution of three men sentenced to death for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder] will be held in early November. The spokesman, Jasman Panjaitan, said that the three members of the southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim [BBC profiles], had exhausted all available appeals and would now have their sentences carried out. Most recently, Indonesia's Constitutional Court earlier this week rejected [JURIST report] a request by the men that their execution be carried out by beheading rather than firing squad. Despite the Attorney General's position, a lawyer for the men said he still plans to file a new challenge [Xinhua report] to the sentence in the country's Supreme Court next week. The execution of the men, expected to be protested by thousands, has been characterized [Reuters report] as a test of the Indonesian government's ability to control extreme Islamic groups. AFP has more.

In August, Indonesia's attorney general postponed the execution [JURIST report] of the three men during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, saying the legal challenge alone was insufficient to stay the sentences. A lawyer for the 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 a second 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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UN investigator urges North Korea to improve rights record
Devin Montgomery on October 24, 2008 8:15 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [press release] on Thursday called [UN News Centre report] on the country to take urgent action to improve its rights record. Muntarbhorn said the country holds public executions, punishes those who have unsuccessfully sought asylum in other countries, and has failed to cooperate with efforts to locate kidnapped foreign citizens thought to be held in the country. He also said that while the country has been generally cooperative with international aid efforts, there have been reports of long-distance call restrictions in a effort to quiet news of food shortages [VOA report]. Reporting to the UN General Assembly [official website] panel, Muntarbhor called on North Korea to cease these actions, and to make longer-term changes decreasing its emphasis on the military and promoting economic development and broader recognition of human rights. AFP has more.

Muntarbhorn made similar observations in January when he and a special UN envoy visited Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. In November 2007, South Korean aid agency Good Friends [advocacy website, in Korean] said that the North Korean government has increased the use of public executions [JURIST report]. The government of North Korea has long been accused of using the death penalty against its political enemies, among other human rights violations. In September 2007, the US State Department designated North Korea as a "country of particular concern" for its systematic repression of religious freedom in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [text; JURIST report]. North Korea has also been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].






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Federal judge declares Arizona county jail conditions 'unconstitutional'
Kiely Lewandowski on October 24, 2008 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] An Arizona federal district court ruled [linked order, PDF] Wednesday that conditions in Maricopa County [official website] corrections facilities violate the constitutional rights of its prisoners. US District Judge Neil Wake's order demanded that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio [official website] take standards steps to address the jails' overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. Sheriff Arpaio, who took office in 1993 and has called himself 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' said that he will comply with the 'minor modifications' imposed by the federal judge, but maintained [Sheriff's Office press release, PDF] that he has always run a 'safe and constitutionally adequate jail system.' Attorneys for the ACLU National Prison Project [advocacy website] argued [pret-trial brief, PDF] the case, which had been in the courts in various guises for 31 years. AP has more; The Arizona Republic has local coverage.

Last week, a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to give his position on providing $250 million this year toward the $8 billion needed to reform that state's prison health care system. In January, a federal judge ruled [JURIST report; opinion, PDF] that the health care provided in California's prisons does not meet constitutional standards.






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Turkey resumes trial of alleged coup plotters
Kiely Lewandowski on October 24, 2008 8:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The High Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday continued the trial of those accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. Turkish prosecutors have charged 86 people with involvement in the attempted coup, but Thursday's proceedings were limited to the 46 defendants who are being held in custody. The trial opened Monday [JURIST report] but was adjourned due to overcrowding and 'chaos' in the courtroom [AP report]. The court concluded that the remaining 40 defendants - who are free on bail - will be present at the next hearing due to defense objections to the trial proceeding in two separate groups. AP has more.

The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [media website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. Among those on trial are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Critics allege that the AKP has improperly investigated secular groups as part of a drive to impose Islamic principles [Ha'aretz report] on the country in violation of the country's secular constitution.






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Burundi colonel sentenced to death for 2006 killings
Eric Firkel on October 23, 2008 6:04 PM ET

[JURIST] A Burundi military court Thursday sentenced Colonel Vital Bangirinama [Human Rights Watch backgrounder] to death for his role in the 2006 killings of 31 civilians in Muyinga province. Human rights groups, which had previously criticized the Burundi government [CIA backgrounder] for not actively prosecuting its own military officers for war crimes, applauded the prosecution. Bangirinama is reported to have fled the country and was sentenced in absentia. Three other military officers received life in prison for their role in the atrocities. Reuters has more. All Africa has local coverage.

The Muyinga massacre [Human Rights Watch backgrounder] occurred in July and August 2006 when 31 civilians were killed while in official custody in northern Burundi. According to Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], witnesses reported intelligence agents detained and questioned the victims at a military camp for weeks before soldiers killed them and threw their bodies into the Ruvubu river. Burundi government officials denied the killings until researchers from human rights organizations found decomposing bodies in the river.






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Jailed China rights activist awarded top EU human rights prize
Leslie Schulman on October 23, 2008 2:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Hu Jia [advocacy blog; JURIST news archive], a Chinese human rights activist convicted in April on charges of inciting subversion of state power [JURIST news archive], was awarded the Sakharov Prize [press release] on Thursday by the European Parliament [official website], for his fight for democracy. Hu has become prominently known as an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and a defender of religious freedom and human rights in China. He was sentenced by China to more than three years in prison after he made public [JURIST reports] letters and recordings from Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng alleging that Gao was tortured into confessing to subversion charges. His appeals have been denied [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought [EU backgrounder], awarded each year by the European Parliament, was set up in 1988 to honor individuals or organizations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Named after Russian physicist Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov [autobiographical profile], who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 and is called the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, the award is given to "exceptional individuals or organizations fighting against oppression, intolerance and injustice." Past winners have included Alexander Milinkevich [JURIST report], UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile], Nelson Mandela [Nobel Peace Prize profile], and Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas [official website, in Spanish], one of Cuba's most prominent dissidents.






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Turkish Constitutional Court publishes decision on headscarf ban
Ximena Marinero on October 23, 2008 2:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] on Wednesday published its decision [text, in Turkish] striking down recent amendments to the Turkish Constitution [text; materials] to allow the wearing of headscarves in universities. Explaining the reasoning for its ruling [JURIST report] in June, the court held that lifting the ban "indirectly changes and makes nonfunctional the basic features of the republic." In the decision, as translated and quoted by the newspaper Hurriyet, the court wrote:

It is decided that the amendment of Article 10 and 42 of the constitution implicitly violates the secularism principle at its essence as it would limit other people's rights and damage the public order by taking previous verdicts of the Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights into consideration
In response to the decision, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] formed a commission to investigate the court's reasoning. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan suggested [Reuters report] during a news conference Thursday that the Constitutional Court's powers should be limited because it had overreached its authority. Hurriyet has more.

The amendments easing the ban were approved by parliament and signed [JURIST reports] by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in February. Later that month, the opposition Republican People's Party [party website, in Turkish] appealed to the Constitutional Court. While the AKP supported the amendments as helping to ensure equal access to higher education [JURIST report] and to ease Turkey's transition [JURIST report] into the European Union, secularists denounced them as violating separation of state and religion. In November 2005, the European Union Court of Human Rights upheld [JURIST report] Turkey's ability to ban headscarves in public and private universities. Throughout Europe, banning religious dress [JURIST news archive] such as headscarves has led to protests and rioting, but European lawmakers have continued the trend as necessary to upholding secular values.





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UN rights expert urges overhaul of terrorism sanctions system
Andrew Morgan on October 23, 2008 12:14 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights Martin Scheinin [official site; JURIST news archive] Wednesday urged the UN to restructure or eliminate the existing terrorist "blacklisting" system [press release; recorded video]. Currently, the Security Council's Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee [official site] maintains a list [text] of people and entities associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and may act to freeze their assets, restrict their travel and prevent arms purchases by them or on their behalf. On the occasion of his annual report to the UN General Assembly Third Committee, Scheinin suggested that the Security Council be more open with information regarding the reasons for its proposed sanctions and favored the introduction of an independent review authority through which those listed could challenge their status. Failing that, Scheinin proposed abolishing the committee altogether, noting that it was created "as a kind of emergency measure when there was no other framework in place". Without the committee, the UN would assist with identifying people and organizations to be listed, but would rely on member states to execute the sanctions. Scheinin's report came amid judicial challenges to and due process concerns [HRW report] about the existing sanctions regime. Scheinin expressed concern that a "wave of litigation" would risk the "whole credibility of the UN sanctions regime". AP has more.

Other groups and individuals have successfully challenged similar national international lists in the EU courts. Earlier this year, some European Parliament members criticized the EU watch list [JURIST report] as unfair and opaque, saying that the process for adding names to the list should be changed. In July 2007, the Court of First Instance overturned [JURIST report] an EU decision freezing the assets of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman and the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa Foundation, finding that the EC did not give the plaintiffs an opportunity to challenge the legal basis for their inclusion on a terrorist watch list. In December 2006, the same court similarly annulled an asset freeze [JURIST report] against the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran. That judgment prompted the European Council to revise the procedures [JURIST report] used in establishing and maintaining the EU's terror list.






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Germany rejects Italy high court order to pay damages for WWII Nazi killings
David Weber on October 23, 2008 12:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The German Federal Foreign Office [official website, in German] on Wednesday rejected a ruling by Italy's highest court ordering Germany to pay damages to relatives of civilians killed in the town of Civitella during World War II. The Italian Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] on Tuesday awarded [AGI report] 1 million euros (US $1.3 million) to family members of some of the 203 civilians killed in the 1944 assault, which the German infantry carried out in response to an attack by Italian civilians. Reacting to the court's decision, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said during a press conference that the award is unenforceable under the principle of state immunity. German lawyers have also argued that Germany paid compensation to Italy [La Repubblica report, in Italian] through a 1961 agreement. The Foreign Ministry spokesman would not say whether Germany would appeal the ruling to an international court. AP has more. DPA has local coverage.

The Court of Cassation awarded the damages [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] in a case against Max Josef Milde, a sergeant present at the Civitella attack, who was sentenced in absentia to life in prison. Under Italian law, crime victims may seek civil damages as part of a criminal proceeding. International agreements that govern situations in which a nation may claim immunity include the European Convention on State Immunity [text], ratified by members of the Council of Europe in 1972, and the UN Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property [text], adopted in 2004.






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Cambodia genocide court finds ex-Khmer Rouge officials fit for trial
Leslie Schulman on October 23, 2008 11:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] has denied requests by former Khmer Rouge officials Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary [decisions, PDF] to receive court-appointed medical experts who would determine whether the men are fit to stand trial to face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. Chea, known as Brother Number Two in the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], had complained that his brain was "not normal" and that his "thinking [was] generally unclear," and sought a mental health expert to determine his mental competency to stand trial. The court denied the request Tuesday, finding that Chea has "made collected, relevant, well-structured and comprehensive statements during hearings," and that his complaints about mental health fatigue did not "in themselves justify the appointment of an additional expert." The court denied Sary's request on similar grounds, finding that there was no evidence his physical ailments or current medications could render him incapable of standing trial. AFP has more.

To date, no top Khmer Rouge officials have faced trial for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. Sary, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister, who has a history of heart trouble, was hospitalized twice earlier this year, and appealed his detention to the ECCC [JURIST reports] in December on grounds of ill health. The ECCC denied [PDF decision; Phnom Penh report] requests for his release pending trial last week, after denying similar requests [JURIST report] by Chea earlier this year. The Australia government Thursday announced [AFP report] that it would give the ECCC an additional $5.3M to assist it through two more years of operations, after the Court announced [UN News release] earlier this year it was facing budget shortfalls of more than $43M. The United States [Reuters report], Japan [Radio Australia report], Germany, and France [AFP reports] have also recently pledged additional money.






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Europe court annuls asset freeze of blacklisted Iranian group
Benjamin Klein on October 23, 2008 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of First Instance [official website] on Thursday struck down [case materials] a decision [PDF text] by the Council of the European Union [official website] freezing the assets of the prominent Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) [group website]. The court annulled the 2007 decision as applied to PMOI, ruling that the council had failed to sufficiently justify designating PMOI as a group "involved in terrorist acts." The judges concluded that PMOI had not engaged in terrorist activity since at least 2002. They wrote:

In short, there is no evidence that the PMOI has at any time since 2003 sought to re-create any form of structure that was capable of carrying out or supporting terrorist acts. There is no evidence of any attempt to "prepare" for terrorism. There is no evidence of any encouragement to others to commit acts of terrorism.
Although the judgment does not affect the council's most recent decision [PDF text] listing PMOI among the individuals and groups linked to terrorism, it increases the likelihood that PMOI will be dropped from future lists. AFP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

Thursday's judgment represents the second time since 2006 that the Court of First Instance has annulled [JURIST report] a European Council decision regarding PMOI. In March, the UK Court of Appeal removed PMOI [JURIST report] from a national terrorism blacklist. Founded in 1965 with the aim of replacing first the Shah and then the clerical regime in Iran [JURIST news archive], PMOI has in the past operated an army inside Iran. The group officially renounced violence in 2001 and is now considered the main organization in the National Council of Resistance of Iran [group website], an "umbrella coalition" parliament-in-exile that claims to be dedicated to a democratic, secular and coalition government in Iran.





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Pentagon files war crimes charges against two Kuwaitis at Guantanamo
Benjamin Klein on October 23, 2008 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense [official website] announced Wednesday that it has filed new war crimes charges against two Kuwaiti men held at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Fouad Rabia, a US-educated aeronautical engineer suspected of running a supply depot at Tora Bora, and Fayiz Kandari, an alleged adviser to Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive], were charged with conspiracy and providing material support for terror. The two men, who have spent over seven years in Guantanamo, are said to have the longest-running Guantanamo unlawful detention lawsuits pending in the US District Court in Washington. Rabia and Kandari now face a maximum of life in prison. The Miami Herald has more.

The Defense Department's filing follows a decision one day earlier by the Office of Military Commissions Convening Authority to dismiss charges without prejudice [press release; JURIST report] against five other Guantanamo detainees. Noor Uthman Mohammed, Binyam Mohammed, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, and Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani remain in custody, and Chief Prosecutor Army Col. Lawrence Morris has appointed teams to consider whether to recharge each prisoner. Lawyers for Binyam Mohammed called the move a "farce" [Reprieve press release], reporting that they had been informed of plans to "charge [Mohammed] again within a month, after the election.”






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South Africa court rules prosecutors may appeal Zuma charges dismissal
Jake Oresick on October 23, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] A South African judge Wednesday gave prosecutors leave to appeal a ruling dismissing corruption charges [JURIST report] against Jacob Zuma [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) [party website]. Zuma is expected to become president after next year’s elections, although he has pledged to resign if convicted. Zuma contends the charges [JURIST report] were motivated by ANC rival and now-resigned South African president Thabo Mbeki [Guardian profile], and their initial dismissal in September exacerbated existing divisions within the party. Mbeki was forced to resign last month, and his loyalists have threatened to leave ANC to form a splinter party. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Zuma bested Mbeki for the ANC leadership in December 2007. He was ousted as the country’s deputy president in 2005 after an aide was convicted of corruption. He was also charged with rape, but ultimately acquitted. The pending charges, which consist of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, date back to a 1999 arms deal.






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Former Bosnian Serb police officer sentenced for Srebrenica crimes
Eric Firkel on October 23, 2008 7:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) [official website] Wednesday sentenced former Bosnian Serb special police officer Vaso Todorovic [BiH backgrounder] to six years in prison for committing crimes against humanity in the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Todorovic was previously charged with genocide before accepting a plea agreement reducing the charge to crimes against humanity. As part of the agreement, Todorovic agreed to testify in related cases. Reuters has more. BIRN has local coverage.

Todorovic was charged [indictment] for his role in the 1995 forcible transfer of 40,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims) from a UN-protected area in Srebrenica to Potocari where they would be permanently relocated. According to the indictment, on July 12, 1995 Todorovic took part in searching Bosniak villiages within in the UN-protected area in order to round up the Bosniak population and transfer them an area controlled by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina . The indictment also alleged Todorovic took part in the July 13, 1995 capture of thousands of Bosniak men trying to escape the UN protected zone. During the relocation, Serbian forces summarily executed at least 7,000 Bosniak men between the ages of 13 and 17.






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UK Law Lords rule against Chagos islanders return
Devin Montgomery on October 23, 2008 6:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A judicial panel of the UK House of Lords [official website] Wednesday ruled [judgment text] that the British government acted within its power in denying a group of Indian Ocean islanders known as Chagossians [advocacy website] the right to return to an archipelago under British control. The group had challenged a 2004 order [backgrounder] prohibiting permanent residence on the Chagos Islands [CIA backgrounder], arguing that the government had abused its power by not acting in the best interest of the territory. The government had argued [Guardian report] that allowing the Chagossians to return to the islands would pose a threat to the US Diego Garcia naval base [official website], now located on the largest of the islands. In a 3-2 decision the panel ruled for the government, holding that the order could be considered to be in the best interest of the UK as a whole, and was therefore lawful. Dissenting Lords argued that the order, issued under the authority of the Queen, should not be granted such deference because had not been voted on by Parliament. The Law Lords, is the UK's highest court and the last resort for the issue and the decision cannot be appealed. The Guardian has more.

Approximately 2000 Chagossians were exiled form the islands to make way for the base in the 1960s. In May 2007 the UK Court of Appeal had ruled [judgment text; JURIST report] in favor of the islanders, and would have allowed them to resettle 65 islands in the archipelago, but not Diego Garcia itself. That decsion upheld a 2006 High Court decision [judgment text; JURIST report] granting the islanders the right to return, but both are overruled by the Law Lords decision. Earlier that year, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] ruled [PDF opinion; JURIST report] in a similar suit against the US Department of Defense that federal courts lacked the authority to grant compensation to the Chagossians for losses they incurred because of the development of the military base.






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Canada officials indirectly contributed to torture by Syria: inquiry report
Devin Montgomery on October 23, 2008 6:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A Canadian government inquiry has found [report, PDF] that officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) [official websites] "indirectly contributed" to the torture of three citizens while in Syria [JURIST news archive] between 2001 and 2004. The men, Ahmed Al Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, claimed they were detained and tortured [JURIST report] by Syrian military intelligence during trips abroad with the cooperation [Amnesty backgrounder, PDF] of Canadian officials. In the report released Tuesday, former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci [law firm profile] found that officials contributed to the mistreatment of the men by supplying classified, and in some cases misleading, information to Syria linking the men to terrorist activities. In his findings on government actions relating to one of the men, Iacobucci wrote that the combination of the information released by the agencies was likely among several factors that led to his detention and subsequent mistreatment:

The sharing by the RCMP of Mr. Elmaati's itinerary with the FBI and CIA is more proximate to Mr. Elmaati's detention than the sharing of descriptions of him with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies. However, it is reasonable to infer that the risk that Mr. Elmaati might be detained as a result of Canadian officials sharing his travel itinerary was increased by the fact that Canadian officials had previously used labels such as "imminent threat" in describing Mr. Elmaati to their foreign partners. Accordingly, I conclude on the evidence available to me that these actions of Canadian officials resulted indirectly in Mr. Elmaati being detained by Syrian authorities.
In response to the report, Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said [press release] the government would review carefully review Iacobucci's findings and was already evaluating government procedures for sharing information with other countries. CBC News has more.

The three men were investigated by Canadian officials for links to terrorism but were never arrested or had any restrictions placed on their movements while in Canada, and all were eventually freed and allowed to return to Canada. The men and Amnesty International Canada [advocacy website] sought the probe into their detention, arguing that it should follow the model of the Arar Commission, the official judicial inquiry [JURIST report] into the circumstances under which Canadian Maher Arar [advocacy website; CBC timeline] was detained in the US in 2002 and removed to Syria, where Arar says he was tortured. The Arar Commission found [JURIST report] that the US decision to arrest and deport Arar was "very likely" based on faulty, unfair and overstated information passed on by the RCMP.





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New York judge rejects bid to halt council vote extending term limits
Eric Firkel on October 22, 2008 10:58 PM ET

[JURIST]New York Supreme Court Judge Jacquelyn Silbermann [official website] Wednesday rejected a petition brought by two members of New York City Council [official website] trying to prevent a council vote on a resolution to extend New York mayoral and city council term limits [materials] from eight to 12 years. Council members Bill de Blasio and Letitia James [official websites] filed the complaint to prevent the vote, arguing that voting on an option to extend their own terms presented members with a conflict of interest. Silberman ruled again them, noting that members opposed to extension could vote no or abstain. The council is scheduled to vote on the resolution [text] introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website] Thursday. Reuters has more. Newsday has local coverage.

Last month, Bloomberg announced his plan to seek a third term [NYT report], arguing his financial expertise and business background is necessary to lead New York through the rough financial times caused by the credit crisis. To seek re-election, Bloomberg introduced a council resolution to extend mayoral term limits from two to three 4 year terms. The current term limits were enacted in 1993 by city-wide referendum and upheld in 1996 again by referendum [NY Times report]. Critics argue Bloomberg's resolution overturns a decision by popular referendum with a council vote that requires only a simple majority to pass.






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Eleventh Circuit permits sovereign immunity exception for false arrest claim
Safiya Boucaud on October 22, 2008 4:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] has ruled [opinion, PDF] that a physician who was accused of writing illegal prescriptions could pursue claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution against the federal government. The court held Tuesday that a provision of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) [text] permitted such claims as an exception to the United States' sovereign immunity. The plaintiff, Dr. Andrew Nguyen, fled Vietnam in the late 1970s, bought a practice in rural Trenton, Florida, after earning US medical licenses, and became a US citizen in 1986. His practice was decimated after he was arrested on suspicion of unauthorized delivery of controlled substances [statute text] in 2000, even though the charges were dropped for lack of evidence two months later. In its opinion reversing a judgment of the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website], the Eleventh Circuit panel wrote:

What happened to Dr. Nguyen's practice is what happens to the established professional practices of medical doctors who are caught committing crimes involving controlled substances. If the record before us is to be believed, however, Dr. Nguyen committed no crime. It is not just that the charges against him were dismissed on insufficient evidence grounds. It is more than that. The record, as it now exists, indicates that Dr. Nguyen's arrest was not based on any evidence of wrongdoing at all. All of the evidence that law enforcement officers had then, as well as now, showed that he was guilty of no crime. They arrested him anyway.
The judges remarked that "[t]he facts of this case show why Congress has chosen to waive the sovereign immunity of the United States in some circumstances."

In 2006, Nguyen reached a settlement with local law enforcement officials who appealed a $1.8 million verdict [Gainesville Sun report] against them for allegedly violating the doctor's constitutional rights. The district court ruled, however, that the FCTA barred Nguyen's claims against the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website], which led the investigation that resulted in his arrest. Although the FTCA generally precludes claims within the scope of a law enforcement officer's discretionary functions, the Eleventh Circuit panel ruled that a 1974 amendment waived sovereign immunity to claims "arising, on or after the date of the enactment of this proviso, out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, abuse of process, or malicious prosecution." The panel noted that Congress passed that legislation in response to public outrage over the drug raids of the homes of two innocent families [Time report] in Collinsville, Illinois, the year before.





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Afghan journalism student death sentence reduced to 20-year prison term
Andrew Gilmore on October 22, 2008 3:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The death sentence of Afghan journalism student Sayad Parwaz Kambaksh [JURIST news archive] was reduced Tuesday to 20 years' imprisonment by an Afghan appeals court. Kambaksh was sentenced to death [JURIST report] in January for distributing papers questioning gender roles under Islam. In May, Kambaksh appealed his death sentence [JURIST report] before the appeals court. He denied the accusations in front of a three-judge panel Sunday, saying they were made by Balkh University professors and students with “private hostilities” against him. He told the court that his confessions were the result of torture by the Balkh province intelligence service. The Times has more.

Kambaksh was sentenced to death following his trial, where he had no legal representation [JURIST report] and was allowed only three minutes to present his defense. The closed court invoked Article 130 of the Afghanistan Constitution [text] to pass down the death sentence, a penalty for blasphemy consistent with Hanafi [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] Islamic law. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was put under international pressure to pardon Kambaksh, but said that he would not intervene [JURIST report] during the pendency of Kambaksh's appeal.






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Chertoff announces revised airline passenger screening regulations
Andrew Morgan on October 22, 2008 1:24 PM ET

[JURIST] US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] Wednesday issued a final rule setting out the details of his department's air passenger screening program [TSA official site]. Under the Secure Flight Final Rule [PDF text], responsibility for vetting the nation's air passengers moves from individual airlines to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)[offical site]. Airlines will collect the names, birthdays and genders of their passengers and transmit this information to the TSA, which will compare that against the government's "no fly" terrorist watch list and instruct airlines whether or not to issue a boarding pass. The collection of additional information is intended to reduce the number of misidentifications and increase the efficacy of the watch list, which has been criticized [JURIST report] by the Government Accountability Office [official site] for being inefficient. Screening for domestic flights is set to begin in early 2009, with matching on international flights slated for later in the year. The Washington Post has more

In response to privacy concerns [EFF report; ACLU report], TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said

Secure Flight will improve security by maintaining the confidentiality of the government's watch list information while fully protecting passengers' privacy and civil liberties. ... Ensuring privacy has been a cornerstone of this program and TSA has developed a comprehensive privacy plan to incorporate privacy laws and practices into all areas of Secure Flight.
Privacy issues have plagued previous attempts at implementation of the program. In 2005, the TSA collected personal data [JURIST report] on commercial airline passengers to test the system, in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 [text] and a congressional ban. The data collection and review methods and risk ranking scheme in Secure Flight's abortive predecessor, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II)[DHS fact sheet; JURIST report] were criticized by Congress, the ACLU [advocacy website] and inside the TSA itself for being too intrusive.





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Federal judge rules Iraq war objector cannot face second court-martial
Andrew Gilmore on October 22, 2008 11:35 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled [order, PDF] Tuesday that Iraq war objector 1st Lt. Ehren Watada [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] cannot face a second court-martial on all charges for which he already faced court-martial. Settle's order held that a second-court martial of Watada on three of the five charges in his first court-martial would constitute double jeopardy [LII backgrounder] in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. Settle had granted an injunction [JURIST report] against the second court-martial in November 2007 in order to resolve the double jeopardy dispute. The controversy over Watada's second court-martial concerns the declaration of a mistrial in the case by Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge overseeing the court martial, after he rejected a Stipulation of Fact by Watada and the government, conceding that Watada was guilty of the charge of Missing Movement when he missed a flight that would have flown him to his post in Iraq. Head rejected the Stipulation to Fact on the grounds that it was not a confessional stipulation because Watada believed that he had a justifiable reason for missing the flight, and that reason constituted a defense to the Missing Movement charge. In ruling that Watada cannot be face court-martialed for a second time on certain of the charges, Judge Settle wrote

The strictest scrutiny should be applied to the trial judge's determination [to order a mistrial] because the record reflects that the Government moved for a mistrial on the basis that it was unable to proceed with its case. In the alternative, the judge did not exercise sound discretion when he failed to engage in a procedurally adequate development of his determination that a mistrial was appropriate. Under either level of review, the record does not reflect that there was a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial over Petitioner's objection. As a result, the Government is barred from retrying Petitioner on Charge I [Missing Movement] and Charge II, Specifications 1 and 4 [Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman], because it would violate Petitioner's Fifth Amendment right to be free from double jeopardy.
The Seattle Times has more.

Settle had already stayed court-martial proceedings, scheduled to begin in October 2007, and later extended the stay [JURIST reports], after Watada asked the US District Court for the Western District of Washington for relief while an appeal is pending with the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Watada, a Honolulu native who is the first commissioned officer in the US military to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, has refused to be classified as a conscientious objector because he does not object to war in general, just to the "illegal" war in Iraq. He offered to serve in Afghanistan, but the US Army refused. His vocal protests and participation in rallies by Veterans for Peace and Courage to Resist [advocacy websites] led to the charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and the original charge of contempt toward officials.





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Pentagon dismisses charges against 5 Guantanamo detainees
Caitlin Price on October 22, 2008 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense announced Tuesday that the Office of Military Commissions Convening Authority has dismissed charges without prejudice [press release] against five Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. Noor Uthman Mohammed, Binyam Mohammed, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, and Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani remain in custody, and Chief Prosecutor Army Col. Lawrence Morris has appointed teams to consider whether to recharge each prisoner. Lawyers for Binyam Mohammed called the move a "farce" [Reprieve press release], reporting that they had been informed of plans to "charge [Mohammed] again within a month, after the election.” The detainees were each charged by former military prosecutor Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who resigned [JURIST report] last month citing "ethical qualms" with the military commissions' defense counsel discovery procedures. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

All five men were formally charged in May. Noor Uthman Mohammed, a Sudanese national, was charged [JURIST report] with conspiracy and providing material support for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. UK resident Binyam Mohammed [Reprieve profile; JURIST news archive] was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and has been engaged in a battle with the British government after suing [JURIST report] for access to evidence related to his alleged extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] and torture. Algerian Barhoumi and al Sharbi and al Qahtani of Saudi Arabia were charged [JURIST report] with conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism based on their alleged involvement with an al Qaeda bomb-making group in Pakistan and Afghanistan.






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Gates confirms no US closure of Guantanamo under Bush
Leslie Schulman on October 22, 2008 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] confirmed Tuesday that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] would remain open for the duration of President George W. Bush's administration. The New York Times reported [text] earlier in the day quoted unnamed senior administration officials as saying Bush had decided not to close the prison before the end of his presidency. The Times reported Bush "never considered" recent proposals [AFP report] by the Pentagon and State Department [official websites] to transfer the detainees elsewhere. Instead, the president agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney [official profile] and other advisers that immediate closure would pose significant legal and political risks. Responding to a question about the Times report during a press conference [transcript] Tuesday, White House press secretary Dana Perino characterized Bush's decision as one "to work to try to close Guantanamo Bay." She said:

What the President has said is that he wants to be able to get into a position where we could close Guantanamo eventually. But it's very complex, it's complicated, it is difficult. There are four basic issues that we're dealing with right now. One of them is moving forward on military commissions. That process is slow, but it is moving forward. Another one is returning home or to a third country many of the detainees.... Third, we're in habeas litigation when it comes to the Boumediene decision and then the recent decision from Judge Urbina on the Uigher case.... And [Attorney] General Mukasey, backed by the President, supports legislation that Congress needs to pass.
Gates said a decision to close the prison would rest with the incoming administration. Both major presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) [campaign websites], have said they support closing the prison [Obama speech; McCain speech]. Reuters has more.

In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in Boumediene v. Bush that federal courts may review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo detainees classified as "enemy combatants," and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] did not deprive detainees of the right to challenge their detentions in federal court. While expressing concern [JURIST report] that the Court's decision could lead to the release of "dangerous detainees" into the US, the Bush administration announced it was deciding how to close the prison and comply with the decision. Last year, prominent British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith [Reprieve profile] said he expected the facility to be closed [JURIST report] after Bush leaves office.





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Ecuador high court creates oral argument system as new constitution takes effect
Andrew Gilmore on October 22, 2008 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The Ecuadorean Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday published a statement [text, in Spanish] laying out the first steps in enacting a system of oral arguments, as required by the new Ecuadorean constitution [text, in Spanish]. The constitution, which took effect Monday upon publication in the country's official gazette following its approval last month in a national referendum [JURIST report], consolidates and significantly broadens the powers held by leftist President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile]. The new constitution gives the president the power to remove Congress in the middle of a four-year term, to control monetary policy and to seek re-election for an additional term. It also includes plans to tighten control over Ecuador's vital mining and oil industries. AFP has more. From Ecuador, El Universo has local coverage, in Spanish.

Last month, President Correa called the vote a "historic victory," commenting [Reuters report; official statement, in Spanish], "Today, Ecuador has decided on a new nation, the old structures are defeated." The special assembly charged with rewriting the constitution provisionally approved the document in July [JURIST report]. The success of Correa's referendum fulfills his pledge to rewrite the country's constitution [JURIST report] after his leftist coalition's landslide victory [JURIST report] in October 2007. Correa's Alianza PAIS party [official website, in Spanish] has a majority in the Constituent Assembly. Critics continue to fear that the 444-article constitution gives the president too much control over the economy and the judiciary, which would allow Correa to follow the example set by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] in using the reform to further expand his powers.






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ICC keeps Congo ex-militia leader Lubanga, but declines to lift stay on trial
Leslie Schulman on October 22, 2008 1:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Tuesday ruled [press release] on two separate appeals filed by the Office of the Chief Prosecutor [official website], reversing for now the Trial Chamber's decision to release former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga [BBC profiler; JURIST news archive] but dismissing a request [judgment, PDF] that it lift an indefinite stay on his trial. The Appeals Chamber remanded to the Trial Chamber [judgment, PDF] the ultimate question of whether Lubanga should be conditionally or unconditionally released, or whether he should remain in custody. The ICC Trial Chamber in June had imposed an indefinite stay [PDF text] on Lubanga's war crimes trial after accusing the prosecution of using confidentiality agreements to withhold possible exonerating evidence, and in July ordered his release [JURIST report]. According to the Appeals Chamber:

[T]he Trial Chamber was faced with a situation in which a large number of documents containing potentially exculpatory information or information relevant to the preparation of the defence was in the possession of the Prosecutor, but could not be disclosed to Mr. Lubanga Dyilo. Nor could the Trial Chamber have access to the documents in order to assess whether a fair trial could be held even without the disclosure of the documents . . . If the trial of Mr. Lubanga Dyilo had taken place in such circumstances, there would always have been a lurking doubt as to whether the disclosure of the documents in question would have changed the course of the trial.
The Appeals Chamber concluded it should remand the release case so the court could "consider all relevant circumstances," rather than concluding that unconditional release of an accused is the "inevitable consequence" when conditional stay of proceedings is granted. The Telegraph has more.

Lubanga, once the leader of the Union of Patriotic Congolese [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], is charged with using child soldiers [JURIST report] in his militia, which allegedly committed large-scale human rights abuses in Congo's violent Ituri district [HRW backgrounder] in 2002. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC after he was taken into custody [JURIST reports] in March 2006.





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Mexico, Cuba sign agreement over illegal Cuban immigrants to US
Andrew Gilmore on October 21, 2008 9:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Mexico and Cuba on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding [text, in Spanish] aimed at combating the rising number of Cuban illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] attempting to reach the US through Mexico. The agreement requires Mexican authorities to deport any illegal Cuban immigrants taken into custody by Mexican authorities, including immigrants who have illegally entered Mexico directly or through Central American countries. The agreement also establishes greater cooperation between Mexico and Cuba in the areas of human trafficking and smuggling. In a speech [text, in Spanish] following the signing of the agreement, Mexican Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino Terrazo [official profile, in Spanish] said:

Without a doubt one of the fruits of our renewed bilateral relationship is the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Cuba and the Government of the United Mexican States to ensure a legal, orderly, and safe flow between both countries. This agreement also strengthens mechanisms to prevent and combat illegal migration, smuggling, and human trafficking, among other crimes.
Reuters has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.

The increasing numbers of Cuban immigrants attempting to gain entry to the US through the Mexican border have been attributed to strengthened air and sea patrols [CBP backgrounder] of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea by the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) [agency website]. Additionally, increased enforcement activities, including mass arrests of illegal immigrants by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website], have put pressure on immigrants entering the US illegally. Earlier this month, more than 300 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested [JURIST report] at a poultry processing plant in South Carolina. In May, ICE arrested nearly 400 illegal immigrants [AP report] during an immigration sting at an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa, in what federal officials then called the largest operation of its kind. Nearly 300 of those arrested were sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] and 27 more received probation after pleading guilty to the use of false immigration documents. Also in May, ICE arrested more than 900 illegal immigrants in California [ICE press release] during a three-week enforcement surge.





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Indonesia court rejects Bali bombers' appeal of firing squad execution
Devin Montgomery on October 21, 2008 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Indonesia's Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled [AP report] that the country's constitution [text] allows the firing-squad execution of three men sentenced to death for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder]. The three members of the southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim [BBC profiles], had argued that death by firing squad amounts to "torture" and is contrary to Islamic law [VOA report]. The court rejected the men's request that they be executed by beheading [BBC report] rather than firing squad, ruling that any differences between the methods were immaterial. Although a lawyer for the men has said he might seek to appeal the sentence again, government officials plan to announce an execution date Friday. The Times of London has more.

In August, Indonesia's attorney general postponed the execution [JURIST report] of the three men during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, saying the legal challenge alone was insufficient to stay the sentences. A lawyer for the 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 a second 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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Bolivia congress approves constitution reform poll after Morales term concession
David Weber on October 21, 2008 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] Tuesday ratified proposed reforms [PDF text, in Spanish] to the country's constitution, paving the way for a national referendum on the changes on January 25, 2009. Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website; BBC profile] engineered the endorsement Monday by agreeing not to seek reelection in 2014 [La Razon report, in Spanish]. Morales' conservative opponents had sought such an assurance before approving the constitutional referendum, which required support from two-thirds of the congress. The current constitution [text, in Spanish] limits the president to two terms, and Morales conceded that his present term, which began in 2006, would count towards that limit. Morales announced that the constitutional referendum will be followed by presidential and congressional elections [La Razon report, in Spanish] in December 2009. Should Morales win in 2009, that five-year term would be considered his second and final as president. AP has more.

The controversial proposed reforms [JURIST news archive] would distribute more of Bolivia's land and energy resource income to the country's indigenous population. In August 2008, Morales won a referendum to continue his presidency, which he personally proposed in a bid to legitimize his campaign [JURIST reports] for the constitutional changes.






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HRW blasts Sudanese Darfur prosecutor as 'window dressing' to block ICC
Caitlin Price on October 21, 2008 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] on Monday accused [press release] the Sudanese government of using a special prosecutor [JURIST report] as "window dressing" to thwart an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo applied for an arrest warrant [JURIST report] in July for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] alleging genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, but such ICC prosecution is permitted [Rome Statute Article 17 text] only when a national court is "unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution." In a move seen largely as a reaction to a potential ICC investigation, Sudan appointed its own special prosecutor in August to investigate and try war crimes suspects, including militia commander Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch profile; ICC arrest warrant, PDF]. HRW said that Sudanese prosecution "hold[s] little promise of bringing justice to victims" and argued that an ICC investigation is precluded under Article 17 only when national courts "charge the same person with the same crimes as those brought before the ICC," which is impossible given the limitations of Sudanese law. The Sudanese criminal code does not address crimes against humanity and genocide, does not recognize command responsibility for military officer prosecutions, contains many obstacles to sex crime prosecution, and provides immunity for members of the armed forces, militias and the police. AFP has more.

An ICC pretrial chamber is considering whether to grant the controversial arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir and has requested [court order, PDF; JURIST report] that Moreno-Ocampo submit additional materials in support of the application. Earlier this month, Sudan Justice Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat said the Sudanese special prosecutor has almost completed reports [JURIST report] on some crimes in the region, though a time frame for trials has not been established. HRW has previously accused Sudan of failing to adequately combat war crimes [JURIST report], stating in 2006 that the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur prosecuted petty offenses while neglecting to address the widespread and ongoing human rights abuses.






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Rights groups urge reform of Nigeria death penalty practices
Christian Ehret on October 21, 2008 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International and the Nigerian Legal Defense and Assistance Project (LEDAP) [advocacy websites] condemned Nigeria's capital punishment practices in a joint report [PDF text; press release] released Tuesday, claiming that death row inmates are being denied their rights to proper representation and appeal and calling for a moratorium on executions. According to the report,

capital punishment can only be used after the most exacting due process of law. However, as this report shows, the failures in the Nigerian criminal justice system breach international human rights law and standards. Suspects in capital offences and death row prisoners are denied their right to a fair trial and appeal process. The violation of an individual's legal rights often starts at the point of arrest. Police routinely use torture to extract confessions as a substitute for thorough and impartial investigation of the crime. As a result the majority of death row prisoners were sentenced to death based on confessions.
Of 736 prisoners currently awaiting execution in the country, the groups say that 35 have spent more than 15 years on death row and 47 percent are waiting for their appeals to be concluded. Twenty-five percent of appeals have lasted longer than five years, with some lasting as long as 20. Reuters has more.

Instances of police torture and other human rights violations [JURIST report] in Nigeria have been previously flagged [UN News Centre report] by the United Nations as well as Amnesty. Section 33(1) of the Nigerian Constitution [text] specifically permits abrogation of an individual's right to life "in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria." Amnesty is uniformly opposed to the death penalty in all cases and in all countries. Last week, Amnesty released a report linking the large number of executions in Saudi Arabia [JURIST report] to flaws in the Saudi justice system, including the closed nature of the judicial process, the imposition of the death penalty for relatively minor offenses and a lack of legal assistance for the accused.





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Thailand ex-PM Thaksin convicted on corruption charges
Devin Montgomery on October 21, 2008 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Thailand on Monday convicted [Bangkok Post report] ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of corruption charges [JURIST report] related to a 2003 purchase of land by his wife Pojamarn Shinawatra [JURIST news archive] from the government-controlled Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website]. Thaksin was sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of power for using his position to secure a reduced price for the land, and violating a Thai law prohibiting political leaders from engaging in business dealings with government-directed organizations. Pojamarn, also charged in the case [JURIST report], was cleared of charges because she was not a government official. The two were tried in absentia [JURIST report] after failing to return from an August trip to the UK [JURIST report] because of what they said was judicial bias [JURIST report] by Thai courts. Thailand's Office of the Attorney General on Monday said it would seek Thaksin's extradition [Bangkok Post report] in light of the conviction. Thaksin took refuge in the UK after being overthrown by the Thai military while travelling abroad in 2006, but he later returned [JURIST reports] to the country to dispute the charges. AP has more.

Thaksin's conviction is the latest in a long series of corruption actions brought against Thaksin and Pojamarn. In August, Thai prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to seize over $2 billion [JURIST report] from the Shinawatras' frozen accounts and holdings in relation to the charges. In July, 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. Later that month, Pojmarn, as well as her step brother and secretary, were convicted of tax evasion [JURIST report] for transferring $16.3 million worth of stock she transferred to the two. Also that month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear additional charges against Thaksin and 47 other for alleged misconduct [JURIST reports] related to the country's lottery system.






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UN Secretary-General urges Iran to address continued human rights problems
Deirdre Jurand on October 21, 2008 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] wrote in a report [text, PDF] issued Monday that the Iranian government has made limited progress in some areas of human rights but that other areas such as basic freedoms, minority rights and the justice system still need to be improved. The report noted that there have been marked improvements in per capita income, children's nutrition, education, life expectancy, and technical aspects of the justice system, including legislation that bolsters constitutional protections. These improvements, though, vary drastically by region. Additionally, Ban noted that many areas of human rights are still a cause for concern, such as in amputations and corporal punishment, the death penalty for both adults and juveniles, and the lack of women's rights, minority rights, freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and due process rights. He wrote:

Some negative trends have also been reported, including an increase in rights violations targeting women, university students, teachers, workers and other activist groups. Ongoing harassment against human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, has been reported. The independent media have also experienced tightened restrictions, with numerous publications suspended. While two Iranian- American dual nationals detained in 2007 have been released on bail, there were further high-profile arrests of members of the Baha’i community.
Ban encouraged the Iranian government to continue improvements and to ratify international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [texts]. The UN News Centre has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

The Iranian government has drawn particular criticism lately for its use of the death penalty. 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. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has said [HRW 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 juveniles 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. This past August, 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 an Iranian moratorium on the practice [JURIST report].





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DC Circuit extends stay of Uighurs release pending expedited appeal
Joe Shaulis on October 21, 2008 8:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] on Monday issued an order [PDF text] further delaying the release of 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] as it set an expedited schedule for hearing an appeal by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to stay this month's order by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] requiring the federal government to release the Chinese Muslim detainees into the United States, finding that the DOJ had "satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending appeal." The panel did not elaborate on its reasoning. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers [official profile] dissented from the order on the grounds that the court had "no basis" for granting a stay pending appeal. She wrote, in part:

The court's release order was based on findings that are either uncontested by the government or clearly supported by the record. The government had filed no returns to the writs filed by ten of the petitioners, and the returns in response to the remainder consisted only of the hearing records from Combatant Status Review Tribunals ("CSRTs").... Although expressly offered the opportunity by the district court, the government presented no evidence that the petitioners pose a threat to the national security of the United States or the safety of the community or any person.
According to the expedited schedule, the DOJ's brief is due Friday, followed a week later by a brief on behalf of the Uighurs and by a DOJ reply brief on November 7. The panel set oral arguments for November 24. AP has more. SCOTUSBlog has additional coverage.

The DC Circuit had issued a temporary stay [JURIST report] of the release order earlier this month as it considered the merits of the DOJ's motion for a stay pending appeal. DOJ attorneys sought the temporary stay hours after US District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled [JURIST report] on October 7 that the Uighurs must be released, finding that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. The Justice Department contends that Urbina's order violates the doctrine of separation of powers [JURIST report] as well as immigration statutes. Although the government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants [10 USC 948a text; JURIST news archive], it has linked them with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. China has renewed its demand [JURIST report] for the Uighurs to be repatriated, and on Tuesday, Chinese authorities called on other nations [AP report] to arrest and extradite eight alleged ETIM members whom they suspect of plotting to attack the Olympic Games this past summer in Beijing. The New York Times reported last week that the Bush administration's most recent efforts to transfer the Uighur detainees to other countries have stalled [JURIST report] because of an interagency dispute.





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Top UK prosecutor warns against expanded security powers
Lucas Tanglen on October 21, 2008 8:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Outgoing UK Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald warned [Times report] Monday against the expansion of government power in gathering intelligence and prosecuting suspected terrorists. In a speech [text] delivered in London Macdonald speculated that present decisions about how the government should use technology are likely to be permanent -- an apparent reference to the proposed Communications Data Bill [official description], which would establish a massive database of all phone and e-mail traffic [AP report] in the country. Claiming a conviction rate of over 90 percent in terror cases, Macdonald said the UK was nonetheless right to resist "special courts, vetted judges and all the other paraphernalia of paranoia." He continued:

Of course, you can have the Guantanamo model. You can have the model which says that we cannot afford to give people their rights, that rights are too expensive because of the nature of the threats we are facing. Or you can say, as I prefer to, that our rights are priceless. That the best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions rather than to degrade them.
BBC News has more. The Telegraph has additional coverage.

Last year, Macdonald denied that there was or should be a real "war on terror" [JURIST report] in the UK and criticized plans to extend the time terror suspects could be detained without charge [JURIST report]. Early this month, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [official site] released a report [text] expressing concern over a proposed UK anti-terror bill [materials; BBC Q/A] that among other things would let authorities detain terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days. The House of Lords voted down that provision [JURIST report] of the bill last week.





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Embattled OSC head to resign at end of term in January
Deirdre Jurand on October 21, 2008 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) [official website] head Scott J. Bloch [official profile] announced in a letter [text, PDF] to President George W. Bush Monday that he will resign when his five-year term ends in January. Bloch could remain head of the OSC for one year after his term expires or until the Senate confirms his replacement, but the letter indicates he will end his term in January. Bloch's announcement comes after increased calls for his resignation following a 2005 complaint [text, PDF] accusing him of retaliatory acts against OSC employees, violations of free-speech rights, unwarranted case closures and unethical hiring practices. In his letter to Bush, Bloch wrote:

As you well know, doing the right thing can result in much criticism and controversy from every side. I am proud to have enforced your stated policy goal of upholding the rule of law, enforcing the law as it is written, not according to fads or special interest pressure.
AP has more.

Bloch has denied the accusations, but said that the OSC is cooperating with the investigation. In May, agents from the White House Office of Personnel Management and the FBI searched Bloch's home [JURIST report; NPR report] as part of an investigation into the complaint. Federal agents also reportedly investigated claims that he had destroyed evidence that might have supported the allegations.





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Germany cabinet passes regulations for banks joining financial rescue plan
Deirdre Jurand on October 21, 2008 7:34 AM ET

[JURIST] The German cabinet [official website, in German] on Monday approved legal conditions [text, PDF, in German] that the government will impose on banks that receive financial assistance through the German financial rescue bill [Financial Stabilization Fund Regulation text, PDF, in German; press release, in German]. The rescue bill [BBC backgrounder], signed into law on October 17, will provide up to 400 billion euros to stabilize and revive the market through loan guarantees, up to 80 billion euros to buy problem assets, and up to 20 billion euros to cover any loan losses. The cabinet had proposed plans to impose a pay cap of 500,000 euros and bonus freezes on the CEOs of all banks that requested help under the bill, but under Monday's regulations, higher pay rates are only deemed "inappropriate." The government is permitted, though, to analyze all risks in the banks' business that could be excessive and to limit their implementation. In addition, any bonuses paid to employees must be "appropriate," and each institution may receive only 10 billion euros for assistance and 5 billion euros to cover risks. Bloomberg has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

The passage of the German bill follows the passage [JURIST report] earlier this month of a US financial rescue bill [HR 1424 text, PDF]. The final bill authorizes the Department of the Treasury [official website] to establish a Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions and to provide insurance and guarantees for any troubled asset originated before to March 14, 2008. It also establishes a Financial Stability Oversight Board to review Treasury actions taken under the legislation.






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Supreme Court appoints special master in water rights case
Deirdre Jurand on October 20, 2008 11:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday appointed a special master [order, PDF] to investigate and oversee a water rights case [JURIST report; Supreme Court docket] brought by Montana against Wyoming and North Dakota. Montana officials argued in February 2007 filings [text, PDF] that Wyoming officials breached the 1950 Yellowstone River Compact [text, DOC; materials] by failing to keep consumption of water from the Tongue and Powder rivers within the compact's limits, specifically by allowing the construction of water storage facilities and the expansion of irrigation. The Court on Monday appointed lawyer Barton H. Thompson [profile] as special master

...with authority to fix the time and conditions for the filing of additional pleadings, to direct subsequent proceedings, to summon witnesses, to issue subpoenas, and to take such evidence as may be introduced and such as he may deem it necessary to call for. The Special Master is directed to submit Reports as he may deem appropriate.
AP has more.

The lawsuit was filed directly in the Supreme Court because Article III, Section 2, of the US Constitution [text] gives the court original jurisdiction over cases in which a state is a party. By statute [28 USC 1251 text], the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over "all controversies between two or more States." The Court customarily appoints a special master [Cornell LII backgrounder] to hear original jurisdiction cases in which the facts are disputed. Once the special master makes findings and recommendations, the court hears oral arguments as it would in a typical appellate case.





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Bulgaria court begins criminal proceedings against suspected EU embezzlers
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 20, 2008 5:41 PM ET

[JURIST] A Bulgarian court on Monday began criminal proceedings against nine people accused of embezzling millions of dollars from European Union (EU) [official website, English] aid funds. The defendants are accused of stealing 14 million leva ($9.6 million) from funds made available to Bulgaria by the EU as part of the Special Accession Program for Agricultural and Rural Development (SAPARD) [official website]. The suspected criminal network, made up of more than 50 Bulgarian, European, and offshore companies, is allegedly controlled by Mario Nikolov and Lyudmil Stoykov. Charges were filed against Nikolov and his wife, but no charges have been filed against Stoykov. The Sofia Echo has local coverage.

A probe was launched more than two years ago on a tip from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) [official website]. The reported widespread abuse spurred the EU into freezing projects [JURIST report] worth millions of dollars in July. This is reportedly the first case of its kind in Bulgaria, which only joined the EU in 2007.






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US seeking extended sentence for Guantanamo detainee Hamdan
Devin Montgomery on October 20, 2008 3:20 PM ET

[JURIST] US military and civilian prosecutors have petitioned [motion, PDF] to have the prison term for Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] reconsidered, arguing that the Guantanamo military commission which heard his case improperly gave him credit for time spent in custody, according to documents released [WSJ report] to the Wall Street Journal last week. Hamdan was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in August, following his conviction [JURIST reports] of providing material support for terrorism [charge sheet, PDF], but was credited for the five years he has been detained since charges were first brought against him. In the filing, prosecutors argued that Hamdan's detention in Guantanamo Bay was as an enemy combatant, and therefore was unconnected to the charges for which he was convicted. Hamdan's defense has argued [filing, PDF] in opposition that the commission had appropriately exercised its discretion by granting the credit, and that the government's motion violated procedural rules of the commission. The government has now filed a reply [PDF text] to the defense's filing. SCOTUSblog 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 later 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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Turkey begins trial for alleged coup suspects
Devin Montgomery on October 20, 2008 2:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The High Criminal Court in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday began the trial [Turkish Daily News report] of 86 defendants accused of attempting to destabilize and overthrow the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website]. The accused are said to belong to the secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder] group, believed responsible for bombing the headquarters of the newspaper Cumhuriyet [newspaper website, in Turkish], assassinating Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], and planning other attacks to provoke a military coup to topple the AKP. Among those on trial are journalists, intellectuals, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST report]. Shortly after the trial began on Monday, protests disrupted the proceedings, causing them to be temporarily suspended. The trial is scheduled to resume on Thursday when the presiding judge will consider a defense motion that he be removed for bias. BBC News has more. Anatolian Agency has local coverage.

When the defendants in the case were indicted in July, the court's chief prosecutor said that he planned to make additional indictments, but that the trials for those suspects [JURIST reports] would be held separately. Critics allege that the AKP has improperly investigated secular groups as part of a drive to impose Islamic principles [Ha'aretz report] in violation of the country's secular constitution [text], and that the link between the group and the alleged plots is weak [Hürriyet op-ed]. In March, Turkish Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya petitioned the country's Constitutional Court to disband the AKP [JURIST report] for allegedly working to undermine the nation's secular principles. The Court rejected his bid [JURIST report] in August.






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Spanish prosecutors challenge Garzon probe into Franco-era disappearances
Kiely Lewandowski on October 20, 2008 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Spanish prosecutors Monday challenged a probe launched by Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] into the disappearances of tens of thousands of people from the beginning of the Spanish Civil War [BBC backgrounder] through the early years of Francisco Franco's dictatorship [BBC backgrounder], asserting that any wartime disappearances and executions are covered by Spain's 1977 amnesty law, passed to aid Spain in moving past Franco. Garzon, who launched his investigation last week [JURIST report], has argued that the mass disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and there is no applicable statute of limitations. Members of Spain's conservative minority Popular Party [official website, in Spanish] have also voiced their objection to the investigation, arguing [AFP report] that it would reopen old wounds. Reuters has more; the International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

The Spanish parliament passed legislation [JURIST report; text] in 2007 condemning the Franco government, acknowledging its victims and setting aside money to compensate them. Garzon, widely known for his high-profile investigations of terror and human rights cases, previously called for the creation of a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to uncover Franco-era abuses. In September he began assembling a definitive registry [JURIST report] of the tens of thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime.






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China Communist Party issues new land use law policy
Kiely Lewandowski on October 20, 2008 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The Communist Party of China (CPC) [official website; CFR backgrounder] Central Committee Sunday issued a new policy paper liberalizing the country's land use laws in an effort to decrease rural poverty and increase the country's agricultural capacity. The CPC announced its approval [JURIST report] of the Decision on Major Issues Concerning the Advancement of Rural Reform and Development last week. The reforms give farmers - for the first time - broader autonomy to sell or borrow against their land use rights and establish a financial infrastructure to allow for larger and more efficient farms. Critics worry that the new system will leave some landlords and many landless farmers without land to work. In response, the CPC maintained [Xinhua report] that the government would vigilantly protect the nation's farmland by adhering to a "most stringent land conservation system" to control the total area of land that is not used for farming. AP has additional coverage.

These reforms come as the Chinese government continues to take steps towards a more democratic, capitalist structure while addressing international criticism for alleged human rights abuses. In September, the State Council of China [official website] issued regulations [JURIST report] implementing ambiguous provisions of the Labor Contract Law [backgrounder] that was viewed as a major advancement [Bloomberg report] in China's protection of workers' rights.






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Supreme Court takes identity fraud case
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 20, 2008 10:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in the case of Flores-Figueroa v. United States (08-108) [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The Court will consider whether the government must show that the defendant had actual knowledge that the means of identification he used belonged to another person in order to prove aggravated identity theft under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) [text]. The Justice Department [official website] has used this law to bring aggravated identity theft cases against illegal immigrants, many of whom do not know that their fake identifications belong to someone else.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the capital case of Walker v. Georgia (08-5385) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which the Court was asked to consider whether Georgia's current administration of the state's death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment standard, prohibiting arbitrariness and discrimination. The petitioner alleged that the Georgia Supreme Court failed to conduct meaningful proportionality review, and to enforce reporting requirements. Justice John Paul Stevens issued a statement [PDF] in which he emphasized that the Court’s denial has no precedential effect and said that the petitioner’s submission was supported by the Court's prior opinions evaluating the constitutionality of the Georgia statute. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred [PDF] in the denial of certiorari.






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Trial begins for Fort Dix plot suspects
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 20, 2008 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Opening arguments began Monday in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey in the criminal trial [materials] of five men accused of plotting to kill US soldiers at Fort Dix [official website]. The accused, all foreign-born Muslims in their 20s, are charged [JURIST report] with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and weapons offenses. In his opening arguments, Deputy US Attorney William Fitzpatrick argued that the accused were inspired by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Defense lawyers are expected to question the role of two paid government informants who made hundreds of hours of secret recordings in the case. The defense contends there was no plot but the government paid informants to get the accused to discuss one. AP has more.

The five suspects, Serdar Tatar, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka, and Shain Duka, were arrested [JURIST report] in May 2007 for allegedly plotting to sneak onto the New Jersey military base and kill soldiers. They pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in January. Their trial is expected to last into December. In March an accomplice, Agron Abdullahu, was sentenced [JURIST report] to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty [JURIST report] to charges of conspiring to provide firearms and ammunitions to the other five men.






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Former Beijing vice mayor receives suspended death sentence for corruption
Steve Czajkowski on October 20, 2008 6:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The former vice mayor of Beijing, Liu Zhihua, has been given a suspended death sentence for bribery and corruption, according to state media reports [Xinhua report] Sunday. Liu had been in charge of construction projects for China's capital city in preparation for the 2008 Olympic games. He had been elected to the position in 1999 and served until June 2006, when it was alleged that he received 6.97 million yuan ($1.02 million) in exchange for providing contracts, loans, and other favorable promotions for others. Six months after his removal, Liu was dismissed from the Communist Party of China (CPC) [official website; CFR backgrounder]. The death sentence was delayed for two years, which likely means that if Liu exhibits good behavior he will given life imprisonment. Liu's lawyer said he will likely appeal the verdict. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

China has ramped up its anti-corruption efforts in the last couple of years. In 2007 the country established [Xinhua report] a National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP) to stop abuses of power and ensure China's compliance with the UN Convention Against Corruption [UN materials], which China signed in 2005. In 2006 over 97,000 Chinese officials were found guilty of bribery and other financial misconduct [BBC report].






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ACLU names new president
Devin Montgomery on October 19, 2008 5:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Saturday named [press release] Susan Herman [ACLU profile], a law professor at Brooklyn Law School [faculty profile], as its new president. Herman, a constitutional and civil rights scholar [selected works], previously served as the ACLU's general counsel. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero [ACLU profile] commented on her appointment:

[She] is a deeply principled and talented leader who will ably harness the collective energies of the ACLU Board... She has a profound appreciation for the ACLU's historical role and monumental achievements and, at the same time, an enormous capacity to envision the ACLU's vibrant and growing role as it continues to fight the inevitable civil liberties challenges that lay ahead.
Herman has said she wants to reach out to African Americans and communities of faith as she undertakes her new position. She succeeds former ACLU president Nadine Strossen [ACLU profile], who had held the position since 1991. AP has more.

Herman has been a guest columnist for JURIST several times. In September 2006, she considered the longer term effects of 9/11 [JURIST op-ed] and the impact of "wartime" versus peacetime rules on the balance of governmental powers and decision making. In January 2006, she criticized the pending reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act [JURIST op-ed] and other consolidations of power in the executive branch, a follow-up to her December 2001 castigation of the original Act [JURIST op-ed].





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Iran bans execution of minors for drug-related crimes
Devin Montgomery on October 19, 2008 4:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Iran has banned the execution of minors for drug-related crimes, but will still allow the sentence to be imposed against juveniles convicted of murder, according to a statement [AP report] made by Iran's Assistant Attorney General for Judicial Affairs Hossein Zabhi on Saturday. Zabhi announced a new directive [Etemaad report, in Arabic] limiting the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by minors last week, but the scope of the ban had been unclear. Zabhi has now said that executions for juvenile offenders will still be allowed where the punishment is sought by the victim's family under an Islamic law principle of retribution called qisas. The directive had been praised by rights groups including Stop Child Executions (SCE), Amnesty International (AI), and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [press releases], but is likely to be criticized in light of the clarification. The sentences of those juvenile offenders set to to be executed for drug crimes will be commuted to life in prison under the directive. Reuters has more.

In September, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged Iran [JURIST news archive] to ban the use of the death penalty [UN News Centre report; JURIST report] against juvenile offenders. Later that month, HRW issued a report [JURIST report] calling on all Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen to stop their use of the punishment for minors. In August, Iran executed a man [JURIST report] for a stabbing he was convicted of committing as a minor. Rights groups say Iranian executions of juveniles violate the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of the 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. HRW has said [press release] that Iran leads the world in executing the most people for crimes committed as children and SCE keeps a list [advocacy materials] of minors facing execution in Iran.






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China leader signs decree entrenching press freedoms for foreign journalists
Bernard Hibbitts on October 18, 2008 6:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao [official profile] has signed a decree making permanent certain extensions on press freedom for foreign journalists that were temporarily adopted in the run-up to the July Beijing Olympics. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao announced late Friday, just before the temporary regulations [text, in English] were scheduled to expire, that henceforward foreign journalists would be able to travel inside the country except Tibet without requiring prior permission from the government and would be free to interview Chinese citizens. The temporary rules were adopted in January 2007. Human Rights Watch and other rights and media groups had lobbied vigorously for their extension [HRW press release]. Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) president Jonathan Watts welcomed the extension of the rules in a statement [text], but urged the government "to ensure that police and local officials respect the spirit as well as the letter of the new rules. The easing of controls for foreign journalists should not be achieved at the expense of putting more pressure on local sources." The FCCC additionally pressed for further steps, including "the enactment of legislation protecting news sources, the abolition of rules obliging hotels to report to police when a foreign journalist checks in, and the opening of restricted areas...". AP has more.

During the Olympics Chinese authorities were accused over 60 times of interfering with foreign press representatives regardless of the liberalized rules, according to FCCC statistics. The FCCC claims that overall since January 2007 it has logged more than 335 cases of reporting interference [FCCC materials]. In January 2006 China released new media regulations [text] that gave China's official Xinhua News Agency [media website] ultimate rights of approval over the distribution and domestic release of foreign news content [JURIST report] in China [JURIST news archive]. Rights and media groups continue to call for a liberalization of restrictive rules and practices applying to Chinese domestic media [HRW press release].






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Russia arbitration court rules most tax claims against British Council unlawful
Ximena Marinero on October 18, 2008 9:25 AM ET

[JURIST] A Moscow arbitration court Friday overturned most of Russian government's tax claims against the British Council [official website], the British government's cultural relations arm, over the organization’s in-country operations in 2004-2006. The claims were made in late 2006 in the midst of strained relations between Russia and the United Kingdom over the demanded extradition of former Andrei Lugovoy [JURIST news archive], suspected by UK intelligence services of poisoning former KGB agent and British citizen Alexander Litvinenko [JURIST news archive; BBC timeline]. Following the filing of the tax claims, the Russian government issued a directive to shut down [BBC report] the 14 Russian regional offices [official website] of the British Council in December 2007. The British Council unilaterally resumed its Russian operations in January 2008 in defiance of what it considered to be the "illegal" [JURIST reports] shutdown order and filed a lawsuit to dispute the taxation claims. BBC News has more. RIA Novosti has local coverage.

Russia has clamped down on foreign associations operating within its territory since a controversial law imposing restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) took effect [JURIST report] in April 2006. The law imposes strict financial oversight on NGOs and provides for dissolution if an organization's activities is deemed to "threaten Russia's independence or sovereignty" or if an organization participates in activities deemed to deviate from its mission statement. Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the measure as being necessary to protect against "puppeteers abroad" [JURIST report].






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Supreme Court lifts order requiring Ohio to cross-check voter rolls
Joe Shaulis on October 17, 2008 2:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday vacated [order, PDF] a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring Ohio's secretary of state to establish a system that allows county elections boards to confirm newly registered voters' eligibility. The Court granted a request by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner [official website] to stay the TRO, which was upheld [JURIST report] on Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website]. In the TRO, the district court ordered Brunner to comply with an anti-fraud provision [text] of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [FEC materials] that requires state election and motor vehicles officials to match information between their databases to ensure voter eligibility. According to the Supreme Court's brief per curiam opinion,

[t]he Secretary argues both that the District Court had no jurisdiction to enter the TRO and that its ruling on the merits was erroneous. We express no opinion on the question whether HAVA is being properly implemented. Respondents, however, are not sufficiently likely to prevail on the question whether Congress has authorized the District Court to enforce Section 303 in an action brought by a private litigant to justify the issuance of a TRO.
Reacting to the Court's decision, Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party [party website], said [news release] the decision "was made on a technicality, not on the merits of the case" as he accused Brunner of "actively working to conceal fraudulent activity in this election." Brunner, in her own statement [text], said the Court "has protected the voting rights of all Ohioans, allowing our bipartisan elections officials to continue preparing for a successful November election." AP has more. The Columbus Dispatch has local coverage.

The TRO gave Brunner until Friday to furnish county elections officials with lists of prospective voters whose information in state databases contains discrepancies, or to provide the officials with access to the statewide voter registration database so they could resolve the discrepancies. In its opinion [PDF text], Sixth Circuit said that Brunner had offered insufficient evidentiary support for her arguments that altering computer programs to comply with the order would threaten the election process. Last week, the New York Times reported that thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states, including Ohio, had been removed from voter rolls [JURIST] against federal voting law. The Times article found that elections officials had violated HAVA by cross-checking voter rolls with lists from the Social Security Administration before using information from other sources, as required by the statute. Voters and advocacy groups have challenged Ohio elections procedures since the state's pivotal role in the 2004 presidential campaign.





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Russia insists ICJ lacks jurisdiction to hear Georgia lawsuit
Andrew Gilmore on October 17, 2008 1:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Foreign Ministry [official website, in Russian] has released a statement [text, in Russian] downplaying the recent order of provisional measures [JURIST report] against both Russia and Georgia by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] in respect of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia [JURIST news archive] and challenging the court's jurisdiction to proceed to the merits of the case. The ICJ issued the provisional measures last Wednesday, rejecting [decision text, PDF] an emergency request by the Georgian Republic to order an outright halt to the alleged killing and mass displacement of citizens in the conflict region, and instead calling on both Georgia and Russia to meet their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The Russian statement emphasized the provisional nature of the ICJ order, and the close vote taken to approve the action:

...The court addressed measures to both sides. They are general in nature and pointed to the need for the parties to comply with the obligations under the [CERD]. However, even such a decision was taken by only one vote. 7 out of 15 [sic] judges agreed with the Russian position on the apparent lack of jurisdiction of the [ICJ] in this case. ...

Given that the [ICJ's] decision on jurisdiction in the context of interim measures is preliminary in nature, we intend to continue to prove that the [ICJ] has no jurisdiction in this case, at the next stage of the proceedings.
Interfax has more.

Georgia brought the case [JURIST report] in August after Russia sent its military into Georgia in response to a Georgian bid to strike the breakaway South Ossetia region, heavily populated with Russians. Last month Georgia sought [ICJ press release, PDF; JURIST report] emergency orders from the ICJ, arguing that Russia is engaged in ethnic cleansing and has violated the CERD by removing ethnic Georgians from the territories. Russia countered that its military actions have saved lives, and that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction over the case. In August, Russia instituted its own action [JURIST report] against Georgia in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], alleging that Georgia committed war crimes against ethnic Russians in South Ossetia. Tensions remain high following Russia's signing of military defense agreements [JURIST report] with South Ossetia and Abkhazia last month. The latest attempt at peace talks between Georgia and Russia broke down [AFP report] Wednesday.





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Europe court finds France violated suicidal inmate's human rights
Joe Shaulis on October 17, 2008 12:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [judgment, DOC text; press release] that France [JURIST news archive] had violated the human rights of a psychotic inmate by failing to prevent his suicide. The court unanimously found that French authorities had breached Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] by failing to protect Joselito Renolde's right to life and had violated Article 3 of the convention by treating him in an inhumane and degrading manner. According to the judgment,

the Court is struck by the fact that, despite Joselito Renolde’s suicide attempt and the diagnosis of his mental condition, it does not appear that there was ever any discussion of whether he should be admitted to a psychiatric institution. The experts noted in their report that “[his] disorders could perhaps have called for a discussion of the advisability of admission to a psychiatric unit”. However, not until Joselito Renolde’s lawyer requested steps to be taken on 12 July 2000 was an expert assessment envisaged as to whether his condition was compatible with detention.

In the light of the State’s positive obligation to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk, it might have been expected that the authorities, faced with a prisoner known to be suffering from serious mental disturbance and to pose a suicide risk, would take special measures geared to his condition to ensure its compatibility with continued detention.
The court further found that the authorities had imposed inappropriate punishment by failing to account for Renolde's mental condition when they sent him solitary confinement for attacking a guard. Renolde's survivors did not submit a claim for damages under the convention. AFP has more. Le Monde has local coverage, in French.

Last week, after a 16-year-old inmate killed himself [AFP report, in French] at a jail in northeastern France, the the International Observatory of Prisons (OIP) [advocacy website] called on the French government to release statistics about the number of suicides in prisons during 2008 and reports by committees that monitor prison suicides. The group said in a statement [text, in French] that the number of French prisoners committing suicide had increased 27 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year.





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Colombia government obstructing legal efforts against militias: HRW
Andrew Gilmore on October 17, 2008 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Thursday condemned what it called obstruction and interference by the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish; BBC profile] in the investigation and prosecution of far-right militias in the country. A new report [text, PDF; HRW press release] released by the rights group entitled "Breaking the Grip: Obstacles to Justice for Paramilitary Mafias in Colombia," criticized Uribe's actions with respect to the investigation into right-wing military groups and their relationships with political leaders and institutions [Washington Post report]. The report applauded efforts against the militias by judges and prosecutors, but said:

Unfortunately, the administration of President Álvaro Uribe is squandering much of the opportunity to truly dismantle paramilitaries’ mafias. While there has been progress in some areas, some of the administration’s actions are undermining the investigations that have the best chance of making a difference.

Of greatest concern, the Uribe administration has:

- Repeatedly launched public personal attacks on the Supreme Court and its members in what increasingly looks like a concerted campaign to smear and discredit the Court.

- Opposed and effectively blocked meaningful efforts to reform the Congress to eliminate paramilitary influence.

- Proposed constitutional reforms that would remove the “parapolitics” investigations from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

If the Uribe administration continues on this path, it is likely that the enormous efforts made by Colombia’s courts and prosecutors to hold paramilitaries’ accomplices accountable will ultimately fail to break their power. Unless it changes course, Colombia may remain a democracy in a formal sense, but violence, threats, and corruption will continue to be common tools for obtaining and exercizing power in the country.
The Miami Herald has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Uribe has frequently clashed with the Colombian courts, particularly in matters concerning the country's long feud with right-wing anti-government paramilitaries. Last April, a Colombian court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the extradition of one militia leader to the US, although he was later extradited [DOJ press release] in early May. In May 2007, the Colombian high court ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of five congressmen for alleged ties to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [CDI backgrounder], which is designated as a terrorist group by the US. All of the political representatives were supporters of Uribe. Uribe has said that any official ties to paramilitary forces will not be tolerated, indicating that members of government will be removed from their positions if it seems they have paramilitary affiliations. In March 2007, a Colombian judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of ex-intelligence chief Jorge Noguera [CIP backgrounder] because no formal charges had been made against him. Noguera, who was arrested earlier that month, is accused of murder and conspiracy for allegedly contracting with illegal paramilitary groups [JURIST reports]. In May, the Constitutional Court [official backgrounder] threw out a part of the controversial 2005 Justice and Peace Law [JURIST reports] approved by Uribe, which gave lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm.





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European Commission launches legal actions against non-complying members
Benjamin Klein on October 17, 2008 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] has launched a series of legal actions in the European Court of Justice [official website; JURIST news archive] against EU member states for failures to abide by EU laws, according to press statements [text] released by the Commission on Thursday. Filings ranged from infringement proceedings against Poland and Sweden for failing to fully implement rules providing common conditions for the reuse of information produced, collected and shared by public bodies in the EU to actions against Portugal and France over the non-reimbursement of the costs for medical treatment in other EU countries. Ten member-states – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom – were subjected to infringement proceedings for their failure to implement certain Internal Market Directives into national law. Legal action was taken against Italy for several matters, including the failure to implement regulations on compulsory maximum legal fees, the adoption of tax legislation which discriminates against regenerated oil coming from other EU states, and its questionable compliance with a court order concerning the purchase of helicopters.

The European Commission is responsible for ensuring EU law is applied throughout all Member States. The Commission's Secretariat-General [official website] is tasked with monitoring support given by national authorities to commercial organizations, keeping track of the measures taken by the authorities in the Member States to incorporate EU law into their national law, and taking action when they fail to do so properly. Reuters has more.






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ICC judges seek more information before ruling on arrest warrant for al-Bashir
Benjamin Klein on October 17, 2008 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Wednesday requested [court order, PDF] more information on an arrest warrant application for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for atrocities committed in the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. The pretrial chamber requested that Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] submit “additional supporting materials in relation to some confidential aspects” of his application no later than November 17, 2008. The ICC’s request coincided with the start of a three-day peace conference in Khartoum, which included delegates from dozens of political parties and civic groups in Sudan. Rebel groups from the western Sudanese region, however, were not in attendance, dismissing the meeting as an attempt by al-Bashir to whitewash his reputation and avoid international prosecution. AFP has more.

Moreno-Ocampo applied for the arrest warrant [application, PDF; JURIST report] last July for crimes al-Bashir allegedly committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. The application, which followed a three-year investigation involving more than 100 witnesses in 18 countries, began in 2005 with the referral of the situation to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor [JURIST report]. This past June, Moreno-Ocampo stated before the UN Security Council [official website] that “evidence shows that the commission of such crimes on such a scale, over a period of five years, and throughout Darfur, has required the sustained mobilization of the entire Sudanese state apparatus.” The Security Council has repeatedly called on Sudan to comply with the ICC investigation [JURIST report], but Sudan has refused to do so, labeling Moreno-Ocampo a "terrorist" [JURIST report] and suggesting that he should be removed from office.






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Argentina arms trafficking trial begins for ex-president Menem
Joe Shaulis on October 17, 2008 10:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Argentine president Carlos Menem [official website] failed to appear in a Buenos Aires court Thursday as he and other former officials went on trial on arms trafficking charges. The court excused Menem's absence after a defense lawyer presented a medical certificate indicating that the former president had been suffering from acute anemia. Menem, who led Argentina from 1989 to 1999, and his co-defendants are accused of arranging weapons sales to Croatia, in violation of a 1991 UN Security Council resolution [text] prohibiting the delivery of weapons to the former Yugoslavia, and to Ecuador, breaching a ban by the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] on sales to that nation and Peru during their 1995 border conflict [AFP report]. The judges presiding over the case plan to send a representative [La Nacion report, in Spanish] to Menem's home in La Rioja province to verify his health claims and are reportedly considering whether to travel there with the prosecutor to fulfill a requirement that the indictment be read in Menem's presence. The trial is expected to last seven months. AP has more.

In May, an Argentine prosecutor filed a petition [JURIST report] seeking the arrests of Menem and five others accused of obstructing an investigation into the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center [AMIA backgrounder, in Spanish] in Buenos Aires. In 2004, an Argentine judge conducted an investigation [JURIST report] into the possible connection between Swiss bank accounts allegedly held by Menem and the bombing, which killed 85 people. Menem was placed under house arrest [CNN report] on arms-trafficking charges in 2001 but was freed later that year. In 2004, he moved to Chile, where a court refused to extradite him [BBC report] for questioning on corruption charges. He returned to Argentina [JURIST report] later that year after arrest warrants were withdrawn. He was elected to the Argentine Senate in 2005.






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Revised Pentagon directive requires monitoring of non-DOD interrogations
Joe Shaulis on October 17, 2008 8:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Defense Department (DOD) [official website] has released a revised directive [PDF text] mandating military supervision of intelligence interrogations and questioning conducted by other US government agencies, foreign governments and contractors. The directive, issued October 9 by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England [official profile] but only made public this week, supersedes a 2005 version [PDF text] that merely required non-DOD entities conducting such procedures to conform to Pentagon policies. According to the new directive,

[a]ll individuals representing other U.S. Government agencies, foreign governments, or any other non-DoD entity must comply with applicable DoD interrogation policies and procedures when conducting intelligence interrogations, debriefings, or other questioning of persons detained by the Department of Defense. These individuals shall sign a written agreement to abide by DoD interrogation policies and procedures before being allowed access to any detainee in the custody or effective control of the Department of Defense.
The directive permits the audiovisual recording of interrogation sessions on a case-by-case basis. Unlike the prior version, the new directive explicitly prohibits survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) techniques [New Yorker report] such as waterboarding [JURIST news archive], which simulates drowning. The Los Angeles Times has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Several former detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] have sued US military contractors alleging that they were tortured in violation of US and international law. This month, lawyers for one contractor, CACI International, moved to dismiss a lawsuit [JURIST report] on grounds of immunity. CACI's lawyers argued that the company is protected by derivative absolute immunity because its work was ordered by the government. That lawsuit, filed in July, followed a similar action [JURIST report] brought by another ex-detainee in May. Last year, a US district judge refused to dismiss [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit against CACI alleging that the contractor was responsible for the torture of more than 250 former detainees held in Iraqi prisons. The Washington Post reported this week that two classified memos sent from the White House to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 sanctioned the use of certain harsh interrogation techniques [JURIST report]. US Justice Department (DOJ) memos released [JURIST report] in July suggested that certain "enhanced" interrogation techniques are lawful and that those who employ them in good faith lack the specific intent required to be charged with torture.





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Russia court opens preliminary hearings in journalist murder case
Kiely Lewandowski on October 16, 2008 11:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Moscow District Military Court opened closed preliminary hearings Wednesday on the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The hearings began without prominent human rights lawyer Karina Moskalenko, who is representing Politkovskaya's family, because the lawyer fell ill Wednesday, giving rise to suspicions that she was poisoned [London Times report], possibly by mercury later found in her car. The trial judge rejected an argument by the Politkovskaya family to stay the hearing until Moskalenko could be present. The actual trial of the three men accused in the murder is scheduled to begin on November 17. Reuters has more.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya [JURIST news archive], were arrested last August [JURIST report] in connection with the inquiry into Politkovskaya's murder. The main suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, also from Chechnya, has yet to be captured but Russian authorities have said he is hiding in Western Europe. In May, Makhmudov was charged in absentia [Moscow News report] and an international warrant for his arrest was issued. Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [media website, in Russian], was shot [JURIST report] in the head and chest after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.






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Spain judge starts probe of Franco-era disappearances with exhumation order
Eric Firkel on October 16, 2008 8:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] Thursday ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain, launching an investigation into the disappearances of tens of thousands of people beginning in the Spanish Civil War [BBC backgrounder], and continuing through the early years of Francisco Franco's dictatorship [BBC backgrounder]. In a 68-page writ [PDF text, in Spanish], Garzon argued the mass disappearances constitute crimes against humanity. He expanded the investigation to include all members of Spain's Board of National Defense who served from July, 18, 1936, and all members of the first five governments headed by Franco until July 18, 1951. Garzon is unlikely to find any living suspects to charge, however. Franco himself died in 1975 at the age of 82. AP has more. From Madrid, El Pais has local coverage, in Spanish.

In 2007, the Spanish Parliament passed legislation [text; JURIST report] condemning the Franco government, acknowledging the victims and setting aside money to compensate them. Garzon, widely known for his high-profile investigations of terror and human rights cases, previously called for the creation of a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to uncover Franco-era abuses. In September, Garzon began an investigation [JURIST report] to assemble a definitive registry of the tens of thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Garzon ordered government agencies, the Spanish Episcopal Conference [church website], the University of Granada [academic website] and the mayors of four cities to produce the names of people buried in mass graves, as well as the circumstances and dates of their burial. Estimates of the number of people killed during the 1936-39 Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship range from 90,000 to 180,000.






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FBI investigating ACORN for alleged voter registration fraud
Eric Firkel on October 16, 2008 7:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The FBI is investigating allegations of voter registration fraud involving the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) [advocacy website] ahead of the November presidential election. According to senior law enforcement officials quoted by AP Thursday, the FBI is analyzing evidence gathered from recent raids of ACORN state headquarters [AP report] to determine whether there is a nationwide effort to commit systematic voter fraud. AP has more.

ACORN workers engaged in a nationwide voter registration drive [press release] enrolling more than 1.3 million new voters in 21 states have been accused of submitting fraudulent voter registration forms in several of those states. Earlier this month reports surfaced that a majority of the 5,000 registration forms submitted to board of elections officials by Acorn employees in Lake County, Indiana were false or fraudulent [Northwest Indiana Times report]. The registration forms submitted in the county included a Jimmy John's restaurant, members of the Dallas Cowboys, and several deceased persons. ACORN has vigorously denied [press release] the voter fraud allegations against it and says they are part of a politicized effort by Republicans to "create an unfounded specter of voter fraud and to suppress voting."






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Vietnam journalist sentenced to two years in prison for corruption scandal report
Caitlin Price on October 16, 2008 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Vietnam's Hanoi People's Court on Wednesday sentenced journalist Nguyen Viet Chien of Thanh Nien news agency [media website] to two years in prison for "abusing democratic freedoms" to infringe state interests for his reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST report; Tuoi Tre news archive, in Vietnamese]. Nguyen's co-defendant, Nguyen Van Hai of Tuoi Tre news agency [media website, in Vietnamese], received a two year "re-eduction" sentence, suspended for time served, after pleading guilty. Story informant Lieutenant-Colonel Dinh Van Huynh was sentenced to one year in prison for "deliberately revealing state secrets," and retired policeman General Pham Xuan Quac was reprimanded for providing information to the press. The sentencing judge said that "hostile forces, reactionaries and political opportunists" exploited the PMU 18 scandal [AFP report] to criticize the Vietnamese government. The sentences were immediately condemned [BBC report] by the US Embassy in Hanoi [official website], which argued that the journalists acted within their legal rights under Vietnamese law. Advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists decried the sentences as "shameful" [CPJ report], and Reporters Without Borders called on the international community to condition aid to Vietnam [press release] on "respect for press freedom and the release of imprisoned journalists." The Financial Times has more.

Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien were arrested [JURIST report] in May on suspicion of abuse of power and divulgation of false information [AFP report, in French] and were charged [JURIST report] in September, facing up to seven years in prison. The journalists reported on illegal gambling and corruption [JURIST news archive] within Project Management Unit (PMU) 18, a Vietnamese agency responsible for the construction of roads and bridges that receives aid from the World Bank and other countries. Their work triggered an investigation that led to the Hanoi People's Court's August 2007 convictions [JURIST report] of former Vietnamese government officials. In September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Vietnamese government [HRW report] to end efforts "to silence independent bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders" and to enforce the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association under the Vietnamese Constitution [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text].






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AIG lobbying for relaxation of state mortgage rules: WSJ
Andrew Gilmore on October 16, 2008 12:37 PM ET

[JURIST] US insurance giant American International Group (AIG) [corporate website] is lobbying state governments to relax strict, recently enacted rules designed to provide greater oversight of the mortgage lending industry, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The rules are contained in the S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 [text, PDF], which was signed into law by President Bush at the end of July. The Act requires mortgage originators to be registered and licensed by state agencies. As part of the registration and licensing process, originators are required to undergo background checks, including fingerprint analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website], personal history checks, credit reporting, and investigation of originator's civil and criminal records. The Act also requires originators to undergo training on federal law and regulations, ethics, and lending standards for subprime mortgages, and to be tested on those subjects. According to the Wall Street Journal, AIG has been lobbying states to ease some of the state-imposed rules associated with the Act. Reuters has more.

AIG was the recipient of an $85 billion bridge loan from the US Federal Reserve [official website] due to financial instability due to subprime lending and the financial derivatives and mortgage-backed securities markets. Additionally, many current and former AIG executives blame the company's troubles on "mark-to-market" accounting rules [JURIST report]. The $85 billion bridge loan is intended to allow AIG time to sell off its assets in an orderly fashion in order to avoid the negative consequences of a bankruptcy or collapse during the current financial crisis. The bridge loan is intended to act in concert with the recently-passed $700 billion rescue bill [JURIST report] to limit the effects of the crisis on the larger US economy and international markets. Last month, members of Congress urged [JURIST report] regulatory changes and investigations following a stock market drop propelled by Lehman Brothers' Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and the sale of Merrill Lynch.






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Pakistan cabinet approves changes to lawyers act, establishes rights commission
Andrew Gilmore on October 16, 2008 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The Pakistani cabinet led by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] Wednesday approved changes to a statute governing the country's lawyers and endorsed a draft bill that would establish a new National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR). The changes to the Legal Practitioners Act of 1973 [text, PDF] would undo an amendment [JURIST report] to the Act promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] following his November 3, 2007 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST news archive]. In particular, they would reduce the power of superior court judges appointed by the government to discipline and even disbar lawyers for "professional or other misconduct." The establishment of a National Human Rights Commission is intended to bring Pakistan in compliance with a UN General Assembly resolution requiring members to set up official human rights bodies. The Daily Times has more. The News has additional coverage.

In the wake of the initial amendment to the lawyers' statute the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) derided it as unconstitutional and canceled the membership of then-Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum. Asma Jahangir [official profile, PDF], the chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [advocacy website] was placed under house arrest [order] for two weeks shortly after the emergency was declared.






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Kenya election violence commission urges creation of international tribunal
Benjamin Klein on October 16, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A commission established to investigate the political and ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed December 2007 presidential election [JURIST reports] released [press release] a report [PDF] on Wednesday recommending the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspected perpetrators. The Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence cited “systematic attacks on Kenyans based on their ethnicity and their political leanings” and criticized the state security apparatus for “fail[ing] institutionally to anticipate, prepare for, and contain the violence.” In some instances, law enforcement officers are suspected of having committed acts of violence and gross violations of human rights. Justice Philip Waki, the head of the commission, requested that a tribunal be established within the territorial boundaries of Kenya with the mandate to prosecute crimes – “particularly crimes against humanity” – relating to the 2007 general election. The “Special Tribunal for Kenya,” as it is termed in the report, is to be composed of Kenyan and international judges and will apply both Kenyan and international law.

Notably absent from the commission’s report are the names of the suspected culprits. According to Waki, the commission has evidence of involvement by prominent politicians, government officials, and businessmen in Kenya but has postponed disclosures to prevent the sabotage and adulteration of evidence. The commission is expected to deliver the names in a sealed envelope to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive], who helped mediate the current power-sharing agreement between Kenya's ruling party and opposition, as early as this Friday. VOA has more.

In March the Kenyan parliament approved a power-sharing agreement [JURIST report] between President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and opposition leader Raila Odinga [campaign profile] intended to end the post-election violence which had sparked simmering ethnic tensions in the country. Human Rights Watch reported that over 1,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in weeks of protests and rioting.






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Bush signs inspector general reform bill but seeks to limit powers
Andrew Morgan on October 16, 2008 9:21 AM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush on Tuesday signed a bill [HR 928 text, PDF] designed to further insulate federal inspectors general (IGs) from political interference. The Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 is the latest in a series of amendments to the Inspector General Act of 1978 [text], which created the oversight offices within executive agencies. The new law establishes requirements for qualification and appointment of IGs and limits the conditions of their removal. It provides, in part, that

[e]ach Inspector General shall be appointed without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations.
In a signing statement [text], however, Bush formally objected to provisions giving IGs the right to obtain independent counsel and requiring budgetary disclosure of IG requirements as separate submissions, on the grounds that they improperly limit his constitutional authority as the head of the executive branch. AP has more.

Last October, Bush expressed concern [WH policy statement, PDF] about imposing limitations on IG dismissal and about establishing an independent oversight committee because a similar committee had already been established by executive order. Concern about the independence and efficacy of inspectors general has been prompted by recent disclosures of impropriety at the Department of the Interior (DOI) [official website; JURIST news archive], allegations of misconduct by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [WH profile; JURIST news archive] and questionable hiring practices [JURIST report] at the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website].





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Italy court suspends CIA rendition case to consider state secrets testimony
Caitlin Price on October 16, 2008 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge on the Constitutional Court of Italy [official website, in Italian] on Wednesday suspended the trial of 26 Americans [JURIST news archive] and five former Italian intelligence officials for the 2003 abduction and rendition [JURIST news archive] of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr [JURIST news archive] to consider whether to compel a witness to answer questions that may implicate state secrets. During cross-examination in a closed session, Italian intelligence agent Giuseppe Scandone refused to respond [AP report] when defense lawyers for former Italian Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website] chief Nicolo Pollari asked if Pollari had ever ordered subordinates to carry out the extraordinary rendition of a terror suspect. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] submitted a letter [La Stampa report, in Italian] to the intelligence officials before the hearing Wednesday arguing that though discussion of the relationship between Italy and foreign intelligence services may reveal state secrets, Pollari's defense team may be able to continue with their questioning. Judge Oscar Magi is expected to confirm with the government whether a reply from Scandone would implicate classified national security information before the trial reconvenes on October 22. AKI has more.

Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was seized on the streets of Milan by CIA agents with the help of Italian operatives, then allegedly transferred to Egypt and tortured by Egypt's State Security Intelligence before being released [JURIST reports] in February 2007. Defense lawyers for Pollari have said they need Italian agents' testimony and classified government documents to assert their defense that Pollari was not involved in the kidnapping. In May, Magi ruled that Berlusconi can be called to testify [JURIST report].






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Effort to relocate Guantanamo Uighurs stalling: NYT
Benjamin Klein on October 16, 2008 8:10 AM ET

[JURIST] An urgent effort by the Bush administration to transfer 17 Guantanamo detainees outside the US has stalled as a result of a bitter interagency dispute, according to a New York Times report on Wednesday. Last week, US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ordered [opinion, PDF] the 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs [backgrounder] held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be released in the United States. The judge found that after the government dropped its claim that the Uighurs were “enemy combatants,” there was no longer a legal basis for continuing their confinement at Guantanamo [JURIST news archive]. The decision marked the first instance a court had ordered that prisoners from Guantanamo be released onto US soil and provoked an immediate outcry from the Bush administration. The Justice Department [official website] responded by filing seven separate appeals on the release issue, and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit temporarily blocked [opinion, PDF] Urbina’s action. Some critics have suggested that the Justice Department’s filings, which describe the Uighurs as “a danger to the public,” have compromised diplomatic efforts undertaken by the State Department [official website] to resettle the detainees in other countries. The New York Times has more.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other advocacy organizations have urged the government not to drag its feet in freeing the detainees [AI press release]. The Bush administration continues to resist requests from the Chinese government to repatriate the Uighurs, fearing they would be tortured upon return to the remote northwestern province of Xinjiang. But since transferring five Uighur detainees to Albania in 2006, it had been unable to persuade governments to accept others.






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Draft Iraq status of forces pact authorizes Iraqi trials of US troops for crimes off base
Eric Firkel on October 16, 2008 12:21 AM ET

[JURIST] US and Iraqi negotiators Wednesday agreed on a draft for a Status of Forces Agreement [CFR materials] that gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel. According to Iraqi officials quoted by AP Wednesday, the draft agreement requires US troops to face trial before Iraqi courts for major crimes committed off base when the troops are not on an authorized mission. The US would retain the right to prosecute troops and private contractors for crimes committed on base and while troops are on authorized missions. The current draft agreement will likely face resistance in the US Congress, where many lawmakers are wary of subjecting American troops to any foreign judicial jurisdiction. AP has more.

The draft agreement has been delayed [JURIST report] by months of negotiation. If passed by lawmakers in each country, it will extend the role of US forces in Iraq through 2011. The current UN mandate authorizing a US troop presence in Iraq expires in December [UN press release]. In late June, the US agreed to eliminate legal immunity for US contractors [JURIST report] from the proposed agreement, and suggested that it might concede US control of Iraqi airspace. The US continued to push for immunity for US troops from prosecution in Iraqi courts and the right to hold detainees independent of Iraqi review.






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Chile Supreme Court sentences Pinochet-era officers for 'Caravan of Death' killings
Eric Firkel on October 15, 2008 11:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Chile's Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] Wednesday sentenced five former Chilean military officers for their role in the killing of five leftist political opponents as part of the so-called "Caravan of Death" [BBC backgrounder] in October 1973. General Sergio Arellano Stark was sentenced to six years in prison for his role leading a group that toured provincial cities in Chile eliminating political opponents at the behest of General Augusto Pinochet [JURIST archive] in the months following the military's violent overthrow of leftist president President Salvador Allende. Four other defendants received sentences [press release, in Spanish] ranging between six and four years in prison. Reuters has more.

In March 2006, Judge Victor Montiglio announced indictments and ordered the arrests of 13 retired Chilean military officers [JURIST report] accused of directly participating in the Caravan. In November that year, Montiglio indicted Pinochet himself [JURIST report] and placed him under house arrest in connection with the firing-squad deaths of two of Allende's bodyguards. Pinochet died in December 2006 before being brought to trial [JURIST report]. In the end, military officers killed as many as 75 Chilean dissidents, many of whom had turned themselves in to authorities.






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Supreme Court hears jury instruction cases
Joe Shaulis on October 15, 2008 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call] Wednesday in two cases, including Waddington v. Sarausad [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-772, in which the Court will consider whether a ruling [PDF text] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit correctly overturned the murder conviction of a driver in a 1994 Seattle drive-by shooting on the grounds of incorrect jury instructions on accomplice liability. Appearing on behalf of the petitioner during Wednesday's arguments [transcript, PDF], Washington State Deputy Solicitor General William B. Collins noted that the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [PDF text] provides a deferential standard of review and urged the Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit because "the Washington court's adjudication of this matter was not objectively unreasonable." Jeffrey Fisher, arguing on behalf of the respondent, said the "extraordinary record" in the case demonstrates that the Washington Court of Appeals "could not have reasonably concluded that there was a reasonable likelihood the jury understood the charge in this case."

In the second case argued [transcript, PDF] Wednesday, Hedgpeth v. Pulido [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-544, the Court will review another ruling [PDF text] by the Ninth Circuit. The question presented is whether that court "fail[ed] to conform to 'clearly established' Supreme Court law ... when it granted habeas corpus relief by deeming an erroneous instruction on one of two alternative theories of guilt to be 'structural error' requiring reversal because the jury might have relied on it[.]"






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Sixth Circuit orders Ohio to take measures against vote fraud
Joe Shaulis on October 15, 2008 12:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a district court order requiring Ohio's secretary of state to establish a system that allows county elections boards to confirm newly registered voters' eligibility. The court, sitting en banc, vacated a stay [AP report] imposed by a Sixth Circuit panel last week. The temporary restraining order issued by the district court gives Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner [official website] until Friday to furnish county elections officials with lists of prospective voters whose information in state databases contains discrepancies, or to provide the officials with access to the statewide voter registration database so they can resolve the discrepancies. An anti-fraud provision [text] of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [FEC materials] requires state election and motor vehicles officials to match information between their databases to ensure voter eligibility. Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton [official profile] wrote on behalf of the Sixth Circuit majority:

[O]ne of the key obstacles to the Secretary’s request for relief is the lack of any affidavit or other factual support for her arguments that altering the relevant computer programs will be difficult or will create material risks to other aspects of the election process. In upholding the district court's October 10 order and its October 17 deadline, it is appropriate to assume what we should always assume in denying interim relief—that the district court will respond fairly to requests to adjust the TRO if the Secretary offers reasonable bases for doing so.
In a statement [text], Brunner said her office would "work with the federal court, even though we believe that the order goes beyond the requirements of HAVA." Robert Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party [party website], called the Sixth Circuit decision "a victory for the integrity of Ohio's election" but noted [press release] that it leaves "little time for election officials to act on questionable registrations." AP has more. The Columbus Dispatch has local coverage.

Last week, the New York Times reported that thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states, including Ohio, had been removed from voter rolls [JURIST] against federal voting law. The Times article found that elections officials had violated HAVA by cross-checking voter rolls with lists from the Social Security Administration before using information from other sources, as required by the statute. Voters and advocacy groups have challenged Ohio elections procedures since the state's pivotal role in the 2004 presidential campaign. Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected GOP challenges [JURIST report] to a directive by Brunner allowing allowing a one-week overlap before the end of voter registration and after the beginning of absentee balloting. Also last month, a federal district judge entered a temporary restraining order allowing observers to be present when absentee voters cast ballots in person, but that order was stayed [opinion, PDF] by a Sixth Circuit panel. The same panel denied the Ohio Republican Party's motion for an injunction requiring that absentee ballots cast by newly registered voters be segregated from other ballots.





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Saudi execution rate connected to flawed justice system: Amnesty International
Joe Shaulis on October 15, 2008 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] A report [PDF text; press release] issued Tuesday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] links the large number of executions in Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive] to flaws in the Saudi judicial system. The report, titled Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia, noted a significant increase in executions from 2006 to 2007, when at least 158 death sentences were carried out, and a relatively high rate of execution for migrant or foreign workers. Malcolm Smart, director of AI's Middle East and North Africa program, said:

The government's continuing high use of the death penalty runs counter to the growing international trend towards abolition. Moreover, the death penalty is carried out disproportionately and discriminately on national or ethnic grounds against poor foreign workers and against Saudi Arabian nationals who lack the family or other connections that, fortunately, help others to be saved from execution.
The AI report pointed to several factors contributing to the high execution rate, including the closed nature of the Saudi judicial process, the imposition of the death penalty for relatively minor offenses and a lack of legal assistance for the accused. The Saudi Interior Ministry [official website] announced Tuesday that two more convicts had been beheaded, bringing the number of executions this year to at least 72, as a court sentenced three Sri Lankans to death [Arab News report] for armed robbery and murder. AP has more.

In a report released earlier this year, AI found that Saudi Arabia executed more people per capita than any other nation [JURIST report]. According to that report, at least 1,252 people were put to death in 24 countries, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the United States accounting for the vast majority of the executions. In July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report criticizing a lack of legal protections [JURIST report] for the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Among other proposed reforms, HRW called on the Saudi government to amend the 2005 Labor Law to cover migrant workers.





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White House memos to CIA approved waterboarding: Washington Post
Caitlin Price on October 15, 2008 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Two classified memos sent from the Bush administration to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 explicitly sanctioned the use of certain harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], the Washington Post reported [text] Wednesday. The documents were reportedly first requested by then-CIA director George Tenet [BBC profile; SourceWatch profile] in 2003 at a meeting with members of the National Security Council [official website], as Tenet hoped that a written statement of the administration's policy would offer legal protection for CIA subordinates. The Post report's sources, four anonymous Bush administration and intelligence officials, confirmed that a brief memo approving the use of the techniques was sent shortly after the meeting, and that a second memo confirming the policy was sent in 2004 despite growing concerns from the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website]. The memos remain classified. The White House has not commented on the story. AFP has more.

Last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] became the first White House official to acknowledge that the Bush administration held talks [Washington Post report] as early as 2002 to consider the legality of waterboarding and other coercive techniques. Reports [JURIST report] in April alleged that top Bush officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, approved the use of controversial interrogation methods on terrorism suspects. In February, the DOJ launched an internal probe [JURIST report] into whether top department officials improperly approved the CIA's use of waterboarding. The DOJ released three memos [materials; JURIST report] in July indicating that certain harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, are lawful and that those who employ them in good faith lack the specific intent required to be charged with torture.






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ICJ orders Georgia, Russia to stop ethnic discrimination in conflict region
Caitlin Price on October 15, 2008 9:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Wednesday rejected [decision text, PDF; press release, PDF; case docket] an emergency request for provisional measures from the Georgian Republic to stop the alleged killing and mass displacement of citizens in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia [JURIST news archive], instead calling on both Georgia and Russia to meet their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[text]. The Court determined that it possessed prima facie jurisdiction over the case under CERD Article 22, but opted to use its power to indicate provisional measures [ICJ Article 41 text] to reach each side:

Both Parties, within South Ossetia and Abkhazia and adjacent areas in Georgia, shall
(1) refrain from any act of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions;
(2) abstain from sponsoring, defending or supporting racial discrimination by any persons or organizations,
(3) do all in their power, whenever and wherever possible, to ensure, without distinction as to national or ethnic origin,
(i) security of persons;
(ii) the right of persons to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State;
(iii) the protection of the property of displaced persons and of refugees;
(4) do all in their power to ensure that public authorities and public institutions under their control or influence do not engage in acts of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions.
The ruling, which created an international legal obligation with which Russia and Georgia must comply, also called on both sides to facilitate humanitarian assistance in the disputed regions and to refrain from any action which might prejudice the rights of the other party. AFP has more. RIA Novosti has additional coverage.

Georgia instituted [JURIST report] the case in August after Russia sent its military into Georgia in response to a Georgian bid to strike the breakaway South Ossetia region, heavily populated with Russians. Last month Georgia sought [ICJ press release, PDF; JURIST report] emergency orders from the ICJ, arguing that Russia is engaged in ethnic cleansing and has violated the CERD by removing ethnic Georgians from the territories. Russia countered that its military actions have saved lives, and that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction over the case. In August, Russia instituted its own action [JURIST report] against Georgia in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], alleging that Georgia committed war crimes against ethnic Russians in South Ossetia. Tensions remain high following Russia's signing of military defense agreements [JURIST report] with South Ossetia and Abkhazia last month. The latest attempt at peace talks between Georgia and Russia broke down [AFP report] Wednesday.





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Turkish justice minister apologizes for detention death, suspends 19 prison officials
Andrew Gilmore on October 15, 2008 7:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Turkish Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin [party profile, in Turkish] apologized Tuesday on behalf of the Turkish government for the death of Engin Ceber, an anti-government protester who died after alleged torture while in police custody on Saturday. Sahin also announced that 19 prison officials were suspending pending an investigation into Cerber's death. The Guardian quoted Sahin as saying [Guardian report]:

"I apologise to the relatives of [Ceber] on behalf of my government and the state ... I am pushing this ahead with a high sensitivity. The number [of suspensions] could rise as the investigation widens. I am very sorry that such an incident was allowed to happen in Turkey at such a time."
According to Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], Cerber was arrested nearly two weeks ago [AI press release] while protesting the shooting death of another activist last year, and was brought to an Istanbul prison, where he was allegedly subjected to torture and severe beatings. He was taken to a hospital last week, where he later died. BBC News has more. Hurriyet has local coverage.

Tuesday's apology is apparently the first time the Turkish government has publicly apologized for police abuses or prison detainee deaths, although condition inside Turkish prisons have been internationally notorious for years. Last February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey violated the human rights of two men [JURIST report] when police abused them to inhuman and degrading treatment and then failed to properly investigate their allegations of abuse. In July 2007, AI released a report [text; JURIST report] calling attention to the Turkish criminal justice system's continuing toleration and condoning of torture and ill-treatment by police and investigators.





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Philippines high court rejects autonomy accord with Muslim rebel group
Joe Shaulis on October 15, 2008 6:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] on Tuesday rejected [decision text] as unconstitutional a proposed peace agreement between the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) [group website; BBC backgrounder]. The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) [text] between the MILF and the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website] would have given the minority Muslim faction expanded autonomy by creating the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) in the Mindanao region of the Philippine islands. The Supreme Court ruled, however, that Arroyo had exceeded her powers in negotiating the agreement. According to the court's decision,

[t]he MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the very concept underlying them, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between the [Philippines government] and the BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.
The government has said it will not appeal [Manila Times report] the decision. On Wednesday, the chairman of the Philippine Senate's National Defense and Security Committee called on Arroyo to resume peace talks [Daily Inquirer report] with the MILF. AP has more.

The government of the Philippines [JURIST news archive] has been engaged in a long-standing conflict with Muslim rebels in the country's southern provinces. The high court enjoined the signing of the proposed agreement in August after Christian politicians in Mindanao claimed it violated the constitution [JURIST reports]. The government first suggested [JURIST report] that it might agree to increased autonomy for the region in 2005. In August, the Philippine House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] to create a new national commission meant to guarantee the rights of Muslim citizens. The bill creates a National Commission on Muslim Filipinos [press release] to address complaints of rights violations brought by Muslim citizens, oversee the development and distribution of lands traditionally held by Muslim Filipinos and advise the president on issues concerning the country's Muslim population.





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China sentences eight monks for Tibet bombing
Andrew Gilmore on October 14, 2008 7:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese People's Court in Chamdo prefecture sentenced eight Tibetan monks to prison last month, including two to life sentences, according to Tibetan activist group Free Tibet [advocacy website] Tuesday. The eight monks were arrested by Chinese authorities in April [JURIST news archive] in connection with the March bombing of a government building. The bombing took place during widespread protests against Chinese rule in Tibet [BBC backgrounder]. Free Tibet cited [Free Tibet press release] a "very reliable source in the region," saying:

The legal proceedings against the monks have been shrouded in complete secrecy, according to the source. Normally relatives of the accused would be informed of the nature of the alleged charges, and also of the sentencing. It is also unusual that, in a case concerning an alleged bombing, the sentencing of the convicted is not carried out in a public court.

According to the source, the case against the monks has been mounted in the absence of even the most basic level of legal oversight and due process: from the time of arrest to sentencing the monks were denied all access to family and legal counsel; the nature of the charges and the eventual sentencing has not been made public by the court. Relatives of the monks had expected them to be released after the Olympics. Instead the monks were sentenced following the Games, although family relatives were not informed of the sentences. Details of the sentencing had come from an undisclosed contact of the source.
Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Chinese officials blamed the Dalai Lama [personal website], Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, for the protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. China claimed 19 people died after the skirmishes, but the Tibetan government-in-exile [official website] said that 130 had died [JURIST report]. The Dalai Lama 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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Supreme Court hears criminal procedure, voting rights cases
Joe Shaulis on October 14, 2008 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call] Monday in three cases, including Pearson v. Callahan [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-751, in which the Court will review a July 2007 ruling [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit allowing individuals to directly sue police officers who enter their home without a search warrant to conduct a search and seizure. The Court will consider whether there exists a "consent once removed" exception to the Fourth Amendment [LII materials] that would allow police to enter a home without a warrant when an undercover informant inside the home signals that a drug sale is in progress. Supporting the petitioners during Monday's arguments [transcript], Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said:

[O]ur principal contention is ... that once a person has, even unknowingly, admitted a government agent into his home, his expectation of privacy is sharply reduced and the entry of the officers works an insubstantial incremental invasion of privacy.... It's true that the informant here lacked the training and skills that - and integrity, for that matter, that you would expect a police officer to have. But he was for Fourth Amendment purposes a government agent a State actor.
Theodore Metzler Jr., arguing on behalf of the respondent, said that "no reasonable officer could have believed" that Callahan had consented to the entry of police by consenting to the entry of a confidential informant. While Justice David Souter called the petitioners' view of probable cause "the most astonishing ... I have heard in this courtroom," Justice Samuel Alito [official profiles, PDF] suggested the respondent advocated "a rule that is going to get police officers killed."

In a second criminal procedure case argued [transcript] Monday, Oregon v. Ice [SCOTUSwiki backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-901, presenting the question of whether is unconstitutional for a convict to be sentenced to consecutive rather than concurrent terms for burglary and sex offenses when a judge rather than a jury determined that the crimes arose out of separate offenses. The Oregon Supreme Court held [opinion text] that the trial court's imposition of consecutive sentences based on its own fact-finding violated the defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment [LII materials].

Finally, the Court heard arguments [transcript] in Bartlett v. Strickland [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-689, in which it will consider whether a racial minority group that comprises less than 50 percent of a district's population can file a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act [text]. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] that the Act only applies to districts where the minority population constitutes 50 percent or more of voters.





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Bolivia president begins march for constitutional referendum
Caitlin Price on October 14, 2008 1:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Bolivian President Evo Morales [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] on Monday joined [press release, in Spanish] an estimated 10,000 supporters [AP report] as they began a 120-mile march from Caracollo to La Paz seeking congressional approval [JURIST report] of a national referendum on proposed reforms to the country's constitution [text]. Morales, who will not participate in the entire walk, said the demonstration was intended to persuade the Bolivian National Congress [official website, in Spanish] to set a date for the referendum, which cannot move forward without the support of two-thirds of Congress. Morales said he expected the march to grow to more than a million participants by the time it reaches La Paz next week. BBC News has more. La Razon has local coverage, in Spanish.

Controversy has surrounded Morales' proposed constitutional amendments, which would distribute more of Bolivia's land and energy resource income to the country's indigenous population. Weeks of regional protests in affluent states opposing such income redistribution culminated in the president's accusation [AFP report] in September that opposition governors were engaged in a "civil coup against democracy." Several states have declared autonomy, and a provincial governor who refused to recognize Morales' September 12 declaration of martial law [Reuters report] in Pando province was later arrested [JURIST report] on genocide charges in connection with the deaths of several Morales supporters [CBC report] during demonstrations. Morales defended the governor's arrest [Reuters report] as "legal and constitutional."






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Thailand Constitutional Court takes case on disbanding ruling party
Devin Montgomery on October 14, 2008 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] on Tuesday agreed to consider [Bangkok Post report] dissolving the ruling People's Power Party (PPP) [party website, in Thai] and two others because of election fraud allegedly committed by one of the PPP's top officers. Former PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat was convicted of organizing a vote-buying scheme [Bangkok Post report] by the court in July, and under Thai law the PPP and associated parties could be banned for connection with the crime. The case was brought before the court [JURIST report] by the country's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) last week after a September recommendation [Bangkok Post report] by the country's Election Commission [official website, in Thai] to break up the party because of the alleged fraud. If disbanded, a number of high-ranking government officials, including prime minister Somchai Wongsawat [Nation backgrounder], would lose their positions and be barred from political office for five years. AFP has more. The Straits Times has additional coverage.

The issue comes before the court as the PPP party faces broad public criticism and protests [AFP report] opposing its rule. In late September, the Election Commission said it would begin an investigation [Bangkok post report; JURIST report] into allegations that Wongsawat illegally holds stocks in companies which operate under government contracts. Earlier that month, then-prime minister and PPP founder Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] instituted a controversial state of emergency [JURIST report] to quell the demonstrations, but was later removed from office after receiving illegal compensation for an appearance on a television cooking show. The PPP has also been closely associated with ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], now on trial in absentia for corruption. In May 2007 the Constitutional Court dissolved Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party [JURIST report].






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Bosnia war crimes prosecutor arrests four suspected of crimes against humanity
Caitlin Price on October 14, 2008 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Four former Bosnian Serb officers have been arrested on suspicions of crimes against humanity [BiH Criminal Code Article 172, PDF] in connection with the August 1992 massacre of 200 civilians in Koricanske Stijene, the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia & Herzegovina said [press release] Tuesday. Milorad Skrbic, Milorad Radakovic, Gordan Duric, and Ljubisa Cetic were arrested on allegations that they, along with members of the so-called "Intervention Squad" and the police force SJB Prijedor [UNSC report], removed more than 200 civilian Bosnian Muslims and Croats from buses as they were transported from Prijedor and shot them. The suspects' homes have been searched and they will now be questioned by the Prosecutor's Office [official website] as further action is considered. Reuters has more.

In 2004, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] sentenced [press release] former Bosnian Serb "Intervention Squad" officer Darko Mrdja [ICTY backgrounder, PDF] to 17 years in prison for "unloading, guarding, escorting, shooting and killing" the victims at Koricanske Stijene. The Bosnian Prosecutor's Office works in tandem with the War Crimes Chamber [HRW backgrounder] of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website; JURIST news archive], which was established to alleviate the caseload of the ICTY. The War Crimes Chamber will continue to hear cases as the ICTY winds down in 2010.






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Bush signs strengthened IP rights enforcement bill into law
Devin Montgomery on October 14, 2008 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Monday signed into law [WH press release] a bill that will provide for additional intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement resources and stronger penalties for violators of those rights. The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 [PDF text; LOC materials], allows for three times the assessed damages to be awarded against those who counterfeit protected goods, strengthens criminal laws relating to IP infringement, and allows the government broad authority to seize any materials or goods relating to infringement investigations. It also provides additional funding for investigations into alleged infringement and creates a position for an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, a presidential appointee who would coordinate IP investigations among government agencies. The Recording Industry Association of America [trade website] had strongly supported [press release] the bill, saying that it will help protect the interest of copyright holders. Advocacy group Public Knowledge [advocacy website] has criticized [press release] the bill, saying that it will exacerbate problems with existing US IP laws which put too many restrictions on the use of what should be public information. Reuters has more. Out-Law has additional coverage.

Other countries are also increasing efforts to expand the scope of protected intellectual property, largely in response to US concerns. In July Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice [official profile] introduced new federal copyright legislation [press release, JURIST report] designed to strengthen penalties against infringement. In February, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), released a report [text, PDF] asserting that China, Russia and Canada are the main violators of US copyright law [JURIST report]. IIPA and US officials have described Canadian copyright law as the most lax among the G7 nations.






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Supreme Court rejects Davis death penalty petition, takes supplemental jurisdiction case
Joe Shaulis on October 14, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday rejected a petition [order list, PDF] to hear a Georgia death row inmate's appeal, lifting a stay on his execution, while agreeing to hear a case dealing with supplemental jurisdiction. The court declined to grant certiorari in the case of Troy Anthony Davis [defense website], who was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in 1989. According to defense lawyers, key witnesses against Davis have recanted their testimony, and others say another person has since confessed to the killing. The Court stayed Davis' execution [JURIST report], which had been scheduled for September [GA AG press release], pending consideration of his case. The certiorari denial lifts that stay, allowing Georgia to set a new execution date. The Court had previously denied a petition for certiorari in the case, and the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] in March denied [court docket; opinion summary] Davis's request for a new trial. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more.

In the case granted certiorari, Carlsbad Technology, Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc. (07-1437) [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether a district court's order remanding a case to state court following its discretionary decision not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction [text, 28 USC 1367(c)] is subject to appellate review. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that such an order is barred from review [text, 28 USC 1447(d)] as a remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.






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Ukraine president dissolves Kiev court that blocked early elections
Deirdre Jurand on October 14, 2008 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko [official website] Monday abolished the Kiev District Court by decree [decree 922/2008 text, in Ukrainian] after it decided Saturday to block a previous presidential decree dissolving parliament and directing parliamentary elections in the wake of the collapse of the governing coalition. The Kiev court made the ruling against the elections in response to a lawsuit brought by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website] against Yushchenko and Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC) [official website] claiming that the election was called earlier than indicated by law. Monday's decree establishes two administrative courts to replace the district court. Additionally, Yushchenko issued another decree [decree 923/2008 text, in Ukrainian] designed to further safeguard the voting rights of citizens and the vote itself, which is scheduled for December 7. Political allies of Tymoshenko have said they will continue to oppose the elections. AP has more. RIA Novosti has additional coverage.

Ukraine's leadership is seriously divided in the wake of the 2004 Orange Revolution [backgrounder] that brought Yushchenko to power as president. The populist Tymoshenko was originally a Yushchenko ally, but more recently has become disaffected, leading to the collapse of the government [press release] over disagreements on both domestic and international issues.






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Sudanese Darfur prosecutor nearing completion of war crimes reports
Deirdre Jurand on October 14, 2008 8:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Sudan Justice Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat said Monday that a special prosecutor named [JURIST report] to investigate and try war crimes suspects from the country's Darfur region [JURIST news archive] has almost completed reports on some crimes in the region, though a time frame for trials has not yet been established. Sabdarat did specify that militia commander Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch profile; ICC arrest warrant, PDF], wanted by the ICC on suspicion of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, will be among those tried by the country's war crimes tribunal. 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 [text, PDF]. AP has more. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

The Sudanese announcement is seen largely as a reaction to the controversial effort [JURIST report] by ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo 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 bid and underlying indictment, saying they threaten peace in the unstable country.






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ICTY president urges arrest of remaining war crimes fugitives
Andrew Gilmore on October 13, 2008 11:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge Fausto Pocar [official profile], President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], called Monday for the arrest of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic [ICTY materials, PDF; amended indictment, PDF] and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic [ICTY materials, PDF; indictment, PDF]. Mladic and Hadzic are the two remaining major fugitives wanted for ICTY prosecution on war crimes charges stemming from their roles as Serbian leaders during the Yugoslavian ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Both have been in hiding since the end of the conflicts. Pocar's remarks came during a speech to the UN General Assembly [official website] In the speech [text], he said:

Let me now turn to the second point for which Member State support is essential: the arrest of the remaining fugitives. As you well know, positive developments have taken place during the reporting period. The arrests of Stojan Župljanin and Radovan Karadži? were particularly important milestones, and we commend the Government of Serbia for the critical cooperation it provided in this respect. However, we cannot successfully accomplish our work if the last two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladi? and Goran Hadži?, are not arrested immediately. I must once again emphasize that while the Tribunal has done its utmost to expeditiously conduct and complete its cases, the late arrests of fugitives, for which the international community must take responsibility, will inevitably lead to slippages in the scheduled end of our proceedings. Thus, while we are ensuring that the trials of the four recently arrested accused will all start in 2009, the arrests of the remaining fugitives might oblige us to push even further our target dates for the completion of all trials.

I shall also reiterate that the obligation of all member States of the United Nations to cooperate with the Tribunal pursuant to Article 29 of the Statute are not limited to the arrest of fugitives. This obligation is in fact much wider and also entails the provision of assistance in all aspects of ongoing proceedings before the Tribunal, including access to archives, the production of documents, and access to and protection of witnesses. I must note in this respect preoccupying incidents of witness interference which have occurred during the reporting period, as well as delays in the service of documents, which have affected the expeditious conduct of our proceedings. Finally, State cooperation also entails cooperation in the relocation of witnesses and the enforcement of the Tribunal's sentences. While the Registry has managed to finalize seven agreements on enforcement of sentences, further support from States is required with respect to relocation of witnesses.
AP has more.

Last month, Serge Brammertz [official profile], the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, told reporters in Serbia Wednesday that he was "cautiously optimistic" [JURIST report] that Mladic and Hadzic would be brought to justice. International pressure for the capture of the two has increased since the July arrest [JURIST report] of former Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive]. In August, Serbian President Boris Tadic [official website] said that his country would fully cooperate with the ICTY [JURIST report] to find and arrest Mladic and Hadzic. 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.





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UK House of Lords drops 42-day detention period from anti-terror bill
Joe Shaulis on October 13, 2008 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK House of Lords on Monday rejected a proposal supported by Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official websites] to increase the amount of time authorities may detain terrorism suspects without charge. The upper house of Parliament voted 309-118 to amend an anti-terrorism bill [materials; BBC Q/A] by eliminating a highly contentious provision that would have increased the maximum period for holding uncharged suspects from 28 days to 42. Among the Lords arguing against the extension was former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith [official profile], who had written [Guardian op-ed] that the proposal is "wrong in principle and dangerous in practice." Bloomberg News has more. The Times has local coverage.

In June, the House of Commons narrowly approved the 42-day detention provision after it was amended [JURIST reports] to apply only in "grave and exceptional" cases of terrorist threats. Brown and other proponents of the extension have argued [Times op-ed] it is necessary to protect national security. Then-UK Home Secretary John Reid called for longer pre-charge time limits last year, and current Home Secretary Jacqui Smith proposed the 42-day detention period [JURIST reports] in December. The 28-day period was instituted in 2005 after the Commons defeated a proposal [JURIST report] by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to increase the period to 90 days.






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Arab League justice ministers condemn Bashir arrest warrant
Kiely Lewandowski on October 13, 2008 1:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Justice ministers of countries belonging to the League of Arab States [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] said Monday that the International Criminal Court has 'no sound legal basis' to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. At a day-long summit in Cairo, the ministers suggested that ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's July application for a warrant to arrest al-Bashir [JURIST report] was politically motivated and denounced [Sudan Tribune coverage] what they described as "attempts to politicize the principles of international justice." They applauded recent steps Sudan has taken to prosecute war crimes perpetrators, such as appointing Sudanese prosecutors to investigate and try suspects and the creation of internationally monitored courts [JURIST reports]. BBC News has more; the International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.

Immediately after Moreno-Ocampo applied for an arrest warrant in July, the Arab League rebuked the prosecutor [JURIST report] for his “unbalanced stance” and said that an indictment – the first ever against a sitting head of state – would set a dangerous and destabilizing precedent. Last month, then-South African President Thabo Mbeki spoke out against any ICC arrest of Bashir [JURIST report], telling reporters that the move will jeopardize stability in the Darfur region [JURIST news archive]. Moreno-Campo traveled to New York last month to seek support for the arrest of Bashir despite the fact that Bashir has threatened to ignore [JURIST reports] any ICC-issued arrest warrant, saying he would not "deal with or respond to" the ICC.






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British Columbia rights panel dismisses Muslim complaint against Maclean's
Joe Shaulis on October 13, 2008 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal [official website] has dismissed [decision, PDF] a complaint alleging that the Canadian newsmagazine Maclean's [media website] incited hatred toward Muslims. The commission ruled Friday that a 2006 article [text] by conservative writer Mark Steyn [personal website] entitled "The future belongs to Islam" did not violate a provision [text] of the British Columbia Human Rights Code that prohibits publication of material "likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt." While noting that the complaint brought by members of the Canadian Islamic Congress [advocacy website] "raises issues of importance to all Canadians," the commission found that the article's content did not "rise[] to the level of hatred and contempt." In its decision, a commission panel wrote:

[W]e have determined that, considered in its context, and on the evidence before us, the complainants have not met their burden of demonstrating that the Article rises to the level of detestation, calumny and vilification necessary to breach s. 7(1)(b) of the Code....

The Article may attempt to rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims, but fear is not synonymous with hatred and contempt.

We accept that it may be possible to link feelings of fear with hatred and contempt but in the absence of any expert evidence which makes that link in the context of the Article, we cannot find that it was done so in this case.

The Article, with all its inaccuracies and hyperbole, has resulted in political debate which, in our view, s. 7(1)(b) was never intended to suppress. In fact, as the evidence in this case amply demonstrates, the debate has not been suppressed and the concerns about the impact of hate speech silencing a minority have not been borne out.
Reacting to the decision in a blog entry [text], Steyn called the Human Rights Code "ludicrous" and suggested that the commission would have sided against "an obscure Alberta pastor or a guy with a widely unread website," rather than a prominent media organization. Reuters has more. The National Post has additional coverage. From Vancouver, the Province has local coverage.

In June, the Canadian Human Rights Commission dismissed a similar complaint [JURIST report] against Maclean's, finding that Steyn's article did not constitute a discriminatory practice under the Canadian Human Rights Act [text]. Earlier, a group of Ontario law students filed a complaint against Maclean's with the Ontario Human Rights Commission [official website], which decided it could not refer the allegations to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario because it lacked the jurisdiction to do so under the Ontario Human Rights Code [text]. The allegations against Maclean's sparked fierce debate in Canada over the intersection of freedom of the press and the protection of human rights and have drawn sharp criticism from journalists' groups.





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EU lifts travel ban on Belarus president
Kiely Lewandowski on October 13, 2008 12:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Union [official website] Monday temporarily suspended its travel ban on Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] and several other Belarussian officials following the first high-level talks between Belarus and the EU in four years. A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg [backgrounder] directed the ban be lifted in an attempt to encourage democratic reform and the improvement of human rights. Travel restrictions remain in place on four Belarussian officials who were allegedly involved in the disappearance of four opposition leaders in 2000. Recognizing that Belarus recently released jailed opposition leader Alexander Kozulin [JURIST report] and other political prisoners, an EU spokesperson was quoted [BBC report] by the BBC as saying 'We want to show that progress is being rewarded.' Reuters has more; EUobserver has additional coverage.

Lukashenko has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but EU-imposed sanctions have remained pending the release of all political prisoners, including Kozulin. While it lifted the travel ban for six months, the EU maintained asset freezes on top Belarussian officials. The US imposed its own travel ban on Lukashenko [JURIST report] in May 2006. The US State Department severely criticized Belarus' human rights record [JURIST report] in March in its annual human rights country reports.






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Proposed Ethiopia NGO law would undermine human rights efforts: HRW
Deirdre Jurand on October 13, 2008 9:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday encouraged the Ethiopian parliament to reject the draft Charities and Societies Proclamation [text, in Amharic], which HRW officials concluded in a report [text, PDF; press release] would severely undermine human rights efforts in the country if passed. The draft law, which is a revision of the law proposed earlier this year [text, PDF; JURIST report], is designed to regulate civil society organizations (CSOs) in the country. HRW claims that it will instead harm human rights by creating a Charities and Societies Agency with broad authority to interfere in CSO internal workings and to ban any CSO that fails to meet government specifications. According to the report:

[T]he intended and actual result of this law would be to make it nearly impossible for any civil society organization to carry out work the government does not approve of. It also contravenes fundamental human rights guaranteed by international law and by Ethiopia’s constitution. Most notably, the law would criminalize human rights-related work carried out by non-Ethiopian organizations while at the same time making it impossible for domestic human rights organizations to operate with any real degree of effectiveness or independence. ...

The current version of the bill remains a blunt tool whose primary impact would be to destroy the already-limited ability of Ethiopian civil society actors to criticize or act independently of the government. It would also result in the de facto criminalization of any and all independent human rights work that seeks to document or challenge the Ethiopian government’s appalling human rights record.
The report also criticizes the proposed law for imposing strict and unregulated criminal and administrative penalties on those who violate its rules. The draft will likely be submitted to the parliament for consideration by the end of the month. AFP has more.

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





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Europe court rules in favor of broad database copy protection
Devin Montgomery on October 13, 2008 9:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] has broadly interpreted [judgment; ECJ materials] rules protecting the content of databases from copying, regardless of how the information is extracted from its source. The court was considering a lawsuit filed by the University of Freiburg (UF) [university website] against Direct Media Publishing (DMP) [official website, in German] for selling data CDs with a list of poems virtually identical to one created by the university. UF had argued that, because of its significant investment in the compilation of the list, its contents was protected under Article 7 of Directive 96/9 of the European Parliament [text]. DMP had argued that even if it had used the information, doing so was not prohibited by the Directive because the data could have been referenced and reproduced rather than digitally copied. The court held Friday that the means of copying the information was immaterial, and that instead the test was whether or not the content had been substantially reproduced:

The transfer of material from a protected database to another database following an on?screen consultation of the first database and an individual assessment of the material contained in that first database is capable of constituting an ‘extraction’, within the meaning of Article 7 of Directive 96/9 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the legal protection of databases, to the extent that – which it is for the referring court to ascertain – that operation amounts to the transfer of a substantial part, evaluated qualitatively or quantitatively, of the contents of the protected database, or to transfers of insubstantial parts which, by their repeated or systematic nature, would have resulted in the reconstruction of a substantial part of those contents.
Out-Law has more.

The ECJ last ruled on protections for databases in 2004, when it held [press release] that information taken from a database on race horses did not violate the Directive, because not enough of the information had been copied. On the enforcement of copyright protections, the ECJ in January ruled [judgment; JURIST report] against Promusicae [trade website], a Spanish music industry coalition, finding that telecommunication companies have no duty to disclose the names and addresses of people suspected of engaging in illegal file sharing.





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US military judge rules detainees not entitled to Internet access for trial defense
Deirdre Jurand on October 13, 2008 8:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) released a ruling [text, PDF] Sunday indicating that Guantanamo detainees who represent themselves at trial are not entitled to Internet access and some computer hardware and software to aid in their defense. Military judge Col. Ralph Kohlmann [JURIST news archive] wrote that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and four other detainees charged [DOD materials] with planning the Sept. 11 attacks already had access to writing materials, laptops with word-processing and discovery software, and copies of some military commissions regulations, but also wrote that officials warned the detainees that self-representation could limit the materials available to them:

[T]he simple reality of the situation is that there are limits on what the Government must provide to the accused under an umbrella of reasonable access to materials for the preparation of the defense. Reasonable access does not equate to a right or an entitlement to be placed on the same footing as a technologically state of the art law office.
Kohlmann denied the detainees' requests for Internet access, PowerPoint, DVD writers, printers, and scanners, but held that the detainees had to have access to defense materials and enough computer power for at least 12 hours a day. Additionally, Kohlman granted the detainees access to the US Constitution, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Geneva Conventions [texts], and a legal dictionary. AP has more.

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers [advocacy websites] announced plans to raise more than $8 million to provide private defense attorneys [press release; JURIST report] for high-profile detainees, claiming the US military had not provided adequate financing to defend the detainees with the military lawyers appointed to them. Among the detainees chosen by the ACLU and Criminal Defense Lawyers is Mohammed, who has claimed under oath that he planned the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report] and is responsible for 29 other terrorist attacks. In February, the US government announced plans to seek the death penalty [JURIST report] for Mohammed and five other Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks.





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China Communist Party approves land use law reforms
Devin Montgomery on October 13, 2008 6:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The Communist Party of China (CPC) [official website; CFR backgrounder] Central Committee on Sunday approved measures [Xinhua release] that would liberalize the country's land use laws in an effort decrease rural poverty and increase the country's agricultural capacity. Under China's constitution [text], the country's land is either owned collectively or by the state, but the reforms would give farmers broader autonomy to sell or borrow against their land use rights and establish a financial infrastructure to allow for larger, more efficient farms [China Daily report]. The changes were approved by the party during a plenary session during which the CPC announced plans [Xinhua report] to "eliminate" rural poverty by the year 2020. The Central Committee also solicited input from leaders outside of the CPC [Xinhua report] during the session, a move unusual for country's one-party government. The reforms are expected to be considered by China's National People's Congress [official website] in March. AFP has more.

The Chinese government has recently taken other steps towards a more democratic, capitalist structure, but has continued to face international criticism for alleged rights abuses. In September, the State Council of China [official website, in English] issued regulations [JURIST report] implementing ambiguous provisions of the Labor Contract Law [backgrounder] which was viewed as a major advancement [Bloomberg report] for employee rights. Earlier that month, however, Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] issued a release [text; JURIST report] saying that Chinese police and other officials still employ torture [JURIST news archive] to elicit confessions and intimidate political dissidents despite domestic and international bans, and a July report [PDF text; JURIST report] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] said the country had failed significantly improve its human rights record.






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Federal Reserve Board approves Wachovia-Wells Fargo merger
Bernard Hibbitts on October 12, 2008 9:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Federal Reserve Board [official website] Sunday approved [press release] a controversial merger between Wachovia bank and Wells Fargo that had prompted a legal challenge from jilted corporate suitor Citigroup [corporate websites]. Encouraged by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) [official website], Citigroup agreed earlier this month to buy out Wachovia for $2.1 billion [press release] but was effectively trumped by a Wells Fargo offer of $11.7 billion. Citigroup subsequently filed a legal challenge to the merger which was only dropped [JURIST report] on Thursday, although a complementary damages suit against both corporations for tortious interference in contract remains on foot. The Federal Trade Commission approved the merger on an expedited basis Friday. The Washington Post has more.

Wachovia is one of several major financial institutions that have failed or sought mergers [JURIST report] amid turmoil in the subprime investment market [academic backgrounder]. Earlier this month, President Bush signed into law [JURIST report] a $700 billion bill intended to stabilize financial markets. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 [PDF text] authorizes the US Treasury to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions and to provide insurance and guarantees for any troubled asset originating before March 14, 2008.






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Ukraine court blocks election decree
Bernard Hibbitts on October 12, 2008 8:48 PM ET

[JURIST] A Kiev court Saturday blocked a decree by Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko [official website] dissolving parliament and directing parliamentary elections in the wake of the collapse of the governing coalition. The Kiev District Court made the ruling against the elections in response to a lawsuit brought by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website] against Yushchenko and Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC) [official website] claiming that the election was called earlier than indicated by law. Media sources Sunday quoted Kiev Prosecutor Yevheniy Blazhyvsky as saying that the lower court judge who first ordered a block on Friday would be charged with knowingly commiting an unlawful act. RIA Novosti has more.

Ukraine's leadership is seriously divided in the wake of the 2004 Orange Revolution [backgrounder] that brought Yushchenko to power as president. The ambitious and highly populist Tymoshenko was originally a Yushchenko ally, but more recently has become disaffected, leading to the collapse of the government [press release] over disagreements on a variety of domestic and international issues.






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Portugal parliament votes down legalization of same-sex marriage
Michael Sung on October 11, 2008 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The Portuguese Assembly of the Republic [official website, in Portuguese] on Friday voted overwhelmingly against two opposition proposals to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The two proposals, introduced separately by the Left Bloc and the Green Party [party websites, in Portuguese], failed to obtain any support from the ruling Socialist Party (PS) or the main opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) [party websites, in Portuguese]. The PS and PSD combine for a total of 196 seats in the 230 seat parliament.

Same-sex marriage is recognized in Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, and Norway. In the United States, same-sex marriages are now permitted in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage [opinion text; JURIST report]. SAPA-AP has more.






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Alaska legislature panel report finds Palin in violation of ethics act
Michael Sung on October 11, 2008 9:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The Alaskan Legislative Council [official website] on Friday released a report [PDF text] finding that Alaskan Governor and current Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin [official profile] violated the state's Executive Branch Ethics Act [PDF text] by allowing personal ill will to influence her decision to dismiss Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. Independent investigator Stephen Branchflower found that Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, violated the public trust by using their influence in the Governor's Office to pressure for the firing of Palin's former brother in law, State Trooper Mike Wooten. Monegan alleges that he was dismissed because he resisted the pressure. Branchflower found that while Monegan was not dismissed solely over his refusal to fire Wooten, it was likely a contributing factor. The report found that the firing was nevertheless a "proper and lawful exercise" of Palin's authority to hire and fire executive branch heads under the Alaskan law. The New York Times has more.

The report, commissioned in July by the bipartisan Council, has not been officially endorsed by the body. Palin was not subpoenaed during the investigation, and refused to cooperate.






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Second lawsuit filed in China over tainted milk crisis
Steve Czajkowski on October 11, 2008 1:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A migrant worker in China's [JURIST news archive] South Guangdong Province filed a lawsuit Friday against Chinese dairy producer Sanlu Group, the company at the heart of the tainted milk crisis [BBC report] which is blamed for four infant deaths and the sickening of more than 54,000 children. According to his lawyer, Zhang Xiuwen filed the suit seeking $132,000 after it was determined that his 11-month old son was suffering from kidney stones. The child had been fed formula made by Sanlu since his birth. It is not clear whether the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court will accept the lawsuit at this point. This is the second lawsuit filed against the dairy producer. The first suit was filed [AP report] earlier this month by a family whose 14-month old son was also diagnosed with kidney stones. It is not clear whether the Zhenping county court will hear that suit, which seeks $22,000 in compensatory damages for medical care the infant received. AP has more.

News of possible milk powder contamination by the chemical melamine first broke in September [Guardian report], following the death of an infant and reports that at least 50 other infants had fallen ill after consuming baby formula, leading to massive recalls [BBC report] of both liquid milk products and milk powders. The death toll soon rose to four, and the number of sick infants in China has since ballooned to at least 53,0000. The State Council of China [official website, in English] has ordered free medical care to be provided for sick infants whose symptoms arose after September 12, when word of contamination first broke and the first milk powder recalls were ordered. The situation has also lead the State Council to issue new regulations [Xinhua report] for dairy products in the country. So far, police have arrested 36 people [Xinhua report] in connection with the scandal. Earlier this week, however, AP reported that lawyers providing free legal advice to parents of sickened children in China have been pressured by Chinese officials [JURIST report] to stop providing legal services.






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Congress initiates probe over NSA military eavesdropping claims
Steve Czajkowski on October 11, 2008 12:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] said Friday that it is investigating allegations made by two members of the US military that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] eavesdropped on the personal conversations of members of the military and humanitarian aid workers stationed in the Middle East. The allegations were made by Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk, who worked as Arab linguists for the Army and Navy respectively, in an interview [recorded video; report] with ABC News Thursday. In the interview, Faulk recounted listening to private conversations that had been passed around by other operators in the office he worked in, while Kinne said she listened to conversations from members of the International Red Cross [official website] and Doctors without Borders [advocacy website]. The NSA has said that it found some of the allegations to be without support, and that it is still investigating others. According to a spokesperson for General Michael Hayden [official profile], the current director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] and who was head of the NSA at the time of the allegations, Hayden did not authorize nor did he have knowledge of the interception of private conversations. AP has more.

In July President Bush signed into law [press release] a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies participating in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive].






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Thailand AG asks Constitutional Court to dissolve ruling party
Devin Montgomery on October 10, 2008 2:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Thailand's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on Friday filed a petition [Bangkok Post report] to have the country's Constitutional Court [official website, in Thai] dissolve the ruling People's Power Party (PPP) [party website, in Thai] because of election fraud allegedly committed by one of its former top officers. Former PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat was convicted of organizing a vote-buying scheme [Bangkok Post report] by the Constitutional Court in July, and under Thai law the entire party could be banned for association with the crime. The OAG's action follows a September recommendation [Bangkok Post report] by the country's Election Commission [official website, in Thai] to break up the party because of the alleged fraud. If disbanded, a number of high-ranking government officials, including prime minister Somchai Wongsawat [Nation backgrounder], would lose their positions and be barred from political office for five years. Xinhua has more. The Straits Times has additional coverage.

The petition comes as the PPP party faces broad public criticism and protests [AFP report] opposing its rule. In late September, the Election Commission said it would begin an investigation [Bangkok post report; JURIST report] into allegations that Wongsawat illegally holds stocks in companies which operate under government contracts. Earlier that month, then prime minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] instituted a controversial state of emergency [JURIST report] to quell the demonstrations, but was later removed from office after receiving illegal compensation for an appearance on a television cooking show. The PPP has also been closely associated with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], now on trial for corruption.






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Connecticut Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage ban
Joe Shaulis on October 10, 2008 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the Connecticut Constitution [text] requires that same-sex couples [JURIST news archive] be allowed to marry. In a 4-3 decision, the court reversed a lower court's judgment, concluding that state statutes [text] discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, that such a classification is "quasi-suspect" under the equal protection provisions of the state constitution and is therefore subject to heightened judicial scrutiny, and that the state failed to provide sufficient justification for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. In an 85-page opinion, the majority wrote:

Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection. Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.
The court remanded the case with instructions to grant summary judgment and injunctive relief to the plaintiffs, who are eight same-sex couples denied marriage licenses by the town clerk of Madison, Connecticut. Reuters has more. The Hartford Courant has local coverage.

In May, the California Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] that state's ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that it violated protections on the right to "form a family relationship" enshrined in the California Constitution. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage [opinion text; JURIST report].





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Korea appeals court affirms sentence and fine for ex-Samsung CEO
Andrew Gilmore on October 10, 2008 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The Seoul High Court Friday affirmed a suspended three-year prison sentence and fine for former Samsung [corporate website] Chairman and CEO Kun-Hee Lee [corporate profile; JURIST news archive], but cleared Lee of a conviction for breach of trust. According to the Korea Times, the High Court took Lee's poor health and contribution to the Korean economy into account when it vacated the breach of trust conviction [Korea Times report]. Lee was convicted of tax fraud and breach of trust earlier this year. The High Court ruling affirmed Lee's July sentencing [JURIST report] by the Seoul Central District Court, which held that Lee should not serve prison time because he did not actively seek to avoid taxes. That decision was criticized by many in a country where wealthy corporate leaders are often seen as above the law. In April, South Korean prosecutors charged Lee with breach of trust and tax evasion [JURIST report], but decided not to indict him based on accusations that Samsung maintained a $200 million slush fund to bribe prosecutors, judges and civil servants. Nine other Samsung executives were indicted on similar charges. Prosecutors questioned Lee [JURIST report] earlier that month. AFP has more.

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






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China renews demand for US to return Uighur detainees
Joe Shaulis on October 10, 2008 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, English version] again demanded Thursday that the United States repatriate 17 Uighur detainees [JURIST news archive] that a US district judge has ordered to be released [JURIST report] from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. During a press conference [transcript], Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Uighurs, who are members of an ethnic Chinese Muslim minority, would be dealt with "according to the law" if returned. Qin told reporters:

We have repeatedly and explicitly stated our position on this issue. We require the US to repatriate these terrorist suspects to China with no delay. This position has stayed unchanged. Any unbiased mind with some knowledge about China would not worry about the so-called torture issue. The Chinese Government runs the country under the rule of law. Besides, China joined the UN Convention Against Torture as early as 1988. Chinese Authorities including those in charge of justice and public security all prohibit torture.
The order to release the Uighurs into the US from Guantanamo has been temporarily stayed [JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website]. In issuing the stay Wednesday, the DC Circuit ordered [PDF text] attorneys for the US Justice Department (DOJ) [official website] to file a motion for a stay pending appeal by 4 PM Friday. AP has more. Voice of America has additional coverage. China's official Xinhua News Agency has local coverage.

In July, China reportedly executed two Uighurs [JURIST report] alleged to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a militant group calling for separation from China and designated a terrorist group by the United States for suspected ties to al Qaeda. Thirteen other Uighurs were given jail terms ranging from ten years to life imprisonment. In 2006, China criticized the United States for releasing five Uighurs to Albania [JURIST reports], where officials reviewed their applications for asylum. In 2005, a US district judge ruled [JURIST report] that two Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay could be detained indefinitely even though their imprisonment was unlawful because they could face death or torture in China. The US State Department has said the Uighurs are among detainees who will be released [JURIST report] once the US receives assurances that they will not be persecuted in their home countries or finds other countries willing to accept them.





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Citigroup drops bid to block Wachovia acquisition but will press damages claim
Joe Shaulis on October 10, 2008 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] Citigroup Inc. [corporate website] on Thursday announced [press release] that it would not seek to enjoin the acquisition of Wachovia Corp. by Wells Fargo & Co. [corporate websites] but would pursue claims against both financial institutions for alleged breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. Citigroup's decision to abandon negotiations to acquire a substantial portion of Wachovia operations clears the way for the $15.4 billion merger with Wells Fargo, which was proposed [Wachovia press release] last week. Citigroup said in a statement:

We are proud to have been part of an historic transaction that was supported by all of the federal banking agencies and the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the President, and that we carefully designed to avoid systemic stress and to advance the interests of our shareholders....

Without our willingness to engage in this transaction, hundreds of billions of dollars of value would have been seriously threatened. We stood by while others walked away. Now, our shareholders have been unjustly and illegally deprived of the opportunity the transaction created.
Wachovia and Wells Fargo now face a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] that Citigroup filed Monday in the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of New York [official website], seeking $20 billion in compensatory damages and $40 billion in punitive damages from Wells Fargo for allegedly interfering with the Citigroup-Wachovia negotiations. Wachovia is also a defendant in that action for alleged bad faith breach of contract. Bloomberg News has more. The Charlotte Observer has local coverage.

The Citigroup announcement ends a litigation standstill [JURIST report] that the three financial institutions agreed upon Monday after a weekend of legal maneuvering. Wachovia and Citigroup reached an "agreement in principle" [Wachovia press release] last Monday providing that Citigroup would acquire Wachovia operations worth about $2.1 billion. As negotiations faltered, Wachovia announced Friday that Wells Fargo had offered to buy it as an intact company. Later that day, Citigroup brought suit against Wachovia in the New York Supreme Court, which on Saturday extended an agreement [press release] providing for exclusive negotiations between those parties. On Sunday, the same court's Appellate Division [official website] overturned that order. On Saturday, Wachovia filed a federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in US district court, requesting an order declaring the agreement with Wells Fargo "valid, proper, and not prohibited" by its agreement with Citigroup.





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ICTR upholds decision to refuse genocide suspect transfer
Devin Montgomery on October 10, 2008 8:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Thursday refused [press release] to grant Rwanda's request to have genocide suspect Yussuf Munyakazi [case materials] transferred to the country to face trial. The chamber upheld an earlier decision [text, PDF; official press release] by an ICTR panel denying the request based on concerns that punishments imposed in place of the now-abolished death penalty might not conform with international human rights standards, and that the Rwandan judiciary might not be fully independent and immune from outside pressure. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga in May criticized the earlier decision [JURIST report] and insisted that Rwanda's judicial system was fully independent and capable of guaranteeing a fair trial. Rwandan Justice Mminister Tharcisse Karugarama said that the country had been dealing with genocide issues since 1995 and that suggesting unfairness in the court system was itself unfair [BBC report]. Hirondelle News has more.

Officials in Congo captured [press release] Munyakazi in 2004. He was charged [indictment, PDF] with genocide or complicity in genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for his suspected role in the killings of thousand of Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder].






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Fiji High Court dismisses challenge to 2006 coup
Devin Montgomery on October 10, 2008 7:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Fiji's High Court on Thursday dismissed [decision, PDF] a legal challenge to the country's 2006 coup, holding that Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] had the authority to name new leaders after former prime minister Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile] was ousted by the Fijian military. Qarase originally brought suit [JURIST report] against the government in October 2007, saying that the military coup [JURIST report] was illegal because it had supplanted his democratically elected government. Rejecting Qarase's argument, the court held that Iloilo had acted within the country's constitution [text], characterizing his naming of a new prime minister as an allowable retention of authority until a new prime minister could be elected. Qarase expressed disappointment [Fiji Times report] in the ruling, saying it would encourage future coups as a legitimate means of gaining power. He is considering appealing the case to the country's Supreme Court. AP has more. FBCL has local coverage.

In September, Qarase made additional charges that current prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama [BBC profile] and others who participated in the December 2006 military coup [JURIST news archive] had committed treason [Fiji Daily Post report] by ousting Qarase's democratically elected government. Later that month, Qarase tried to make a statement [JURIST report] to police regarding the allegations, but they said they would not investigate the charges. Less than two days after December's coup, a previous interim prime minister installed by the military characterized the coup as "illegal" [JURIST report], but defended it as necessary. Qarase's case was heard by a three-judge panel led by Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, who was appointed [press release] after Bainimarama suspended former Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki [JURIST report].






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Europe rights court holds Russia responsible for Chechen deaths
Leslie Schulman on October 10, 2008 6:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] issued two decisions Thursday finding Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] in cases concerning the deaths or abductions [press releases] of Russian nationals in Chechnya in 2000. The court ruled in Albekov v. Russia [judgment text] that Russia violated Article 2 of the Convention by failing to carry out effective criminal investigations into the deaths of or injuries sustained by three Russians caused by several land mine explosions. The court also ruled in Zaurbekov v. Russia [judgment text] that Russia violated several articles of the Convention in connection with the October 2000 disappearance of Abdulkasim Zaurbekov, and Russia's subsequent failure to investigate. The court directed Russia to pay a total of more than €88,000 ($121,000) to the families. RIA Novosti has more.

The ECHR has consistently ruled against Russia in similar cases involving Chechnya rights violations. In May, the court ruled [JURIST report] that Russia was responsible for the disappearance of a dozen people during Russian armed raids in Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. In July 2007, the court ruled that Russian authorities were responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 unarmed Chechen civilians, and in June 2007 it held that Russian authorities were liable for the 2003 deaths of four Chechen family members [JURIST reports].






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Italy Constitutional Court endorses removal of feeding tube from comatose woman
Eric Firkel on October 10, 2008 2:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Italy's Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] has rejected [decision text, in Italian] a parliamentary challenge to a Milan appeals court decision holding that doctors can remove the feeding tube of Eluana Englaro [materials, in Italian], a young woman who has been in a vegetative state for 16 years. In a decision issued Wednesday the court specified the interruption of treatment can only be used where "the condition of vegetative state is irreversible and there is no medical basis, according to internationally recognized standards, to suggest the person has the slightest chance of recovery." AFP has more. La Repubblica has local coverage.

Eluana Englaro, had been in a coma since an automobile accident in 1992. Her father, Beppino Englaro, has been trying to get her feeding tube removed since 1999. In 2005, the Constitutional Court upheld a lower court's ruling to keep her feeding tube in place [Reuters report], because they could find no specific evidence on Englaro's view of life and death.






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Libya makes first deposit into terrorism compensation fund
Eric Firkel on October 10, 2008 12:50 AM ET

[JURIST] US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said Thursday that Libya has made an initial deposit [briefing transcript] into a US government account as part of a deal to settle claims involving Libyan-linked terrorism in the 1980s. Under the agreement, Libya will pay $1.5 billion to settle claims for victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] over Lockerbie, Scotland and the 1986 bombing of the La Belle disco [BBC backgrounder] in Berlin, Germany. An additional $300 million will be provided by the United States to compensate Libyan victims of retaliatory air strikes that followed the disco bombing. Funding for the US portion is unclear; Bush Administration officials indicated that no US tax dollars would be used to pay for the settlement. Welch said: "we deem [the deposit] to be evidence of [Libya]'s commitment to fully implementing the whole agreement, and a substantial indication of their commitment". AP has more.

This March, the US and Libya began working to find a way to speed compensation for families of Americans who were killed by acts of terrorism authorized by the Libyan government. An agreement was signed [JURIST report] in August. The settlement is seen as a way to normalize relations between the US and Libya and to allow Libya to accelerate development of its oil resources.






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Bush signs presidential transition order
Leslie Schulman on October 9, 2008 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush issued an executive order [text; press briefing] on Thursday that creates a Transition Coordinating Council to head up transition efforts of executive agencies and the incoming administration in the months leading up to the presidential change early next year. The Council, among other things, will:

assist the major party candidates and the President-elect by making every reasonable effort to facilitate the transition between administrations. This assistance may include, among other things, providing information relevant to facilitating the personnel aspects of a presidential transition and such other information that, in the Council's judgment, is useful and appropriate, as long as providing such information is not otherwise prohibited by law.
The Order also directs executive departments and agencies to prepare briefing materials for the new political appointees before inauguration day, and directs the Bush administration to work with the incoming transition team to provide these materials. The Order is set to expire on February 20, 2009, one month after the incoming president is inaugurated. AP has more.

Many US politicians have urged more coordination between government agencies, the outgoing Bush administration, and both major party candidates, especially in the area of national security. This election will be the first time that presidential leadership has changed both since the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive] and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] in 2003. Last month, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs [official website] held a hearing [materials] to discuss homeland security risks associated with the upcoming transition and to determine DHS's preparedness. Both major-party presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) [campaign websites], have in place their own transition teams [NY Times report], who have been working with the Bush administration in preparation for the transition.





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Thailand appeals court drops treason charges against opposition activists
Kiely Lewandowski on October 9, 2008 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Thailand's Court of Appeal Thursday reduced insurrection charges against nine People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) [advocacy website, in Thai] activists following this week's violent clashes between police and PAD protesters [BBC report]. The court dismissed treason charges against the PAD members as groundless, but maintained the lesser charges of inciting public disturbance and illegal assembly. A spokesman for PAD was quoted in media reports as maintaining that he and his colleagues would now turn themselves into the authorities. BBC News has more; China's Xinhua News Agency has additional coverage.

The protests were triggered by opposition to the new Thai government led by Somchai Wongsawat [official profile], who took over as prime minister earlier this month after the Constitutional Court of Thailand ruled that then-prime minister Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile] had violated the constitution [JURIST report] by accepting payment for his appearance on a television cooking program. Somchai is the brother-in-law of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in military coup in 2006. Critics claim that Somchai is just a proxy for Thaksin, who remains in exile while being tried in absentia for corruption.






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Second Circuit endorses test for special needs educational placement
Kiely Lewandowski on October 9, 2008 12:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] Thursday adopted a fact-specific test [opinion, PDF] for determining whether a disabled student has been placed in the 'least restrictive environment' as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [text]. A three-judge panel explicitly endorsed the two-pronged fact-specific test that the Third Circuit adopted in 1993 [Oberti v. Clementon School District decision, DOC], holding:

A court should consider, first, whether education in the regular classroom, with the use of supplemental aids and services, can be achieved satisfactorily for a given child, and, if not, then whether the school has mainstreamed the child to the maximum extent appropriate...

Courts facing these cases must engage in an individualized and fact-specific inquiry into the nature of the student's condition and the school's particular efforts to accommodate it, ever mindful of the IDEA’s purpose of educating children with disabilities, 'to the maximum extent appropriate,' together with their non-disabled peers...Moreover, courts must keep in mind our deferential position with respect to state educational authorities crafting educational policy...Nevertheless our review must be searching, and we must recognize that even when educational authorities act with the best intentions they may sometimes fall short of their obligations under the IDEA, and courts must then act to ensure compliance with Congress’s directives.
Since IDEA was signed into law in 2004 [JURIST report], several of its provisions have been tested in the federal courts of appeals. In August, the Ninth Circuit upheld [JURIST report; 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. Earlier that month, the Tenth Circuit found that a district court erred [JURIST report; opinion, PDF] 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. In 2007, the US Supreme Court held [JURIST report] that a parent of a special needs child - and not just the special needs child - has independent, enforceable rights under IDEA.





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Voters illegally removed from rolls in swing states: NYT
Andrew Gilmore on October 9, 2008 11:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from voter rolls against federal voting law, according to a New York Times report [text] published Thursday. The report examined the actions of election officials in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and North Carolina, and found that the removal of a number of registered voters violated the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) [text]. Under HAVA, states are only allowed to cross-check voter rolls with lists from the federal Social Security Administration [official website] as a last resort. According to the Times, a number of states have used the Social Security list as a first option, leading to a large number of voters being stricken from the more current state voting rolls. HAVA was signed into law by President Bush in 2002, and aims to provide greater protection to voters in the wake of the controversy over the results of the 2000 presidential election that pitted now-president George W. Bush [WH website] against former vice president Al Gore [personal website].

The Times report adds to growing controversy over voting laws and procedures in the run-up to November 2008 voting. Earlier this month, both the Ohio Supreme Court and the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official websites] rejected Republican challenges [JURIST report] to a directive by the Ohio secretary of state that would co-mingle absentee and regular ballots. Last month, voting rights advocates and elections officials expressed fears [JURIST report] that a lawsuit [complaint text, PDF; press release] brought by the Wisconsin Department of Justice [official website] will effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters by causing chaos at the polls in November. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen [official profile] filed suit against the state's Government Accountability Board [official website] on Wednesday, seeking to force the elections agency to cross-check the identities of recently registered voters against names in other state databases, pursuant to HAVA.






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Cambodia genocide court says first trial unlikely until 2009
Steve Czajkowski on October 9, 2008 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday announced [press release] that the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leader is unlikely to take place until next year. The case of Kaing Guek-Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder; court materials], also known as Duch, is expected to be delayed as prosecutors challenge a closing order [JURIST report] issued by the investigation judges. According to a statement released by the court,

[s]uccessfully conducting trials of this significance is a complex process, and the Court recognizes that it can be frustrating for the millions who have been waiting for decades to see justice done. Nevertheless, each step of the legal process must be followed carefully, and conducted in line with the highest standards of justice. This will also ensure the most enduring legacy for the Cambodian Courts.
The court said its Pre-Trial Chamber would likely issue a decision on the closing order in December, at which time the case will be transferred to the Trial Chamber. The court also said a trial-management meeting is expected in mid-January, when an initial hearing date will be set. AFP has more.

Duch is charged [JURIST report] with crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. The ECCC plans to try as many as eight suspects [JURIST report] for their roles in the Khmer Rouge regime, which is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979. In June, court officials announced plans [JURIST report] to complete operations a year early because of limited funding but said they would still be able to prosecute all the suspects. In February, a Cambodian genocide survivor testified [JURIST report] against Nuon Chea [PBS backgrounder] at a pretrial hearing, marking the first time a victim has taken the stand against a former Khmer Rouge official.





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Federal judge orders California to give stance on money for prison health care
Steve Czajkowski on October 9, 2008 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the administration of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] to give its position on providing $250 million this year toward the $8 billion needed to reform the state's prison health care system. US District Judge Thelton Henderson [official profile] of the Northern District of California [official website] said the administration must provide details of when and how the money will be disbursed to the court-appointed prison medical overseer, J. Clark Kelso [official profile]. In August, Kelso asked the court [JURIST report] to force the state to pay $8 billion over five years to improve prison hospitals. Kelso had previously said that the California Senate was unwilling to authorize borrowing money for the project. He appealed to Schwarzenegger to use his emergency powers [JURIST report] to raise the needed funds but has accused the governor of failing to heed a federal order to secure the money. The administration is scheduled to present its response during a hearing on October 27. AP has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has additional coverage.

In January, a federal judge ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that the health care 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 system up to standards could take as long as four years, according to officials at California Prison Health Care Services [official website]. Last year, the court created a three-judge panel [JURIST report] to oversee the reduction of California's prison population after finding that overcrowding was preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from providing adequate mental health care.






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UK Treasury invokes anti-terrorism law to protect investors in Iceland bank
Andrew Gilmore on October 9, 2008 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The British government on Wednesday froze nearly $4 billion in UK financial assets [Treasury press release; Daily Mail report] held by the failed Icelandic bank Landsbanki [corporate website], exercising its powers under the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act [text]. One of the largest Icelandic banks, Landsbanki has enjoyed significant business from UK customers, including many local councils [BBC News list], through its British subsidiary Heritable Bank [corporate website]. Landsbanki was taken over [IHT report] by the Icelandic government Tuesday. BBC News has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

Iceland has been hit hard by the global financial crisis that has emanated from the US subprime mortgage market. On Friday, the US House of Representatives passed a $700 billion financial rescue bill [JURIST report] intended to limit the effects of the crisis on the US economy and international markets. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterated plans [press release] for a new economic stimulus package to "create jobs and address some of the most immediate consequences of the [Bush] Administration's serious mismanagement of our economy." Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) [official website], chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said in a statement [text] that the committee would continue to investigate regulatory oversight and seek solutions "strengthening the housing sector, developing a second stimulus package, and restructuring the regulation of the financial sector."






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Russia court extends prison term for former Yukos oil executive now in solitary
Devin Montgomery on October 9, 2008 7:59 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian court on Wednesday extended the jail term [defense release] of former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] until February 2009. Khodorkovsky headed the now-bankrupt Yukos Oil Co. [Time backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and was sent to prison by the Russian government in 2005 to serve an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion [JURIST reporst]. The extension follows the court's rejection of Khodorkovsky's July application for parole which he has since challenged [JURIST report]. His parole was denied based in part on alleged violations of prison rules, and on Thursday, Khodorkovsky was sent to solitary confinement [RIA report] after giving a non-permitted interview [text] to Esquire magazine. Lawyers for Khodorkovsky have called the interview a pretext [defense release] for the court to deny his request for parole. RIA Novosti has more.

Khodorkovsky is facing 20 more years in prison if convicted on new charges [press release; Bloomberg report] of theft and money laundering. Prosecutors had first indicted Khodorkovsky on the additional money laundering charges in February 2007. 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 those allegations [JURIST report].






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Philippines rebels, militia could be prosecuted under new US child soldier law: HRW
Devin Montgomery on October 9, 2008 7:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Leaders of both Philippine rebel groups and government militias could be held responsible for the use of child soldiers [GSCR backgrounder] under a new US law, according to a Wednesday statement [AP report] by Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 [text], signed into law [press release] by US President George W. Bush on Friday, provides for up to 20 years in prison for anyone found guilty of the recruitment or use of soldiers under the age of 15, and for up to life in prison if that use is associated with the death of a child. It also allows for the deportation or exclusion of that person from the US, gives the country jurisdiction over them if they are found present in the US, and provides for associated attempt and conspiracy crimes. Leaders for one of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) [BBC backgrounder] have both denied using child soldiers [ABC report], and have said that the US law has does not affect them. In September, the Philippine government reported finding video recording of MILF rebels training minors [Mindanao Examiner report], and President Gloria Arroyo has planned to file a complaint [GMA report] against the group before the United Nations.

Earlier this week, a Ugandan newspaper report said that it was that senior officers in the Ugandan military [official website] could similarly be held responsible [JURIST report] for the use of child soldiers under the US law. In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report [text] pushing for the enforcement of sanctions against 13 countries where groups or governments continue to use child soldiers [JURIST news archive] in armed combat. According to the report, child soldiers continue to be used in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda in violation of international laws that protect children in armed conflict. Ban noted that the use of child soldiers violates in particular the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its 1997 protocols, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and its optional protocol, and the International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 [texts].






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DC Circuit stays Uighurs release from Guantanamo
Joe Shaulis on October 9, 2008 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] late Wednesday issued a temporary stay [order, PDF] of a district court order requiring the federal government to release 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives]. A three-judge panel wrote:

The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.
The panel further ordered the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to file a motion for a stay pending appeal by 4 PM Friday. AP has more. The Washington Post has local coverage.

DOJ attorneys sought the temporary stay [JURIST report] on Tuesday, hours after US District Judge Ricardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [JURIST report; transcript] that the Chinese Muslim detainees must be released into the United States. In the motion, the DOJ contended that Urbina's order "raises legal questions of the highest magnitude." Urbina had given the government until Friday to transfer the Uighurs, who have been incarcerated at Guantanamo for six years. Although the government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants [10 USC 948a text; JURIST news archive], it has linked them with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002.





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Rwandan genocide suspect transferred from Germany to ICTR
Eric Firkel on October 9, 2008 7:34 AM ET

[JURIST] German authorities Wednesday transferred custody of Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan minister suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide [BBC backgrounder], from a facility in Frankfurt to a UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania. In Tanzania, Ngirabatware awaits an appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website], where he is facing charges of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, and complicity in genocide. In a press statement [text], the ICTR expressed its "gratitude to the German Government for the arrest, detention and smooth transfer of the accused person to Arusha." AFP has more.

German police arrested Ngirabatware [JURIST report] in September 2007. The former Rwandan Minister of Planning had been a fugitive since 2001, when the ICTR issued a warrant for his arrest. Ngirabatware was one of 18 fugitives wanted by the ICTR. He is accused of providing weapons and support to Hutus during the 1994 slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans.






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Documents show US military feared for detainees' mental condition
Andrew Gilmore on October 9, 2008 6:37 AM ET

[JURIST] US military officers feared for the mental health of alleged terrorism detainees held in isolation in the US, according to documents [ACLU materials; press release] received through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The materials released Wednesday are a collection of heavily redacted e-mail communications between unidentified US military officials involved in the detention of alleged terrorism suspects Yaser Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali al-Marri [JURIST news archives] at US Navy brigs in Virginia and South Carolina. In one e-mail found in the released documents [materials, PDF], an unidentified US official expressed concern over Hamdi's mental health due to his imprisonment, saying:

I saw the detainee this morning during routine daily rounds and found him to be in low spirits and somewhat depressed. ... He indicated he feels very stressed due to his incarceration and being here now for almost (14) [sic] months, with no news pertaining to his future. ... He went on to indicate that he feels as if he has been forgotten and that no one is working on getting him freed. ... He indicated that he would continue to endure, but he did not leave me with a good impression that he is capable of going on much longer. ... I know I can not give him any false hope, but I fear the rubber band is nearing its breaking point here and not totally confident [sic] I can keep his head in the game much longer. I will continue to monitor his behavior and get the [redacted] onboard [sic], but fear that once this individual decides to go south, there will be little if anything, [sic] I can do to bring him back around. I have directed my staff to pay close attention to his behavior, to pick up their discussions with him and that I will conduct evening rounds in an effort to assure him we are concerned about his state of mind and health and welfare
AP has more.

Hamdi, a former US citizen, Padilla, a current US citizen, and al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who had legal residency in the US, were all originally designated as enemy combatants [JURIST news archive] by the US government following their apprehension. Hamdi was released to Saudi Arabia [JURIST report] in 2004, and renounced his US citizenship. Padilla, who was originally apprehended in connection with an alleged plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the US, saw his status changed from enemy combatant to criminal defendant in 2005 when he was charged with terrorism conspiracy charges. He was convicted of those charges [JURIST report] in August 2007, and is currently serving a 17-year sentence at a federal "supermax" prison in Colorado. Al-Marri is still in US detention at the US Naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, as an enemy combatant. His indefinite detention was upheld [JURIST report] in July by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which held that if the government's allegations against him are true, the President is empowered by Congress to hold al-Marri in a military prison without charge as an enemy combatant. Al-Marri was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois by civilian authorities in 2001, and was indicted for other crimes. In 2003, President George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and ordered the attorney general to transfer custody of al-Marri to the defense secretary, claiming inherent authority to hold him indefinitely. Al-Marri has claimed abuse [JURIST report] while being held in the Charleston Navy brig.





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UK troops refusing to detain insurgents due to rights law concerns: US official
Andrew Gilmore on October 9, 2008 1:33 AM ET

[JURIST] US State Department legal advisor John B. Bellinger III [official profile; JURIST news archive],told the Guardian newspaper Tuesday that British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan [JURIST news archives] are not detaining suspected insurgents in those countries due to concerns that the soldiers will be liable for their treatment of the detainees [Guardian report] under UK and European human rights law. Bellinger's comments stem from a 2005 appellate court ruling [text; JURIST report] that British soldiers in Iraqi are forbidden to subject Iraqi prisoners to cruel or degrading treatment while in their custody. The Court of Appeal in London determined that the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) [text], which enacted the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) [text, PDF] into UK law, applies to any UK military personnel with control over a detainee. The appellate court ruling arose in the course of the Baha Mousa [JURIST news archive] scandal, in which British soldiers were alleged to have caused the death of an Iraqi detainee.

Bellinger's comments come as controversy develops in the UK over the liability of the British government under UK and European human rights law for alleged later ill treatment of US terrorism detainees first taken into custody by British forces. Last week, the All Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition (APPG) [official website] released a legal opinion [text, PDF; JURIST report] examining UK governmental liability under the ECHR and the HRA. The APPG opinion found that a human rights violation under both the ECHR and the HRA would occur where "an individual in British detention in Iraq is handed over to US military personnel despite substantial grounds for considering that there is a real risk of that person being subjected to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment." The APPG was convened in December 2005 [JURIST report] to call for a formal inquiry into whether the British government violated international law by participating in the CIA extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] program.






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UN General Assembly seeks ICJ ruling on Kosovo independence
Steve Czajkowski on October 8, 2008 11:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN General Assembly [official website] voted [press release] Wednesday to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] for a non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of the unilaterally-proclaimed independence of Kosovo [JURIST news archive]. Seventy-seven member states voted for a resolution that was introduced by Serbia [JURIST report] last month, while six voted against and 74 abstained. The states voting against were the United States, Albania, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. US representative Rosemary DiCarlo said the vote against was because the resolution will not enhance stability in the region, and the US is comfortable that its recognition of Kosovo as an independent country abides by international law. Currently some 50 UN member countries acknowledge Kosovo's independent status, including the US, Japan, and many EU nations. VOA has more. B92 has additional coverage.

Kosovo's constitution [text] went into effect this summer [JURIST report] despite Serbia's argument that the charter of the breakaway province is legally void. Serbia insists that Kosovo is in violation of the UN Charter and UN Security Council Resolution 1244 [PDF text], which reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Serbian state. Earlier this month Serbian President Boris Tadic [official website] state that he has not ruled out partitioning parts of Kosovo [B92 report; JURIST report] should other options fail.






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ICTY appeals court affirms conviction of former Serb republic leader
Steve Czajkowski on October 8, 2008 8:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Wednesday affirmed [press release] the 2007 conviction [judgment summary; JURIST report] of Milan Martic [ICTY case backgrounder, PDF; BBC profile] on 16 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war, including persecutions, murder, torture, deportation, attacks on civilians, and wanton destruction of civilian areas. The Appeals Chamber reversed Martic's convictions on some specific alleged crimes. Martic, the former president of the breakaway Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) in Croatia [JURIST news archive], had been previously sentenced to 35 years in prison [press release] for the extermination of hundreds of Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb civilians between 1991 and 1995. Both parties had appealed from the first judgment. The Appeals Chamber rejected Martic's argument that the Trial Chamber failed to take into account certain contextual aspects, particularly the aims of Serb leadership, and concluded that Martic's sentence should be upheld despite the overturning of some convictions. In addition, the Appeals Chamber sustained the prosecution's lone ground for appeal, agreeing that soldiers who were incapable of taking part in hostilities could still be victims of war crimes. BBC News has more.

Martic was originally indicted [text] in July 1995. After several years as a fugitive, he surrendered to the Hague-based tribunal in 2002. His trial began [JURIST report] in December 2005 and ended in January 2007. In the original conviction, the ICTY Trial Chamber found that Martic exercised "absolute authority" over the RSK's Interior Ministry and security forces, and failed to prevent or punish war crime violations, and even encouraged the "widespread and systematic" persecution of Croatian non-Serbs. Martic was also found to be responsible for ordering an indiscriminate rocket attack on the Croatian capital of Zagreb, which killed seven civilians and injured at least 200 people.






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Court hearings postponed as financial institutions extend litigation freeze
Joe Shaulis on October 8, 2008 5:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Citigroup Inc., Wachovia Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. [corporate websites] announced Wednesday that they had extended [Citigroup press release] an agreement to freeze litigation activity [JURIST report] through 8 AM Friday. According to Citigroup, the agreement provides for

1. A standstill of all formal litigation activity effective immediately;
2. Ceas[ing] any formal discovery activities, and
3. Cooperat[ing] in good faith to agree among themselves to secure orders where necessary in all applicable cases in all jurisdictions tolling any schedules for the filing of litigation papers or court appearances or any other formal litigation deadlines, with the goal of preserving the status quo during the litigation standstill period.
In light of the extension, hearings scheduled for Wednesday in the New York State Supreme Court and the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official websites] were postponed [Reuters report]. Bloomberg News has more. The Charlotte Observer has local coverage.

The initial standstill agreement was announced Monday after a weekend of legal maneuvering in Citigroup's and Wells Fargo's efforts to acquire Wachovia. Wachovia and Citigroup reached an "agreement in principle" [Wachovia press release] last Monday providing that Citigroup would acquire a substantial portion of Wachovia operations for about $2.1 billion. As negotiations faltered, Wachovia announced [press release] on Friday that Wells Fargo had offered to buy it as an intact company for $15.4 billion. Later that day, Citigroup brought suit against Wachovia in the New York Supreme Court, which on Saturday extended an agreement providing for exclusive negotiations between those parties. On Sunday, the same court's Appellate Division [official website] overturned that order. On Saturday, Wachovia filed a federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in US district court, requesting an order declaring the agreement with Wells Fargo "valid, proper, and not prohibited" by its agreement with Citigroup. On Monday, Citigroup filed yet another state lawsuit against Wachovia and Wells Fargo, claiming that both had interfered with the acquisition process.





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Supreme Court hears Navy sonar, sexual harassment cases
Joe Shaulis on October 8, 2008 2:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call] Wednesday in three cases, including Winter, et al. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al. [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-1239, in which the Court will review a Ninth Circuit ruling rejecting the Bush administration's attempt to exempt the US Navy from environmental laws [JURIST reports] so that the Navy could continue using sonar in its anti-submarine warfare training off the coast of southern California. In its petition for certiorari, the Justice Department argued that the decision interferes with the Navy's ability to prepare for war, that national security interests should override environmental regulations, and that there is no evidence to support the claim that the sonar exercises harm marine wildlife. The Natural Resources Defense Council [advocacy website], which filed the lawsuit seeking to halt Navy sonar use due to harm caused to whales and other marine mammals, published a 2005 paper on the impact of sonar on marine wildlife [NRDC materials]. Appearing on behalf of the government during Wednesday's arguments [transcript], Solicitor General Gregory Garre [official profile] said that "no marine mammal will be killed as a result of these exercises" and that "the vast majority of the disturbances predicted by the environmental assessment are temporary and non-injurious." Richard B. Kendall, arguing for the respondents, characterized the case as presenting a "very traditional question of equity jurisprudence": whether the district court's decision is supported by the evidence, in which case it cannot be reversed as clearly erroneous. Responding to Kendall, Justice Samuel Alito suggested there was "something incredibly odd about a single district judge making a determination ... that is contrary to the determination that the Navy has made." AP has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.

In a second environmental case argued [transcript] Wednesday, Summers v. Earth Island Institute [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 07-463, the Court will consider whether a group of environmentalists can sue to have a Forest Service regulation struck down or if they are limited only to suing to end programs enacted under that regulation. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [PDF text] that the environmentalists could sue against the regulation itself.

Finally, the Court heard arguments in Crawford v. Nashville and Davidson County [Cornell LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1595, presenting the question of whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act [text] protects a government employee against being fired for cooperating with an internal sexual harassment probe against a superior. A payroll employee in the Nashville school system was interviewed as part of an investigation into harassment claims against a high-ranking official in the system; she alleges that the official later fired her in retaliation for her statements against him. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit [opinion, PDF], ruling that Title VII protections did not extend to the employee because she was not the originator of the sexual harassment claims being investigated.






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DOJ asks DC Circuit to stay order releasing Uighurs from Guantanamo
Joe Shaulis on October 8, 2008 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Attorneys for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a motion [PDF text; press release] in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] late Tuesday seeking to delay the transfer of 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives], hours after a district judge ordered their release [JURIST report]. In the motion, Assistant Attorney General Gregory Katsas and other DOJ attorneys asked for a temporary stay of the order to allow consideration of a stay pending appeal to the DC Circuit. They wrote:

The district court's order ... raises legal questions of the highest magnitude. The order directly conflicts with the basic principle that a decision whether to admit an alien into the United States rests exclusively with the Executive. Furthermore, the district court's order of release into the United States contravenes the considered judgment of Congress that aliens who, like the detainees, have sought to wage terror on a sovereign government - even one other than the United States - are ineligible for admission into this country. Finally, the district court's order threatens serious harm to the interests of the United States and its citizens, by mandating the Government release in the Nation's capital 17 individuals who engaged in weapons training at a military training camp.
According to the motion, the DOJ will seek an emergency stay from the US Supreme Court [official website] if the DC Circuit denies a temporary stay. Bloomberg News has more. NPR has additional coverage.

Earlier Tuesday, US District Judge Ricardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Bush administration to release the Uighurs into the United States, ruling from the bench [transcript] that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. Urbina gave the government until Friday to release the Chinese Muslims and further ordered immigration authorities not to take the Uighurs into custody upon their arrival in the US. The government has previously linked the Uighurs with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The Uighurs have remained at Guantanamo as US officials have been seeking countries willing to accept their resettlement. On Wednesday, the US Defense Department (DOD) announced [press release; AFP report] that it had transferred two more Guantanamo detainees - one to Algeria and one to Sudan. According to the DOD, about 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo, while about 255 remain.

9:15 PM ET - Late Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Courts of Appeals issued a temporary stay [order, PDF] of the order to release the Guantanamo Uighurs into the United States. The appeals judges wrote: "The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion." Reuters has more.





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Ban rejects UN Hariri-style probe of Bhutto assassination
Caitlin Price on October 8, 2008 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The United Nations will not open an investigation into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters [press conference transcript] Tuesday. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari [official website; JURIST news archive], who is Bhutto's widower, has repeatedly called [JURIST report] for the UN to conduct an inquiry similar to the ongoing investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] which has already led to the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon [official website]. Speaking at a press conference in New York, Ban said that the UN would opt for a fact-finding commission rather than an investigation:

We have an agreement that there will be sort of some commission established under the United Nations, but [we are discussing] any detailed technical matters of who should be appointed as commission members and how it should be funded and how long it should be and what would be the scope. It is not going to be an investigation but we are looking at finding out all the situations on this assassination of Mrs. Bhutto. But we are still discussing this matter with the Pakistani Government.
The comments marked the first time Ban had ruled out an investigation. Pakistan Daily has more.

The National Assembly of Pakistan [official website] formally called for a UN probe [JURIST report] into Bhutto's assassination in April, despite statements from then-President Pervez Musharraf that the investigations would be conducted internally [JURIST report]. The prospect of an international probe into the killing garnered some criticism [Guardian report] within Pakistan itself, and the US, supporting Musharraf, took the position that a UN investigation was unnecessary. In July, the UN said that it had reached a "broad understanding" [press release; JURIST report] with Pakistan on logistical issues and questions of access to government officials central to a potential investigation into Bhutto's assassination. Bhutto was killed [JURIST report] in December 2007 at a political rally in Rawalpindi after she returned to the country from exile to lead her party in parliamentary elections.





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Mexico extradites former Guatemala president to face corruption charges
Caitlin Price on October 8, 2008 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited [press release, in Spanish] Tuesday from Mexico to Guatemala, where he is accused of authorizing transfers of $15.8 million from the budget of the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense during his presidency from 2000 to 2004. Portillo fled to Mexico at the end of his term amid corruption allegations, reportedly fearing he would not be afforded a fair trial [BBC report] in Guatemala. The Mexican Attorney General [official website, in Spanish] said that after Portillo surrendered himself to Mexican authorities, Tuesday's extradition took place under Article 10 of the Mexico-Guatemala Treaty of Extradition [PDF text, in Spanish] and Article 34 of Mexico's Law of International Extradition [PDF text, in Spanish]. Portillo, who maintains his innocence, has agreed to face the charges and was released on bail [AFP] after his transfer to Guatemala. AP has more. The Guatemala Times has local coverage.

In 2006, Mexico signed an extradition order [JURIST report] to hand Portillo over to Guatemalan officials, but he challenged its validity in court. In January 2008, the Mexican Supreme Court upheld the order [BBC report] as constitutional. Numerous members of Portillo's cabinet have been arrested and tried [Reuters report] on fraud charges during his time in exile.






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Hundreds of suspected illegal aliens arrested in South Carolina raid
Leslie Schulman on October 8, 2008 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] agents Tuesday arrested more than 300 people [ICE press release] suspected of being illegal aliens during an immigration sting at a Columbia Farms poultry processing plant in South Carolina. ICE officials said the raid was part of a 10-month criminal investigation into employment practices at Columbia Farms, which has already led to the filing of criminal charges against 12 upper-management employees. AP has more.

There have been several mass arrests of suspected illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] in the US in recent months. In May, ICE arrested nearly 400 illegal immigrants [AP report] during an immigration sting at an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa, in what federal officials then called the largest operation of its kind. Nearly 300 of those arrested were sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] and 27 more received probation after pleading guilty to the use of false immigration documents. Also in May, ICE arrested more than 900 illegal immigrants in California [ICE press release] during a three-week enforcement surge.






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China lawyers allege political pressure after aiding parents of sick infants in milk scandal
Leslie Schulman on October 8, 2008 7:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers providing free legal advice to parents of children in China sickened by tainted milk products [BBC report] have been pressured by Chinese officials to stop providing legal services, according to one of the lawyers speaking to the Associated Press Tuesday. The group of at least 100 lawyers, who were told that the scandal has become a "political issue" and should be left to the government, has already helped the family of one sickened infant file a lawsuit [AP report] against Sanlu dairy farm, which has been at the heart of recalls. The Henan court has not yet decided whether it will hear the case, filed last week, which seeks $22,000 in compensatory damages for medical care the infant received for kidney stones after drinking milk produced by Sanlu. The lawyers have also been assisting other families with sickened infants in providing legal advice, but so far no other lawsuits have been filed following the recalls.
AP has more.

News of possible milk powder contamination by the chemical melamine first broke last month [Guardian report], following the death of an infant and reports that at least 50 other infants had fallen ill after consuming baby formula, leading to massive recalls [BBC News report] of both liquid milk products and milk powders. The death toll soon rose to four, and the number of sick infants in China [JURIST news archive] has since ballooned to at least 53,0000. The State Council of China [official website, in English] has ordered free medical care to be provided for sick infants whose symptoms arose after September 12, when word of contamination first broke and the first milk powder recalls were ordered. Parents of many of the children who became sick before that date and who are not covered have sought legal advice and discussed the possibility of more joint lawsuits. Last week, tests performed by China's General Administration of Quality Supervision [official website, in English] found that 12 percent of milk produced by at least 37 companies in China was tainted. So far, police have arrested 18 people [AP report] in connection with the scandal.






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