August 2009 Archives


DOJ seeks deportation of Michigan man suspected of killing Jews during WWII
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 31, 2009 4:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday announced the initiation of removal proceedings [press release] against a Michigan man accused of killing Jews while serving as a member of the Nazi-sponsored Ukrainian Auxiliary Police (UAP) in L’viv, Ukraine, during World War II. John Kalymon is accused of personally shooting Jews while serving in the UAP between 1942 and 1944 and participating in various violent anti-Jewish operations. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said:


These charges once again demonstrate the resolve of the Department of Justice to deny safe haven in this country to human rights violators, no matter how long ago they committed their heinous acts. The ultimate removal of John Kalymon will close a very painful chapter and provide a measure of justice to his victims and their families.

Kalymon, now 88, immigrated to the US from Germany in 1949 and gained US citizenship in 1955.

In May, the DOJ succeeding in deporting [JURIST report] accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive] to Germany to face trial. Last month, Germany prosecutors charged Demjanjuk with 27,900 accessory counts stemming from his alleged involvement as a guard at the Sobibor [Death Camps backgrounder] concentration camp where more than 260,000 people were executed in gas chambers. It has been alleged that Demjanjuk volunteered to work at Sobibor [Abendzeitung report, in German] after being captured by German forces while serving a member of the Soviet army.





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Cambodia genocide court announces appointment of acting co-prosecutor
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 31, 2009 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that William Smith of Australia has been appointed acting international co-prosecutor to replace Canadian Robert Petit [official profile] when his resignation [JURIST report] takes effect September 1. Smith has served for three years as deputy co-prosecutor and was previously a trial lawyer, legal officer, and analyst at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Petit announced his resignation in June, citing personal and family reasons. Smith will serve as co-prosecutor until a permanent replacement is chosen. The Cambodian national co-prosecutor Chea Leang will continue on in her role.

The ECCC, charged with trying those responsible for atrocities committed during the rule of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], is in the midst of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Earlier this month, an ECCC spokesperson said that a verdict is expected [JURIST report] in early 2010. Kaing is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC, which recently announced the establishment of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts [JURIST reports]. The ECCC has been plagued by accusations of corruption, and, last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] asked the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions [JURIST report] "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges.






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UN rights officials call for end to enforced disappearances
Bhargav Katikaneni on August 31, 2009 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commemorated [press release] the International Day of the Disappeared Monday, calling on states to eliminate enforced disappearances and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance [text, PDF]. Jemery Sarkin, chairperson of the UN working group on enforced disappearances, said the signing the treaty was important because enforced disappearances, "affect[] many people worldwide, and [have] a particular impact on women and children ... When women are victims of disappearance themselves, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence." Also Monday, protesters in Srinagar [Sify report], Belgrade [B92 report], and Manila [Inquirer report] marked the day, renewing calls for government authorities to reveal the whereabouts of their friends and family.

The International Convention has been signed [JURIST report] by at least 57 countries but has not been ratified by the required 20 to take effect. It has not been endorsed by several countries including the US, England, Spain, Germany, and Italy. In 2008, Guatemala started its first [JURIST report] civil war disappearance trial, while the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] has recently found Russia responsible [JURIST news archive] for numerous disappearances in Chechnya. The UN has also criticized Sri Lanka [JURIST report] for failure to address its problem of enforced disappearances.






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Rwanda genocide tribunal begins trial of former businessman for church massacre
Matt Glenn on August 31, 2009 2:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday began [press release] genocide proceedings [case materials] against a former businessman man charged with ordering a bulldozer to knock down a church housing refugees and then ordering the bulldozer driver to crush those refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors say that Gaspard Kanyarukiga [Trial Watch backgrounder] helped plan the 1994 massacre in which 2,000 Tutsis died from being crushed or shot as they attempted to flee the structure. Kanyarukiga was indicted [text, PDF] in 2001 and pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in 2004. In June 2008, the ICTR denied a request to extradite [JURIST report] Kanyarukiga to Rwanda for trial. The trial could take a several years [AP report] to complete.

Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] extended the terms [JURIST report] for ICTR judges until December 31, 2010, or until they complete their cases. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his ongoing support [JURIST report] for the ICTR and stressed that the international community must continue to combat genocide. Last year, Kanyarukiga's alleged co-conspirator, Catholic priest Athanase Seromba was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the genocide after prosecutors successfully argued that his original 15-year sentence [JURIST reports] was too lenient. The ICTR was established to try genocide suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died.






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North Korea urges new Japan government to apologize for WWII 'comfort women'
Bhargav Katikaneni on August 31, 2009 1:35 PM ET

[JURIST] North Korea called on the newly-elected Japanese government Monday to apologize for its use of Asian "comfort women" [Amnesty International backgrounder; JURIST news archive] by the Japanese Army in World War II. In an editorial [Korea Herald report] published in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmum, North Korea called on Japan to repudiate its past and urged it to emulate Germany, which apologized for its crimes during World War II and paid compensation to the victims. The editorial comes just a day after a major election victory [BBC report] for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, marking only the second time that the Liberal Democrats [party websites] have been out of power since 1955.

The Liberal Democrats, the party of former prime minister Shinzo Abe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], have denied that the Japanese Army officially forced women to become prostitutes. In July 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution [JURIST report] calling on Japan to apologize for its use of comfort women during WWII. Abe dismissed the resolution [JURIST report], claiming it was based on erroneous information [JURIST report], and claimed the women were professional prostitutes paid for their services. Abe has expressed sympathy and apologized [JURIST report] for the "situation" faced by so-called "comfort women" but stopped short of explicitly acknowledging the alleged roles of the wartime military and government in facilitating the practice. Japan has previously accepted that Japanese soldiers coerced [JURIST report] women into prostitution but denied government involvement.






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US announces release of more than 5,000 Iraq prisoners so far in 2009
Matt Glenn on August 31, 2009 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The US has released more than 5,000 Iraqi prisoners and transferred more than 1,000 more to Iraqi control in 2009, according to a Sunday statement [press release] by the US-led Multinational Force in Iraq [official website]. This year's releases and transfers, conducted in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF], brings the number of prisoners detained by US forces in Iraq below 9,000 for the first time since March 2005. There were 11,000 prisoners [JURIST report] in US custody as recently as June. The US is currently running three prisons in Iraq including Camp Cropper, which currently holds 3,572 detainees, Camp Taji, with 4,585 detainees, and Camp Bucca, which contains 790 detainees. Central Baghdad Prison, formerly Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], was transferred back to Iraqi control [JURIST report] in 2006 following the release of photographs depicting prisoner abuse by US military personnel. Camp Bucca is scheduled to close in September, at which time the remaining detainees will be sent to the other two prisons. Under the SOFA, the US must release all prisoners or transfer them to the control of the Iraqi government by 2011.

In July, the US began building a facility [JURIST report] to train Iraqi corrections officers in anticipation of Iraq's takeover of prisoner control. In November, Iraqi human rights activists said they were concerned about the treatment of detainees [JURIST report] due to be transferred from US military custody to Iraqi authorities under the then-proposed SOFA. Last August, the US military said that it has released more than 10,000 Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] over the past year. In November 2007, US military forces in Iraq released 500 detainees [JURIST report] at a joint ceremony with the Iraqi government at Camp Victory outside Baghdad.






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Cheney criticizes DOJ CIA interrogation probe as political move
Safiya Boucaud on August 31, 2009 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Former US vice president Dick Cheney [JURIST news archive] accused President Barack Obama [official website] of backtracking on his promise to not prosecute Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agents for alleged abuses of suspected terrorist detainees under the Bush administration during an interview [transcript] with Fox News Sunday, calling it a political move. Cheney's statements come after Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] last week that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will "open a preliminary review" into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. Cheney accused the Obama administration of setting bad precedent if they should move forward with the investigations. When asked whether he believed the "preliminary review" would become a criminal investigation he responded:


I have no idea whether it will or not, but it shouldn't. The fact of the matter is the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us those opinions had every right to give us the opinions they did. Now you get a new administration and they say, well, we didn't like those opinions, we're going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred. I just think it's an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration ... I just think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say.

Holder's decision to initiate a preliminary review followed a recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website]. The White House press secretary said [press release] that Obama would not prevent Holder from opening investigations despite the president's stated desire to look towards the future, not the past.

Bush-era intelligence policy has been highly contested since the change in administration earlier this year. Last week, the DOJ released [JURIST report] a much anticipated 2004 CIA inspector general report [text, PDF] detailing controversial interrogation techniques used on terror detainees. Last month, members of Congress urged an investigation [JURIST report] into a CIA assassination plan that Dick Cheney allegedly hid from Congress. Also in July, five federal agencies released a report [text; JURIST report] on the prior administration's warrantless wiretapping program that reviewed both the flawed legal origins of the program and questioned the effectiveness of information produced by wiretapping international communications of American citizens. In May, Cheney defended the national security policies [speech transcript; JURIST report] of the Bush administration speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) [organization website], while criticizing many of Obama's security policies.





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Vietnam granting amnesty to more than 5,000 prisoners
Safiya Boucaud on August 31, 2009 9:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Vietnamese Vice Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem said Monday that President Nguyen Minh Triet will grant amnesty to more than 5,000 prisoners on Wednesday in honor of National Day. Catholic priest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly [AI backgrounder], who was sentenced to eight years in prison [JURIST report] for anti-government activities in Vietnam in 2007, will not be granted amnesty. In July, a group of US senators sent a letter [press release] to Triet urging Ly's release. Tiem indicated that amnesty was reserved for prisoners who had shown genuine rehabilitation and that Ly had been granted amnesty before and had committed new violations [AFP report] since then. Ly was accused of plotting to join his Vietnam Progression Party [party website] with foreign activists. During his trial, Ly shouted slogans against the Communist Party of Vietnam [party website]. Ly also publicly acknowledged that he did produce political materials, but maintained that his actions were not criminal and that he would "continue to fight for democratic values" in Vietnam. Ly, who spent 10 years in prison for his political activism, was previously granted amnesty in early 2005.

Restrictions on expression have become a recurring issue in Vietnam. In June, pro-democracy lawyer Le Cong Dinh was disbarred from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar following his recent arrest [JURIST reports] for allegedly conspiring against the government. Earlier this year, two Vietnamese newspaper editors were dismissed from their jobs for protesting the arrests of two journalists [JURIST reports] who reported on government corruption. The arrested reporters, who were accused of 'abusing freedom and democracy,' were sentenced to two years of prison and "re-education" for reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST reports]. Last 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]. In 2007, Triet granted amnesty [JURIST report] to 8,066 prisoners.






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Former Israel PM Olmert indicted on corruption charges
Amelia Mathias on August 30, 2009 2:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [official profile; JURIST news archive] was indicted on three charges of corruption and fraud on Sunday after a lengthy period of accusations following his resignation from government a year ago. He is the first Israeli head of government to be indicted for alleged crimes. The three charges [Jerusalem Post report] all involve some monetary mismanagement, from the double-billing of his travel expenses by his travel agent, so that several different government agencies all paid the same costs, to accepting cash from American businessman Morris Talansky, and privileging his former law partner Uri Messer to state information. Several cases against Olmert were also closed for lack of evidence. Olmert himself has said he is innocent and expects to be exonerated. A trial date has not been set by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz [official profile], but Olmert will likely be tried [Ha'aretz report] before a panel of three judges, a form usually reserved for those still in office.

Olmert has been dogged by accusations of corruption for years. In April 2007, Olmert was investigated for improperly favoring his supporters [JURIST report] in distributing business grants during his time as trade minister. In January 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Justice announced plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that he promoted the interests of two business associates during the 2005 state sale of Bank Leumi [corporate website]. Olmert resigned as PM last year as a result of the continued accusations against him.






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Iran prosecutor removed by new judiciary head
Steve Czajkowski on August 30, 2009 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani [profile] has removed controversial Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi [JURIST news archive] from office, according to state media reports Saturday. The reason for the dismissal is as yet unclear. Mortazavi was appointed as prosecutor general in 2003 [NYT report] and has been derisively called [Al Jazeera report] the "butcher of the press" and "torturer of Tehran" by reformists and critics because of his involvement in the closings of many media outlets and arrests of numerous journalists and political activists during his term. According to some reports, since August 1 Mortasavi had overseen the trials of over 100 individuals out of over 4,000 who were arrested during recent political protests [JURIST news archive]. Mortasavi was previously implicated in questionable investigations into the death in detention of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi [JURIST news archive]. Kazemi was originally reported to have died of stroke but a later investigation revealed she died from a blow to the head.

Larijani, who himself was appointed earlier this month [JURIST report] amid protests over the disputed re-election [JURIST news archive] of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official profile; JURIST news archive], has chosen former provincial judiciary head Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi [PressTV report] as Tehran's new prosecutor general.






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Portugal accepts two Guantanamo Bay detainees as free men
Christian Ehret on August 29, 2009 1:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Friday that two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to Portugal [press release] under an agreement between the countries. The Syrian nationals were released from the detention facility following a comprehensive review of their cases by the Guantanamo Review Task Force. Portugal's Internal Administration Ministry [official website, in Portuguese] confirmed Saturday that the men arrived in the country and face no charges [press release, in Portuguese]. They will live in residences provided by the state and actions are underway to integrate them into Portuguese society. The DOJ stated that the US government will continue consulting with Portugal regarding the two men.

The agreement to transfer the detainees was made earlier this month at the request of the US government [JURIST report], making Portugal the third European nation to formally agree to accept Guantanamo detainees. Last month, Ireland announced [JURIST report] that it would take two detainees. In May, Algerian Guantanamo detainee Lakhdar Boumediene was released and accepted by France [JURIST report]. Last month, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that the Netherlands would be willing to consider [JURIST report] accepting Guantanamo Bay detainees, despite earlier statements to the contrary. In June, the Council of the European Union reached an agreement [JURIST report] setting forth the terms of accepting detainees in a way that would minimize any danger posed to other member states.






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Federal court rules Connecticut campaign finance law unconstitutional
Christian Ehret on August 29, 2009 11:55 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal court ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a Connecticut campaign finance law discriminated against minor party candidates in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments [text]. The state's Campaign Finance Reform Act [text], which provided public funding to candidates in elections for state offices, established a Citizens' Election Program [official website] under the supervision of the State Elections Enforcement Commission. In a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] the state's Green and Libertarian Parties, among others, sought an injunction against the program under their First Amendment right to political opportunity. Judge Stefan Underhill found that the program imposes a "severe burden on the political opportunity of minor party candidates" in violation of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection doctrine because, among other things, it:

provides participating major party candidates public financing at windfall levels..., permits major party candidates who are as equally “hopeless” as minor party candidates in many districts to become eligible for full funding without first requiring such hopeless major party candidates to make the same threshold showing of public support required of minor party candidates..., [and sets] additional qualifying criteria for minor party candidates [that] are nearly impossible to achieve.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal [official website] said that his office would appeal the decision [press release], arguing that the court failed to weigh the state's compelling interest in increased transparency and integrity of the political process. Blumenthal also said the law was in line with current Supreme Court precedent and that striking it down could remove safeguards against campaign finance abuse by obstructing reform efforts.

Campaign reform legislation has raised First Amendment concerns in the past. In June, the US Supreme Court ordered re-argument [JURIST report] in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder] to decide whether Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission [Oyez backgrounders] should be overturned in deciding the case. The case originally sought to decide if the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF] permits the Federal Election Commission (FEC) [official website] to regulate the release and advertising of a 90-minute documentary questioning then-Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) qualifications to serve as US president. The district court held that the movie was "electioneering communication" under the statute and the appeal was brought on broad First Amendment grounds.





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Mexico official says discrimination against Mexicans in US increasing
Bhargav Katikaneni on August 29, 2009 9:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Mexican Director General for Protection of Mexicans Abroad Daniel Hernandez [Earlham University Profile] told a Mexico City audience Friday that discrimination against Mexicans in US has increased, specifically citing [Xinhua report] the case of Cirila Baltazar Cruz, a Mexican immigrant from Oaxaca, who lost custody [Mississippi Clarion-Ledger report] of her child while in the US because of alleged child neglect. According to documents obtained by the Clarion-Ledger, Cruz lost custody [TIME report] partly because she could not speak any English and thereby placed her child in danger. Other reports have said that a misunderstanding [Washington Independent report] between her and the hospital which led authorities to believe that she was a prostitute contributed to the state intervention. According to the reports, Baltazar Cruz speaks no English and barely any Spanish and speaks Chatino [EB backgrounder], a language native to her region.

In 2005, the Tennessee Judiciary disciplined [Lebanon Democrat report] a Judge after he ordered a Mexican immigrant to learn English or lose custody [NYT report] of her child. Last year, a group of American citizens of Mexican descent filed a lawsuit [JURIST report; press release] against the US State Department [official website] alleging that they had been denied passports because they were of Mexican descent and had been delivered by midwives.






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Uruguay House passes bill allowing adoption by same-sex couples
Ximena Marinero on August 28, 2009 3:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The Uruguayan House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday approved [press release, in Spanish] a bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt. The House voted 40-13 in favor of the bill [El Pais report, in Spanish], which has been opposed by both the Roman Catholic Church and opposition political leaders with only a single vote on the bill from the opposition parties. The bill is supported by left-wing President Tabare Vazquez [BBC profile] and is expected to be approved by the Senate in the coming weeks. The Senate voted to approve an initial bill on July 15 and will vote again on the final version before the end of the legislative session on September 15. If the bill becomes law, Uruguay will be the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The bill includes other changes to the Childhood and Adolescence Code [text, PDF, in Spanish], which governs adoptions, including shortening the adoption process and preserving the right of minors to know their biological parents and even maintain a relationship with them. Under the proposed law, married couples or legally-recognized civil unions could adopt a child after four years of living together. The Uruguayan Children's and Adolescent's Institute of Uruguay (INAU) [official website, in Spanish], the national agency that manages matters pertaining to minors, would continue to have discretion over the adoption process.

The Uruguayan common-law relationship law [text, PDF, in Spanish] allows couples to apply to be legally recognized as a civil union after five years of living together regardless of the gender of the parties. It was enacted amid much controversy in December 2007 and went into effect in January 2008. To date, only 180 couples have applied for common-law relationship recognition, and only 20 have been recognized. Among those, half of them have been same-sex couples. In the US, adoption by same-sex couples continues to be a controversial issue. In November, a Florida court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that a ban on adopting children for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, allowing a couple to adopt two children. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] the same Florida statute in 2005 as being rationally related to protecting the interests of children, and the US Supreme Court declined to review [WP report] that decision. In November, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure [JURIST reports] prohibiting gays, lesbians, and other unmarried cohabiting couples from becoming either foster or adoptive parents.






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Iran president urges prosecution of opposition leaders over election protests
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 28, 2009 2:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] called Friday for the prosecution of opposition leaders who allegedly conspired to orchestrate widespread protests after the country's disputed June 12 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. Ahmadinejad spoke in front of thousands before Friday prayers in Tehran, calling for pro-reformists to be dealt with decisively [NYT report]. The president's comments, directed toward opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi along with former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, apparently contradict a statement made earlier this week by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [BBC profile] in which he said he was not sure that opposition leaders had conspired with foreign leaders to cause the post-election unrest.

On Tuesday, Iran began the fourth mass trial [JURIST report] of election protesters and reformists. Earlier in August, three UN human rights experts called on Iran's Revolutionary Court to reject protesters' confessions obtained through torture [JURIST report]. Also this month, Iran's Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi acknowledged [JURIST report] that some protesters arrested after the election were tortured. Human rights groups have called arrests political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals." Last month, Iran released [JURIST report] some 140 detainees arrested during the election aftermath. Also in July, a conservative newspaper called for Mousavi and Khatami to be tried for treason [JURIST report].






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East Timor president rejects rights group's calls for international criminal tribunal
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 28, 2009 12:32 PM ET

[JURIST] East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta [official profile; BBC profile] has rejected a call from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] to establish an independent international criminal tribunal [JURIST report] to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses stemming from the country's 1999 referendum for independence [BBC backgrounder] from Indonesia, ABC News reported [text] Friday. AI released a report [text, PDF] Thursday claiming that officials responsible for human rights abuses between 1975 and 1999 have yet to be prosecuted before an impartial tribunal. AI urged the UN Security Council [official website] to end impunity by establishing an international criminal tribunal and urged the Indonesian and East Timorese governments to commit to achieving justice for victims. Ramos-Horta rejected the report, saying that Indonesia should be allowed to initiate prosecutions on its own timeline.

Both Indonesian and East Timorese leaders have previously rejected calls for international prosecution, arguing that it could hinder the reconciliation process between the two nations. In July 2008, Indonesia formally accepted [JURIST report] a joint Indonesian-East-Timorese Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) [official website] finding that Indonesia was responsible for human rights violations following a the 1999 independence referendum. This was the first time that Indonesia had accepted any responsibility for the attacks in East Timor, which it previously blamed on local militias. In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the CTF for violating international humanitarian standards [JURIST report] because it allowed amnesty for some perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The Indonesian foreign minister responded [JURIST report] that the government of East Timor had voluntarily agreed to the CTF to resolve past disputes without injuring long-term relations with Indonesia. The CTF, established [terms of reference] in 2005 by the East Timorese and Indonesian governments, does not have independent authority to prosecute suspects.






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DHS announces increased oversight for US border laptop searches
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 28, 2009 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] announced [press release] Thursday new restrictions on controversial searches of laptop computers at the US border. DHS issued directives to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [official website] and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [directives, PDF] that "enhance and clarify oversight for searches of computers and other electronic media." DHS also released a privacy impact assessment [text, PDF] inform the public about the new directives. Napolitano said:


Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States. The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized the new directives [press release], calling them a "welcome first step" but saying they "do not go far enough."

The ACLU filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] earlier this week demanding access to documents related to the CBP policy of searching travelers' laptop computers. The ACLU alleges that the laptop search policy violates travelers' Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures because laptops are searched without "individualized suspicion" of wrongdoing. Last year, US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] criticized the CBP's warrantless searches and seizures of travelers' laptops and other digital devices at the US border, calling the searches an unacceptable invasion of privacy [JURIST report]. The US Supreme Court has held that reasonable suspicion is not necessary to conduct routine searches at the border, but Feingold said that searches of laptops and other digital devices are analogous to more invasive practices such as strip searches. In April of last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that reasonable suspicion is not necessary for a warrantless search of a laptop or other digital device at the border due to inherent national security interests. The court rejected the argument that a laptop is like a human mind because of its ability to record ideas and emails, and held instead that a laptop is the same as closed containers such as purses and wallets.





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Pakistan high court refuses Musharraf treason charges petition
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 28, 2009 9:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Thursday rejected a petition seeking treason charges against former president Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive], finding that the applicant lacked standing and that the Supreme Court was not the appropriate forum for such a petition. The petition [Dawn report] was filed by Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website], which is led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive]. However, on the same day that Shah filed the petition, the PML-N said that the party's consolidated view was that any petition should be brought in parliament [Daily Times report] and not in the high court. Last week, PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called for treason charges during a parliamentary session, but Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] said that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website] does not support treason charges [JURIST report] against Musharraf, making the requisite consensus resolution extremely unlikely.

Earlier this month, Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) [party website] said that it would support treason charges against Musharraf, one day after Pakistani police filed charges [JURIST reports] against Musharraf alleging that he illegally detained members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in November 2007. Last month, the Supreme Court declared [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] that Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule violated the Constitution of Pakistan [text]. Musharraf resigned from office [JURIST report] last August in order to avoid impeachment proceedings by the country's parliament. Earlier that month, the country's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports]. In June 2008, Sharif called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he had done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Federal judge grants lawyers security clearance in ex-DEA agent civil suit
Brian Jackson on August 28, 2009 8:21 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday ordered [opinion, PDF] the government to grant security clearance to lawyers on both sides of the civil suit brought by former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website] agent Richard Horn. In ruling on the government's attempt to exert privilege, Judge Royce Lamberth questioned the logic of denying a client's attorney access to the same information the client possesses. Lamberth also chastised the government for its attempts to do so, writing, "[t]he deference generally granted the Executive Branch in matters of classification and national security must yield when the Executive attempts to exert control over the courtroom." The government has 10 days to comply with Lamberth's order, though the Justice Department is reviewing the order [McClatchy report] and has not commented.

Horn, a former agent in Burma, is suing [summons and complaint] Franklin Huddle, the Chief of the Mission of the American Embassy in Burma, and Arthur Brown, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agent stationed there, for violation of his civil rights and anti-wiretapping laws [text] during 1992 and 1993. Huddle and Brown are alleged to have intercepted communications intended for Horn and to have conspired to have him removed from his position. Wednesday's ruling is the second action in the 15-year old case in the past month. In late July, Lamberth ordered that documents relating to the case be unsealed [JURIST report], and charged that the CIA committed fraud in keeping the documents secret.






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Facebook announces improved user privacy controls to comply with Canadian law
Brian Jackson on August 28, 2009 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The popular social networking site Facebook [website] announced [press release] Thursday that it would give users more control over the private information they share through their profiles. The changes were announced after discussions with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada [official website], who in July released a report [text, PDF] that was critical of Facebook's compliance with Canadian privacy laws. The Privacy Commissioner's Office applauded the changes [press release], with Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart [official profile] saying that Facebook users, "will have a far clearer picture of how their personal information is being shared." Changes to the site will center on the accessibility of personal information by third party developers, providing users with the option of simply deactivating or completely deleting their accounts and stored information, and a commitment by Facebook to provide clearer details on what happens to a user's profile once they are deceased. Facebook has indicated it believes it will take one year to implement the proposed changes.

The news that Facebook would increase users' privacy controls comes as earlier this month, five Facebook users filed suit [JURIST report] in a US federal court alleging that the site violates California privacy laws. In late July, Facebook announced it had corrected a loophole [CNET report] whereby users could see strangers' posted photos without those individuals' knowledge. In February, Facebook, facing a federal complaint [PC World report], reversed a change to its Terms of Use policy that gave Faceboook ownership of all information posted on a user's profile, even if the page were deleted.






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India Supreme Court judges to disclose assets online
Brian Jackson on August 27, 2009 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Judges of the India Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday decided to disclose their assets and make them available on the court's website. The decision, lauded by Indian political parties [Hindu report], legal authorities, and newspapers [Hindu editorial] as a victory for accountability and transparency, was delivered by the 23 judges of the high court. The judicial watchdog group Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform [advocacy website] called the decision [press release] a good first step, but cautioned that it


does not obviate the need for a law to make such public declarations compulsory. Indeed, the law must provide for an annual public declaration of assets and liabilities as well as income tax returns of all public servants, including judges. It is only when people can compare the assets of public servants with their legal sources of income, that one can catch public servants who have acquired assets disproportionate to their legal income.

While the decision has been seen as a victory, it is not readily apparent when the disclosure will occur, nor what specific information [Hindu report] will be made public.

A number of nations around the world have laws requiring public officials to disclose their assets. In India, the All India Services Rules [text], passed in 1968, require only that officials submit an inventory of their assets, not that it be made public. In 2003, Kenya passed the Public Officer Ethics Act [text, PDF], mandating a yearly disclosure of assets. Brazilian law 8249 [text, in Portuguese], passed in 1992, mandates a similar disclosure, with a penalty of removal from office for failing to do so. In the US, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 says that failure to disclose will not result in termination, but could result in a civil suit.





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Rights group urges creation of East Timor independent criminal tribunal
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 27, 2009 2:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] should establish an independent criminal tribunal [press release] to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses stemming from East Timor's 1999 referendum for independence [BBC backgrounder] from Indonesia, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged in a report [text, PDF] Thursday. AI's report, based on a June visit to East Timor, claims that officials responsible for human rights abuses between 1975 and 1999 have yet to be prosecuted before an impartial tribunal. According to the report:


Today, despite various national and internationally-sponsored justice initiatives over the last decade, most of those who were suspected of committing the 1999 crimes are still at large in Indonesia, and are yet to be brought before an independent court. Of those who have been prosecuted in Indonesia, all have been acquitted in proceedings which have been severely criticized as fundamentally flawed. Only one remains imprisoned in Timor-Leste. Similarly, a comprehensive programme of justice and reparations are yet to be delivered for victims of the pre-1999 crimes, although the crimes against humanity and other human rights violations which occurred then have been thoroughly documented by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor.

AI urged the Security Council to end impunity by establishing an international criminal tribunal and urged the Indonesian and East Timorese governments to commit to achieving justice for victims.

Both Indonesian and East Timorese leaders have rejected calls for prosecution, arguing that it could hinder the reconciliation process between the two nations. In July 2008, Indonesia formally accepted [JURIST report] a joint Indonesian-East-Timorese Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) [official website] finding that Indonesia was responsible for human rights violations following a the 1999 independence referendum. This was the first time that Indonesia has accepted any responsibility for the attacks in East Timor, which it has previously blamed on local militias. In 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the CTF for violating international humanitarian standards [JURIST report] because it allowed amnesty for some perpetrators of crimes against humanity. The Indonesian foreign minister responded [JURIST report] that the government of East Timor had voluntarily agreed to the CTF to resolve past disputes without injuring long-term relations with Indonesia. The CTF, established [terms of reference] in 2005 by the East Timorese and Indonesian governments, does not have independent authority to prosecute suspects.





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Ex-Guantanamo detainee Jawad to sue US government over alleged mistreatment
Brian Jackson on August 27, 2009 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The lawyer for former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohammed Jawad [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive] said Thursday that the Afghan citizen will sue the US government for compensation for mistreatment. Jawad, who was detained in 2002 under suspicion of throwing a grenade at US forces in Afghanistan, alleges continuous, widespread mistreatment [Al-Jazeera report] including that US soldiers made insults towards Islam and behaved in an "inhumane way." Jawad's military lawyer Major Eric Montalvo said in an interview with Al-Jazeera English that he "had concern and disgust with things taking a protracted period of time," but stopped short of calling for the prosecution of those soldiers responsible for the alleged mistreatment. Montalvo indicated he would help [AP report] Jawad's legal team, though the timetable for the suit and his exact role are not clear.

Earlier this week, Jawad was repatriated to Afghanistan [JURIST report], one month after a US district judge ordered he be released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The same judge had previously suppressed all out of court statements [JURIST report] made by Jawad that may have been obtained through torture. In May, Jawad's military lawyers asked the Supreme Court of Afghanistan [JURIST report] to demand Jawad's return from the facility after President Barack Obama's announcement that Guantanamo Bay will be closed caused yet another delay in the trial.






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ACLU lawsuit demands information on US border laptop search policy
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 27, 2009 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] Wednesday demanding access to documents related to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [official website] policy of searching travelers' laptop computers. The ACLU originally requested the documents [FOIA request, PDF] in June under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] and filed suit Wednesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to enforce that request. The ACLU alleges that the laptop search policy violates travelers' Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures because laptops are searched without "individualized suspicion" of wrongdoing. ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Larry Schwartztol said:


Under CBP's policy, innumerable international travelers have had their most personal information searched by government officials and retained by the government indefinitely. The disclosure of these records is necessary to better understand the extent to which US border and customs officials may be violating the Constitution.

The ACLU is seeking information related to the criteria for selecting who will be searched, how many searches have been conducted, and what types of devices or documents have been retained.

Last year, US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] criticized the CBP's warrantless searches and seizures of travelers' laptops and other digital devices at the US border, calling the searches an unacceptable invasion of privacy [JURIST report]. The US Supreme Court has held that reasonable suspicion is not necessary to conduct routine searches at the border, but Feingold said that searches of laptops and other digital devices are analogous to more invasive practices such as strip searches. In April of last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that reasonable suspicion is not necessary for a warrantless search of a laptop or other digital device at the border due to inherent national security interests. The court rejected the argument that a laptop is like a human mind because of its ability to record ideas and emails, and held instead that a laptop is the same as closed containers such as purses and wallets.





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Mali president rejects women's rights law following protests
Christian Ehret on August 27, 2009 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure [BBC profile] announced Wednesday that he will not sign a controversial law expanding women's rights, after objections by the country's High Islamic Council. The announcement followed a mass demonstration [JURIST report] against the law by various Muslim groups on Sunday. Initially passed by the National Assembly [official website, in French], the law grants women greater inheritance rights, raises the minimum age to marry to 18, and provides that wives are no longer required to obey their husbands. The law will now be sent back to parliament [AFP report] for further review. Toure is a supporter of the law [BBC report] and is hoping that further parliamentary review will help gain broader support from the country's predominately Muslim citizens.

Women's rights in Muslim countries have caused recent controversy. An Afghanistan law that restricts women's rights was criticized [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] earlier this month, even after it was revised to remove a sexual submission in marriage provision that received international criticism. According to HRW, the revised law still allows a husband to withhold basic maintenance from his wife if she refuses his sexual demands, grants guardianship of children to males and requires women to get spousal permission to work. US President Barack Obama [official profile] called the original Afghanistan law "abhorrent," saying that respect for women and their freedom is an important principle [transcript text] that all nations should uphold.






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Two-thirds of China organ transplants from executed prisoners: official
Ximena Marinero on August 27, 2009 8:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu [official profile] estimated Wednesday that 65 percent of organs transplanted in China are from executed prisoners [China Daily report], contradicting the official posture that China has maintained for years. Huang's statement coincides with an announcement that China is testing an organ donor system [press release] in 10 provinces. The program is a joint effort between the Red Cross Society of China [advocacy website] and the Chinese Ministry of Health [official website, in Chinese]. It purports to increase organ donation, form a donor registry system, and create a distribution system with guidelines meant to curb illegal trafficking. In China, current organ transplant law allows donations to take place solely from living donors to their relatives or spouses, or to someone with whom they have an emotional link.

Earlier this month, China announced [China Daily report] that all 164 accredited transplant hospitals in the country would be re-evaluated in order to keep their licenses, attempting to address reports of "transplant tourism," with hospitals illegally selling human organs and performing transplants for foreigners. Anti-death-penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] reported last month that China continues to account for more executions than any other country [JURIST report], but, Chinese authorities recently pledged to reduce the number of executions [China Daily report] by enacting legislation. In 2006, the British Transplantation Society [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] China of harvesting and transplanting the organs of executed prisoners. China responded by approving new regulations [JURIST report] governing the use and international transport of corpses, which was followed within months by a BBC report [text] claiming that the sales of executed prisoners' organs to foreigners was a routine practice. Chinese officials denied [JURIST report] that report.






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CIA documents detail controversial interrogation practices
Christian Ehret on August 27, 2009 8:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] conducted overseas interrogations that included sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and physical abuse, according to documents [ACLU materials; page 2] made available earlier this week. The letters and memoranda, originally sent to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel [official website], were released Monday pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act suit [materials] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites]. One of the documents provides an account of the detention, interrogation, and rendition process from beginning to end, including descriptions of sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and forced nudity. A memo [text, PDF] sent to CIA general counsel John Rizzo describes interrogation techniques used in "covert overseas facilities" that include head shaving, facial slaps and holds, white noise, 24-hour lighting in cells, and dietary manipulation. The memo analyzed the legality of such techniques and claimed that the "enhanced interrogation" procedures were critical to the CIA and a "key reason why al-Qaida has failed to launch a spectacular attack" in the US since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The ACLU alleges [press release] that the use of such techniques violates the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [text], which prohibits such conduct.

Enhanced interrogation techniques and legal memoranda justifying their use have lately been the subject of intensified controversy. On Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] that the DOJ will "open a preliminary review" [JURIST report] into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. Last month, a former CIA counter-terrorism agent reported that waterboarding techniques were used prior to the issuance of legal memos that authorized the practice [JURIST reports]. Also in July, former DOJ lawyer John Yoo and memo author declared his intent to appeal a ruling that allowed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] against him for complicity in torture. The suit claims that Yoo's legal opinions endorsing certain interrogation techniques led to torture. A number of organizations have called for the drafters of the memos to be disbarred [JURIST report]. In April, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak insisted that, under international law, the US must prosecute [JURIST report] the DOJ lawyers who drafted the memos. US President Barack Obama has said that he would not rule out [JURIST report] the possibility of prosecution.






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Venezuela lawmakers preliminarily approve bill banning violent toys, video games
Ximena Marinero on August 27, 2009 7:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The Venezuelan National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] unanimously gave preliminary approval [press release, in Spanish] on Tuesday to a bill to ban violent toys and video games. According to the Patria Para Todos (PPT) [party website, in Spanish], the party sponsoring the bill, the proposed law would help reduce violence in the country by protecting the development of children who can become predisposed to aggression by playing with such toys. If the bill becomes law, the Institute for the Defense of People's Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS) [official website, in Spanish] would penalize the making, importing, distribution, rental, and sale of such toys. The state would have the responsibility of promoting production, distribution, sale, and use of toys that "exercise and stimulate in children respect for life ... and understanding among humans." The National Assembly must vote on the bill a second time before it becomes law.

Voting on the bill coincides with a study released this week by the Civil Council for Public Safety and Penal Justice (CCSP) [advocacy website, in Spanish], a Mexican think tank, which reported that Caracas is the second most violent city worldwide. The report received much coverage [El Universal report, in Spanish; El Nacional report] in Venezuelan media. Spokesperson for Civil Watch Association for Security, Defense, and Armed Forces [advocacy website, in Spanish] Rocio San Miguel characterized [BBC report, in Spanish] the law as sterile in light of recent statements by national leaders inciting civilians to be prepared for armed conflict. Earlier this month, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called [AFP report] for South Americans to be prepared in case of war after Colombia agreed to allow the US to use seven of its military bases.






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Australia High Court rules military justice system unconstitutional
Steve Czajkowski on August 26, 2009 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The High Court of Australia [official website] ruled [judgment text] Wednesday that the Australian Military Court (AMC) [Department of Defence backgrounder] is unconstitutional. The High Court held that the AMC employed the judicial power of the Commonwealth while AMC judges functioned within the hierarchy of the military, which was a violation of chapter three of the Australian Constitution [text]. The ruling casts doubt on approximately 170 cases that the AMC has ruled on since its inception in 2007. The case that prompted the ruling was brought as an appeal by a sailor, Brian Lane, over a 2005 charge of indecent assault on a superior officer. Lane had argued [The Australian report] the AMC did not have jurisdiction over the case and that the legislation creating the court was invalid. In response to the ruling, the Minister for Defence John Faulker [official profile] said [press release] that, "the Senate Committee had recommended a Chapter III court with oversight by the Attorney-General, and greater independence from the military. The legislation establishing the AMC fell short of these recommendations." Faulkner also said the previous military justice system will be reinstated, which consisted mainly of trials by court martial and Defence Force magistrates.

The AMC was established in October 2007 by the former government, after a series of Senate Committee reports were critical of the system of military justice and recommended extensive changes. While the AMC was created as a tribunal, the Senate Committee report had originally recommended that it be created as a court independent of the chain of command in the military and in full compliance with the constitution.






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Michigan Supreme Court permits judges to ban religious headscarves
Steve Czajkowski on August 26, 2009 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The Michigan Supreme Court [official website] has permitted lower courts to use "reasonable control" over the appearance of those who arrive in court, effectively allowing judges to ban certain religious clothing. In an order [text, PDF] issued Tuesday, the court amended the Michigan Rules of Evidence [text, PDF], motivated by the 2006 case of Ginnah Muhammad. Muhammad had filed a suit in a Michigan small claims court where she was asked by Judge Paul Paruk to remove her niqab [JURIST news archive], a form of veil, so he could gauge her veracity. Muhammad refused, saying she would not take off her veil in front of a male judge, and her case was dismissed. Muhammad filed a federal lawsuit over the incident that was eventually dismissed [JURIST reports] in May last year. Also Wednesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations [official website] (CAIR) announced [press release] that it will file a federal lawsuit against another Michigan judge on behalf of a woman who was asked to remove her headscarf. CAIR lawyer Melanie Elturk said "the judge's actions contradict both the constitutional right to freedom of religion and President Obama's recent statement in support of the right to wear hijab."

Religious headscarves have become controversial in other states and several Western countries recently, as lawmakers struggle to balance an individual's right to practice their religion with public policy and security concerns. Last month, French lawmakers began considering a plan to ban burqas [JURIST report] and other "full veils." In December, a Muslim woman in Georgia was arrested and ordered to serve 10 days in jail [JURIST report] for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf, or hijab, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom. Also in December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two students for refusing to remove their headscarves. In September 2007, Canadian chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand resisted calls by Canadian lawmakers [JURIST report] to invoke his discretionary powers to require women to remove traditional Muslim niqabs or burqas when voting in elections in the province of Quebec.






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Visiting Spain judge concerned by Honduras rights situation
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 26, 2009 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Spanish National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile] said during a visit to Honduras Tuesday that he is gravely concerned by the human rights situation in the country. Garzon, famed for indicting Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives], spoke at a human rights forum [El Universal report, in Spanish] organized by the Center for Research and Promotion of Human Rights and the Committee of Relatives of Victims of Disappearance [advocacy websites, in Spanish]. Garzon arrived in Honduras [El Tiempo report, in Spanish] Sunday to investigate the human rights situation in the wake of the ouster of President Manual Zelaya [BBC profile]. Garzon reported hearing from victims who had suffered numerous violations of their fundamental rights. Meanwhile, interim leader Roberto Micheletti announced Tuesday that Honduras would go ahead with plans to hold elections, whether the rest of the world recognizes them or not.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Honduras [official website, in Spanish] warned that if Zelaya returns to the country, he will stand trial for treason and abuse of power [JURIST report]. Also last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], released preliminary findings [press release, in Spanish] from their recent visit [JURIST report] to Honduras. The panel found that the interim government has committed human rights abuses and urged a return to democratic rule. Earlier this month, the Honduran Office of the Prosecutor of Common Crimes indicted 24 Zelaya supporters [JURIST report] on charges of sedition and damaging public property. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] on June 28 following a judicial order [press release] asserting he had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform [JURIST report] contrary to a Honduran Supreme Court ruling.






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Europe rights court rules 2001 Italian G8 summit death probe inadequate
Amelia Mathias on August 26, 2009 9:26 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [judgment text; press release] Tuesday that Italy was negligent in completing an accurate investigation of the death of a protester at the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa [BBC backgrounder]. The court awarded €40,000 to the family of Carlo Giuliani, the protester who died after being shot by an Italian police officer as his van was mobbed, finding:


At no point was any attempt made to examine the overall context and consider whether the authorities had planned and managed the public-order operation in such a way as to prevent incidents of the kind that caused the death of Carlo Giuliani. ...

In the Court's view, the investigation should have examined these aspects at least of the organisation and management of the public-order operation, as it regards the fatal shot as being closely linked to the situation in which [the officers] found themselves. In other words, the investigation was not adequate in that it did not seek to determine who had been responsible for that situation.

The court did not find any violation of the other charges, including those that Italy had violated the right to life, used excessive force, and incorrectly examined the case. The court also decided that the organizing group of the G8 had taken all necessary precautions to avoid danger to law enforcement and protesters.

In November of 2008, an Italian court acquitted [JURIST report] the majority of police officers involved in other alleged G8 human rights violations. In July 2008, an Italian court found 15 police force members and medical staff guilty [JURIST report] of abusing the protesters, but absolved 30 more. On the night of July 21, 2001, police forces conducted a raid on the Diaz school, which was being used as headquarters by some of the protesters. Over the course of the summit as a whole, more than 100 protesters were injured and one was killed. Immediately after the protests and reports of abuse, Amnesty International called for a full investigation [press release] into the mistreatment. In July 2006, the group urged the Italian government to institute reforms to prevent future abuses [press release], but said that the government had not done so in the five years since the incident.





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Argentina high court decriminalizes possession of marijuana for personal use
Ximena Marinero on August 26, 2009 8:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The Argentine Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] unanimously held [judgment, PDF, in Spanish; press release, in Spanish] Tuesday that possession of small amounts of marijuana for private, personal consumption that does not endanger or harm third parties is not punishable by law. The ruling reversed a lower court ruling that had convicted five defendants for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The court found the second paragraph of article 14 in Law 23.737 [text, in Spanish], which penalizes possession of small quantities of drugs for personal consumption, unconstitutional because it infringes on the privacy clause of Article 19 in the Argentine Constitution [text, PDF]. The clause exempts private actions that pose no danger to the public from lawful judgment, leaving them "only reserved for God." The decision emphasized that it does not purport to legalize marijuana, calling instead on governmental authorities to counter narcotrafficking and address the personal consumption as a public health problem.

Last week, Mexico adopted a law [text, in Spanish] that decriminalizes possession of small quantities of several drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and heroin. The law explicitly defines what constitutes a small quantity for each of the drugs, and mandates treatment for individuals caught for a third time possessing quantities lower than the standard. In February, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy [official website], a blue ribbon commission headed by former presidents from Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, issued a report [text, PDF] that recommended "[t]reating drug users as a matter of public health and promoting the reduction of drug consumption are preconditions for focusing repressive action on two critical points: reduction and production and dismantling networks of drug trafficking," departing from prohibitionist policies that the commission characterized as a failure for the past 30 years and calling for public debate on the subject.






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Iran begins fourth mass trial of election protesters and reformists
Amelia Mathias on August 26, 2009 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran on Tuesday began the trials of more reformers accused of attempting to overthrow the government in a "velvet revolution" following the disputed June 12 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. This trial is the fourth [ILNA report] of its kind to occur since reformists, protesters, and journalists were arrested during the widespread demonstrations that took place in the weeks following the election. Notable among the reformists who went on trial Tuesday are Saeed Hajjarian [NYT report], a former hero of the 1979 Revolution turned reformer, and Kian Tajbakhsh [advocacy website], an Iranian-American who worked for the Soros Foundation in Iran. Hajjarian, who served as an aide to former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami [BBC profile], confessed to being a communist and attempting to overthrow the government. Khatami has denounced [ILNA report] Hajjarian's confession. Tajbakhsh is accused of espionage for the US. All those on trial - more than 100 in this round - have allegedly been held for months without access to lawyers or family members.

Last week, Iran began the trial of 25 election protesters [JURIST report], after putting more than 100 on trial [JURIST reports] earlier this month. Iran has been experiencing turmoil in Tehran and elsewhere since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was declared the winner of the disputed June 12 election. Ahmadinejad was recently sworn in for a second term. Earlier in August, three UN human rights experts called on Iran's Revolutionary Court to reject protesters' confessions obtained through torture [JURIST report]. Also this month, Iran's Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi acknowledged [JURIST report] that some protesters arrested after the election were tortured. Human rights groups have called arrests political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals." Last month, Iran released [JURIST report] some 140 detainees.






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UK proposes suspending Internet service for repeat illegal file-sharers
Ximena Marinero on August 26, 2009 7:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The British Department for Business Innovation and Skills [official website] on Tuesday proposed stricter sanctions [text, PDF] against illegal file-sharing that would include restricting and suspending user Internet access. The proposed regulations would be managed by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) [official website], which would report to Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson [BBC profile], recommending action against specific users. The proposals could be implemented sooner than the 2012 projected date of prior proposals to counter online piracy that are currently under public consultation [materials]. The changes target repeat offenders by requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block download sites, reduce a user's broadband speeds, and ultimately shut down the user's Internet access. Costs to implement these measures would be shared between users and service providers. While the proposal was welcomed by media industries, it provoked strong rejection among consumers and service providers. The ISP Association (ISPA) [advocacy website] decried [press release] the government proposal that Internet access should be taken away from users as a "disproportionate response" that failed to properly consult stakeholders, and expressed concern over the cost structure of the measures. Executive Director of the Open Rights Group [advocacy website] Jim Kollock called the measures [press release] a "knee-jerk reaction" to a problem that the market should solve on its own, while the Pirate Party UK [party website] characterized the measures [press release] as "draconian penalties." The government's consultation on the subject opened in mid-June for six weeks, but has been extended to September 29 after changes to the proposal were announced.

The French government has recently taken similar steps to counter illegal file-sharing by proposing an escalating series of responses for users that are caught. The French National Assembly [official website] voted in late July to delay a vote [JURIST report] on a new version [text, in French] of a controversial Internet piracy law. The new law gives discretion to suspend services to a judge after the infringer's third violation, after the Constitutional Council ruled [JURIST report] that the power to restrict the fundamental right of accessing the Internet should not be entrusted to an administrative authority as the original version had proposed. The original bill was challenged [JURIST report] by the Socialist party on the grounds that it failed to find a balance between the rights of Internet users and those of copyright holders.






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Ninth Circuit denies challenge to ban on providing services to terrorist organizations
Abigail Salisbury on August 25, 2009 4:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Monday ruled against [opinion, PDF] a Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) [advocacy website] challenge to former President George W. Bush's Executive Order 13224 [Treasury materials], which prohibits unlicensed US groups and individuals from providing services to certain terrorist organizations designated by the government. The HLP wanted to aid the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) [CFR backgrounders], but feared being designated a terrorist organization itself. The HLP then challenged the Executive Order and its supporting regulations, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the United Nations Participation Act (UNPA) [texts, PDF] on First and Fifth Amendment [text] grounds. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's holding that the HLP lacked standing despite its self-censorship, as well as its ruling that the Order's ban on "services" to terrorist organizations was not unconstitutionally vague. Judge Pregerson dissented in part, commenting,

no case holds that the standing analysis used in the First Amendment context requires that the challenged statute must on its face implicate First Amendment rights....The government [asserts] that the term “services” does not reach independent advocacy. I doubt whether such expressed intentions and representations...could assuage the reasonable fears of entities who stand to have all their assets frozen.
In June, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report [text, PDF; JURIST report] stated that US anti-terrorism laws target Muslims and "impose guilt by association...in violation both of their First and Fifth Amendment rights and international law." The report asserted that the rights violations began after the release of Executive Order 13224. Last November, the US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled [JURIST report] that the US Treasury Department's freezing of the assets of the now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation [JURIST news archive] under color of Executive Order 13224 violated the organization's due processes rights because it failed to provide any basis for designating it a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" organization.





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Military judge rules Guantanamo detainee's lawyers may not tour CIA 'black sites'
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 25, 2009 4:04 PM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge ruled Monday that lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee and accused 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh [JURIST news archives] will not be allowed to tour secret CIA prisons, known as "black sites" where al-Shibh was detained, the Miami Herald reported [text] Tuesday. Al-Shibh's lawyers had sought access to the sites in order to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. Judge Stephen Henley denied the request, ruling that the sites have likely changed since 2006, rendering an inspection useless. Henley set a pre-trial hearing date for September 22 to determine al-Shibh's competency.

The ruling comes weeks after Henley ruled that al-Shibh's lawyers will not be made aware of what interrogation techniques were used on him [JURIST report] by the CIA prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay. Al-Shibh's military defense lawyer, Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, had argued that interrogation details were relevant to determining whether bin al-Shibh suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [NIMH backgrounder] or a permanent psychological disability, which would in turn affect his competency to stand trial. Henley found that the details of al-Shibh's interrogation were not relevant to determining his current mental competency but would risk disclosure of classified information. Last month, lawyers for terrorism suspect Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], who is facing a civilian trial, requested access to CIA black sites [JURIST report]. There has been no ruling on that request.






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ICC prosecutor argues against release of Congo rebel leader Bemba
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 25, 2009 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Monday filed arguments [text, PDF] against releasing former Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) [BBC backgrounder] rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archive]. The ICC ordered [JURIST report] Bemba's conditional release earlier this month, a decision which Moreno-Ocampo immediately appealed [press release]. In court documents filed Monday, Moreno-Ocampo argued that Bemba should remain in custody until the end of his trial, claiming:


The Decision finds that a substantial change of circumstances now warrants the release of the Accused. In fact, contrary to the Single Judge's conclusions, there has been no change of circumstances in the present case. Most of the circumstances cited are pre-existing and have been cited previously as either grounds for continued detention or irrelevant to an application for release. The only significant intervening factor, the issuance of the decision confirming the charges against the Accused, confirms and increases the risks posed by the Accused if released. The Single Judge's decision is thus error.

Moreno-Ocamp also noted that Bemba "continues to exercise authority over a network that he has previously relied on to locate and influence witnesses." The prosecutor requested that the release order be suspending pending consideration by the appeals chamber. No trial date has been set.

Last month, the ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for the alleged commission of violent war crimes. The prosecution contends that Bemba's actions in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] as military leader of the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) [party website, in French] from October 2002 to May 2003 amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in May 2008 for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008. The proceedings against Bemba were initially postponed, but the pre-trial hearing [JURIST reports] to determine what charges the rebel leader is to face commenced in January. Bemba was elected to the Congolese Senate after losing a run-off presidential election [JURIST report] to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile], who, in December 2006, became the first freely-elected president of the DRC since 1960. After the election, Bemba's private militia force led a violent campaign against government troops until the DRC Supreme Court rejected his election challenge [JURIST report].





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Federal judge dismisses Defense of Marriage Act challenge on jurisdictional grounds
Matt Glenn on August 25, 2009 2:29 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Central District Court of California [official website] dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit [case materials] challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text] on judisdictional grounds Tuesday. The suit, filed by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, two men who were married in California, alleges that DOMA violates the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, their constitutional right to travel, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, their right to free speech, their right to privacy, and their rights under the Ninth Amendment [texts]. The judge ruled that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case because, although the case was removed [28 USC § 1442 text] from state court to federal court, the federal court's jurisdiction is only as great as that of the state court in which the case was originally filed. Since an individual cannot sue the federal government in a state court without the federal government's permission, the state court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and therefore the federal court did as well, the judge reasoned. The US Department of Justice [official website] opposed the suit [JURIST report] despite its belief that DOMA is discriminatory, stating that the DOJ could not choose only to enforce the laws with which it agreed. The couple is expected to refile [AP report] the case in federal court, which will then have subject matter jurisdiction.

Last month, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] filed a suit challenging [JURIST report] DOMA on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to define and regulate marriage. In March, a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage law filed a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging DOMA. Although Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriages [JURIST report] in May, the Stand for Marriage Maine coalition [advocacy website] announced last month that they have collected more than the requisite 55,087 signatures [press release] needed to put a veto on the November ballot, allowing voters to decide on the law. Also in July, a Washington, DC law took effect [JURIST report] that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states or jurisdictions. Currently, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa [JURIST reports] all allow same-sex marriage.






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Obama administration to continue rendition of terror suspects with oversight: report
Matt Glenn on August 25, 2009 1:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The US will continue its practice of sending terror detainees to third countries for interrogation with increased oversight to prevent torture, the New York Times [media website] reported [text] Monday. The practice, known as rendition [JURIST news archive], received worldwide attention during the Bush administration when many detainees alleged they had been tortured by the governments of the countries to which they had been transferred. It is not clear how the program will be overseen, but the Department of State [official website] will reportedly monitor the process. A Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] study recommended [DOJ press release; JURIST report] to Obama on Monday that the US increase oversight in its transfer of detainees.

The CIA's rendition program has been the source of much controversy and litigation. Last month, UK human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] announced that it is suing the British government [JURIST report] over the rendition of Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni [advocacy profile] from Indonesia to Egypt, where it says he was tortured. The group alleges that the UK allowed the US rendition flight of Madni to stop on the British island territory of Diego Garcia [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], despite government claims that the island was not part of the US's rendition program. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] does not bar a lawsuit against a company that allegedly provided logistical support for CIA rendition flights. The DOJ has sought to have that case reheard en banc [JURIST report]. In February, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced [JURIST report] that the US would continue to use rendition, but would do so with oversight so as to avoid the problems of extraordinary rendition that occurred during the Bush administration.






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Pennsylvania judges in juvenile sentencing scandal withdraw guilty pleas
Safiya Boucaud on August 25, 2009 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Two former Pennsylvania judges on Monday withdrew their guilty pleas [JURIST report] on charges of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which they had a financial interest. Former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan pleaded guilty in February to federal corruption charges [criminal information, PDF] of honest services fraud and tax fraud. Last month, Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] rejected their plea agreements after finding that the men did not accept responsibility and that the prison sentences were too lenient [NYT report], prompting the two former judges to file a motion for their reinstatement. Kosik refused to reinstate the plea agreements Monday, causing the former judges to withdraw their pleas and clearing the way for a trial.

In the wake of this corruption scandal, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] ordered hundreds of juvenile convictions to be overturned [JURIST report] and records to be expunged without hearing. Judicial corruption cases in the US are relatively rare but not unprecedented. In the 1980s, 17 Illinois judges were indicted after the FBI and the DOJ joined forces in Operation Graylord [FBI backgrounder], aimed at judicial corruption in Cook County, Illinois. Fourteen judges were eventually convicted [list]. The first US federal judge convicted of corruption was Martin Manton [NYT backgrounder] of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, who sold his vote in various patent cases after suffering financial hardship in the Great Depression. His conviction was upheld [NYT reports, PDF] by the Second Circuit itself in 1939 and he spent two years in federal penitentiary.






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China officials deny reports that 200 will be tried over Xinjiang riots
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 25, 2009 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese officials on Tuesday denied a Monday state media report that more than 200 people detained during last month's violent demonstrations in China's Xinjiang province will go on trial [JURIST report] this week. State-run China Daily [media website] reported Monday that the trials would take place in the Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi, the capital of the primarily Muslim region, and that the defendants would face charges ranging from vandalism to murder. A Xinjiang government spokesperson denied that report Tuesday, saying that the number of people facing charges was closer to 80, confirming earlier reports [JURIST report], and that no trial would begin this week. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman has said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, have been detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots as a result of police investigations of damaged stores, homes, and vehicles, as well as photographs and videos of the riots.

In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents in Xinjiang's regional capital. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [JURIST report] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the Uighur advocacy groups maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice, and say that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Canada government to appeal Khadr repatriation efforts ruling to Supreme Court
Safiya Boucaud on August 25, 2009 9:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian federal government said Tuesday that it will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada a Federal Court of Appeal [official websites] decision [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] ordering the government to press for the release and return of Canadian Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] from the Guantanamo military base in Cuba. The government has filed a motion to stay the lower court ruling pending appeal, and then the highest court will have to decide whether to review the case. The government has maintained its position that due to the serious nature of the charges against Khadr, he should face US military proceedings [CBC report].

Earlier this month, the president of the Canadian Bar Association urged [JURIST report] the Canadian government to seek the repatriation of Khadr, days after the Federal Court of Appeal upheld an April lower court ruling [judgment, PDF, JURIST report] ordering the Canadian government to advocate for his return. The government had appealed the April ruling asserting that the lower court had erred in holding that by not pressing for his release Canadian officials had violated Khadr's rights to "life, liberty, and security" under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.






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China lawmakers weigh draft law giving police more clout to control riots
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 25, 2009 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] China's National People's Congress (NPC) [official website, in Chinese] on Monday considered a draft bill [text, in Chinese] that would allow the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) to respond to riots. The proposed legislation would also allow the PAPF to respond [Xinhua report] to terrorist attacks and other social emergencies. A detailed protocol for deploying the PAPF would be determined later by the State Council and the Central Military Commission. The draft bill also includes provisions to prevent the PAPF from illegally detaining or searching people, in response to lawmakers' objections after the bill's first reading. Monday's session was the bill's second reading, and it could be voted on [China Daily report] as early as Thursday. This would be the country's first law on armed police.

The proposed law comes as Chinese authorities prepare for the upcoming 60th anniversary of Communist rule, which will take place in October. Beijing has reportedly enhanced security [Xinhua report] in response to fears of violent protests or terrorist attacks. The proposed law is also largely in response to the recent riots [JURIST news archive] between ethnic minority Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi. Earlier this month, Chinese authorities announced [JURIST report] charges of murder, intentional injury, arson, and robbery against 83 people accused of participating in violent demonstrations. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman has said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, are detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although Uighur advocacy groups maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police.

8/27/09: The law was passed [China Daily report after its second reading Thursday.






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Obama administration releases highly anticipated CIA interrogation report
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 24, 2009 3:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday released a much anticipated 2004 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] inspector general report [text, PDF] detailing controversial interrogation techniques used on terror detainees. According to the report, interrogators threatened suspects' family members and conducted mock executions. The report also details other controversial techniques such as waterboarding [JURIST news archive] and acknowledges that interrogators used techniques that they knew had not been approved by DOJ lawyers. A heavily redacted version of the report was released last year, and Monday's release, which is still redacted, came after several delays [JURIST report] to allow government officials more time to decide which information could be released and which should be withheld in the interests of national security. The special report on counterterrorism and interrogation practices, authored by John Helgerson, was released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit [complaint, PDF] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website].

The release of the report comes as US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] Monday that the DOJ will "open a preliminary review" [JURIST report] into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. Also Monday, a presidential special task force on interrogations and transfer policies issued its recommendations [press release] calling on the Obama administration to create a specialized interrogation group [JURIST report] to question top terrorism suspects. The White House confirmed the creation of a special panel Monday that will be spearheaded by the FBI, rather than the CIA.






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Task force urges new panel to interrogate terrorism suspects
Bhargav Katikaneni on August 24, 2009 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A presidential special task force on interrogations and transfer policies issued its recommendations [press release] Monday calling on the Obama administration to create a specialized interrogation group to question top terrorist suspects. The task force, created by executive order 13491 [text; JURIST report], in January recommended that the US create a joint panel, consisting of "experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the intelligence community" to interrogate high value terrorism detainees. Controversial techniques such as waterboarding will not be used [WSJ report] by the new panel, which will be spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and not the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official websites], which has previously taken the lead on interrogating detainees. The special task force's report to the president also endorsed the US Army Field Manual 2-22.3 [text, PDF] as a proper guide for interrogators and recommended greater State Department [official website] involvement before detainees are transferred abroad so as to ensure that they are not tortured once they leave the US. Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile], who chaired the commission, said the task force's recommendations would improve national security while respecting the rule of law:


The new policies proposed by the Task Force will allow us to draw the best personnel from across the government to conduct interrogations that will yield valuable intelligence and strengthen our national security. There is no tension between strengthening our national security and meeting our commitment to the rule of law, and these new policies will accomplish both.

At a White House press briefing [text] Monday, deputy press secretary Bill Burton was careful to say that the new specialized interrogation group will include the CIA, although it will be housed by the FBI and its director will now report directly to the FBI director.

The Obama administration first mentioned the possibility of a new intelligence agency [JURIST report] in July in response to widespread criticism [JURIST news archive] of the CIA's interrogation techniques. On Monday, Holder announced [press release] Monday that the DOJ will "open a preliminary review" [JURIST report] into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. The CIA has also come under criticism recently for committing fraud in its attempts to hide documents [JURIST report] and waterboarding suspects prior [JURIST report] to official authorization.





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Guantanamo detainee Jawad repatriated to Afghanistan
Bhargav Katikaneni on August 24, 2009 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohammed Jawad [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive] has been repatriated to Afghanistan. Co-counsel for Jawad, US Air Force Major Frakt, hailed [press release] his client's release as a victory for justice:


Mr. Jawad has finally returned home to celebrate Ramadan with his family after nearly seven long years away. This is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law. Although nothing can ever replace those lost years, fortunately this remarkable young man is still young enough to build a life for himself. He is eager to go back to school and complete his education so that he can help others in Afghan society. We're hopeful that the many other innocent men still being illegally detained at Guantanamo will also soon be released.

The transfer comes just days after the Obama administration announced its intent to transfer six Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] in the coming weeks.

Jawad's release was ordered by Judge Ellen Huvelle of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on July 30, and supported [memo, PDF] by DOJ lawyers after a judge ordered the suppression [order, PDF; JURIST report] of all of Jawad's out-of-court statements that may have been elicited through torture. In May, Jawad's lawyers had asked [JURIST report] the Supreme Court of Afghanistan to demand his release from Guantanamo Bay. Jawad, who claims he was only 12 years old when he was initially arrested, had been charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] with attempted murder and intentionally causing bodily harm after allegedly throwing a grenade that injured two US soldiers and their interpreter.





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DOJ to open investigation into CIA prisoner abuse reports
Matt Glenn on August 24, 2009 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will "open a preliminary review" into allegations of prisoner abuse by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] interrogators during the Bush administration. Holder's decision follows a recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website]. Holder appointed Assistant US Attorney John Durham [NYT profile] to lead the investigation. Durham was appointed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey in 2008 to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations. Holder said:


There are those who will use my decision to open a preliminary review as a means of broadly criticizing the work of our nation’s intelligence community. I could not disagree more with that view. The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals.

The White House press secretary said [press release] Monday that President Barack Obama would not prevent Holder from opening investigations despite the president's stated desire to look towards the future, not the past. ABC News reported [text] that CIA Director Leon Panetta was enraged by Holder's decision and may resign from his position, although the White House denied the report. A CIA inspector general report detailing the treatment of prisoners, which reportedly influenced Holder's decision to reopen the investigations, is expected to be released [CIA press release] later on Monday.

Bush-era intelligence policy has been highly contested since the change in administration earlier this year. In July, members of Congress urged an investigation [JURIST report] into a CIA assassination plan that former vice president Dick Cheney allegedly hid from Congress. Also in July, five federal agencies released a report [text; JURIST report] on the prior administration's warrantless wiretapping program that reviewed both the flawed legal origins of the program and questioned the effectiveness of information produced by wiretapping international communications of American citizens. In May, Cheney defended the national security policies [speech transcript; JURIST report] of the Bush administration speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) [organization website], while criticizing many of Obama's security policies.





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Scotland justice minister defends Lockerbie bomber release
Matt Glenn on August 24, 2009 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Scottish Justice Minister Kennny MacAskill [official profile] defended [statement] his order to release [JURIST report] to Libya convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile] in front of an emergency session [audio] of the Scottish Parliament Monday. MacAskill faced criticism from several members of parliament, including the leaders of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party [party websites], for his decision to allow Megrahi, the only man convicted in connection with the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, to return to his native Libya for the remaining portion of his life. Megrahi was recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and doctors expect he has only about three months to live. In defending his decision, MacAskill reiterated parts of a statement he gave upon issuing the order to release Megrahi, stating:


In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people. The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.

MacAskill expressed disappointment that Libya had celebrated the return of Megrahi after, promising to treat the event "in a low-key and sensitive fashion." Although there were rumors that a confidence vote of First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party (SNP) [party website] would take place Monday, no vote was taken. Scottish Tory Justice spokesman Bill Aitken said he expects [Edinburgh Evening News report] a vote to take place soon.

US officials have strongly opposed Megrahi's release. On Thursday, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton [official websites] all criticized [JURIST report] Megrahi's release, with Mueller calling it "a mockery of the rule of law." Last week, seven US Senators sent a letter [text, PDF] to MacAskill urging him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer. In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.





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China human rights lawyer released on bail
Safiya Boucaud on August 24, 2009 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese government on Sunday released prominent human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong on bail without any explanation. Xu was taken into custody last month and was formally charged [JURIST reports] last week with tax evasion. He was accused of failing to pay taxes [NYT report] on a $100,000 grant from Yale University earmarked for the legal research center of Xu's Gongmeng human rights group. Shortly after he was taken into custody, Chinese officials shut down [JURIST report] the legal research center. Xu may be able to avoid prosecution for the tax evasion charges if he pays a fine [AFP report] and cooperates with Chinese authorities. Though released, Xu will not be able to leave Beijing while the charges are being investigated.

Zhiyong's arrest was the latest in a series of incidents that human rights activists claim are an attempt by the Chinese government to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches in October. Last month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers [press release, in Chinese] in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register. In June, Chinese authorities charged prominent rights activist Liu Xiaobo [JURIST report] with "inciting subversion of state power" [PRC Criminal Law article 105, PDF]. Liu, who spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule, and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country.






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US military to share detainee identities with Red Cross: report
Safiya Boucaud on August 24, 2009 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The US military [official website] will now be notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] of the identities of suspected terrorist militants held in special operations camps in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a New York Times report [text]. In a reversal of past Pentagon policy, the ICRC will now have the ability to obtain information about and track detainees held at these facilities. While detainee identities will be shared under the new policy, the ICRC will still be denied access to the camps. Under this new policy, the US military must notify the ICRC of the detainees' names and identification numbers within two weeks of the detention. The military previously refused the names of detainees to the ICRC due to concerns of jeopardizing counterterrorism efforts. The policy shift took effect early this month.

The ICRC, which is formally entrusted under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols [materials] with protecting the victims of armed conflict and with promoting international humanitarian law in violent situations, has long lobbied the US military for access to these camps and information on the detainees. The policy shift comes as the Obama administration has vowed to change the way in which suspected terrorist detainees are interrogated and detained. Shortly after taking office in January, Obama ordered the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, expressly banned the use of torture in interrogations [JURIST reports], and directed the immediate shutdown of secret CIA detention facilities. In 2007, the ICRC reported that detainees held in secret CIA prisons throughout the globe were subject to abuse and sleep deprivation [JURIST report]. The ICRC has also accused Guantanamo doctors of violating medical ethics codes [JURIST report].






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China court to try 200 over Xinjiang riots
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 24, 2009 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] More than 200 people detained during last month's violent demonstrations in China's Xinjiang province will go on trial this week, Chinese state media reported Monday. The trials will take place [AFP report] in the Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi, the capital of the primarily Muslim region. The defendants will face charges ranging from vandalism to murder. Reports did not indicate how many defendants were Uighur and how many were Han Chinese, but did say that 170 Uighur and 20 Han lawyers were assigned to the case. Earlier this month, Chinese authorities announced [JURIST report] charges of murder, intentional injury, arson, and robbery against 83 people accused of participating in violent demonstrations. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman has said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, are detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots as a result of police investigations of damaged stores, homes, and vehicles, as well as photographs and videos of the riots.

In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents in Xinjiang's regional capital. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [press release; JURIST report] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the WUC and the UAA maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice, and say that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Afghanistan opposition candidate alleges fraud in recent presidential election
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 24, 2009 9:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghan opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] on Sunday alleged widespread voter fraud in last Thursday's presidential election. Abdullah said his campaign has filed more than 100 complaints [Washington Post report] with the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] alleging ballot stuffing, inflated vote counts, and intimidation at the polls by supporters of incumbent President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Meanwhile, election observers have reported at least two instances of voters fingers, marked with indelible ink to avoid voter fraud, being cut off by Taliban insurgents [Los Angeles Times report]. The Free & Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) [official website] said the amputations took place in the southern Kandahar province, which has been plagued by violence. In preliminary findings [text, PDF; press release, PDF] released Saturday, the European Union Election Observation Mission to Afghanistan [official website] found that while the holding of the election was a victory for Afghan people, the process was marred with voter intimidation and security problems. Karzai is already claiming to have received more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning he would avoid a runoff with the second place candidate. Preliminary results are expected Tuesday, but official results are not due until September.

Karzai was elected in 2004 after serving nearly three years as interim leader. In March, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan [official website] decided to allow him to remain in office [JURIST report] until this August's general election. Under the Afghanistan Constitution [text], Karzai's term in office was to expire May 21, but the court held that since the extension of the election until August for security reasons was contrary to the constitution, the extension of Karzai's presidency would also be appropriate. Abdullah served as foreign minister in Karzai's cabinet until he was removed in 2006. Previous Afghan elections have also been marred by allegations of fraud, allowing officials to remain in power beyond the expiration of their terms while results were reviewed. In 2005, the official results of the assembly elections were not available for nearly two months due to allegations of fraud [JURIST reports]. During that election a joint electoral board formed between Afghanistan and UN found that the irregularities were not enough [JURIST report] to call the results into question.






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Mali demonstrators protest women's rights law
Jay Carmella on August 23, 2009 5:24 PM ET

[JURIST] More than 50,000 people gathered in the Mali capital of Bamako on Sunday to protest a law passed recently by the National Assembly [official website, in French] to extend the rights of women. The new law [BBC report] gives women greater inheritance rights and increases the minimum age in marriage to 18 years old, among other things. Muslim leaders have been expressing their objections to the law since it was passed earlier this month. Several smaller protests have occurred throughout the country. The 50,000 protesters included many women [AFP report].

Women's rights issues have lately attracted controversy across the Muslim world. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized Afghanistan [JURIST report] for an amended personal status law that restricts women's rights. Despite the criticisms, the law was defended [JURIST report] by Muslim leaders in the country. In July, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Justice in Hamas-dominated Gaza announced an order [JURIST report] that required female lawyers to wear traditional religious attire for court appearances. The decision was criticized as undermining women's rights and personal freedoms.






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Europe official urges countries to disclose role in CIA secret prisons
Jay Carmella on August 23, 2009 3:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] rapporteur Dick Marty [BBC profile] on Friday called on [press release] European countries to show accountability for their role in assisting the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] in using secret prisons [JURIST news archive]. The statement follows reports [ABC News report] that the CIA held high value terrorists in a secret prison in Lithuania. Marty called for all European countries to come forward regarding their involvement with the prisons. He also urged the Lithuanian government to conduct an independent investigation into the secret prisons.

The CIA's use of secret prisons has been a source of controversy for several years. Last month, lawyers for Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] requested access [JURIST report] to the secret prison where Ahmed was held. This was in response to the CIA's announcement [JURIST report] in April that it planned to close them. Lithuania is the third European country to be identified as the home of a secret facility. Last year, Poland and Romania [JURIST report] were criticized for providing assistance to the CIA.






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Federal judge rules lawyers for Guantanamo detainee may question 9/11 conspirator
Adrienne Lester on August 23, 2009 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia has granted [opinion, PDF] lawyers for another Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee permission to question Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks [JURIST report], in a ruling made public Thursday. Attorneys for Abdul Raheem Ghulam Rabbani will be allowed to submit narrow, written questions concerning Rabbani's work for Mohammed. Rabbani has argued he was not a member of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], but merely a menial servant. Government lawyers sought to limit discovery in this case because of the sensitive national security information involved, but prosecutors will be permitted to review Mohammed's answers and redact statements involving national security.

In December, Mohammed postponed his offer to plead guilty [JURIST report] at a military commission hearing because the judge required a competency hearing. In June 2008, Mohammed and four other suspects were arraigned before a military commission after the Pentagon approved death penalty charges [JURIST reports] in June. In February of that year, CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged [JURIST report] that Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding [JURIST news archive] during interrogation. Mohammed also faces a trial in absentia in France [JURIST report] for his alleged involvement in a suicide bombing of a Tunisian synagogue [BBC report] located in Djerba in April 2002.






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Honduras Supreme Court warns Zelaya will face trial upon return to country
Adrienne Lester on August 23, 2009 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Honduras [official website, in Spanish] said Saturday that if ousted president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] returns to the country, he will stand trial for treason and abuse of power. There are also reports that the interim government has confined Venezuelan and Argentinian diplomats to their embassies [Xinhua report] and is threatening their expulsion from Honduras. Also Saturday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], released their preliminary findings [press release, in Spanish] from their recent visit [JURIST report] to Honduras. The panel found that the interim government has committed human rights abuses and urged a return to democratic rule.

Last week, the Honduran Office of the Prosecutor of Common Crimes indicted 24 Zelaya supporters [JURIST report] on charges of sedition and damaging public property. As a result of its refusal to reinstate Zelaya, the Honduran government has faced sanctions from the international community. The European Union [official website] and several Latin American countries have withdrawn their ambassadors. The UN General Assembly approved [press release] a resolution on June 30 calling members to not recognize the Honduran government until Zelaya is reinstated. On July 4, the OAS expelled Honduras after the Honduran Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to reinstate Zelaya, and the Inter-American Development Bank suspended its aid package to the country. Negotiations between Zelaya and Micheletti have been going on intermittently through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias without any results. Zelaya has made several failed attempts to return to office, including attempting to fly into the country accompanied by international leaders. The US has condemned [DOS briefing transcript] Zelaya's removal and supports his return.






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Federal judge grants Yemeni Guantanamo detainee's habeas petition
Matt Glenn on August 22, 2009 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in an opinion unsealed Friday that the US lacks enough evidence to justify the continued detention of Yemeni national Mohammed al-Adahi, granting al-Adahi's petition for habeas corpus [LLI materials]. The government argued that al-Adahi, who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] since 2002, was a supporter or member of the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda, claiming that al-Adahi had acted as an instructor at al Qaeda camp al Farouq, had familial ties to both the Taliban and al Qaeda, had been employed as a bodyguard for Osama bin-Laden and that al-Adahi's story lacked credibility. In ordering al-Adahi's release Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] of the stated:


There is no reliable evidence in the record that Petitioner was a trainer at Al Farouq, that he ever fought for al-Qaida and/or the Taliban, or that he affirmatively provided any actual support to al-Qaida and/or the Taliban. There is no reliable evidence in the record that Petitioner was a member of al-Qaida and/or the Taliban. While it is tempting to be swayed by the fact that Petitioner readily acknowledged having met Bin Laden on two occasions and admitted that perhaps his relatives were bodyguards and enthusiastic followers of Bin Laden, such evidence-sensational and compelling as it may appear--does not constitute actual, reliable evidence that would justify the Government's detention of this man.

The government may continue to detain al-Adahi while it seeks to find a country willing to accept him according to a federal court's 2009 decision in Kiyemba v. Obama [opinion, PDF; JURIST report].

Since the US Supreme Court's June 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Guantanamo detainees could challenge their imprisonment in federal court through the use of habeas corpus motions, several detainees have done so, and many have been granted release. On Wednesday, the DC District Court unsealed an opinion issued last week denying [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the habeas petition of another Yemeni detainee, Adham Mohammed Ali Awad. Although the petition was denied, the judge stated, "The case against Awad is gossamer thin. The evidence is of a kind fit only for these unique proceedings ... and has very little weight. In the end, however, it appears more likely than not, that Awad was, for some period of time, 'part of' al Qaeda." Last month, Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad was ordered released [JURIST report] when a federal judge granted his habeas petition. Jawad's release came less than two weeks after the same judge ordered that all of Jawad's statements elicited by torture be suppressed [JURIST report]. Jawad faced charges of attempted murder [JURIST report] for a grenade attack on US soldiers in Kabul in 2002. Also last month, a federal judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Kuwaiti Guantanamo Bay detainee Khaled Al-Mutairi.





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Ex-UBS banker sentenced to 40 months in prison for helping client hide assets
Matt Glenn on August 22, 2009 12:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Former UBS [corporate website] banker Bradley Birkenfeld was sentenced [press release] to 40 months in prison Friday for helping a client avoid paying over $7.2 million dollars in taxes. Birkenfeld admitted to helping a California real-estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes and has cooperated with the government in its investigation of employees of Swiss banks that the government says take advantage of Switzerland's strict confidentiality laws to help Americans hide money and avoid paying taxes. Birkenfeld, who was sentenced by Judge William Zloch in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website], had hoped his cooperation would lead to a suspended sentence [SwissInfo report] while on Wednesday, prosecutors recommended [Miami Herald report] a 30-month sentence. The government may ask for a reduced sentence [Bloomberg report] as Birkenfeld continues to help the government in its investigation.

On Thursday, a Swiss lawyer and a Swiss banking executive were indicted [JURIST report] in the Southern District of Florida for allegedly helping clients hide assets. Earlier this week, the US government reached an agreement [JURIST report] with Switzerland that would grant the IRS access to information on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. As part of the agreement [text, PDF], the Swiss government will instruct banking giant UBS [corporate website] to begin to turn over information regarding certain anonymous bank accounts. In return, the US will cease unilateral efforts to seek account holder information, including withdrawing motions to enforce "John Doe" summons. In early May, the Obama administration announced revisions to the tax code [JURIST report] designed to curb overseas tax havens. One week earlier, the Swiss government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the attempt to obtain account holder information by the US violated Swiss national sovereignty [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.






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China high court ex-vice president to face corruption charges
Amelia Mathias on August 22, 2009 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The Communist Party of China (CPC) revoked the membership [press release] of the former vice-president of the Supreme People's Court on Friday, following a graft and corruption investigation. Huang Songyou, who was originally appointed to the Supreme People's Court in 2002, allegedly took bribes to influence cases and used the profits to live a "corrupt life" [Xinhua news report]. He was also fired [China Daily report] from his official position in the court, and his case has been turned over to prosecutors. Huang is just one in a line of communist leaders who have been thrown out of the party for corruption in a new campaign by the government [AFP report].

Huang was removed [JURIST report] from his position as vice president of the court in October by a vote of the legislators. He 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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Second Circuit rules Yahoo Internet radio not subject to royalty fees
Amelia Mathias on August 22, 2009 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that Yahoo is not required to pay royalties for songs played over Internet radio. Several recording companies, all owned by Sony Corp, originally sued in 2001, claiming that Yahoo's online radio service, LAUNCHcast, was interactive, requiring the payment of royalty fees, because it allowed listeners to skip songs [NYT report]. The appeals court's decision upheld a 2007 lower court ruling in which a jury decided that skipping songs did not make the program interactive, finding:


In short, to the degree that LAUNCHcast's playlists are uniquely created for each user, that feature does not ensure predictability. Indeed, the unique nature of the playlist helps Launch ensure that it does not provide a service so specially created for the user that the user ceases to purchase music. LAUNCHcast listeners do not even enjoy the limited predictability that once graced the AM airwaves on weekends in America when "special requests" represented love-struck adolescents' attempts to communicate their feelings to "that special friend." Therefore, we cannot say LAUNCHcast falls within the scope of the DMCA's definition of an interactive service created for individual users.

It is unclear whether plaintiffs will appeal.

Friday's decision is the latest example of the recording industry attempting to regulate the way content is shared over the Internet. In July, Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $675,000 in a file-sharing suit [JURIST report] brought against him by Warner Brothers. In the only other file-sharing case to go to trial, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found liable and fined $192 million [JURIST report] last month. The suit against Tenenbaum may be the last to be brought to trial, as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [organization website] in December decided to discontinue pursuing [JURIST report] those accused of illegal file-sharing in court. The RIAA has indicated that it will work with internet service providers to identify and then deny service to those who infringe copyrights. The RIAA has also sent letters [press release] to thousands of individuals with an offer to settle infringement claims out of court.





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China bans petitioners traveling to capital to file legal complaints
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 4:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese government has banned people from traveling to the capital of Beijing to file legal complaints. The ban [BBC report], issued Tuesday, prevents the common practice in which petitioners travel to the capital to seek redress for a variety of legal problems. Under the new regulations, Chinese authorities will send representatives [China Daily report] to provinces that produce many petitioners, and petitioners will also be able to file complaints online. Chinese authorities said that anyone using the appeals process to make financial gain, damage social order, or incite mass incidents would be punished [Xinhua report]. Tuesday's ban comes as Chinese officials called this week for judicial reforms to improve the country's legal system and speed up delays [CCTV reports] in the court system.

Many human rights activists fear that a ban on traveling to Beijing to file petitions is the latest in a series of moves designed to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches this October. Earlier this week, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong was charged with tax evasion after officials shut down [JURIST reports] the legal research center of his Gongmeng human rights group. Last month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers [press release, in Chinese] in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register. In June, Chinese authorities charged prominent rights activist Liu Xiaobo [JURIST report] with "inciting subversion of state power" [PRC Criminal Law article 105, PDF]. Liu, who spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule, and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country.






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US officials criticize Lockerbie bomber release
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 2:38 PM ET

[JURIST] US officials on Thursday sharply criticized Scotland's decision to release [JURIST report] convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile]. Megrahi was recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer was released Thursday to his native Libya on compassionate grounds by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill [official profile]. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said [press release] that he is "extremely disappointed" with the decision, adding that "[t]he interests of justice have not been served. FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] also expressed [press release] deep disappointment. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] said [press release]:


The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which took the lives of 270 persons, including 189 Americans. We have continued to communicate our long-standing position to UK government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland. Today, we remember those whose lives were lost on December 21, 1988 and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime.

US officials had strongly opposed Megrahi's release. On Monday, seven US Senators, including Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites], sent a letter [text, PDF] to MacAskill urging him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer, joining last week's criticism [transcript] from Clinton. In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.

8/22/09: Mueller sent a letter [text] to MacAskill Friday calling Megrahi's release "a mockery of the rule of law."





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Federal judge partially upholds South Dakota abortion informed consent law
Amelia Mathias on August 21, 2009 1:59 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of South Dakota [official website] issued a ruling [opinion, PDF] Thursday clarifying what doctors in South Dakota are required to tell women seeking an abortion before performing the procedure, partially upholding a state law. Judge Karen Schreier upheld a provision of a South Dakota abortion law [text] that requires doctors to tell women that an abortion terminates a real, unique human life, but not that abortion increases the risks of suicide and depression. Schreier also struck down a provision that required doctors to say that the woman has an existing relationship with the human life. The ruling years after the informed consent law was passed [JURIST report] in 2005. Schreier originally struck down [JURIST report] the law, but was overruled by the US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit. Both Planned Parenthood [advocacy website], which represented the plaintiffs, and the state are claiming to have won the case, and neither has decided to appeal yet.

Controversy on abortion laws has also continued in other states. Also this week, an Oklahoma state court judge ruled [JURIST report] that a state law [SB 1878, DOC] requiring women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure violates the Oklahoma Constitution [text]. Earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (DFPR) [official website] granted doctors a 90-day grace period [JURIST report] for enforcement of the state's parental notification requirement for minors obtaining abortions, a law which one scholar has called "unnecessary" and "dangerous" [JURIST op-ed]. That announcement followed a decision [JURIST report] last month by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that reversed a district court injunction [JURIST report] barring the law's enforcement. In June 2007, the governor of New Hampshire signed a repeal of the state's parental notification law [JURIST report], which never took effect. In 2006, voters in Oregon and California rejected statutes that would have required notification [JURIST report], although those measures allowed minors to request a judge to bypass the requirement.






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Michigan town residents oppose Guantanamo detainees in local prison
Amelia Mathias on August 21, 2009 12:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Residents of Standish, Michigan, held a town meeting Thursday to protest the possible transfer of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to the state prison in the town. The town meeting was organized by local citizens and centered around a panel featuring speakers [AP report], including the sister of a pilot who was killed on 9/11 [JURIST news archive]. While a few citizens expressed fear of detainees escaping, most are frightened of the reputation their town would gain as the home of such prisoners and the possibility that Standish would become a target for terrorist attacks. The town hall meeting took place a week after governmental officials visited the Standish state prison [JURIST report], which is scheduled to be closed [Lansing State Journal report], to determine whether it would be suitable for holding the several hundred Guantanamo detainees who are unable to be freed after the closing of the prison in 2010.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced its intent to transfer six detainees [JURIST report] overseas. The administration is also exploring other options in addition to the Michigan prison for detainees who cannot be sent overseas, including a detention facility in Kansas [JURIST report]. Last week, federal officials said that terrorism trials for some inmates could be held at a new high-security courthouse in Newport News, VA [Washington Post report] if the Obama administration sends cases to federal courts [JURIST report].






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NY appeals court rules governor lacks authority to appoint lieutenant governor
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 12:33 PM ET

[JURIST] A New York state appeals court ruled [opinion text] Thursday that Governor David Paterson [official website] acted beyond the scope of his constitutional authority when he appointed Richard Ravitch lieutenant governor. The Second Judicial Department Appellate Division affirmed a lower court ruling that blocked Ravitch's appointment. The court found:


In our view, therefore, Public Officers Law § 43 cannot be constitutionally applied with respect to a vacancy in the office of lieutenant-governor because it does not authorize the Governor to fill the vacancy and it would permit an appointee of the Governor to do what the Constitution mandates be done by the temporary president of the Senate. Inasmuch as the statute as applied to the office of lieutenant-governor cannot be reconciled with the Constitution, it must yield. Thus, the Governor's purported appointment of Mr. Ravitch was unlawful because no provision of the Constitution or of any statute provides for the filling of a vacancy in the office of lieutenant-governor other than by election, and only the temporary president of the Senate is authorized to perform the duties of that office during the period of the vacancy.

Thursday's decision clears the way for the case to go before the Court of Appeals. A spokesperson for the governor said that he had not decided whether to seek a stay [NYT report] to allow Ravitch to serve while the appeal is pending.

Paterson appointed Ravitch [Bloomberg report] on July 8 while the state Senate was embroiled in a power struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Paterson pointed to a provision of the New York Constitution that allows the governor to appoint people to fill vacant elected positions but it silent on whether the governor may appoint a lieutenant governor. New York has not had a lieutenant governor since former governor Eliot Spitzer resigned [NYT report] amid a prostitution scandal and Paterson became governor. The lieutenant governor serves as Senate president and casts tie-breaking votes.





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Ninth Circuit strikes down California law allowing 'Armenian genocide' victims to sue
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a California state law that allows descendants of victims of the Armenian Genocide [ANI backgrounder] to sue in state courts for unpaid insurance benefits is unconstitutional. The court found that California Civil Procedure Code § 354.4 [text] "interferes with the national government's conduct of foreign relations" because the federal government has declined to describe the World War I-era killings of over one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers as genocide. The court concluded:


California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.4 is preempted because it directly conflicts with the Executive Branch's foreign policy refusing to provide official recognition to the "Armenian Genocide." Far from concerning an area of traditional state interest, § 354.4 impinges upon the National Government's ability to conduct foreign affairs.

The lawsuit was brought by a California citizen of Armenian descent who initiated a class action suit against insurance companies, alleging they had failed to pay benefits. The plaintiff's lawyer said he plans to appeal [San Francisco Chronicle report] the ruling.

In October 2007, the US House of Representatives delayed action [JURIST report] on a resolution [H Res 106 materials] that would have labeled the 1915-1918 killings as genocide, a decision that was welcomed [JURIST report] by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [BBC profile]. The proposed legislation was approved by the House Foreign Relations Committee and had been expected to reach the floor [JURIST reports] before Congress recessed for the year. Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told Congress that the resolution could "severely harm" US-Turkish relations [JURIST report]. Turkey has long objected [JURIST comment] to any attempts to classify the 1915 Armenian killings as genocide. Several other countries - including France, Canada and Argentina - have nonetheless passed laws or resolutions [BBC backgrounder] to that effect. The Obama administration's position on the matter has not been made clear.





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Federal judge dismisses challenge to overseas wiretapping law
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] that expand government power to eavesdrop on overseas conversations. The suit was filed [JURIST report] in July 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on behalf of various rights groups, shortly after then-president George W. Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) [HR 6304 text, PDF] into law. Dismissing the lawsuit, Judge John Koeltl ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert a claim. Director of the ACLU National Security Project Jameel Jaffer said [press release:

We are disappointed by today's ruling, which will allow the mass acquisition of Americans' international e-mails and telephone calls to continue unchecked. To say, as the court says, that plaintiffs can't challenge this statute unless they can show that their own communications have been collected under it is to say that this statute may not be subject to judicial review at all. The vast majority of people whose communications are intercepted under this statute will never know about it – in fact it's possible that no one will ever be able to make the showing that the court says is required.

The court's decision effectively means that Americans' privacy rights will be left to the mercy of the political branches. This is deeply troubling, because the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that individual rights are not needlessly infringed upon by statutes enacted in the name of national security.
Plaintiffs are reportedly considering an appeal of Thursday's ruling.

In June, a federal judge upheld [JURIST report] provisions of the FAA giving immunity to telecom companies from liability associated with assisting the National Security Agency (NSA) with warrantless eavesdropping, dismissing 46 lawsuits against the telecom industry. In January, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review made public [JURIST report] a ruling from August 2008 that upheld the Protect America Act [text], a previous 2007 amendment to FISA that allowed warrantless wiretaps of international phone and e-mail communications. After the amendment, warrants were still required to monitor purely domestic communications. The 2008 FISA amendment law granted the FISA court authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, prohibited the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and ordered the DOJ and other agencies to issue this latest report on the country's use of wiretapping orders.





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Swiss banker, lawyer charged with conspiring to defraud US
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 21, 2009 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A Swiss banking executive and a Swiss lawyer were indicted [text, PDF] Thursday on charges of conspiring to defraud the US, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official websites] announced [press release]. According to the indictment, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website], Hansruedi Schumacher, executive manager at Neue Zuercher Bank (NZB) [corporate website], and lawyer Matthias Rickenbach helped US clients to illegally conceal assets by setting up sham investment accounts. Schumacher and Rickenbach allegedly falsified documents and discouraged their clients from complying with US tax laws. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said:


This is another step in our ongoing effort to pursue hidden offshore assets - no matter where they are located. We're in the early stages of our work to crack down on offshore tax evasion. Through our efforts, we are gaining access to more and more information on institutions and individuals involved in offshore tax evasion, and you can expect us to use all of our enforcement tools to stop this abuse. For people with hidden offshore assets, they have an opportunity to get right with the government. Time is quickly running out, and people should take advantage of our voluntary disclosure process before special provisions expire September 23.

A spokesperson for NZB said Friday that Schumacher had been fired [NYT report] from the bank but declined to make further comments.

Earlier this week, the US government reached an agreement [JURIST report] with Switzerland that would grant the IRS access to information on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. As part of the agreement [text, PDF], the Swiss government will instruct banking giant UBS [corporate website] to begin to turn over information regarding certain anonymous bank accounts. In return, the US will cease unilateral efforts to seek account holder information, including withdrawing motions to enforce "John Doe" summons. In early May, the Obama administration announced revisions to the tax code [JURIST report] designed to curb overseas tax havens. One week earlier, the Swiss government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the attempt to obtain account holder information by the US violated Swiss national sovereignty [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.





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Cambodia genocide tribunal expects early 2010 verdict for ex-Khmer Rouge official
Benjamin Hackman on August 21, 2009 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A verdict is expected by early 2010 in the trial of former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] official Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], a spokesperson for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] confirmed to JURIST Thursday. Kaing, also known as "Duch," is the first senior official of the Khmer Rouge, the communist regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979, to face justice. Also Thursday, ECCC head judge Nil Nonn said that the court would deliver a fair and just verdict [AFP report], warning witnesses not to use the proceedings to take revenge against Kaing.

In March, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for the torture and murder of some 12,000 Cambodians at the Tuol Sleng detention center, where he was secretary. Kaing faces charges [press release, PDF] of homicide, torture, crimes against humanity, and breaches of the Geneva Conventions [materials]. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC, which last week announced the establishment of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts [JURIST reports]. The ECCC has been plagued by accusations of corruption, and, last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] asked the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions [JURIST report] "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges.






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US indicts Mexican cartel leaders on drug trafficking charges
Matt Glenn on August 21, 2009 7:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Ten accused Mexican drug cartel leaders and 33 others have been indicted [press release; indictment materials] in New York and Chicago, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites] announced Thursday. According the indictments, four of which were filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York and eight of which were filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official websites], the cartels combined to smuggle over 200 metric tons of cocaine in the US between 1990 and 2008. In the investigations that led to the indictments, government officials seized over 32,500 kilograms of cocaine, 64 kilograms of heroin, and $22.6 million in cash. So far, the investigation has led to the indictment of 58 individuals. Many of those charged remain at large, and it is not clear how many of them are currently in the US. At a press conference, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] stated [text]:


Our friends and partners in Mexico are waging an historic and heroic battle with the cartels as we speak. This is not a fight that we in the United States can afford to watch from the sidelines. The stakes are too high and the consequences too real for us. We will continue to investigate, charge, and arrest the cartel leaders and their subordinates, and we will continue systematically to dismantle and disrupt their far-reaching and dangerous operations.

Of the 58 people indicted, all but one could be sentenced to life in prison.

In May, Mexican security forces arrested [JURIST report] 27 Mexican public officials on drug-related corruption charges. In April, the Mexican Senate passed an amendment [JURIST report] to the country's constitution that would permit the government to seize property from suspected drug traffickers and other criminals prior to conviction. In October, reports indicated that both the Assistant Attorney General’s Office Specializing in Organized Crime (SIEDO) and the US Embassy in Mexico had been infiltrated [JURIST report] by a branch of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which paid officials to turn over confidential information. The chief of Mexico's Federal Preventative Police resigned [JURIST report] in connection to the investigation.





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EU nations willing to take Guantanamo detainees: report
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 20, 2009 3:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Ten European Union (EU) nations have agreed to accept Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees, and five more are giving the matter serious consideration, according to a Thursday Washington Post report [text]. While Britain, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain [JURIST reports] have all either taken or publicly agreed to take detainees, administration officials said four other countries have privately agreed to accept detainees. Five other countries have not yet committed to accepting detainees, but are considering it. Belgium has sent a delegation [press release] to visit the facility and interview a detainee for potential transfer, and a second European delegation is reportedly also visiting the facility this week. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende [official profile] said last month that the Netherlands would be willing to consider [JURIST report] accepting Guantanamo Bay detainees, despite earlier statements to the contrary.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Obama administration has notified Congress of plans to transfer six Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees out of the country. The notifications were reportedly filed August 7, in accordance with a new law that requires risk assessments and notification of transfers. One of the six detainees is Mohammed Jawad [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive], who will be repatriated to Afghanistan. The other five have not been identified, but two are expected to be sent to Ireland, two to Portugual [JURIST reports], and the sixth to an undecided nation.






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Tunisia continues to violate human rights in name of security: report
Amelia Mathias on August 20, 2009 1:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Tunisia continues to commit hundreds of human rights abuses [press release] despite previous vows to cease, according to a report [text, PDF] published Thursday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. The report details the arrest, torture, and detention of prisoners in the name of national security, and even the kidnapping and forced return of Tunisians living abroad. The report urges Tunisian authorities to:


ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are promptly, fully and independently investigated, with the outcome made public and officials responsible for torture or other serious abuses being held accountable and prosecuted before the courts, in conformity with international law.

The report also calls for the other governments not to return Tunisians to their native country where they are at risk of torture, specifically referring to the US rendition of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees.

This report is not AI's first accusation against Tunisia. In June 2008, the group released a report [text] accusing Tunisia of committing widespread human rights abuses under overly-broad anti-terrorism legislation. AI also criticized the US, as well as European and other Arab countries, for turning over terror suspects to Tunisian authorities [JURIST report] despite allegations of torture and other abuses. In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the deportation [text] of a former Tunisian terrorism suspect, finding he would likely be subjected to torture [JURIST report] in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] if returned to Tunisia. In September 2007, Human Rights Watch released a report [text] accusing Tunisian officials of mistreating two former Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] after they were returned to the country.





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Federal judge limits use of hearsay evidence in Guantanamo cases
Amelia Mathias on August 20, 2009 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge Reggie Walton of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] issued a ruling [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that severely curtails the federal government's ability to use hearsay evidence in trials against Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. While in normal criminal and civil cases hearsay is not accepted as evidence unless it meets specific criteria, it has frequently been allowed in terrorism cases because there either was no other evidence or presenting alternative evidence would have been too burdensome. The government had argued that hearsay was broadly permitted by the US Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld [opinion text]. In his opinion, Walton disagreed, holding:


Where the government is unable to produce non-hearsay evidence due to its own administrative or bureaucratic errors or lack of resources to amass such evidence, it cannot rely upon its shortage of resources or its own mistakes as justification for the use of hearsay. And the more significant a fact the government seeks to establish through the use of hearsay is, the heavier its burden will be to justify the Court's consideration of hearsay as a substitute for its non-hearsay alternative.

Though Walton was careful to assert that he had not ruled out hearsay entirely, its use has been curtailed in future cases in his court, and other district judges may follow suit.

Walton's ruling may make it more difficult for the government to prosecuted suspected terrorists, perhaps speeding up the trial and release of some of the remaining Guantanamo detainees. Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced its intent to transfer six detainees [JURIST report] overseas. The administration is also exploring options for detainees who cannot be sent overseas, and, last week, federal and state officials toured a prison in rural Michigan [JURIST report] in anticipation that it could eventually hold Guantanamo detainees. Also last week, federal officials said that terrorism trials for some inmates could be held at a new high-security courthouse in Newport News, VA [Washington Post report] if the Obama administration sends cases to federal courts [JURIST report].





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Pakistan treason charges against Musharraf unlikely
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 20, 2009 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [BBC profile] said Wednesday that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website] does not support treason charges against former president Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive], making the requisite consensus resolution extremely unlikely. Gilani told parliament that in order to try Musharraf under Article 6 [text] of the Pakistani Constitution, there would have to be a unanimous resolution [Daily Times report], which the PPP will not support. Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website], led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive], had called for treason charges [Dawn report] Wednesday, saying he had a draft resolution prepared. Gilani responded that revenge had already been taken through the democratic process and that no treason charges would be brought unless parliament reached a unanimous decision.

Last week, Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) [party website] said that it would support treason charges against Musharraf, one day after Pakistani police filed charges [JURIST reports] against Musharraf alleging that he illegally detained members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in November 2007. Last month, the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] declared [judgment, PDF] that Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule violated the Constitution of Pakistan [text]. Musharraf resigned from office [JURIST report] last August in order to avoid impeachment proceedings by the country's parliament. Earlier that month, the country's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports]. In June 2008, Sharif called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he had done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Scotland justice secretary orders Lockerbie bomber released to Libya
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 20, 2009 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill [official profile] announced [press release] Thursday that convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile] is being released from prison on compassionate grounds and transferred to his native Libya. Megrahi was recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and his release comes days after the Scottish High Court of the Judiciary [official website] accepted a request to withdraw a pending appeal [JURIST report] to his 2001 conviction, which would have been an impediment to his transfer. MacAskill said:

In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people. The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.

Mr Al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.

But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.

Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people. No matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.

For these reasons - and these reasons alone - it is my decision that Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said [press release], "[t]he United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release [Megrahi]."

US officials have strongly opposed Megrahi's release. On Monday, seven US Senators, including Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites], sent a letter [text, PDF] to MacAskill urging him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer, joining last week's criticism [transcript] from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website]. In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in al-Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.





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Federal judge denies advocacy group motions to intervene in Proposition 8 suit
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 20, 2009 10:37 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Wednesday that several gay rights groups may not intervene in a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging California's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], Proposition 8 [text, PDF], on federal constitutional grounds. Judge Vaughn Walker denied requests to intervene filed by groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) [advocacy websites]. Walker also denied a similar request by the Campaign for California Families [advocacy website], which supported Proposition 8. Lambda Legal said in a statement [text] that it "anticipates continuing to support the case as an amicus." Walker set a trial date for January 11, 2010.

The lawsuit was filed [JURIST report] in May by former US solicitor general Ted Olson and prominent litigator David Boies [professional profiles], who were opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore [opinion], which decided the outcome of the contested 2000 US Presidential election [JURIST backgrounder]. The challenge was announced shortly after the California Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that state law challenges to the ban lacked merit. Proposition 8, approved by voters [JURIST report] in November, was a response to the California Supreme Court's decision last year striking down [JURIST report] a statutory ban on same-sex marriage as violating the equal protection and privacy provisions of the state constitution. The amendment has become a focal point for gay rights, prompting donors from across the US and several foreign countries to contribute $83 million in total for both sides of the issue, setting US fundraising records [JURIST report].






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Federal court rules probable cause required for charity asset freeze
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 20, 2009 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] late Tuesday that the federal government cannot freeze the assets of an organization suspected of terrorism ties without probable cause. Judge James Carr also ruled that the government must tell the organization the basis for the asset freeze and give the organization the opportunity to defend itself. The ruling came in the case of Kindhearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development [ACLU materials], which sued the federal government in 2008 after the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) [official website] froze its assets in 2006, alleging it was providing support to US-designated terrorist group Hamas [JURIST news archive]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] brought the suit [complaint, PDF] on plaintiffs' behalf. ACLU cooperating attorney Hina Shamsi said [press release]:


This historic ruling rejects the government's argument that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures does not apply when a case raises national security and foreign policy concerns. The ruling provides a much-needed judicial check on executive power. Until now, the administration has been able to unilaterally and indefinitely freeze the assets of a U.S. corporation without probable cause and a warrant.

There is no word on whether the government plans an appeal.

In February, several advocacy, rights, and philanthropic groups filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF; JURIST report] in the case, arguing against the classification of some charitable groups as terrorist organizations without due process. The brief argued that the designation of charitable groups as terrorist organizations without due process violates the groups' constitutional rights and discourage and undermine their humanitarian aid efforts. Kindhearts had argued that OFAC's asset freeze, investigation, and refusal to allow KindHearts to dispute OFAC's findings were arbitrary and capricious, and violated KindHearts' First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment [text] rights.





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Counterterrorism still FBI top priority: report
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2009 8:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Eight years after 9/11 [JURIST news archive], counterterrorism efforts continue to dominate the operations and budget of the FBI [official website], according to a Tuesday report [text] by the New York Times. Since the attacks, the bureau has doubled the number of agents it assigns to counterterrorism efforts and has created specialized "threat squads" to investigate possible threats. Agents in those squads have said that 9/11 showed how important it is to follow credible leads, but noted that less than five percent of those they pursue are substantial enough to justify long-term investigation. FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] has also admitted that devoting 40 percent of agents to counterterrorism has reduced the amount of resources that can be devoted to fighting other crimes, but says that it remains the agency's top priority.

The report illustrates the how central counterterrorism remains to the FBI despite February statements [materials; JURIST report] by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole [official profile] that a number of agents from national security and counterterrorism activities would be reassigned to investigations involving financial fraud. In August 2008, the FBI proposed new investigation guidelines [JURIST report] designed to reflect the shift in the agency's focus. In September of that year, Mueller defended the proposed guidelines [JURIST report] before the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] as a "necessary step" in fighting terrorism. Opponents have argued [JURIST report] that the changes could allow inappropriate racial and ethnic profiling and would permit agents to open terror investigations without evidence of any crime having been committed.






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Facebook sued in California court for violating privacy rights
Brian Jackson on August 20, 2009 8:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Five Facebook [social networking website] users have filed suit [complaint; case materials] in the Superior Court of California for Orange County alleging that the social networking site violated their privacy. Among the claims put forth in the suit filed Monday are that Facebook disseminates users' private information and copyrighted photographs, and altered its Terms of Use without seeking approval of users. The plaintiffs, all Facebook users, claim these actions violate California Civil Code section 3344, the California Online Privacy Act, and the California constitutional right to privacy [texts]. Facebook called the complaint meritless [San Francisco Chronicle report] and indicated it will fight the suit.

This lawsuit is just the latest in a series of privacy-related challenges the social networking site has faced over the past year. In late July, Facebook closed a loophole that allowed individuals to see strangers' photos [CNET report] without those users' knowledge. In mid-July, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada [official website] stated that Facebook does not comply [report, PDF] with Canadian privacy laws. In February, Facebook, facing a federal complaint [PC World report], reversed an earlier change to its Terms of Use that would have given it ownership of all data posted on the site, even if a user were to delete his or her page.






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US reaches deal with Switzerland over access to anonymous UBS accounts
Brian Jackson on August 20, 2009 7:46 AM ET

[JURIST] The US government on Wednesday reached an agreement [press release] with Switzerland that would grant the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] access to information on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. As part of the agreement [text, PDF], the Swiss government will instruct banking giant UBS [corporate website] to begin to turn over information regarding certain anonymous bank accounts. In return, the US will cease unilateral efforts to seek account holder information, including withdrawing motions to enforce "John Doe" summons, although the summons will remain in effect. UBS will notify account holders that their information may be turned over the the IRS, though this will not necessarily make the individuals ineligible for the service's Voluntary Disclosure Program [text].

The agreement is the end of a contentious process by the IRS to seek out individuals who hide their income for the purpose of avoiding taxes. In early May, the Obama administration announced revisions to the tax code [JURIST report] designed to curb overseas tax havens. One week earlier, the Swiss government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the attempt to obtain account holder information by the US violated Swiss national sovereignty [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.






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Oklahoma judge finds broad abortion law unconstitutional
Devin Montgomery on August 20, 2009 6:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Oklahoma state court judge Vicki Robertson ruled [transcript, PDF] Tuesday that a state law [SB 1878, DOC] requiring women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure violates the Oklahoma Constitution [text]. Without reaching the validity the of the ultrasound requirement itself, the judge held [transcript, PDF] that the law violated a constitutional requirement that legislation only address one issue. The law also included sections on requirements for abortion clinic signs, the administration of an early-term abortion pill, and rules on lawsuits relating to abortions. Attorneys for the state had argued that the law did not violate the constitution because its substance all related to the broader issue of abortion, and have indicated that they will likely appeal [NYT report] the ruling.

Controversy on abortion laws has also continued in other states. Earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (DFPR) [official website] granted doctors a 90-day grace period [statement, PDF; JURIST report] for enforcement of the state's parental notification requirement for minors obtaining abortions, a law which one scholar has called "unnecessary" and "dangerous" [JURIST op-ed]. That announcement followed a decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last month by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] that reversed a district court injunction [JURIST report] barring the law's enforcement. In June 2007, the governor of New Hampshire signed a repeal of the state's parental notification law [JURIST report], which never took effect. In 2006, voters in Oregon and California rejected statutes that would have required notification [JURIST report], although those measures allowed minors to request a judge to bypass the requirement.






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Germany lawmakers agree on draft law necessary for approving EU reform treaty
Andrew Morgan on August 19, 2009 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] German lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to a draft law strengthening parliamentary involvement with the country's representatives to the European Union [official website], a step toward reforms necessary to Germany's ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty [EU materials; text]. The draft law would require [DW report] the government to fully inform the Bundestag [official website] about negotiations at the EU, and would allow parliament to issue non-binding guidance on issues before the EU. The Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled last month that such a law was necessary prior to ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite its compatibility with the German Basic Law [text]. The draft did not adopt [UPI report] a proposal by the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian affiliate of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) [party websites, in German] of Chancellor Angela Merkel [official profile], to make parliamentary decisions binding on the EU delegation. The Bundestag is set to vote on the draft law on September 8, with the Bundesrat [official website] to follow on September 18.

Efforts to ratify [JURIST news archive] the treaty in all of the 27 member countries required for approval have met some obstacles. Although the treaty has been approved in 23 countries, Irish voters rejected [JURIST report] the treaty last June, leading Czech President Vaclav Klaus [official website] to refuse to sign the measure, despite approval [JURIST report] by the Czech Senate [official website]. Last July, Polish President Lech Kaczynski [official website] refused to sign [JURIST report] the treaty despite parliamentary approval, calling it "pointless" in light of the Irish rejection. Ireland agreed in June to hold a second referendum [JURIST report] after EU leaders agreed to certain concessions [presidency conclusions, PDF].






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White House urged not to re-sign ICC Rome treaty
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 2:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Obama administration should not re-sign and ratify the Rome Statute [text] and join the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], according to a study [text] released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation [advocacy website]. According to the report, the ICC lacks checks on its power, is a threat to national sovereignty, and could cause complications to military cooperation between the US and its allies. The report concludes:

While the International Criminal Court represents an admirable desire to hold war criminals accountable for their terrible crimes, the court is flawed notionally and operationally. The ICC has not overcome many of the problems plaguing the ad hoc tribunals established for Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It remains slow and inefficient. Worse, unlike ad hoc tribunals, it includes a drive to justify its budget and existence in perpetuity rather than simply completing a finite mission.

Its broad autonomy and jurisdiction invite politically motivated indictments. Its inflexibility can impede political resolution of problems, and its insulation from political considerations can complicate diplomatic efforts. Efforts to use the court to apply pressure to inherently political issues and supersede the foreign policy prerogatives of sovereign nations - such as the prosecutor's decision to consider Israel's actions in Gaza - undermine the court's credibility and threaten its future as a useful tool for holding accountable the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The report urges to US not to re-sign the Rome Statute, and to press for changes at the 2010 review conference.

The Heritage Foundation study comes in response to recent media reports that suggest the Obama administration may be considering joining the ICC. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Kenya that it is a "great regret" [Reuters report] that the US is not a signatory to the ICC. The Rome Statute was approved in 1998, and the ICC was established in 2002. The US signed, but never ratified the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush later "un-signed" the treaty by notifying the UN that the US did not intend to ratify it. As of August 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, and Russia.





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Australia rights group criticizes proposed terrorism law changes
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian rights group Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) [advocacy website] on Wednesday sharply criticized [press release] the government's proposed reforms [materials] to Australia's national security and anti-terrorism legislation. Last week, Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland [official website] released a 452-page discussion paper [text, PDF] detailing the proposed changes, including "providing police with new emergency powers to enter and search premises without a warrant where it is suspected, on reasonable grounds, that there is material relevant to a terrorism offence and there is a threat to public health or safety" and "extending the time available for police to re-enter a premises under a search warrant from one hour to 12 hours in emergency circumstances." CLA called these expanded powers "highly problematic," saying:


They would fundamentally undermine existing safeguards that require a judicial officer issuing a warrant. And it is questionable whether there is actually a need for enhanced powers. There is no evidence to suggest, for example, that police are unduly limited by the requirement to apply for a warrant before entering suspicious premises.

CLA did applaud the government for publishing a discussion paper that will be open for public comment until September 25.

McClelland announced plans to reform Australian anti-terrorism laws [JURIST report] last December in accordance with the recommendations [text] of a report [text, PDF] into the case of Dr. Mohammad Haneef [JURIST news archive; timeline] which concluded that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) [official website] had no evidence to detain him. Haneef was arrested in July 2007 and held for 25 days without charges after his cousin allegedly participated in the Glasgow Scotland airport attack [BBC report]. Haneef was later charged with providing support to a terrorist organization. The charges were eventually dropped, but Haneef's visa was revoked. The report, authored by retired judge John Clarke, found that Haneef should never have been charged and that there was "no evidence that [Haneef] was associated with or had foreknowledge of the terrorist events or of the possible involvement of his second cousins Dr Sabeel Ahmed and Mr Kafeel Ahmed in terrorist activities." The report also found that the government of former Prime Minister John Howard had not engaged in any wrongdoing, but that mistakes were made.





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Obama administration to transfer 6 Guantanamo detainees overseas: report
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The Obama administration has notified Congress of plans to transfer six Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees out of the country, according to a Tuesday Miami Herald report [text]. The notifications were reportedly filed August 7, in accordance with a new law that requires risk assessments and notification of transfers. One of the six detainees is Mohammed Jawad [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive], who will be repatriated to Afghanistan. The other five have not been identified, but two are expected to be sent to Ireland, two to Portugual [JURIST reports], and the sixth to an undecided nation. Also this week, the Belgian Foreign Ministry [official website] announced it was sending a delegation [press release] to Guantanamo to interview a detainee who could be released to that country. There is also another foreign delegation traveling to Guantanamo this week.

These latest developments come as the Obama administration works toward closing the detention facility. The administration is exploring options for detainees who cannot be sent overseas, and, last week, federal and state officials toured a prison in rural Michigan [JURIST report] in anticipation that it could eventually hold Guantanamo detainees. Also last week, federal officials said that terrorism trials for some inmates could be held at a new high-security courthouse in Newport News, VA [Washington Post report] if the Obama administration sends cases to federal courts [JURIST report]. The Obama administration faces sharp opposition from members of Congress over plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to US soil. In late July, US Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson and Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris [official profiles], both members of task force appointed by Obama to oversee the closing of Guantanamo, testified [JURIST report] in front of the House Armed Services Committee [official website] that the Obama administration is considering transferring more Guantanamo Bay detainees to the US as they urged Congress to pass proposed reforms to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] and detainee policy.






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Ninth Circuit overturns stock options backdating conviction of Brocade ex-CEO
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday overturned the conviction [opinion, PDF] of former Brocade Communications Systems [corporate website] CEO Gregory Reyes for backdating stock options [JURIST news archive]. Citing prosecutorial misconduct, the appeals court overturned Reyes's 2007 conviction and sentence [JURIST reports] on conspiracy and fraud charges [complaint, PDF] for backdating stock options. The Ninth Circuit found that the prosecution had made a false assertion of material fact to the jury in the closing argument. The prosecutor told the jury that employees in the finance department did not know about the backdating, when employees had told investigators that they were aware of it. The court found:


Although the government's case was relatively strong, the jury took seven days to deliberate, and the case was complex and technical. Moreover, the prosecutor's statements were particularly prejudicial given that Reyes' defense rested on his delegating his responsibilities to others and reliance on them. At the end there was considerable focus on the issue of what the Finance Department knew. The prosecutor's false statements went directly to this issue. Moreover, the statements were made during closing arguments, both orally and visually, and closing statements from the prosecution "matter a great deal." Deliberate false statements by those privileged to represent the United States harm the trial process and the integrity of our prosecutorial system. We do not lightly tolerate a prosecutor asserting as a fact to the jury something known to be untrue or, at the very least, that the prosecution had very strong reason to doubt. There is no reason to tolerate such misconduct here.

The court declined to "conclude the prosecutor's conduct was so egregious as to require dismissal of the prosecution," and remanded Reyes's case for a new trial. The court upheld the conviction of Reyes' co-defendant Stephanie Jensen, but remanded for resentencing.

The practice of backdating involves setting an option-holder's stock price at a day when stock prices were low instead of the price on the day the option was granted. Although the practice itself is not illegal in the US, it usually involves a violation of US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] and other federal reporting requirements [SOX backgrounder]. In February, the SEC charged [JURIST report] four executives from Research In Motion (RIM) [corporate website], the company that makes BlackBerry, with stock options backdating and reached a settlement agreement. In June 2008, a federal grand jury indicted [JURIST report] two former executives from the Silicon Vally tech firm Broadcom in connection with a backdating scheme. In October 2007, Mercury Interactive settled [JURIST report] a similar case for a record $117.5 million. In February 2007, the US Department of Justice indicted [JURIST report] the former general counsel of McAfee systems for stock option backdating. In January 2007, the US Attorney's office in San Francisco opened a criminal probe [JURIST report] into backdating at computer maker Apple Inc.





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Prominent China human rights lawyer charged with tax evasion
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 9:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong has been charged with tax evasion, his lawyer said Tuesday. Xu is accused of failing to pay taxes [NYT report] on a $100,000 grant from Yale University earmarked for the legal research center of Xu's Gongmeng human rights group. Xu was taken into custody last month, shortly after Chinese officials shut down [JURIST reports] the legal research center. Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] said Tuesday that Chinese officials had completely shut down [press release] Gongmeng's operations. HRIC executive director Sharon Hom said:


The legal prosecution of Xu Zhiyong and the shutdown of Gongmeng are not isolated incidents. Rather, these official actions reflect a policy of suppression of independent civil society organizations. The misuse of law and legal process to intimidate and control these organizations present a grave challenge to China’s legal reform and the growth of its civil society.

If convicted, Xu could face up to seven years in prison. An indictment is expected shortly.

Zhiyong's formal arrest is the latest in a series of incidents that human rights activists claim are an attempt by the Chinese government to quash dissidence as the 60th anniversary of Communist rule approaches in October. Last month, the Chinese government suspended the licenses of 53 lawyers [press release, in Chinese] in Beijing, including prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, for failing to pass an assessment or failing to register. In June, Chinese authorities charged prominent rights activist Liu Xiaobo [JURIST report] with "inciting subversion of state power" [PRC Criminal Law article 105, PDF]. Liu, who spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule, and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country.





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Russia human rights activists leaving Chechnya in wake of killings
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Russian human rights activists and journalists are suspending their work in Chechnya [JURIST news archive] in the wake of the recent violence, according to a Tuesday Moscow Times report [text]. Rights group Memorial [advocacy website, in Russian], which employed recently murdered [JURIST report] activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary], closed its Chechen office soon after her death. Memorial, which has continued work in Chechnya through other regional offices, has reported that several of its staff, including Estemirova, were being followed by unknown persons [press release, in Russian] and had received threats. Last week, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [media website, in Russian] withdrew all of its reporters from Chechnya, saying that it was too dangerous for them to continue working there. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary], murdered in 2006, was a Novaya Gazeta special correspondent working in Chechnya.

Last week, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead in the trunk of their car. Saulayeva and Dzhabrailov were taken [Moscow Times report] from the office of her organization, Let's Save the Generation, which works to aid children affected by violence in Chechnya. Their deaths came less than a month after the death of Estemirova. Memorial has accused [press release, in Russian] Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov [BBC profile] of responsibility in Estemirova's death. Kadyrov has filed a defamation suit against Memorial and claims that the recent killings are an attempt by rebels to discredit him.






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Federal court upholds Texas university affirmative action admissions policy
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 19, 2009 7:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] a University of Texas at Austin (UT) [academic website] affirmative action [JURIST news archive] policy of considering race in student admissions. The plaintiffs were two Caucasian females who were denied admission to UT. They challenged the admission policy, which allows race and ethnicity to be considered among several other factors. The plaintiffs argued that a Texas state law that requires UT to accept all students in the top ten percent of their high school class provides a diverse student body, such that it is unnecessary to consider race and ethnicity to achieve diversity. The court rejecting that argument, holding that UT's policy was consistent with the 2003 US Supreme Court [official website] ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger [opinion text; JURIST symposium]:


The Texas Solicitor General summarized this case best when he stated, "If the Plaintiffs are right, Grutter is wrong." Absent Texas' Top Ten Percent law and the effect it has on UT admissions, the Court has difficulty imagining an admissions policy that could more closely resemble the Michigan Law School's admissions policy upheld and approved by the Supreme Court in Grutter. But if the Plaintiffs are right, and if the Top Ten Percent Law somehow acts to make UT's consideration of race in admissions unconstitutional, then every public university in the United States would be prohibited from considering race in their admissions process because the same type of "percentage plan" which the Top Ten Percent law embodies could be established at any state university, and thus their failure to implement such a plan would constitute a failure to consider race-neutral alternatives. Grutter stands for exactly the opposite, as the decision explicitly permitted the consideration of race despite the existence and availability of race-neutral alternatives like percentage plans or lotteries. Consequently, as long as Grutter remains good law, UT's current admissions program remains constitutional.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons Legal Defense Fund (NAACPLDF) [press releases] both filed amicus briefs in the support of UT's policy and applauded Monday's ruling. The attorney for the plaintiffs said he plans to appeal [AP report].

Affirmative action continues to be a controversial issue. In April, California Attorney General Jerry Brown [official website] said [opinion letter, PDF] that portions of Proposition 209 [text], an amendment to the California Constitution [text] banning the use of affirmative action for state hiring, contracting, or university admission, may violate the US Constitution [JURIST report]. In November, Colorado voters narrowly rejected [JURIST report] a ballot measure [Amendment 46 text and materials] to prohibit governmental agencies from discriminating or granting preferences on the basis of race and sex. A nearly identical measure passed [JURIST report] in Nebraska. In 2006, Michigan voters approved a similar state constitutional amendment, which was upheld [JURIST report] in March by a federal district judge in a lawsuit alleging that such an affirmative action ban violated the US Constitution.





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Most US federal court judges still white men, but demographics changing: report
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] As Justice Sonia Sotomayor [JURIST news archive] takes a seat on the US Supreme Court - the first Hispanic and only the third woman to do so - the federal judiciary as a whole continues to be heavily dominated by white males, according to a new report [text, PDF] released by the Brookings Institution [think tank website]. As of early August 2009, 70 percent of federal judges were white men, 15 percent were white women, 10 percent were minority (African-American and Hispanic) males, and 3 percent were minority females. According to the report, however, recent appointees have included proportionately fewer white males and, perhaps in a related trend, fewer private practitioners. The trend has been toward appointing district judges from previously sitting judges and then appointing circuit court judges from the ranks of district judges. The report concludes:


Most would agree with the modest proposition that, all things being equal, the federal judiciary should look more or less like the population it serves as to gender, race, and ethnicity — or at least look more or less like the realistic pool of potential judges. Over the last thirty years, the face of the judiciary has changed, although it hardly mirrors the general population and probably not the applicant pool. And it shows different faces in different parts of the country. In any event, there’s little reason to doubt the changes will continue, regardless of the party in the White House.

Whether the change in district judges’ vocational background will or should continue is a more difficult question. For one thing, as an empirical matter, there is scant evidence on whether or not they judge differently.

Sotomayor was sworn in earlier this month after debate [JURIST reports] by the US Senate, much of which focused on her infamous "wise Latina" remark rather than he judicial record. Through the confirmation hearings, Sotomayor maintained [JURIST report] that she decides cases based only on precedent, saying that she does "not believe that any ethnic, racial, or gender group has an advantage in sound judgment."





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ICE acknowledges previously unreported immigration detainee deaths
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 2:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] acknowledged Monday that 11 deaths in immigration detention had gone unreported [press release]. ICE added 10 names to the official roster of immigration detainee fatalities [text, XLS] and acknowledged an eleventh death [press release] that occurred last week. The revelation of the additional deaths came in response to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit seeking documents pertaining to detainee deaths. ACLU staff attorney David Shapiro said:


Today's announcement confirms our very worst fears. For too long, the system of detaining immigration detainees has been devoid of transparency and accountability. This forces us to question even further whether there are still more deaths that somehow have gone unaccounted for.

In response, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton [official profile] directed a review of all detainee deaths to make sure there were no other omissions, saying, "[t]his is a serious matter that we uncovered and it requires an immediate response. Appropriate tracking and accounting of the deaths of individuals in ICE custody is imperative." Also Monday, Morton announced that the agency has stopped using arrest quotas [AP report] as part of the program to remove illegal aliens from the US.

Earlier this month, ICE announced plans to implement large-scale changes [JURIST report] to its immigration detention system. Morton announced the creation of an Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP), which will be charged with overseeing the location and operation of detention facilities, ensuring that detainees have access to health care, and taking steps to prevent the persecution of detainees. Morton also announced that the controversial T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center [ICE fact sheet] would cease to hold families, and proposed turning it into a center for women only. Since its creation in 2003, ICE has been criticized for many of the methods it uses to capture and detain illegal immigrants. Last month, the Immigration Justice Clinic [academic website] at the Cardozo School of Law released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] saying that immigration agents have committed numerous constitutional violations during raids on immigrants' homes.





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International arbitration commission splits Ethiopia-Eritrea border war damages
Abigail Salisbury on August 18, 2009 2:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The specially-established Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission [official backgrounder] on Monday awarded damages [press release, PDF] "resulting from violations of international law" that occurred during the nations' 1998-2000 border war. The five-person panel established under the Permanent Court of Arbitration [official website] at The Hague awarded USD $174,036,520 to Ethiopia and $161,455,000 to Eritrea [awards, PDF], not including an additional $2,065,865 granted to individual Eritrean claimants. The nations had agreed to enter into binding arbitration on damages, and on Monday the Commission:

reiterate[d] its confidence that the Parties will ensure that the compensation awarded will be paid promptly, and that funds received in respect of their claims will be used to provide relief to their civilian populations injured in the war.
On Tuesday, Eritrean state media published the government's response to the order [Shabait report]:
the Government of Eritrea accepts the Award of the Claims Commission without any equivocation due to its final and binding nature under the Algiers Agreement. This is indeed consistent with Eritrea's track record of respecting arbitration decisions that emanate from its treaty obligations.
Eritrea officially separated from Ethiopia and became a recognized nation [CIA World Factbook] in 1993 after the Eritrean people voted for independence in a referendum overseen by the UN. The countries continued to dispute the demarcation between them, resulting in a two-year border war and an estimated 80,000 casualties. The conflict was brought to an end through UN intervention [UNMEE backgrounder].





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State Department Mexico rights report paves way for aid
Andrew Morgan on August 18, 2009 2:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] on Monday announced [transcript] that it has sent a report [text, PDF] to Congress that gives a favorable opinion of Mexico's recent human rights record, paving the way for US aid to the country. The report outlines Mexico's progress in addressing a variety of human rights issues as part of the Merida Initiative [DOS materials], a $1.4 billion aid program designed to combat criminal organizations in Central America and the Caribbean. In order for Mexico to receive $100 million in aid, DOS must verify [AP report] that Mexico is taking steps to promote human rights, but it need not certify that no abuses are taking place. According to the report, the success of the Merida Initiative will promote a continued push for human rights protections in Mexico:


Our enhanced bilateral cooperation with and assistance to Mexico under the Merida Initiative and our other activities also provide the means and opportunity to address and advance some of the issues that [have been raised], including transparency and accountability; consultations with civil society; promotion of a fair, effective, impartial justice system; professionalization of the police and military, as well as the courts and prosecutors; and advancement of human rights.

The DOS report finds that Mexico is making progress in promoting police transparency, engaging civil society groups, investigating allegations of human rights abuses by police and military personnel, and prohibiting the use of coerced evidence in trial proceedings. Critics, including the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center [advocacy website] and US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] have accused the US government of minimizing Mexican abuses in order to facilitate narco-trafficking enforcement efforts. Leahy express disappointment Tuesday that the report fails to address impunity [press release] within the Mexican military.

In April, advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused the Mexican military of failing [JURIST report] to hold soldiers accountable for human rights violations, which it says undermines "the goal of stopping drug-related violence and improving public security." HRW has previously criticized [JURIST report] Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) [official website, in Spanish] for not doing enough to promote remedies and reforms needed to end abuses. Last year, in a report to the Mexican National Congress, CNDH accused the military of committing grave human rights abuses [JURIST report], including the torture, rape and murder of civilians. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] also sent a letter [text, PDF] to President Felipe Calderon [official website] last year raising concerns about human rights violations committed by military personnel.





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Ex-Credit Suisse broker convicted of fraud and conspiracy
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Credit Suisse broker Eric Butler was convicted Monday of multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website]. His co-defendant Julian Tzolov pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last month and testified against Butler. Butler and Tzolov are accused [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] of defrauding clients out of more than $400 million by selling high-risk, mortgage-backed securities to clients who requested low-risk investments, in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Securities Act of 1933, and other SEC regulations [text]. Butler faces up to 45 years in prison. Both Butler and Tsolov will be sentenced October 27.

In light of the numerous acts of financial fraud that have been reported, the Obama administration has made protecting consumers a top priority. Last month, Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson Mary Schapiro pledged policy changes [JURIST report] that would improve the odds of preventing investment fraud. In May, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version [JURIST report] of the credit card holders' bill of rights, which the president signed the following day [press release]. Just two days prior, Obama signed [JURIST report] the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, strengthening criminal laws against financial fraud.






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Scotland court allows withdrawal of Lockerbie bomber appeal
Andrew Morgan on August 18, 2009 1:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The Scottish High Court of the Judiciary [official website] on Tuesday accepted a request from convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile] to withdraw a pending appeal to his 2001 conviction. The court's decision to drop the appeal removes an impediment to Megrahi's petition to serve the remainder of his sentence in his native Libya, which could not be granted while legal actions are pending. Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini [official profile] must now decide whether to drop an appeal of Megrahi's 27-year sentence, which the government sees as too lenient. Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill [official profile] is considering whether to release or transfer [BBC report] Megrahi on "compassionate grounds" in light of his recently diagnosed terminal prostate cancer. On Monday, seven US Senators including Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites], sent a letter to MacAskill urging [Politics Daily report] him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer, joining last week's criticism [transcript] from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official website].

In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in al-Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.






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Federal judge denies habeas petition for Yemeni Guantanamo detainee: report
Brian Jackson on August 18, 2009 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] issued a confidential ruling last week denying a habeas corpus [LII materials] petition by Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Adham Mohammed Ali Awad, the Miami Herald reported [text] Monday. Yemeni native Ali Awad was detained following a skirmish and standoff outside a hospital in Afghanistan in 2002 and has been held at Guantanamo ever since. There is no record that formal charges have been levied against Ali Awad, a situation that exemplifies many of the issues [San Francisco Chronicle report] facing Guantanamo detainees. With Ali Awad's health reportedly failing [detainee status report, PDF], it is unclear whether the government will act quickly to bring a case against him.

Since the US Supreme Court's June 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Guantanamo detainees could challenge their imprisonment in federal court through the use of habeas corpus motions, several detainees have been granted release. Last month, Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad was ordered released [JURIST report] when a federal judge granted his habeas petition. Jawad's release came less than two weeks after the same judge ordered that all of Jawad's statements elicited by torture be suppressed [JURIST report]. Jawad faced charges of attempted murder [JURIST report] for a grenade attack on US soldiers in Kabul in 2002. Also last month, a federal judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Kuwaiti Guantanamo Bay detainee Khaled Al-Mutairi.






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Supreme Court refuses stay of execution in Sotomayor's first vote as associate justice
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday refused to stay the execution [order, DOC] of death row inmate Jason Getsy. The Court also declined Getsy's petition for review. This was the first decision for newly sworn in Justice Sonia Sotomayor [JURIST news archive], who would have stayed the execution, along with Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruther Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. Getsy was executed Tuesday morning at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution in Lucasville, Ohio. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of Ann Sarafino. The Ohio Parole Board had recommended that Governor Ted Strickland [official website] commute Getsy's sentence to life in prison, but Strickland refused [press release]. Also Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit refused to reconsider [order, PDF] Getsy's case en banc.

Also Monday, the Court ordered [text, PDF; JURIST report] a federal court in Georgia to review the case of death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis [defense website]. Davis had filed an original writ of habeas corpus [cert. petition, PDF] directly in the Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion [text, PDF], joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the Court's decision. It is unclear how the remaining justices voted. Davis's case was originally scheduled for consideration at the end of last year's Supreme Court term, but the Court took no action at that time. It is fairly unusual for the Court to issue such a ruling in the summer or for the Court to grant an original writ of habeas corpus.






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Switzerland court rejects assets claim by family of Haiti ex-president Duvalier
Brian Jackson on August 18, 2009 11:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A Swiss court has denied an appeal by the family of former Haitian president Jean-Claude Duvalier [BBC backgrounder] to claim money hidden in Swiss banks by Duvalier while he led the island nation. The family's claim was rejected by the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland [official website, in French], because the family could not prove that the money had come from legal means. Duvalier's family may appeal the decision [Swissinfo report] to deny recovery of the nearly $7 million to the Federal Supreme Court [official website, in French] within 10 days. In the event the Supreme Court rejects the appeal, it seems certain that the funds will be returned to Haiti [AP report] to provide aid to what is one of the poorest nations in the world [UN report].

Duvalier, also known as "Baby Doc," is the son of former Haitian leader Francois Duvalier, or "Papa Doc," whom he succeeded as leader [BBC report] in 1971. Following a tumultuous reign, which included accusations of thousands of murders by his regime [HRW report], Duvalier fled Haiti in 1986, and has since resided in France. In 2007, current Haitian leader Rene Preval expressed a renewed commitment to bring Duvalier to justice [JURIST report], despite Duvalier's pleas for forgiveness [Guardian report].






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Niger opposition vows to resist new constitution
Andrew Morgan on August 18, 2009 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Niger's opposition parties on Monday announced that they would resist any effort to implement a new constitution expanding executive powers, which was approved [JURIST report] by Nigerien voters earlier this month and validated [AFP report] by the country's Constitutional Court on Friday. Human rights activist Abdul Kamardine said [VOA report; recorded audio] that "civil societies are joining hands with the political opposition" to resist efforts by President Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] to replace Niger's 1999 Constitution [text, in French] by holding three days of public demonstration and recalling members of the House of Assembly. Kamardine added that the opposition is acting in accordance with a provision in the existing constitution that compels the citizenry to resist illegal changes to the constitutional order. Seven labor unions, members of the opposition Coordination of Democratic Forces for the Republic (CDFR), on Sunday announced plans to hold a 72-hour strike [AFP report] to protest the validity of the referendum. CDFR, which disputes [press release, in French] Tandja's claim that 92 percent of the vote [BBC report] approved the referendum, said that Tandja had lost all of his legitimacy and legality [press release, in French], both at home and internationally, by relying on inflated numbers to support the new constitution's adoption.

Among the new constitution's changes is the abolition of a presidential two-term limit, allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years [AFP report] and to run in any subsequent elections, allowing the president to appoint one third of the members [CBC report] of a newly-created Senate, and establishing a media-monitoring position that would have the authority to jail reporters thought to present a threat to the country. In the lead-up to the election, CDFR had encouraged a popular boycott [AP report] of the referendum on constitutional grounds, forming the basis for its dismissal of official electoral statistics. In June, opposition leader Bazoum Mohamed of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website] accused Tandja of committing a coup d'etat [JURIST report] by annulling the West African country's Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled [Pana report] in May that plans to hold a referendum on allowing a third term were unconstitutional. Tandja responded to the ruling by dissolving parliament and assuming emergency powers.






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Honduras interim government skeptical of pending OAS rights report
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Honduran Interim Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Alvarado said Monday that she expects a biased report from the international panel that arrived Monday to investigate alleged human rights abuses. A delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website], arrived in the Honduran capital of Tegucigulpa Monday to assess the human rights situation in the wake of the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Alvarado said at a news conference [La Prensa report, in Spanish] that she is skeptical of the panel's report because the OAS has already called the ouster a coup and called for Zelaya's reinstatement, expelling Honduras last month. The OAS delegates met with a Honduran human rights group, but refused [Diario Tiempo report, in Spanish] to meet with members of the interim government, led by Roberto Micheletti. Also Monday, delegates from the interim government went to Washington, DC, to continue talks with the OAS [CCTV report].

Last week, the Honduran Office of the Prosecutor of Common Crimes indicted 24 Zelaya supporters [JURIST report] on charges of sedition and damaging public property. All 24 were accused of robbery, sedition, damages to private property, and illegal demonstrations stemming from recent protests. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] on June 28 following a judicial order [press release] asserting he had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform contrary to a Honduran Supreme Court ruling. The US has condemned [DOS briefing transcript] Zelaya's removal and supports his return.






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Groups urge competitive elections to UN Human Rights Council
Andrew Morgan on August 18, 2009 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] An international coalition of human rights advocates have urged [letter text] UN member nations to support a "competitive, genuinely-contested and principled electoral process" for future seats on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website]. In a letter sent Thursday to members of the General Assembly, 74 human rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI) and the Carter Center criticized the 2009 UNHRC elections [JURIST report], saying that they were marred by "lack of candidates and competition; endorsed regional slates; late, absent or insubstantial pledges and commitments; and widespread vote trading." In an effort to honor Resolution 60/251 [text, PDF], which established the council, member nations were urged to consider candidacies individually, not as part of a regional bloc, to evaluate candidates based on human rights records rather than political and economic concerns, to eschew vote-trading, and to require human rights pledges from candidates 30 days prior to elections. The UNHRC is scheduled to hold its 12th session [council materials] in September, the first such meeting for members elected in 2009.

HRW and other advocacy groups had expressed similar concerns [press release] about the electoral process following the elections in May. The groups criticized the election of Russia, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia to the UNHRC, among others. In April, the US State Department [official website] released [press release; JURIST report] its commitments and pledges to human rights in anticipation of May election. The US announced its intent to seek a seat on the council [JURIST report] in early April, hoping to affect more change by working from inside the council than by boycotting the effort. The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006 to replace the much-criticized Committee on Human Rights, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC.






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DOJ indicts 3 in largest identity theft prosecution in US history
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 18, 2009 8:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday announced the indictment [text, PDF; press release] of three men accused of perpetrating the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted in the US. Albert Gonzales and two unidentified Russian hackers are accused of stealing more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers by hacking into computer systems of companies including credit card payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, convenience store chain 7-Eleven, and supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers. Each of the accused is charged with conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. Acting US Attorney for the District of New Jersey Ralph Marra said [press release, PDF]:


This investigation marks the continued success of law enforcement in tracking down cutting edge hacking schemes committed by hackers working together across the globe. When companies make the decision to work with law enforcement and disclose a data breach at the earliest possible opportunity, it provides the best chance at apprehending a hacker and demonstrates that those corporate victims will actively defend their systems.

If convicted, the co-conspirators could each face up to 35 years in prison and more than $1.25 million in fines.

Gonzales is currently in federal custody, having been charged in May 2008 in the Eastern District of New York and in August 2008 in the District of Massachusetts in separate conspiracies. Gonzales is scheduled to go on trial in September 2009 on the New York charges [press release, PDF], which involve hacking into the computer system of a national restaurant chain. He is scheduled to go on trial in 2010 on the Massachusetts charges for other retail hacks and the theft of data involving 40 million credit cards. The DOJ prosecutes identity theft [DOJ backgrounder] and fraud cases under a variety of federal statutes and warns the public to be vigilant in order to avoid becoming a victim.





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Supreme Court orders lower court to review death row habeas case
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 4:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ordered [text, PDF] a federal court in Georgia to consider the case of death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis [defense website]. Davis had filed an original writ of habeas corpus [cert. petition, PDF] directly in the Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion [text, PDF], joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, writing:


Today this Court takes the extraordinary step — one not taken in nearly 50 years — of instructing a district court to adjudicate a state prisoner's petition for an original writ of habeas corpus. The Court proceeds down this path even though every judicial and executive body that has examined petitioner's stale claim of innocence has been unpersuaded, and (to make matters worst) even though it would be impossible for the District Court to grant any relief. Far from demonstrating, as this Court's Rule 20.4(a) requires, "exceptional circumstances" that "warrant the exercise of the Court's discretionary powers," petitioner's claim is a sure loser. Transferring his petition to the District Court is a confusing exercise that can serve no purpose except to delay the State's execution of its lawful criminal judgment.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the Court's decision. It is unclear how the remaining justices voted. Davis's case was originally scheduled for consideration at the end of last year's Supreme Court term, but the Court took no action at that time. It is fairly unusual for the Court to issue such a ruling in the summer or for the Court to grant an original writ of habeas corpus.

Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the killing of off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. Davis has already exhausted his appeals under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which limits death-row prisoners to one round of federal court appeals. In October, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit granted a provisional stay of execution [JURIST report], directing 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. The Supreme Court had rejected Davis' petition for certiorari [JURIST report] appealing his death sentence earlier that 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 previously stayed Davis' execution [JURIST report] and had also previously denied a petition for certiorari in the case.





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DOJ to enforce same-sex marriage restrictions despite backing DOMA repeal
Andrew Morgan on August 17, 2009 4:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] said Monday that it was required to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text] as long as "reasonable arguments can be made in support of [its] constitutionality" despite the administration's belief that the law is discriminatory. Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, a California couple, filed suit [case materials] alleging that DOMA, which denies federal recognition for same-sex marriages performed by states, unconstitutionally infringes on their civil liberties. Urging the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] to dismiss the suit [brief, PDF], the DOJ argued that the "Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy," but is nonetheless required to defend it against challenge if it survives rational basis review. In this case, the DOJ argued, congress was justified in allowing the matter to be resolved by the states before taking federal action. DOJ spokesperson Tracy Schmaler reiterated [AP report] the position, saying that the department is not free to enforce only those laws with which it agrees, but must defend all federal laws until they are repealed or changed by congress.

Last month, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] filed suit challenging [JURIST report] DOMA on the grounds that it interferes with the state's right to define and regulate marriage. Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriages [JURIST report] in 2004 and has since issued licenses to more than 16,000 same-sex couples. In March, a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who are or have been married under the state's same-sex marriage law filed a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging DOMA. Although Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriages [JURIST report] in May, the Stand for Marriage Maine coalition [advocacy website] announced last month that they have collected more than the requisite 55,087 signatures [press release] needed to put a veto on the November ballot, allowing voters to decide on the law. Also in July, a Washington, DC law took effect [JURIST report] that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states or jurisdictions. Currently, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa [JURIST reports] all allow same-sex marriage.






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Zambia ex-president acquitted of corruption charges
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 3:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba [BBC profile] was acquitted Monday of charges stealing money from the country's treasury while in office from 1991-2001. Chiluba and two Zambian businessmen, Faustin Kabwe and Aaron Chungu, faced a total of 12 counts of theft of public funds for their alleged involvement in taking $488,000 when the treasury deposited payments to two US security firms into a London bank account controlled by the Zambia Security and Intelligence Services (ZSIS). The court found insufficient evidence to convict Chiluba, but Chungu, the former director-general of ZSIS, and Kabwe were founding guilty of being in possession of stolen funds, and Chungu was sentenced to nine months in prison. Chiluba's wife Regina was sentenced [BBC report] to three-and-a-half years in prison in March on a separate charge of receiving stolen funds. Prosecutors plan to appeal [NYT report] Chiluba's acquittal.

Chiluba was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] on the corruption charges in February 2008. In a separate case, Chiluba was ordered by a London court in July 2007 to pay $58 million in fines [JURIST report] to Zambia to compensate for other funds stolen during Chiluba's decade in power. The suit was brought in Britain [BBC report] by Zambian officials because Chiluba and his associates held the assets in the UK and other European countries.






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Iraq cabinet approves referendum on US-Iraq troop withdrawal agreement
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Cabinet on Monday approved a draft bill that would require a referendum on the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF], which allows US troops to remain in the country until the end of 2011. When the SOFA was originally reached and entered into effect on January 1, Iraqi lawmakers called for a referendum that was to have been held in July, but the referendum was never held. Under the proposed bill [Reuters report], which must still be approved by the Iraqi Parliament, the referendum would occur during the parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 16. If the SOFA were rejected by Iraqi voters, US troops would have only one year to withdraw [Washington Post report], which would result in a January 2011 withdrawal - nearly a year ahead of schedule. No parliamentary vote on the bill has been scheduled.

Under the agreement, US troops withdraw from Iraqi urban centers at the end of June. The SOFA was signed [JURIST report] in December and took effect on January 1. The agreement was negotiated between Iraq and the US in anticipation of the 2009 expiration of the UN mandate [text] that allowed the presence of US military in Iraq. In addition to setting the official deadlines for troop withdrawal, the SOFA gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over American military personnel and eliminates immunity [JURIST reports] for US defense contractors working within Iraq.






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Fiji seeks to restaff purged judiciary with foreign judges
Andrew Morgan on August 17, 2009 2:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The government of Fiji is seeking foreign judges to replace judicial officers whose appointments were revoked after an April suspension [JURIST report] of the country's constitution, according to a Sunday report [text] from Sri Lanka's Sunday Times. Fijian Chief Justice Anthony Gates interviewed candidates in Colombo, Sri Lanka, last week and met with the Sri Lankan Chief Justice Asoka de Silva and Attorney General Mohan Peiris to discuss the possibility of allowing Sri Lankan judges to serve two-year rotations in the High Court and magistrate courts of Fiji. Gates said that Sri Lankan judges could serve in Fijian courts by virtue of the common origins of the two countries' legal systems. Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum [official profile] confirmed that they were seeking qualified judges [Fiji Live report] from other Commonwealth [official website] member nations to fill vacant seats.

Last month, Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama [BBC profile] announced [JURIST report] plans to establish a new constitution by September 2013, in advance of elections planned for September 2014. In April, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] suspended Fiji's 1988 Constitution [text] and revoked the appointment [statement text] of all judicial officers after a ruling [JURIST report] from the Fiji Court of Appeal declaring the appointment of the military government following a 2006 coup d'etat [JURIST report] unconstitutional. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights then urged Iloilo to reinstate the deposed judges [JURIST report]. Concerns about the constitutional suspension have also been expressed [statement text] by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US State Department [official website] spokesperson Richard Aker, who said that it was a step backwards [press release] for the country, and called on Fiji to continue to recognize rights outlined in the suspended constitution.






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Rwanda genocide tribunal urged to prosecute top officers suspected of war crimes
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] must indict and try senior Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) officers suspected of war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged in a letter [text; press release] released Monday. HRW had previously written [letter text] to Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow [official profile] to urge him to prosecute RPF officers suspected of killing between 25,000 and 45,000 civilians during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder], and HRW was responding to a letter [text, PDF] in which Jallow said that there was not enough evidence. In its response, HRW said:


We continue to believe that your mandate as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR will not be fulfilled until you pursue all senior commanders responsible for atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994. Your office has successfully pursued many senior leaders behind the genocide, but the same cannot be said for senior RPF commanders who directed the slaughter of 30,000 civilians. The fact that other genocidaires are still at large is important but does not negate the need for the ICTR to pursue senior commanders allegedly involved in serious crimes from all sides. It would be a failure of justice - not merely victor's justice - if you do not vigorously investigate and prosecute senior RPF officials because they are currently senior officials or military leaders in Rwanda.

HRW argued that failure to prosecute these suspects would destroy the tribunal's credibility.

Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] on Tuesday extended the terms [JURIST report] for ICTR judges until December 31, 2010, or until they complete their cases. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his ongoing support [JURIST report] for the ICTR and stressed that the international community must continue to combat genocide. The ICTR was established to try genocide suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died.





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Rights group suing UK government over rendition of terrorism suspects to Bagram
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] UK human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] announced Monday that it is initiating legal action [filing letter, PDF; press release] against the British government over the rendition of two terrorism suspects to Afghanistan. The two men were arrested by British troops in Iraq in 2004 and sent to the US detention facility at Bagram Air Base [JURIST news archive; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Afghanistan. Reprieve claims that the British government had never admitted to the rendition until UK Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton [official profile] gave a statement [MOD press release] to the UK House of Commons [official website] providing details of participation [JURIST report] with US forces in the rendition of terrorism suspects from Iraq to US detention in Afghanistan, possibly by way of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] program. The identity of the two men has not been officially revealed, and Reprieve is suing in order to get more information. Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said:


These two men have been held in appalling conditions for five years, and for all that time the British Government chose to do nothing. While we have not been able to identify their full names, we have learned that at least one of the men is now suffering from very serious mental problems as a result of his mistreatment. We have an urgent moral, as well as legal, duty to repair the damage his rendition has caused.

The British government has declined to share the men's identities asserting that it would violate their rights under the Data Protection Act [text].

Last month, Reprieve announced that it was suing the British government [filing letter, PDF; JURIST report] over the rendition of Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni [advocacy profile] from Indonesia to Egypt, where it says he was tortured. The group alleges that the UK allowed the US rendition flight of Madni to stop on the British island territory of Diego Garcia [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], despite government claims that the island was not part of the CIA rendition program. Reprieve is seeking disclosure from both the UK and Diego Garcia governments of all information on Madni's treatment and Deigo Garcia's involvement in US renditions of terrorism suspects. It said the information was necessary for Madni to seek monetary damages from the government for what Reprieve said was the UK's complicity in his abuse.





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Iraq homosexuals being targeted by militias: HRW
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 9:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Shiite militia are systematically torturing and killing gay men [press release] without government repercussions, according to report [text, PDF] released Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to the report, violence against men perceived as gay or too "feminine" has recently been on the rise, with death tolls possibly in the hundreds. Although consensual homosexual conduct is not criminalized in Iraq, there are several provisions of the criminal code that are used to target homosexuals and to reduce punishments for those who commit crimes against homosexuals. HRW claims that these crimes violate both shari'a and international human rights laws:


They also strike at the principles of human rights. International human rights law safeguards the right to privacy, including the right to an intimate life undisturbed by surveillance or violence. It protects the right to free expression, including the right to express one's personhood through dress and behavior. It absolutely prohibits, in all circumstances, all forms of torture and inhuman treatment. It guarantees the right to life, including the right to effective state protection.

According to the report, much of the recent violence is going unreported and unpunished. HRW called on the Iraqi government to act immediately to put a stop to the violence and punish the perpetrators.

Discrimination against gays remains widespread in many parts of the world, with several countries criminalizing homosexual conduct. Last month, an Indian court decriminalized homosexual conduct [JURIST report] by declaring India's anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. An appeal [JURIST report] is currently pending before the country's Supreme Court. Burundi recently criminalized homosexuality, a decision that has been condemned [JURIST reports] by human rights groups. In December, 66 members of the UN General Assembly [official website] signed a statement [JURIST report] calling for it to be decriminalized where it is illegal, but nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement. In March, the administration of US President Barack Obama has said that it would also sign [JURIST report] the statement, reversing a Bush administration position. The US Congress is currently considering legislation [JURIST report] that would extend hate crimes protection to homosexuals.





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Iran begins trial of 25 more election protesters
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 17, 2009 8:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Iranian officials on Sunday began the trial of at least 25 people detained during protests following the recent contested presidential election [JURIST news archive]. The defendants are accused [AFP report] of a range of crimes including participating in illegal demonstrations and vandalizing public property. More than 100 protesters were put on trial [JURIST report] earlier this month, bringing the total number of defendants on trial to around 140. Also this weekend, Iran's Supreme Leader appointed [Reuters report] Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani to head the country's judiciary. It has been reported that Larijani was hesitant to accept the position because of the controversy surrounding the trials of election protesters. Larijani replaces Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, whose 10-year term has expired.

Iran has been experiencing turmoil in Tehran and elsewhere since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was declared the winner of the disputed June 12 election. Ahmadinejad was recently sworn in for a second term. Last week, three UN human rights experts called on Iran's Revolutionary Court to reject protesters' confessions obtained through torture [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, Iran's Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi acknowledged [JURIST report] that some protesters arrested after the election were tortured. In early July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that some arrested protesters were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with torture in an effort to force false confessions [JURIST report]. Human rights groups have called arrests political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals." Last month, Iran released [JURIST report] some 140 detainees.






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Canada bar chief urges government to follow Khadr repatriation court order
Ximena Marinero on August 16, 2009 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Bar Association (CBA) [association website] President Guy Joubert [profile] Saturday urged [press release] the Canadian government to seek the repatriation of Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] rather than appeal Friday's Federal Court of Appeal's decision [JURIST report] directing repatriation efforts. Joubert said the CBA was "very pleased" with the court ruling, in keeping with the CBA's past appeals to Canadian officials and to the American government to expedite Khadr's repatriation so he can stand trial under Canadian laws. In past calls to both governments, the CBA pressed for [press release] recognition of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, "due process and the rule of law, and the desirability of ensuring the national security of both countries, and to transfer the evidence respecting his conduct to the Canadian government."

On Friday the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal [official website] upheld [judgment, PDF] a lower court's ruling [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] ordering the Canadian government to advocate for Khadr's repatriation. The government had appealed the April ruling asserting that the lower court had erred in holding that by not pressing for his release Canadian officials had violated Khadr's rights to "life, liberty, and security" under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) [text]. The independent Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) [official website] criticized the conduct of CSIS last month for failing to consider Khadr's age and human rights issues regarding alleged mistreatment by US authorities during 2003 Guantanamo interviews. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.






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Honduras government lays sedition charges against Zelaya supporters
Ximena Marinero on August 16, 2009 7:42 AM ET

[JURIST] The Honduran Office of the Prosecutor of Common Crimes indicted 24 supporters of ousted president Manuel Zelaya [JURIST news archive] on charges of sedition and damages Friday. All 24 were accused [La Prensa report, in Spanish] of robbery, sedition, damages to private property, and illegal demonstrations stemming from protests on Wednesday. Eleven of the protestors are still detained at the National Penitentiary and 13 have been released conditionally. The National Organization Against the Coup d'Etat (FNCGE) [advocacy website, in Spanish] said Tuesday that if Zelaya is not reinstated over the next few day the organization will escalate government resistance actions and peaceful demonstrations that it has been carrying out since Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] on June 28 following a judicial order [Honduras Supreme Court press release] asserting he had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform contrary to a Honduran Supreme Court ruling. Earlier in the week, three protesters were also indicted on charges of aggravated arson and crimes of terrorism for allegedly burning a bus and a restaurant in Tuesday's political demonstrations. Honduran NGOs including the Committee of Families of Disappeared Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH) [materials, in Spanish] and the Center for Research and Advocacy of Human Rights (CIPRODEH) [report, PDF, in Spanish] have denounced human rights violations and political repression from police actions.

The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has faced sanctions from the international community. The European Union and several Latin American countries have withdrawn their ambassadors. The UN General Assembly approved [press release] a resolution on June 30 calling members to not recognize the Honduran government until Zelaya is reinstated. On July 4, the Organization of American States (OAS) expelled Honduras after the Honduran Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to reinstate Zelaya, and the Inter-American Development Bank suspended its aid package to the country. Negotiations between Zelaya and Micheletti have been going on intermittently through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias without any results. Zelaya has made several failed attempts to return to office, including attempting to fly into the country accompanied by international leaders. The US has condemned [DOS briefing transcript] Zelaya's removal and supports his return.






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American sentenced with Suu Kyi being released after US senator visits Myanmar
Ximena Marinero on August 15, 2009 5:52 PM ET

[JURIST] American citizen John Yettaw, sentenced for swimming to and staying in the home of Myanmar opposition pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], is expected to be released on Sunday, according to an announcement on Saturday following a closed meeting between US Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) [official website] and Myanmar's Senior General Than Shwe [BBC profile] on Saturday. Webb, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs [membership page], is the first senior American official to visit Myanmar [press release] in over ten years, becoming the highest ranking official who has met with the head of Myanmar's junta. The senator's request for Suu Kyi's release did not elicit any committment from the Than Shwe.

Earlier this week, Suu Kyi and American Yettaw were convicted [JURIST report] of violating state security laws after Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest, allowed Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to visit her. Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest, and Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, with four years of hard labor. The verdict has been widely criticized by world leaders and human rights groups, with many calling for her immediate release. Suu Kyi, a prominent human rights activist, has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF].






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EXTRA ~ Supreme Court, constitution considered at Pittsburgh Netroots
Abigail Salisbury on August 15, 2009 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court and the constitution were the focus of discussion Friday afternoon at the Netroots Nation [advocacy group] progressives conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Blogger Christy Hardin Smith [FireDogLake archive] began the session by giving her opinion that the Supreme Court is something Americans

should pay more attention to, because those decisions affect all of our lives in ways that we might not appreciate until we get pulled into a court case.
In discussing the Court's interpretation of statutory law, the four panelists and moderator made frequent reference to the Court's controversial 2007 ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. [JURIST report], which determined the statutory limitations period for pay discrimination lawsuits, meaning that Ledbetter was unable to recover from her employer. Hardin Smith said that Ledbetter had been "working while female" and Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) [official website] expressed frustration at the ruling, saying that the Court "went against the plain meaning of the text." Nadler co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 [S 181 materials; JURIST report], which effectively overturned the Court's ruling when US President Barack Obama [official website] signed it into law one week after taking office in January. Nadler stated that he intends to focus on "making a [legislative] record that protects decent legislation" from being misinterpreted.

The panelists spent a significant portion of the session discussing judge Sonia Sotomayor [White House profile], recently sworn in [JURIST report] as the 111th justice of the US Supreme Court. Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron [AFJ profile] speculated, "I think we will see from her what we saw from Thurgood Marshall...and the dialogue among the justices will change."

Moving to a broader exploration of the composition of the Court, Nadler expressed concerns that the Court in general is trending toward a return to the Lochner [SSRN article] era in its approach to employee rights and wages. Later, responding to a question about how the structure of the legal profession and its hiring practices may influence the Court, he noted,
The moment you hit the federal court, it's corporate law...You're not going to the federal bench if you weren't in a white shoe firm, and that's gotta be changed too. [sic]
The conversation shifted to a discussion of this Court's emphasis on the original intent [WSJ report] of the Constitution's framers, leading Nadler to quip, "the framers probably had no original intent," and so would be of little help in interpreting "glittering phrases [such as] Due Process." Speaking on originalism, Aron took a different approach, stating,
Most of us recognize that the founders of that Constitution were a very small, select group of elite individuals...all of them white men, if I'm not mistaken.
She added, "The debate between originalism and evolving notions of decency are certainly the underpinnings of how conservatives talk about [these issues]."

The panel discussion concluded with questions from the audience, with one attendee noting the importance of civics education in America. Constitutional Accountability Center Founder & President Doug Kendall [CAC profile] responded by returning to the theme of the framers, commenting,
How we teach the Reconstruction Amendments...the heart and soul of the progressive Constitution...the framers of those amendments should be on the levels of Hamilton and Madison.
Nadler noted, "Obviously they should teach civics, but they should teach reality too...courts have played a major role in government...not just as umpires."





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Turks and Caicos constitution suspended as UK resumes direct rule
Matt Glenn on August 15, 2009 9:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Gordon Wetherell [official profile] issued an order [TCI press release] Friday suspending the British Overseas Territory's constitution [PDF text] and submitting to direct rule by the UK after being directed to do so by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website]. The FCO move follows a May 31 report [text, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] compiled by the TCI Commission of Inquiry [official website] led by Sir Robin Auld [Lamb Chambers profile] to Wetherell documenting widespread corruption among government officials, including former TCI Chief Minister Michael Misick, and recommending direct rule and the appointment of an independent prosecutor. Until Friday, the UK had not imposed direct rule on a territory since 1986, when it previously imposed direct rule on TCI [BBC report] over government misconduct. Ousted Premier Galmo Williams [official profile] decried [TCI press release] the UK takeover as a "coup" and claimed the "country is being invaded and re-colonized by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance." Martin Stanley [Civil Servants profile, PDF] has been appointed [TCI press releases] as TCI's new chief executive. Wetherell refused to call the imposition of direct rule a "takeover," and said he expects elections in the island nation by 2011, an expectation echoed by FCO Minister Chris Bryant [official profile].

Friday's order was made possible when, on Wednesday, London's Court of Appeal rejected [TCI Sun report] former Chief Minister Misick's claim that a proposed takeover would violate EU law. Misick resigned [AFP report] in March following the publication of an Interim Report [text, PDF; FCO press release] by the Inquiry Commission which accused Misick [BBC report] of corruption. The Inquiry Commission was established [Inquiry Commission press release] in July 2008 after media reports [BBC report] of corruption in TCI. TCI have had self-government since 1976, but plans for full independence have been abortive. Island politicians have several times considered and/or proposed union with Canada [CBC backgrounder]; the east coast province of Nova Scotia [JURIST news archive] most recently floated the idea [CBC report] in 2004.






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Israel Gaza operation violated international law, Palestinian rights: UN report
Matt Glenn on August 14, 2009 10:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Israel's treatment of Palestinians during December and January's Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], in Gaza [JURIST news archive] grossly violated international law according to a report [text, PDF] released Friday by the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile]. The report, prepared by the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, noted estimates of Israel causing 1,2000-1,400 civilian deaths during the conflict, citing incidents in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] are alleged to have killed civilians who had surrendered [JURIST report], and described Israel's use of white phosphorous [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in densely populated areas. Among the report's recommendations were that Israel end the Gaza blockade, that independent investigators look into Israel's actions during the conflict as well as other alleged human rights violations, and that Israel cease to expand its settlements. The UN requested the study in a January resolution [JURIST report] condemning the offensive.

Last month, the IDF announced [JURIST report] that it was conducting criminal investigations into alleged intentional misconduct by Israeli soldiers during December and January's fighting in the Gaza strip. The IDF said it was investigating [report, PDF] 13 allegations against IDF personnel, including the use of civilians as human shields. Israel and the US condemned [DOS briefing] a February report [text, PDF; JURIST report] that criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive.






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Canada court affirms order mandating Khadr repatriation efforts
Ingrid Burke on August 14, 2009 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal [official website] upheld [judgment, PDF] Friday a lower court's ruling [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] ordering the Canadian government to advocate for the repatriation of Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. The government appealed the April ruling asserting that the lower court erred in holding that Canadian officials violated Khadr's rights to "life, liberty, and security" under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter) [text]. At issue was the conduct of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) [official websites] in interviewing [JURIST report] Khadr in 2003 while he was in custody at Guantanamo Bay, and in providing the US Government with recordings of those interviews afterward. The appeals court held that the Canadian officials failed to protect Khadr's rights by assisting the US Government despite their knowledge that Khadr had been subjected to treatment repugnant to Section 7 of the Charter as well as a number of other domestic and international human rights laws and conventions:


the principles of fundamental justice do not permit the questioning of a prisoner to obtain information after he has been subjected to cruel and abusive treatment to induce him to talk. That must be so whether the abuse was inflicted by the questioner, or by some other person with the questioner’s knowledge. Canada cannot avoid responsibility for its participation in the process at the Guantánamo Bay prison by relying on the fact that Mr. Khadr was mistreated by officials of the United States, because Canadian officials knew of the abuse when they conducted the interviews, and sought to take advantage of it.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said they will review [BBC report] the court's decision. An appeal to the Supreme Court [official website] is still possible.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) [official website] criticized the conduct of CSIS last month for failing to consider Khadr's age and human rights issues regarding alleged mistreatment by US authorities during the 2003 Guantanamo interviews. Also last month, Khadr reaffirmed his previous request [JURIST report] to have his US military lawyers dismissed from his case [AP report] for arguing and disagreeing among themselves. Khadr told the judge that he did not trust the military lawyers or their office. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.





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Lockerbie bomber seeks to drop second appeal
Andrew Morgan on August 14, 2009 3:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC backgrounder] on Friday asked the Scottish High Court of the Judiciary [official website] to allow him to withdraw the second appeal [Reuters report] of his 2001 conviction. Megrahi, recently diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, is seeking a transfer [BBC report] to his native Libya, a process that cannot be completed while legal actions are pending. Libya had petitioned the Scottish government to transfer Megrahi in May, as part of a prisoner transfer agreement with the UK. Speculation that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill [official profile] would honor an August request that Megrahi be released on "compassionate grounds" to serve the remainder of his minimum 27 year sentence in Libya prompted criticism [transcript] from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official website], Syracuse University [press release] and families of the victims [Independent report]. The Scottish Government urged restraint [Times report], saying that MacAskill had not yet made a decision on the matter.

In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in al-Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.






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ICC orders conditional release of Congo rebel leader Bemba
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 14, 2009 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday ordered the conditional release [text, PDF; press release] of former Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) [BBC backgrounder] rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archive], a decision which Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] announced he would appeal [press release]. The court found no evidence to suggest that Bemba would pose a danger, interfere with court proceedings, or fail to appear for trial. Bemba's defense counsel welcomed [recorded video] the court's ruling, but his release will be delayed indefinitely, as states that have been identified as potential hosts for Bemba have expressed concern about his presence. The prosecution is set to present arguments against his release on August 24.

Last month, the ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for the alleged commission of violent war crimes. The prosecution contends that Bemba's actions in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] as military leader of the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) [party website, in French] from October 2002 to May 2003 amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in May 2008 for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008. The proceedings against Bemba were initially postponed, but the pre-trial hearing [JURIST reports] to determine what charges the rebel leader is to face commenced in January. Bemba was elected to the Congolese Senate after losing a run-off presidential election [JURIST report] to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile], who, in December 2006, became the first freely-elected president of the DRC since 1960. After the election, Bemba's private militia force led a violent campaign against government troops until the DRC Supreme Court rejected his election challenge [JURIST report].






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Australia court allows quadriplegic patient to refuse feeding tube in 'right to die' case
Andrew Morgan on August 14, 2009 2:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Western Australia [official website] on Friday ruled [judgment, PDF] that the right to refuse medical treatment includes the informed refusal of nutrition and hydration services, in a landmark decision. Christian Rossiter, a quadriplegic, had repeatedly asked [ABC report] his caregivers, Brightwater Care Group [corporate website], to discontinue providing nutrition and water through a gastric feeding tube so that he would starve to death. Brightwater feared that discontinuing treatment would be a breach of their duty to care for Rossiter, and would expose them to criminal liability regardless of his instructions. Under existing Australian law, patients had a right to refuse lifesaving medical treatment, but helping someone to commit suicide could result in criminal penalties. Emphasizing that the case was "not about euthanasia," "the right to life or even the right to death," Chief Justice Wayne Martin said that statutory and common law supported allowing a mentally competent patient to refuse treatment after being informed of the consequences.


[It] seems to me to be absolutely clear that, after he has been provided with full information with respect to the consequences of any decision he might make, Mr. Rossiter has the right to determine and direct the extent of the continuing treatment he receives, in the sense that treatment cannot and should not be administered against his wishes. If, after the provision of full advice, he repeats his direction to Brightwater that they discontinue the provision of nutrition and hydration to him, Brightwater is under a legal obligation to comply with that direction.

Phillip Nitschke, director of voluntary euthanasia advocacy group Exit International [advocacy website], with which Rossiter is affiliated, called the decision [press release] a "victory for common sense."

The right to die has been a highly contentious issue around the world. Last month, the UK Law Lords [official website] asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify [JURIST report] the UK's laws regarding those who aid patients seeking assisted suicide. Many Britons have reportedly gone to the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] in Switzerland to obtain assisted suicides. The House of Lords in July rejected a bill that would would have barred prosecuting those who go abroad to help others commit assisted suicide. Last year, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] spoke out against laws allowing assisted suicide [BBC report], saying that he would not create laws that "put pressure on people to end their lives." Also last year, Luxembourg came close to passing a bill [JURIST report] to legalize assisted suicide but the measure was not approved by monarch Grand Duke Henri. Henri's veto prompted the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies to amend the constitution [JURIST report] to eliminate the requirement that the Grand Duke approve of all legislation. In 2006, the House of Lords set aside a bill to legalize assisted suicide following opposition by physician groups [JURIST reports]. Euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands [BBC report] in 2001, and Belgium followed suit [JURIST report] in 2002.





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Amended Afghanistan personal status law still restricts women's rights: HRW
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 14, 2009 1:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Afghanistan's amended Shi'ite personal status law [Reuters backgrounder], which entered into force July 27, still violates [press release] women's rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Thursday. The Afghan government announced last month that the law had been revised [JURIST report] to remove a provision requiring a wife to submit to sex with her husband after intense international criticism. HRW reports, however, that many of the law's provisions still restrict women's rights:


many regressive articles remain, which strip away women's rights that are enshrined in Afghanistan's constitution. The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers. It requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying "blood money" to a girl who was injured when he raped her.

HRW urged the Afghan parliament to overturn the law immediately.

The Afghan law, which only applies to the country's Shi'a population, elicited strong reactions from outside and within the country. In April, Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile] pledged to amend the original law [JURIST report] to align it with international human rights standards, reportedly claiming to have not realized its effects [Reuters report] due to the law's length and theological language. Karzai submitted the law to the Ministry of Justice [JURIST report] for review after suspending it and promising revisions. Key Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Asif Mohsseni defended the law [JURIST report], chastising Western critics for interfering with Afghan democracy. Following Mohsseni's endorsement and prior to Karzai's promise to revise the law, Afghan women protesters were attacked [JURIST report] by conservative Muslims while staging demonstrations and had to be rescued by police forces. US President Barack Obama [official profile] called the law "abhorrent," saying that respect for women and their freedom is an important principle [transcript text] that all nations should uphold. Karzai's decision to sign the law [JURIST report] was one of several actions that Karzai has been criticized for since his appointment as Afghanistan's interim president in 2002.





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UN rights experts urge Iran court to reject confessions obtained through torture
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 14, 2009 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Three UN human rights experts on Thursday called on Iran's Revolutionary Court to reject confessions obtained through torture [press release] of protesters of the country's disputed presidential election [JURIST news archive]. A joint statement from Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak, Vice-Chairperson of the Working Group on arbitrary detention El Hadji Malick Sow, and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya [official websites] said that the UN continues to receive reports of torture and people dying in custody in the wake of the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Nowak said, "[n]o judicial system can consider as valid a confession obtained as a result of harsh interrogations or under torture." Sow added, "[t]hese confessions for alleged crimes such as threats against national security and treason must not, under any circumstances, be admitted as evidence by the Revolutionary Court."

Last week, Iran's Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi acknowledged [JURIST report] that some protesters arrested after the election were tortured. Earlier this month, more than 100 protesters were put on trial [JURIST report] in proceedings closed to the media. In early July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that some arrested protesters were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with torture in an effort to force false confessions [JURIST report]. The same week, opposition leaders called for the release of those detained for their alleged involvement in the protests. The request was brought jointly by opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi along with former president Mohammad Khatami, who also called for an immediate stop to the allegedly baseless arrests of dissidents. Human rights groups have called arrests political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals."






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Burundi urged to punish perpetrators of human rights violations during civil war
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 14, 2009 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged the government of Burundi [JURIST news archive] to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations [press release] during the country's 16-year armed conflict. HRW released the statement on the fifth anniversary of the Gatumba Massacre [HRW backgrounder], in which more than 150 Congolese refugees were killed by members of the rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. HRW said:


The conflict, which ended in 2009, was characterized by widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all warring factions, including murder, rape, and torture. The government has failed to carry out any meaningful investigations or prosecutions for these serious crimes, and has stalled on commitments to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a special tribunal to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict.

HRW called upon the Burundian government to take immediate action to bring the perpetrators from all sides of the conflict to justice.

Burundi is still recovering from the 16-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] between the Hutu majority and the dominant Tutsi minority, which began in 1993 and claimed more than 300,000 victims. Current Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile], an ex-Hutu rebel leader, born-again Christian, and member of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (NCDD-FDD) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], was elected in 2005 after the implementation of a UN-created peace plan, but his presidency has been marred by accusations of assassinations and torture [JURIST report]. In November, the Burundian parliament voted in favor of laws abolishing the death penalty and criminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] in the country. The elimination of the death penalty in Burundi was a requirement for establishing a UN-led truth and reconciliation committee and tribunal in the country, but rights groups have strongly condemned [JURIST reports] the criminalization of homosexuality. In October, a Burundi military court sentenced a colonel to death [JURIST report] for his role in the killings of 31 civilians in the country's Muyinga province in 2006.





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EU imposes sanctions on Myanmar judges involved in Suu Kyi verdict
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 14, 2009 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The Council of the European Union [official website] on Thursday announced sanctions [press release, PDF] against members of the Myanmar judiciary responsible for the verdict [JURIST report] against opposition pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The latest sanctions are in addition to a number of sanctions already in place against Myanmar. According to the press release from the 27 member states:


Under the new restrictive measures, members of the judiciary responsible for the verdict are added to the existing list of persons and entities subject to a travel ban and to an assets freeze. Moreover, the list of persons and entities subject to the restrictive measures is extended to cover the assets freeze to enterprises that are owned and controlled by members of the regime in Burma/Myanmar or by persons or entities associated with them.

An EU spokesperson said that state-owned media [NYT report] and 58 other enterprises would also be subject to sanctions. Also Thursday, the UN Security Council [official website] voiced "serious concern" [UN News Centre report] over the verdict and sentence.

Earlier this week, Suu Kyi and American John Yettaw were convicted of violating state security laws after Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest, allowed Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to visit her. Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest, and Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, with four years of hard labor. Lawyers for both parties have indicated that they plan to appeal [JURIST report]. The verdict has been widely criticized by world leaders and human rights groups, with many calling for her immediate release. Suu Kyi, a prominent human rights activist, has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF].





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EXTRA ~ Ex-president Clinton discusses health care, gay rights at Netroots
Abigail Salisbury on August 14, 2009 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] Former US president William Jefferson Clinton [official profile] addressed a capacity crowd late Thursday night at a progressive convention held by Netroots Nation [advocacy group] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since leaving office, Clinton has become known for his charitable and humanitarian work [foundation website], and on Thursday he discussed the evolution of "communitarian solutions" to world problems, devoting a large portion of his speech to healthcare reform legislation, which he said affects 16 percent of the nation's economy. He asserted that Hillary Clinton's healthcare proposal [Economist report], submitted to Congress during his administration, has been unfairly maligned over the past decade as a massive unworkable document "breaking the backs of federal statutes," when it actually "reduced the number of pages of federal law devoted to healthcare." He accused the insurance companies of "rewrit[ing] history" to alter the public's view of the legislation.

Taking a jab at the vehement disruptions in the recent series of town hall meetings [Oakland Tribune report] focused on President Barack Obama's healthcare plan [official materials], Clinton smiled as he emphasized that providing assistance with the preparation of a living will is "not the same as inviting people to die." More somber when discussing the legislation's meaning for his party, he stressed that it is "politically imperative for the Democrats to pass a health care bill" and stated that the bill's opponents would be silenced when all went well with the program a year after its implementation.

Early in Clinton's speech, a blogger jumped up and interrupted [Huffington Post report] the proceedings by yelling at the former president and criticizing him for the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" [TIME backgrounder] policy for gay military personnel, which was implemented during his administration. Clinton responded by sternly reprimanding the man, charging that "you couldn't deliver me [the] support in Congress" necessary to permit gays and lesbians to serve openly. He expressed his distaste for the policy, saying that the party imbalance in Congress forced his hand in the matter, and added that he hopes the policy will be replaced [CNN report] now that the numbers are more favorable. Another comment from the audience prompted Clinton to briefly discuss the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text], also passed during his administration. DOMA defined the term "marriage" as being "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife," and declared:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or
judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship."
He stated that DOMA was "an attempt to head off a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage," adding, "I didn't like signing DOMA ... and I think we're going forward in the right direction." Near the end of his speech, Clinton's tone was more cheerful and he mentioned the issue again, commenting, "I liked it that that fella challenged me on Don't Ask Don't Tell. I didn't like it either!"

Clinton spent the end of his talk on climate change, touching briefly on the importance of meeting the greenhouse gas emissions objectives of the Kyoto Protocol [UNFCC materials]. The US is a non-binding symbolic signatory of the agreement, and Clinton stressed that the US must have meaningful legislation in the area. He alluded to the upcoming Climate Change Conference [official website] to be held in December, stating, "we will never get China and India ... to end the Copenhagen process unless we get a bill." Clinton expressed his excitement and satisfaction at the popularity of the "Cash for Clunkers" (CARS) [official website] program, which provides a monetary incentive for consumers to trade in their older, less gas-efficient vehicles and purchase new models. He stated:
Cash for Clunkers has worked great. We ought to put that on steroids when we can sell electric cars!
Clinton concluded his speech by saying that he often reads blogs, but told the bloggers in the room not to assume that their readers' level of knowledge on these issues is as high as their own. He said that he hopes to see more blog posts with concrete instructions and recommendations for lawmakers and the general public, so that they can be moved to action more readily. The former president did not take any questions at the end of his speech.





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Rights group accuses Israel soldiers of killing unarmed civilians in Gaza conflict
Benjamin Hackman on August 14, 2009 8:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Israeli soldiers killed 11 white flag-waving Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which left more than 1,000 civilians and combatants dead in December 2008 and January 2009, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] released Thursday. According to the report, the unarmed victims were waving white flags to indicate they were not combatants and should not have been attacked under the laws of war. The report also suggests that Israeli soldiers may have failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] said HRW’s report was based on unreliable witnesses [press release]. HRW called on Israel’s military to investigate the attacks.

Last month, IDF announced [JURIST report] they were conducting criminal investigations into alleged intentional misconduct by Israeli soldiers during December and January's fighting in the Gaza strip. IDF said it was investigating [report, PDF] 13 allegations against IDF personnel, including the use of civilians as human shields. Israel and the US condemned [DOS briefing] a February report [text, PDF; JURIST report] that criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive.






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US officials tour Michigan prison that could house Guantanamo detainees
Matt Glenn on August 14, 2009 7:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Federal and state officials toured a prison in rural Michigan Thursday in anticipation that it could eventually hold inmates [JURIST report] currently detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Officials have not yet decided [Detroit Free Press report] whether the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility (SMF) [official website] will one day house some of the 229 Guantanamo detainees. Michigan officials are also considering using the SMF to hold out-of-state inmates with overcrowded prisons when SMF closes on October 1. Many local residents prefer [Detroit News report] the latter option, not wanting to have Guantanamo detainees nearby. The US Penitentiary in Leavensworth, Kansas [official website] appears to be the other leading candidate [Miami Herald Report] to house the detainees when the government closes Guantanamo Bay. Also this week, federal officials said that terrorism trials for some inmates could be held at a new high-security courthouse in Newport News, VA [Washington Post report] if the Obama administration sends cases to federal courts [JURIST report].

The Obama administration faces sharp opposition from members of Congress over plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to US soil. In late July, US Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson and Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris [official profile], both members of task force appointed by Obama to oversee the closing of Guantanamo, testified [JURIST report] in front of the House Armed Services Committee [official website] that the Obama administration is considering transferring more Guantanamo Bay detainees to the US as they urged Congress to pass proposed reforms to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] and detainee policy. In May, the US House of Representatives passed a spending bill [HR 2847 materials] that denied [JURIST report] the Obama administration's request for $60 million to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and placed limits on the government's ability to transfer detainees to the US and release detainees to foreign countries. Also in May, the Senate passed an amendment [JURIST report] to a piece of legislation that eliminates $80 million intended to be used for the closure of Guantanamo until the president provides a "comprehensive, responsible plan" detailing how it will be done.






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Pakistan politicians call for Musharraf treason charges
Andrew Morgan on August 13, 2009 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) [party website] will support Article 6 [text] treason charges against former president Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive], according to a Thursday Daily Times report. Although it is part of the ruling coalition government of President Asif Ali Zardari [official website], ANP Vice President Haji Adeel said that the decision to propose charges against the former military ruler should be made by more prominent political parties. Members of Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) [party website] also announced Thursday that they support [Xinhua report] pursuing treason charges, saying that the party has never supported dictators, and that such a prosecution would deter future impositions of martial law. Sir Mark Lyall Grant [official profile], former High Commissioner to Pakistan from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office [official website], reportedly met with former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] leader Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to urge him not to pursue legal action [Telegraph report] against Musharraf, although Sharif remains supportive of the measure.

On Wednesday, Pakistani police filed charges [JURIST report] against Musharraf alleging that he illegally detained members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in November 2007. Earlier this week, a district court in Islamabad directed [JURIST report] police to open an investigation into the allegations. Last month, the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] declared [judgment, PDF] that Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule violated the Constitution of Pakistan [text]. Musharraf resigned from office [JURIST report] last August in order to avoid impeachment proceedings by the country's parliament. Earlier that month, the country's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports]. In June 2008, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he had done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Cambodia genocide tribunal to get anti-corruption oversight
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 13, 2009 11:46 AM ET

[JURIST] UN and Cambodian officials on Wednesday announced the establishment [press release] of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. The parties mutually agreed to appoint Cambodian Auditor General Uth Chhorn to the position. According to a joint statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Royal Government Task Force on the Khmer Rouge Trials Sok An and UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen:


The designation of an Independent Counsellor builds on the existing structure of national and international Ethics Monitors and the Joint Sessions established by the Joint Statements of 10 December 2008 and 23 February 2009. It represents a further step to help strengthen the human resources management in the entire ECCC administration, including anti-corruption measures, to ensure the requirements of due process of law, including full protection of staff on both sides of the ECCC against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing. In this context, the Independent Counsellor will be available to all staff to bring forward any concerns confidentially, and will be empowered to address such concerns.

Both parties expressed hope that ECCC staff would now be able to raise concerns without fear of retaliation

The ECCC, established to try those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], has been plagued by accusations of corruption. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [JURIST report] on the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that the ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges. The ECCC is in the midst of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Kaing's trial is the first of eight [JURIST report] that the ECCC hopes to hear against former members of the Khmer Rouge, which has been accused of murdering 1.7 million Cambodians during its nearly four-year reign.





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Kazakhstan high court upholds state secrets conviction of journalist
Andrew Morgan on August 13, 2009 11:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan [official website] on Thursday affirmed the conviction of publisher Ramazan Esergepov, sentenced to three years in jail for revealing state secrets in his newspaper. Esergepov was convicted on Saturday [AP report] for publishing communications purporting to show a connection between the Kazakh business community and the country's intelligence bureau, the National Security Bureau (KNB) [official website]. Miklos Haraszti, Representative on Freedom of the Media at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official websites] said that revealing public corruption [press release] is "the main duty of the journalists acting in the public interest," and that "[c]riminal sanctions for 'breach of secrecy' should only apply to the officials whose job descriptions stipulate the duty to protect sensitive information, but not to citizens." Haraszti had pushed Kazakh authorities to release Esergepov, and said he hoped the country could "provide a safe working environment for journalists covering social and political issues" in advance of their 2010 chairmanship of OSCE [decision, PDF]. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] called the decision disgraceful [press release], plagued by "irregularities at trial," and that Esergepov was convicted for "criticising leading figures who illegally abuse their authority" in an effort to stifle the freedom of the press. RSF called on OSCE and other international organizations to pressure the Kazakh government to free Esergepov.

In February, US State Department [official website] criticized Kazakhstan's restrictions on freedom of the press in its 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices [JURIST report]. In December, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said that the former Soviet nation is falling short [JURIST report] on reforms promised in advance of their assumption of the OSCE chairmanship, including those designed to ensure media freedom and fair elections. Criticism of Kazakhstan's electoral practices has stemmed from the December 2005 election in which President Nursultan Nazarbaev [official website; BBC profile], in office since 1991, was re-elected with 91 percent of the vote. International observers raised concerns of fraud after that poll, which opposition parties unsuccessfully challenged [JURIST reports] afterward.






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Argentina ex-general given life sentence for 'Dirty War' killing
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 13, 2009 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Argentine general Santiago Omar Riveros was convicted of human rights abuses Wednesday and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of 15-year-old Floreal Avellaneda and the detention of his mother during the country's military dictatorship. From 1976 to 1983, a period known as the "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], an estimated 20,000-30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a campaign against suspected dissidents. Riveros, who commanded the Campo de Mayo military base near Buenos Aires, was found guilty [Pagina 12 report, in Spanish] of involvement in the 1976 abduction and torture of Avellaneda and his mother in order to find out the whereabouts of his father. Avellaneda's body eventually washed up on the Uruguayan shore, and his mother was detained for three years. Four others were sentenced [La Nacion report, in Spanish] to terms of 8-25 years in connection with the abductions, torture, and killing.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Argentina [official website, in Spanish] ruled that individuals cannot be required to submit blood samples [JURIST report] to test whether they were abducted as children during the Dirty War. Spanish police announced last month that they had arrested [JURIST report] Jorge Alberto Soza, wanted in Argentina on torture charges stemming from his service in the police force during the dictatorship. In February, Argentine defense officials announced the implementation of a new law [JURIST report] aimed at increasing civilian control over the military and its justice system. The law was seen by many as a response to the return of democracy and the rise of independent political institutions following the widespread human rights violations of the Dirty War era. Last August, a court convicted former general Luciano Benjamin Mendendez and another former general [JURIST reports] and sentenced them to life terms for kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Peronist politician Guillermo Vargas Aignasse in 1976 during the coup. In July 2008, an Argentine court sentenced Menendez [JURIST report] and four others to life in prison for the 1977 kidnapping, torture, and killing of four political dissidents during the Dirty War. In March 2008, Argentine politician and former police chief Luis Abelardo Patti was arrested [JURIST report] for crimes allegedly committed during the period. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to protect potential defendants, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases.






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Mexico Supreme Court releases 20 prisoners convicted in Chiapas killings
Andrew Morgan on August 13, 2009 9:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Mexican Supreme Court of Justice [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday ordered the release [press release, in Spanish] of 20 men and the retrial of 6 others convicted in connection with the 1997 massacre in Acteal, Chiapas [AI backgrounder] of 45 rebel sympathizers at a Catholic prayer meeting. The court found that the 2002-2007 convictions on charges of assault, aggravated homicide, and carrying military firearms were based on evidence obtained illegally, in violation of the defendants' constitutional rights. Among the violations were the failure to provide translators [AP report] for Tzotzil-speaking defendants, and showing pictures of the defendants to potential witnesses prior to asking them to identify participants in the killings. Javier Angulo Cruz, a professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) [academic website, in Spanish] who represented the men before the Supreme Court, said that the decision marked a turning point [La Jornada report, in Spanish] in constitutional guarantees for native criminal defendants. The Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center [advocacy website, in Spanish], a Chiapas-based human rights group, said that the decision focused too much on administrative mistakes [press release, PDF, in Spanish], ignoring the larger issue of whether the Mexican government was involved in the killings.

Tensions have long existed between the Mexican federal government and the largely Maya-descended people of Chiapas [official website, in Spanish] over the widespread poverty and ethnic inequality in the state. In January 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation [advocacy website, in Spanish] began a violent uprising [NSA backgrounder] against the central government, eventually capturing and controlling dozens of "autonomous regions" in Chiapas. The violence began on the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) [official website] became operational, as a show of the Zapatista's disapproval of liberalized international trade, including free trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank [official websites], which are seen as favoring corporate interests over that of the population at large.






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Federal judge rules Microsoft Word infringes patent
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2009 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas [official website] on Wednesday held [order, PDF] that Microsoft has infringed on a patent of Canadian company i4i [corporate websites] with portions of its Word 2007 and 2003 word-processing software. Judge Leonard Davis enjoined the company from selling the infringing programs and upheld a jury award [i4i press releas, PDF] against the company of more than $200 million for the infringement. Davis held that Microsoft had infringed on a patent [materials] i4i held for the use of certain XML encoding, ordering the company to eliminate the software's ability to display the code. The judge gave Microsoft 60 days to comply with the injunction, but Microsoft has said it plans to appeal [PC Magazine report] the ruling.

Aside from the patent issues, Microsoft has faced numerous legal challenges based on antitrust and unfair competition allegations. In July, the company announced [materials; JURIST report] that it would offer European consumers an option to select from a list of several Web browsers "in an effort to address competition law issues related to Internet Explorer and interoperability." In June, a South Korean court ruled [JURIST report] that the corporation violated antitrust laws by packaging software with the Windows operating system, but dismissed requests for damages from two Korean software firms on the grounds that the damages were not sufficiently linked to Microsoft's conduct. In February, Google [corporate website] sought to join a European Commission lawsuit [JURIST reports] against Microsoft, alleging that the bundling of software violated an EC Treaty provision [Article 82 text] that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.






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Anti-government militias growing in US: rights group
Devin Montgomery on August 13, 2009 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Right-wing nativist and so-called "patriot" anti-government militias are again on the rise in the US, according to a Wednesday report [text, PDF; press release] by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website]. The SPLC said that such groups, which had declined severely since the 1990s, are generally anti-tax, anti-immigration, and increasingly racially motivated since the election of the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama [official website]. SPLC said that the groups are advancing theories that the administration seeks to lead a socialist "world order," and that immigrants from Mexico have plans to "reconquer" parts of the country. The Center said that so far the groups have primarily used non-violent means of protest, like filing for fraudulent liens against property owned by public officials and holding mock "trials" of Obama and others. It warned, however, that the groups could soon post a security risk to the country, quoting one official as saying “[t]his is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years... All it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

One issue that the groups have focused on is whether Obama is actually a US citizen, though a federal judge dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit making such a claim in October 2008. Another is the taxation policy of the administration, which gave rise to numerous protests [advocacy website], called "tea parties," in the country earlier this year.






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Federal judge enjoins RealNetworks from selling DVD copying software
Brian Jackson on August 13, 2009 7:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Tuesday enjoined [opinion, PDF] the technology company RealNetworks [corporate website] from selling its DVD copying software, RealDVD. Judge Marilyn Patel held that the RealDVD software violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [text] and rejected RealNetwork's fair use defense. Patel did not not entirely dismiss the notion that a fair use defense may prevail in other scenarios, notably individuals making backup copies of DVDs for personal use:


So while it may well be fair use for an individual consumer to store a backup copy of a personally-owned DVD on that individual's computer, a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies. Importantly, such tools are unable to distinguish between personal use copies of personally-owned DVDs and other sorts of copies for other purposes—commercial, personal, or otherwise.

RealNetworks expressed disappointment [press release] with the ruling. The results of a pending RealNetworks anti-trust suit [NYT report] against the six major motion picture studios may alter the long term effects of Tuesday's ruling.

Copyright protection is an important issue to the motion picture and recording industries, and both have sought judgments to enforce protection of intellectual property. In late July, a federal judge found a Boston University graduate student liable for copyright infringement [JURIST report] for illegally downloading 30 songs. Earlier that month, a number of motion picture production companies filed suit in Swedish court to enjoin the operators of the Pirate Bay [JURIST report] file sharing site from continuing operation. One month prior, in a high-profile copyright case, a jury found a Minnesota woman liable for copyright infringement [JURIST report] for illegally downloading 24 songs, and fined her $1.92 million.





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Federal court convicts US citizen on terrorism charges
Andrew Morgan on August 12, 2009 4:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal court in Atlanta on Wednesday found American Ehsanul Islam Sadequee guilty [press release] on four terrorism-related counts. Sadequee was convicted in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization by making himself available to participate in violent jihad and by shooting "casing" videos of Washington, DC, landmarks that were to be sent to jihadists abroad. Calling the verdict the product of a "long and successful international counter-terrorism investigation," US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia David Nahmias [official profile] said:


This case remains, however, a sobering reminder that terrorism and its supporters are not confined to distant battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. As recent events further demonstrate, there are still some American citizens willing to take up arms against the United States, our people, our allies, and our interests.

Sadequee, who represented himself at trial, had argued that the videos showed only immature bragging [AP report], and that he was not a terrorist, nor had he been at the time. Co-conspirator Syed Haris Ahmed, who was convicted [JURIST report] in June, testified against Sadequee at trial. Sadequee faces a maximum of 60 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Sadequee and Ahmed were believed to have ties to a terrorist cell that was plotting to attack targets in Canada [JURIST report], known as the "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder; advocacy website]. Members of the group were arrested, accused of planning a series of violent attacks on civilians, public officials, and government buildings. The charges included participating in a terrorist group, receiving training from a terrorist group, training terrorists, and importing weapons and ammunition for terrorism. Last September, one of the group's members, the first person convicted under Canada's post-9/11 terrorism law was sentenced to 36 months [JURIST reports] in prison and released by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice [official website] in consideration of the time he had already served.





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Birmingham mayor pardons 1960s civil rights protesters
Andrew Morgan on August 12, 2009 2:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday pardoned 2,500 people arrested in the city during nonviolent civil rights protests in the 1960s. Announcing the pardons at a city council meeting, Mayor Larry Langford [official website] said that the city had an obligation to ask for forgiveness [video] because it had "wronged so many." Langford acknowledged that many eligible people viewed their arrest records as a "badge of courage and a sign of the struggle" and would not be inclined to apply for a pardon. Bishop and civil rights leader Calvin Woods symbolically accepted [AP report] the pardon on behalf of jailed protesters.

In April 2006, Alabama Governor Bob Riley [official website] authorized pardons [JURIST report] for Rosa Parks [TIME profile], the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [King Center profile] and other civil rights activists convicted of violating Jim Crow laws in the state. Rosa Parks helped trigger the civil rights movement across the US after she was arrested in Montgomery, AL, in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Parks died in 2005 [JURIST report] at the age of 92.






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ICRC head calls for greater compliance with Geneva Conventions on 60th anniversary
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 12, 2009 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] President Jakob Kellenberger on Wednesday called for greater compliance [press release] with the Geneva Conventions [ICRC backgrounder], making the documents' 60th anniversary [press release]. Kellenberger said that the conventions were tested in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with the global "war on terror" posing a "huge challenge":

The traumatic events of 9/11 and its aftermath set a new test for [international humanitarian law (IHL)]. The polarisation of international relations and the humanitarian consequences of what has been referred to as the "global war on terror" have posed a huge challenge. The proliferation and fragmentation of non-state armed groups, and the fact that some of them reject the premises of IHL, have posed another. These challenges effectively exposed IHL to some rigorous cross-examination by a wide range of actors, including the ICRC, to see if it really does still stand as an adequate legal framework for the protection of victims of armed conflict.

In short, the result of this sometimes arduous process was a resounding reaffirmation of the relevance and adequacy of IHL in preserving human life and dignity in armed conflict. However, as I made clear at the outset, this is no time to rest on our laurels. The nature of armed conflict, and of the causes and consequences of such conflict, is continuing to evolve. IHL must evolve too.

The priority for the ICRC now is to anticipate and prepare for the main challenges to IHL in the years ahead. While these challenges have a legal and often a political dimension, I must stress that our ultimate concern is purely humanitarian; our only motivation is to contribute to achieving better protection for the victims of armed conflict.
ICRC Director of International Law Philip Spoerri said the conventions remain relevant today, saying that they "remain the cornerstone of contemporary international humanitarian law."

The Geneva Conventions were drafted in response to World War II and entered into force on October 21, 1950. They have been ratified by all 194 states and are universally applicable. The first Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war; the second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war; the third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war; and the fourth Geneva Convention [texts] affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territory.





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Argentina high court rejects mandatory blood tests of alleged 'Dirty War'-era abductees
Ximena Marinero on August 12, 2009 11:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Argentina [official website, in Spanish] ruled Tuesday that individuals cannot be required to submit blood samples to test whether they were abducted as children during the "Dirty War" [JURIST news archive]. The court issued two rulings [Pagina12 report, in Spanish] in the cases of brothers Guillermo Gabriel Prieto and Emiliano Matias Prieto [judgments, PDF in Spanish], finding that genetic material can be collected from personal effects, but that blood samples cannot be required. The brothers were challenging lower court orders compelling them to provide blood samples to compare their genetic identity to a bank of genetic information from families of missing persons and allowing the testing of material samples obtained from a search of their home. The high court overturned the order compelling blood samples and affirmed the order allowing testing of other materials, reasoning that testing genetic material obtained from personal effects is an alternative, less invasive method that is already recognized in by Argentine criminal law. The court concluded that the search and seizure recourse recognized already under articles 399 and 409 of the Criminal Procedure Code authorizes search for such material and also authorizes testing any materials obtained in congruence with the duty of the state to help clear the cases of abducted children. Alan Iud, lawyer for Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo [advocacy website], emphasized the importance the Supreme Court rulings to potentially uncover the truth, achieve restitution for victims and their families, and to punish the crime of "appropriation" of minor children, but expressed concern over the role assigned to law enforcement. Prior lawsuits have revealed that law enforcement has not always been ready and willing to facilitate the process.

The association Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo originally raised the complaints that gave rise to the criminal proceedings challenged by the Prieto brothers' appeals. The association is a non-governmental organization that seeks restitution for the relatives of disappeared persons, whose children were abducted during the 1976-1983 Dirty War [Global Security backgrounder]. The organization searches and advocates for those children, all born between 1975 and 1980, and demands that those responsible for such abductions be brought to justice.






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Pakistan ex-president Musharraf charged with illegally detaining judges
Andrew Morgan on August 12, 2009 11:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani police on Tuesday filed charges against former president Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive] alleging that he illegally detained members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in November 2007. Sixty judges, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [official profile; JURIST news archive], were forced to remain in their homes after refusing to swear an oath to uphold the Provisional Constitution Order [text] under which the country was run during the emergency rule. Police in Islamabad said that the house arrest order qualified as an illegal detention [LAT report], and that Musharraf, who is currently in London, could be arrested if he returns to Pakistan. Musharraf's lawyer Muhammed Ali Saif said that Pakistani law bars charges [Bloomberg report] against current and former presidents.

Earlier this week, a district court in Islamabad directed [JURIST report] police to open an investigation into the allegations. Last month, the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] declared [judgment, PDF] that Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule violated the Constitution of Pakistan [text]. Musharraf resigned from office [JURIST report] last August in order to avoid impeachment proceedings by the country's parliament. Earlier that month, the country's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports]. In June 2008, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he had done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Suu Kyi to appeal conviction for violating house arrest
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 12, 2009 11:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Myanmar opposition pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and American John Yettaw said Wednesday that they will file appeals against Tuesday's guilty verdicts [JURIST report]. Suu Kyi and Yettaw were convicted of violating state security laws after Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest, allowed Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to visit her. Suu Kyi was sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest, and Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, with four years of hard labor. Meanwhile, world leaders and human rights groups have continued to criticize Suu Kyi's trial and conviction. The Dalai Lama [official website] said [press release] he was "deeply saddened" by the sentence and called for her release. A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] said [press release] that he "strongly deplores this decision," and that he "urges the Government to immediately and unconditionally release" Suu Kyi. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called the verdict [press release] "shameful."

Suu Kyi's trial resumed last month after a delay [JURIST reports] with the testimony of Khin Moe Moe, a member of Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy (NLD) [party website] party, who claimed the charges were politically motivated. In June, a Myanmar court sentenced [JURIST report] two members of the NLD to 18 months in prison after leading prayers for Suu Kyi's release. Her arrest was controversial and highly criticized [JURIST report] by the international community. She has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF]. News of Suu Kyi's trial has been met with criticism from numerous agencies and governments around the world. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has said the charges [press release] against Suu Kyi are "trumped up."






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Russia human rights activist found dead in Chechnya
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 12, 2009 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead in the trunk of their car Tuesday, after being abducted Monday. Saulayeva and Dzhabrailov were taken [Moscow Times report] from the office of her organization, Let's Save the Generation, which works to aid children affected by violence in Chechnya. The pair were reportedly removed by a group of men dressed as security officers, and police initially failed to take action when the kidnapping was reported by Russian human rights group Memorial [advocacy website, in Russian]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [press release] for Russian authorities to "ensure that the investigation into the murders of Chechen civil society activists Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, is effective and independent." On Wednesday, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office Investigations Administration for Chechnya said that the number of kidnappings and murders in Chechnya has increased [RIA Novosti report] dramatically since the beginning of the year.

Tuesday's killing comes less than a month after the death [JURIST report] of Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary]. Also last month, the body of Russian human rights activist Andrei Kulagin [JURIST report], missing since May, was found in a quarry. In January, Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot and killed [JURIST report] in Moscow. Markelov represented journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary], who was shot to death [JURIST report] in October 2006. In April, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin [official profile] expressed concern [JURIST report] that activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency. According to HRW, more than 100 European Court of Human Rights [official website] judgments have found that Russia is responsible for grave human-rights violations in Chechnya.






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House committee documents show Rove involved in US attorney firings
Brian Jackson on August 12, 2009 8:55 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday released testimony and e-mails [materials] purporting to show that Bush administration political advisor Karl Rove [personal website; JURIST news archive] was involved in the firing of nine US Attorneys [JURIST news archive] in 2006. Among the 5,400 pages of documents released by the committee are e-mail communications between Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers [BBC profile], and other top administration officials regarding the removal of David Iglesias, the former US Attorney for New Mexico. The Department of Justice had given Iglesias a top ranking [press release] prior to his removal, seen as suggesting an underlying political motivation. Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) called the release "a powerful victory for the rule of law," and said that he had provided the documents to Acting US Attorney Nora Dannehy [official profile] "to assist in her effort to determine whether federal criminal charges are appropriate and to pursue any such charges." Rove welcomed [press release] the release, called the charges "groundless" and said that the documents "show politics played no role in the Bush Administration's removal of U.S. Attorneys, that I never sought to influence the conduct of any prosecution, and that I played no role in deciding which US attorneys were retained and which replaced."

The Committee had long sought to obtain information about Rove's involvement in the firings, which Rove and other officials claimed were protected by executive privilege. After agreeing [JURIST report] to participate in a closed-door hearing in March, Rove testified before the committee twice in July. Citing executive privilege, Rove refused to testify in July 2007 and July 2008 [JURIST reports]. In March 2008, the Judiciary Committee filed suit to enforce subpoenas [JURIST report] for Miers and former Bush chief of staff Joshua Bolton. In February, the House voted [JURIST report] to hold the former officials in contempt of Congress for their refusal to testify. In January, a federal court ordered [JURIST report] that copies of the documents related to the investigation be provided by the Bush administration to the in-coming Obama administration.






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Former Madoff financial chief pleads guilty to conspiracy, fraud charges
Brian Jackson on August 12, 2009 7:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Former financial chief for Bernard L. Madoff [JURIST news archive] Investment Securities LLC, Frank DiPascali, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 criminal counts [charges, PDF] for his role in the Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of billions of dollars. DiPascali delivered his plea to Judge Richard Sullivan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], admitting he was aware he was participating in a fraudulent scheme. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) elected to file charges [letter, PDF] last week, charging DiPascali with fraud, conspiracy, perjury, and tax evasion. DiPascali faces 125 years in prison for his crimes [Bloomberg report], but it is believed that he reached a plea agreement with the DOJ [WSJ report] for a reduced sentence.

In late June, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison [JURIST report]. In March, Madoff's accountant David Friehling was charged with fraud [JURIST report] by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Just prior to that, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 charges of fraud after agreeing to a partial judgment from the SEC [JURIST reports] for civil charges stemming from his role in defrauding investors.






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Federal court dismisses Qualcomm antitrust class action
Andrew Morgan on August 11, 2009 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of California [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [press release] a consumer class action lawsuit against telecommunications company Qualcomm [corporate website]. Christopher Lorenzo sued Qualcomm in November, alleging that the chipset manufacturer holds patents on technologies necessary for CDMA [industry materials] cellular networks, and has used the licensing of these technologies to adversely affect competition in the CDMA market. The court reaffirmed its March 2009 decision [order, pdf], finding the harm that Lorenzo suffered as a result of the supposedly anti-competitive practices as an end consumer of cellular technology was too remote to serve as a basis for standing under the Clayton Act [text, PDF].

In April, Qualcomm settled [JURIST report] a patent infringement case with rival Broadcom [corporate website], with the companies agreeing not to assert certain patents against one another. A month earlier, a federal court had dismissed [JURIST report] Broadcom's suit seeking to declare several patents held by Qualcomm to be exhausted and unenforceable. Broadcom had filed the complaint in 2008, following the Supreme Court's decision in Quanta v. LG Electronics [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which held that the sale of a patent triggers exhaustion. In December, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] affirmed in part [JURIST report] a holding against Qualcomm on the basis of patent holdup. In September, the federal appeals court affirmed an injunction against Qualcomm [Reuters report] on the basis of their alleged infringement of two Broadcom patents.






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Germany court convicts Nazi officer of 1944 reprisal killings
Andrew Morgan on August 11, 2009 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A German district court on Tuesday sentenced former Nazi army officer Josef Scheungraber to life in prison for the 1944 reprisal killing of 10 Italian civilians. Scheungraber was convicted of 10 counts of murder [Welt report, in German] and one count of attempted murder for ordering soldiers to blow up a barn in Falzano di Cortona, Tuscany, after forcing 11 civilians inside. In reaching the decision, Judge Manfred Goetzl relied on the testimony [AP report] of the attack's sole survivor and that of a former co-worker of Scheungraber's to whom he had previously suggested his culpability for the killings. Scheungraber lawyer Klaus Goebel had argued that Scheungraber was supervising the construction of a nearby bridge at the time of the killings, and said he would appeal the conviction. The 90-year-old Scheungraber will not begin his prison term until after the appeals process is finished.

In 2006, an Italian military tribunal convicted [Reuters report] Scheungraber in absentia and sentenced him to life in prison for his role in the killings. Last month, a German appeals court found [JURIST report] that suspected Nazi Waffen-SS [USHMM backgrounder] soldier Heinrich Boere is medically fit to stand trial for the 1944 murder of three Dutch civilians. In May, another accused Nazi, John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive], 89, was deported [JURIST report] from the US to Germany to stand trial for his alleged involvement in death camps during World War II. Demjanjuk's deportation marked the end a lengthy legal battle [Guardian timeline] centered around whether his age and health would permit him to stand trial. In 1988, Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death by an Israeli court, though the sentence was vacated by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993.






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Military tribunal finds CIA techniques irrelevant to detainee competency hearing
Andrew Morgan on August 11, 2009 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] A military tribunal has ruled that lawyers for accused 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh will not be made aware of what interrogation techniques were used on him by the CIA prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives], according to a Monday report [text] by the Miami Herald. Bin al-Shibh's military defense lawyer, Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, had sought to learn the specifics of his interrogations in advance of a September competency hearing. Lachelier argued that interrogation details were relevant to determining whether bin al-Shibh suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [NIMH backgrounder] or a permanent psychological disability, which would in turn affect his competency to stand trial. However, presiding judge Army Colonel Stephen Henley [DOD biography, PDF] found on August 6 that the details of bin al-Shibh's interrogation were not relevant to determining his current mental competency but would risk disclosure of classified information. Henley said that the Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] required him to weigh the national security challenge invoked by prosecutors against bin al-Shibh's right to challenge evidence against him.

Last month, military prosecutors sought to delay [JURIST report] the cases against three terrorism suspects while the US government revises the system used to try them, fearing that changes made to the trial structure would require re-hearing of or invalidate entire proceedings. The Pentagon approved death penalty charges against bin al-Shibh and four other suspects in May, and they were arraigned [JURIST reports] in June. In February, CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged [JURIST report] that fellow co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had been subjected to waterboarding [JURIST news archive] during interrogation. In January, Susan Crawford [official profile, PDF; JURIST news archive], the tribunal's convening authority, said in an interview with the Washington Post that torture tactics were used [article text; JURIST report] in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani [JURIST news archive], a suspect held at Guantanamo under allegations of connections to the 9/11 attacks. Crawford made the statement after nearly two years of reviewing Guantanamo Bay practices as well as the strength of legal cases against detainees.






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Tenth Circuit allows third corruption trial for former Westar Energy executives
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 11, 2009 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that former Westar Energy [corporate website] CEO David Wittig and former Chief Strategy Officer Douglas Lake may face a third trial on charges of conspiracy. The court found that the third trial would not necessarily be barred by the double jeopardy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause of the Fifth Amendment. Wittig and Lake were initially tried in 2004 on charges of fraudulently taking millions of dollars from the company, the largest electric utility in Kansas. That trial ended in a hung jury. A second trial resulted in convictions [JURIST report] in 2005, but those convictions were reversed [opinion, PDF] by the Tenth Circuit in January 2007 for insufficient evidence. When prosecutors decided to bring charges for a third time, Wittig and Lake sought a dismissal of the charges, arguing that that third trial would be barred by double jeopardy. The appeals court disagreed, but indicated that certain evidence might be barred and that prosecutors could have difficulty obtaining a conviction:


To the extent that the defendants do seek dismissal of the conspiracy charges against them, we hold, consistent with our last ruling and the district court's judgment, that double jeopardy doesn't categorically foreclose a new trial because the conspiracy charges in the indictment are considerably broader in scope than the wire fraud charges on which defendants were acquitted. At the same time, we readily acknowledge that today's opinion may not represent the last word on double jeopardy in this case. If, as the defendants predict, the government’s proof of conspiracy at trial is narrower than its indictment and seeks to rehash only matters on which the defendants have already been acquitted, more will remain to be said. But all that depends on a guess about the future, and the future must be left to the future. For the present, we are obliged to affirm.

Attorneys for Wittig and Lake were pleased [Kansas City Star report] that the appeals court expressed doubt as to the strength of the government's case, but were disappointed in the decision to allow the third trial to proceed.

In a separate case, Wittig was resentenced [JURIST report] in February 2007 to 24 months in prison, his third sentencing for charges stemming from a 2002 indictment [text, PDF] on bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. The bank fraud charges stem from a 2001 loan transaction in which the president of Topeka's Capital City Bank illegally increased Wittig's credit line for a joint real estate investment. In July 2003, Wittig was given 51 months in prison. That sentence was vacated [opinion, PDF] by the Tenth Circuit in February 2006 for errors in computing his sentencing level. On remand, US District Judge Julie Robinson issued a 60-month sentence, which was overturned [opinion, PDF] in November 2006 on similar grounds.





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Thailand court refuses extradition to US of suspected Russian arms dealer
Andrew Morgan on August 11, 2009 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bangkok Criminal Court on Tuesday refused to extradite a suspected Russian arms trafficker to the US to face prosecution for supplying weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder]. In denying the extradition request [AFP report], Judge Jitakorn Patanasiri said that the accusations made against Viktor Bout [BBC profile] by the US were not cognizable under Thai law. The court called the conflict between FARC and the Colombian government political, noted that Thailand does not recognize FARC as a terrorist group, and determined that it lacks authority to penalize a foreign defendant for actions committed abroad. James Entwistle [official profile], the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Bangkok, said that the US was disappointed by the decision because and that the US supports [Reuters report] a planned appeal by Thai prosecutors.

Last month, a Russian organized crime leader and suspected weapons trafficker Semyon Mogilevich [FBI profile], who is wanted by the US, was released [JURIST report] by a Russian court. Mogilevich is unlikely to stand trial on US racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering charges, as the US and Russia do not have an extradition treaty. In March, Armenian international arms dealer Artur Solomonyan was sentenced to 22 years in prison [JURIST report] for arranging to sell shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and other Russian-made weaponry to a confidential informant posing as an al Qaeda operative.






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Myanmar court finds Suu Kyi guilty of violating house arrest
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 11, 2009 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] A Myanmar court on Monday convicted opposition pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of violating the terms of her house arrest, sentencing her to an additional 18 months under house arrest. Suu Kyi had been charged with violating state security laws by allowing an American to stay with her after he swam across a lake to her home. The American, John Yettaw, was tried along with Suu Kyi and sentenced [BBC report] to seven years in prison, with four years of hard labor. Suu Kyi's conviction was condemned [BBC report] by many world leaders. The European Union (EU) [official website] issued a statement [press release] saying, "[t]he proceedings against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on charges which were brought twenty years after she was first wrongfully arrested, have been in breach of national and international law. The EU urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release her." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] said [press release], "she should not have been tried and she should not have been convicted. We continue to call for her release from continuing house arrest." UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] said [press release] he was "both saddened and angry at the verdict." French President Nicholas Sarkozy [official website, in French] called the verdict [press release, in French] "brutal and unjust."

Suu Kyi's trial resumed last month after a delay [JURIST reports] with the testimony of Khin Moe Moe, a member of Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy (NLD) [party website] party, who claimed the charges were politically motivated. In June, a Myanmar court sentenced [JURIST report] two members of the NLD to 18 months in prison after leading prayers for Suu Kyi's release. Her arrest was controversial and highly criticized [JURIST report] by the international community. She has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF]. News of Suu Kyi's trial has been met with criticism from numerous agencies and governments around the world. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has said the charges [press release] against Suu Kyi are "trumped up."






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Fourth Circuit affirms CIA contractor detainee abuse conviction
Andrew Morgan on August 10, 2009 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [opinion, PDF] the conviction of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] contractor David Passaro [JURIST news archive] on assault charges related to the abuse of an Afghan detainee [JURIST report]. The court found that the district court had properly exercised maritime and territorial jurisdiction [18 USC § 7 text] over Passaro's actions while he was employed by the CIA at Asadabad Firebase [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Afghanistan. Although the court rejected the construction of "military ... mission" used by the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina [official website] as too narrow, the duration and nature of the site's use, and improvements made to the fortification lead the Fourth Circuit "to conclude that it possesses all the qualities of a permanent U.S. military base abroad, albeit on a smaller scale ...." In determining "whether a federal court has jurisdiction over ... an American citizen for committing brutal assaults abroad," the court found that:


Congress has determined that individuals committing such crimes on the premises of United States military missions abroad are subject to prosecution in United States federal courts. The Executive has determined to bring the first such case against David Passaro. We are satisfied that Passaro received a fair trial from a conscientious jury, in a court that had jurisdiction to try him.

While upholding the conviction, the court found error in the district court's application of the "dangerous weapon" enhancement of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [official materials], and remanded the case for re-sentencing. Passaro was found guilty in 2006 and sentenced [JURIST reports] in 2007 to 100 months in prison on charges that he beat Abdul Wali during an interrogation in northeastern Afghanistan. Wali subsequently died in US custody.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile; JURIST news archive] was expected to appoint a special counsel who will be tasked with investigating the alleged abuse of detainees and other terrorism suspects by CIA interrogators. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text; JURIST report] to Holder in order to "express [the organization's] strong support for opening a criminal investigation into abusive interrogation practices by the US government since the attacks of September 11, 2001." In April, Democratic members of the US House Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter urging him to appoint a special counsel [JURIST report] to investigate torture allegations made against Bush administration officials.
In February 2007, HRW welcomed Passaro's conviction, but accused the US of consistently failing to investigate [JURIST report] allegations of detainee abuse.





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Russia president proposes bill to expand use of army abroad
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 10, 2009 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] on Monday submitted a bill [text, in Russian] to the State Duma [official website, in Russian] that would allow Russian troops to intervene beyond Russian borders. The legislation, proposed in response to last August's South Ossetia conflict [BBC backgrounder], would allow intervention by Russian troops in order to protect Russian citizens abroad. The proposed law would also allow intervention for "reflecting and the prevention of aggression against another State" and to "combating piracy and ensuring the safety of navigation." The draft bill would amend existing federal law [BBC report], which allows special military units to be deployed abroad with notification of parliament.

The South Ossetia conflict lasted for five days last August when Georgia tried to take control of its breakaway region, and Russian troops defended the region, entering Georgia. In February, the US State Department released its annual country reports on human rights [JURIST report], accusing both Russia and Georgia [text] of violations during the conflict. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged both Russia and Georgia to investigate possible violations of the laws of war [JURIST report] during and after the conflict. That report followed closely a report [JURIST report] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] in November 2008, which alleged possible human rights violations during the conflict, including attacks on civilians and civilian targets by both sides, the use of land mines and cluster bombs, the treatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees, and the wide-spread displacement of civilians during and after the fighting. Georgia and Russia [JURIST reports] are currently exchanging allegations of war crimes in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official websites].






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UK intelligence chief denies 'complicity' in torture
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 10, 2009 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) [official website] John Scarlett said that the British secret service did not participate in or condone torture, during a BBC radio interview [materials] broadcast Monday. Scarlett denied that the SIS, better known as MI6, was involved in torture, saying there has been "no torture and there is no complicity with torture." Scarlett added that, "[o]ur officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else." Scarlett's comments come after Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson [official profiles] denied allegations [Telegraph report] of torture in a joint article appearing in the Telegraph on Sunday. Miliband and Johnson wrote:


There is no truth in suggestions that the security and intelligence services operate without control or oversight. There is no truth in the more serious suggestion that it is our policy to collude in, solicit, or directly participate in abuses of prisoners. Nor is it true that alleged wrongdoing is covered up.

Miliband and Johnson's statement came in response to a a report [text] published last week by the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights [official website] calling for an independent inquiry [JURIST report] into allegations regarding government complicity in the torture of UK terrorism suspects in Pakistan and elsewhere. Allegations in the report include the complicity in torture of UK resident Binyam Mohammed [Reprieve profile; JURIST news archive] before he was brought to Guantanamo Bay. Last month, the UK Metropolitan Police Service announced that it was investigating the alleged mistreatment [JURIST report] of Mohammed by intelligence officers. Mohammed claims that he was tortured by Pakistani agents and interrogated by FBI and MI5 agents complicit in his abuse. He was transferred to Morocco, allegedly part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] program, where he claims that British agents supplied his torturers with questions.





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Pakistan court orders Musharraf investigated for detaining judges
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 10, 2009 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A Pakistani court on Monday directed police to open an investigation into allegations that former president Pervez Musharraf [official profile; JURIST news archive] illegally detained 60 members of the judiciary after declaring emergency rule [proclamation, PDF] in November 2007. The order [APP report] was issued by Islamabad District and Sessions Judge Akmal Raza in response to a complaint filed by lawyer Aslam Ghuman. Ghuman claims that Musharraf illegally confined more than 60 judges [PTI report], including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [official profile; JURIST news archive], to their homes, causing widespread protests from the Pakistani legal community. This is the first court-ordered police investigation against Musharraf, who is currently in London and could eventually face treason charges.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] declared [judgment, PDF] that Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule violated the Constitution of Pakistan [text]. Musharraf resigned from office [JURIST report] last August in order to avoid impeachment proceedings by the country's parliament. Earlier that month, the country's coalition government said that it would push to impeach Musharraf because he had given a "clear commitment" to step down from office after his party was defeated in parliamentary elections [JURIST reports]. In June 2008, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] called for Musharraf to be tried for treason [JURIST report], labeling him a traitor disloyal to Pakistan and saying he should be punished for the "damage" that he had done to the country in the years since he led a military coup [BBC backgrounder] and unseated Sharif in 1999.






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Saudi Arabia illegally detaining thousands of terrorism suspects: HRW
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 10, 2009 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Saudi Arabia is illegally detaining thousands [press release] under the auspices of combating terrorism, according to a report [text, PDF] published Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW reports that since 2003, thousands of terrorism suspects have been detained indefinitely, in violation of Saudi law, which limits pre-trial detentions to six months. The report also charges that the Saudi domestic intelligence service, the mabahith, has prevented appropriate judicial oversight. The report claims that involuntary religious and psychological counseling for detainees who have never been charged with or convicted of any crime violates international human rights law. HRW also criticizes secret trials of detainees, such as the one that resulted in the conviction of 330 people [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges last month. The report recommends that all mabahith detainees be released or brought to trial and that trials be conducted fairly by providing qualified legal counsel and opening proceedings to observers.

Monday's report echoes a recent report [text; JURIST report] by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which claimed that Saudi Arabian officials are allegedly using anti-terrorism measures as an excuse to secretly detain, imprison, torture, and even kill thousands of people. In February, the US Department of State released its 2008 Report on Human Rights Practices for Saudi Arabia [text; JURIST report], in which it identified several significant human rights issues, including "denial of public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; incommunicado detention" and "lack of government transparency." Last October, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz [official website] announced that the kingdom had indicted 991 [Reuters report] suspected al Qaeda members. HRW sought access [HRW request] to the trials in an attempt to ensure compliance with international standards, but was denied.






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Holder expected to name prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogations: report
Tere Miller-Sporrer on August 9, 2009 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile; JURIST news archive] is expected to name a special prosecutor [Los Angeles Times report] who will be tasked with investigating the alleged abuse of detainees and other terrorism suspects by CIA interrogators, according to a Sunday Los Angeles Times [media website] report. The report cites a senior Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] official who says that Holder will limit the probe to determining whether individuals went beyond authorized techniques when interrogating suspects. The official said that no final decision has been made, but last month it was reported that Holder had requested a list of 10 possible candidates [JURIST report].

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text; JURIST report] to Holder in order to "express [the organization's] strong support for opening a criminal investigation into abusive interrogation practices by the US government since the attacks of September 11, 2001." In April, Democratic members of the US House Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter urging him to appoint a special counsel [JURIST report] to investigate torture allegations made against Bush administration officials. Earlier that month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] reiterated his calls for a non-partisan truth commission [JURIST report] to investigate those responsible for authorizing certain interrogation techniques. Also in April, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] released a DOJ report [JURIST report] indicating that in 2002 former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques used by CIA agents against Guantanamo Bay detainees.






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Iran official acknowledges torture of election protesters
Tere Miller-Sporrer on August 9, 2009 3:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Iran's Prosecutor General Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi acknowledged Saturday that some protesters arrested in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election [JURIST news archive] were tortured. He went on to say [NYT report] that the protesters should not have been taken to the Kahrizak detention center, where several protesters died while incarcerated. Following the disclosure of the use of torture, the warden of the Kahrizak detention center was arrested [DPA report] Sunday. The center was closed [Tehran Times report] on Wednesday by the order of Iran's Supreme National Security Council following the Council's review of the prison's handling of election protesters.

Iran has been experiencing turmoil in Tehran and elsewhere since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] won the election in June. In early July, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported that some arrested protesters were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with torture in an effort to force false confessions [report, text; JURIST report]. The same week, opposition leaders called for the release of those detained for their alleged involvement in the protests. The request was brought jointly by candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi along with former president Mohammad Khatami, who also called for an immediate stop to the allegedly baseless arrests of dissidents. The country's Guardian Council of the Constitution [official website, in Persian] recently certified the contested results [press release, in Persian; JURIST report], officially sanctioning the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Human rights groups have viewed the arrests as political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals."






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Obama administration asks Supreme Court to block release of detainee abuse photos
Ximena Marinero on August 8, 2009 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The Obama administration on Friday petitioned [cert. petition, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website] to overturn a district court order mandating disclosure of detainee abuse photos [JURIST news archive], alleging that this could lead to further violence in Iraq and Afghanistan that would endanger US civil and military personnel. According to the government, Exemption 7(F) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), [5 USC § 552(b)(7)(F)] is applicable under the current circumstances of the case reasoning that:


The court of appeals' view that Congress intended to require disclosure when a death or multiple deaths could reasonably be expected to result if the particular victims could not be sufficiently identified in advance disregards Exemption 7(F)'s fundamental concern with human life and safety and misapprehends the practical balance that Congress struck in that exemption.

The photos are now part of the records of the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army. Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Security Project Jameel Jaffer referred [press release] to the Obama administration's position as disappointing since the administration previously had agreed [letter, PDF; JURIST report] to carry out the court order.

In June, the US Senate [official website] voted unanimously to approve [JURIST report] legislation [S 1100 materials] that seeks to prohibit the photos' release. The bill would carve out an exception in the FOIA for certain photographs when such disclosure would endanger US personnel. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled in June that the US government could continue to withhold photos [JURIST report] of alleged detainee abuse while it awaits a response from the Supreme Court. The original court mandate to release the photos came from a FOIA challenge successfully brought by the ACLU in 2005 and confirmed by the Second Circuit in April of this year.





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Federal appeals court upholds death sentence for DC sniper
Matt Glenn on August 8, 2009 1:25 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] the death sentence handed down to DC-area sniper John Allen Muhammad [BBC profile]. In his appeal, Muhammad alleged "nondisclosure of exculpatory information by the prosecution, ineffective assistance of his trial counsel, improper exclusion of expert testimony during his sentencing phase, and improper time and page restrictions on his habeas petition." In an opinion written by Judge Roger Gregory, the court held, "[w]e are unable to find reversible error in the conclusions of the state and district courts, and we therefore affirm the district court's decision to deny habeas relief." Muhammad's counsel said he plans to petition the court to review [Washington Post report] Friday's decision en banc.

In 2007, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a Maryland court did not err in finding Muhammad competent to stand trial in Maryland. Muhammad was sentenced in Maryland in June 2006 to six consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole following his conviction [JURIST reports] by a Maryland jury of six counts of murder. Maryland prosecutors did not seek the death penalty but wanted a second conviction in case his earlier Virginia conviction [JURIST reports] was overturned on appeal. Muhammad was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 in Virginia for shootings there. Accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo [BBC profile], who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to the Virginia charges and received a life sentence, testified [JURIST report] in the Maryland case that Muhammad pulled the trigger in five of the six killings there.






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Sotomayor sworn in as Supreme Court justice
Matt Glenn on August 8, 2009 12:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Sonia Sotomayor [WH Profile; JURIST news archive] was sworn in as the 111th justice in the history of the US Supreme Court [official website] Saturday. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath, in which Sotomayor swore to "administer justice without respect to persons and do equal right to the poor and to the rich" and to "faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon [her] as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."



In joining the court, Sotomayor becomes its first Hispanic member and third female member. Sotomayor will hear her first case on September 9 when the court hears arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LLI backgrounder; JURIST report], a case dealing with campaign financing and free speech.

The US Senate confirmed [JURIST report] Sotomayor on Thursday by a vote of 68-31. On Tuesday, the Senate began debate [JURIST report] on Sotomayor's confirmation. Her nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee [JURIST report] last week by a 13-6 vote, mostly along party lines. Prior to that vote, Sotomayor faced questions from senators during late July confirmation hearings [JURIST report]. Earlier last month, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary [association website] gave Sotomayor a unanimous "well-qualified" rating [JURIST report].






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Yemeni cleric convicted of aiding Hamas to be released on plea bargain
Ximena Marinero on August 8, 2009 11:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A Yemeni cleric and his assistant pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to provide financial support for Hamas and were sentenced to time served by the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website]. After the plea deal, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad [advocacy website] and assistant Mohammed Zayed will be released and returned to Yemen. In October 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ordered [JURIST report] a new trial for the Yemeni cleric and his assistant after overturning their convictions based on errors in evidence that may have deprived the defendants of a fair trial.

Al-Moayad and Zayed had been convicted [JURIST report] in March 2005 on charges that they led a terror-funding network based in Brooklyn, NY. Al-Moayad was sentenced to 75 years in prison with a fine of $1.25 million and Zayed to 45 years. Al-Moayad and Zayed were arrested in Germany in 2003 after telling a federal agent posing as a US businessman that they would help him funnel money to militants. Al-Moayad was later extradited to the US where he was acquitted of actually funding al Qaeda, but was found guilty of providing material support and resources to Hamas.






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Russia court refuses to delay Politkovskaya murder trial for further investigation
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 3:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The Moscow Military District Court on Friday rejected a petition by prosecutors to allow further investigation into the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The retrial of three men acquitted [JURIST report] of involvement in her death began [JURIST report] earlier this week with the prosecution asking that the case against Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov be combined with an investigation against other suspects, including Rustam Makhmudov, the brother of Dzhabrail and Ibragim, who is thought to be in hiding under an alias. Judge Nikolai Tkachuk denied the petition [RIA Novosti report], allowing the trial to proceed. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] sharply criticized [press release] the decision:

We are utterly dismayed by the Russian judicial system's inability to demonstrate any determination to solve this murder. There could not have been a worse decision just weeks after Natalia Estemirova's tragic murder and just two months before the third anniversary of Politkovskaya's death. Impunity now reigns supreme in Russia.

This decision serves to confirm that nothing can be expected from this retrial. No light will be shed on the many questions left unanswered by the original trial. The retrial will be nothing more than an empty formality.
The next hearing is set for September 7, at which time a jury will be selected.

The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] ordered the retrial [JURIST report] of the three suspects in June after prosecutors argued the trial judge made procedural errors. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were acquitted in February after a jury found that the evidence against the three was not enough [RIA Novosti report] to support convictions. A week later, prosecutors appealed the acquittals [JURIST report]. In November 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] requested a new judge [JURIST report], claiming that Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov had violated procedural rules. Zubov refused to recuse himself [JURIST report] from the trial. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were arrested [JURIST report] in August 2007 in connection with Politkovskaya's slaying.





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Nova Scotia Catholic diocese reaches proposed settlement in clergy abuse suit
Andrew Morgan on August 7, 2009 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] A Canadian Catholic diocese on Friday reached a proposed settlement agreement [text, PDF; press release] in a class action suit alleging that diocesan priests sexually abused children. Under the terms of the agreement, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish [diocesan website] would establish a CAD $12 million fund from which people who were abused by priests since 1950, or their estates, could be compensated for pain and suffering, the costs of necessary counseling, lost wages, and legal costs. At a Friday press conference [statement text] with lead plaintiff Ron Martin, Bishop Raymond Lahey [diocesan profile] formally apologized to the victims and their families, and called the agreement a "symbolically important" step toward reconciliation:


I believe that in this Settlement, by avoiding adversarial procedures, we have created a fair and respectful process. We have worked together to achieve genuine mutual agreement. To the extent that we can, we want to correct the wrongs of the past. While we have not short-circuited due process—we have learned from other situations – and we have been very sensitive to ensure a procedure of verification that is truly respectful.

Martin brought the suit after his brother's 2002 suicide note alleged that he was abused by a former priest, Hugh Vincent MacDonald. MacDonald was facing 27 charges [CP report], including rape, when he died in 2004. The settlement must be approved by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia [official website] prior to taking effect. Hearings on the certification of the class and approval of the agreement are scheduled for September 10 and 11.

In December, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts [diocesan website] settled [JURIST report] 59 sexual abuse claims against the church through voluntary arbitration for $4.5 million, adding to a total payout of $12.5 million in settlement claims. Also last year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence [diocesan website] reached a settlement [JURIST report] in four abuse suits. In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] the creation of a $1.25 million fund, and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego [diocesan website] announced an agreement [JURIST report] to pay $198.1 million to settle claims of sexual abuse by their clergy. A Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2007 approved a $660 million settlement [JURIST report] between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [diocesan website] and plaintiffs in 508 outstanding clergy sex abuse lawsuits. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against its own priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.





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Niger voters approve new constitution abolishing presidential term limits
Andrew Morgan on August 7, 2009 2:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Voters in Niger overwhelmingly approved a referendum Friday establishing a new constitution that would allow President Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] to remain in office. Among the new constitution's changes is the abolition of a presidential two-term limit, allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years [AFP report] and to run in any subsequent elections. Tandja argued that continuation of his presidency is necessary to the completion of economic development projects in the Saharan country, including a uranium mine and a dam on the Niger River. The new constitution will also allow the president to appoint one third of the members [CBC report] of a newly-created Senate, and to establish a media-monitoring position that would have the authority to jail reporters thought to present a threat to the country. The vote was held [JURIST report] on Tuesday, with the Elections Commission claiming that the referendum passed with 92 percent of the vote [BBC report] and that voter turnout was more than 68 percent. The opposition group Coalition of Forces for Democracy and Republic (CFDR), which had encouraged a popular boycott [AP report] of the referendum on constitutional grounds, disputes the figures [press release, in French], saying that overall turnout was less than 5 percent.

In June, opposition leader Bazoum Mohamed of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website] accused Tandja of committing a coup d'etat [JURIST report] by annulling the West African country's Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled [Pana report] in May that plans to hold a referendum on allowing a third term violated the 1999 Constitution [text, in French]. Tandja responded to the ruling by dissolving parliament and assuming emergency powers.






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Germany high court rejects religious challenge to mandatory sex education
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 2:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The German Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [judgment, in German; press release, in German] Thursday that children can be required to attend sex education classes, despite parents' religious objections. The suit was brought by Baptist parents [DW report] who were fined €80 after keeping their two sons home from a school program on sexual abuse and another event celebrating Carnival. The court found that even though religious freedom is a fundamental right, there is also a very strong government interest in compulsory education. The court found that the school was "neutral and tolerant" toward the parents' religious beliefs and therefore did not violate the fundamental right.

Germany has been criticized for restricting religious freedom by banning headscarves [JURIST news archive] worn by Muslim women. In February, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said that Germany's bans on religious clothing and symbols are discriminatory [JURIST report] and violate international human rights standards. Headscarves have been the topic of fierce debate in Germany since teacher Fereshta Ludin [Pluralism Project backgrounder] filed suit after being denied a job in Stuttgart in 1998. Ludin argued that the German constitution guaranteed her right to wear the headscarf. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2003 that under then-current laws, she was correct, but it also noted that individual states could pass laws banning the headwear. Currently headscarves are prohibited in nine of the 16 German states, including in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria [JURIST reports]. Baden-Wuerttemberg initially banned headscarves from schools in 2004 [JURIST report], becoming the first state in Germany to do so.






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Portugal to take 2 Syrian Guantanamo detainees
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 2:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Interior [official websites, in Portuguese] announced Friday that the country will accept two Syrian [press release, in Portuguese] Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees in order to aid US efforts to close the facility. According to the statement, US special envoy Daniel Fried met with Portuguese officials in Lisbon and presented a specific request that Portugal accept the two detainees. Portuguese officials determined that accepting the detainees would not violate Porguese law and said:

The hosting of the Guantanamo detainees in Portugal is part of a shared effort with other European partners.

The closing of the Guantanamo detention center has an undeniable range. This is a milestone for the revitalization of the transatlantic relationship and a victory for all those who advocate and promote respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism.
No specific details were provided as to the identity of the detainees or when the transfer would take place.

Portugal becomes the third European nation to formally agree to accept Guantanamo detainees. Last month, Ireland announced [JURIST report] that it would take two detainees. In May, Algerian Guantanamo detainee Lakhdar Boumediene [BBC profile] was released and sent to France [JURIST report]. Last month, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said that the Netherlands would be willing to consider [JURIST report] accepting Guantanamo Bay detainees, despite earlier statements to the contrary. In June, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg urged [JURIST report] all member states to welcome certain released Guantanamo Bay detainees. A week earlier, the Council of the European Union agreed [JURIST report], which set forth the terms of accepting detainees in a way that would minimize any danger posed to other member states. In March, US officials met with leaders from the EU to discuss plans [JURIST report] to transfer detainees to European countries. Several states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain [JURIST reports].





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Federal judge rejects Bank of America settlement agreement with SEC
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 1:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday refused to accept [order, PDF] a $33 million settlement agreement [press release] reached this week between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] and Bank of America [corporate website]. The SEC charged BOA on Monday with misleading investors [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] regarding billions of dollars paid to Merrill Lynch [corporate website] executives during the acquisition of the firm. The complaint alleged that, during the merger of the companies, the agreement for BOA to allow Merrill Lynch to pay discretionary bonuses was located in a separate document that was not disclosed prior to the shareholders' vote on the merger. The agreement allowed Merrill Lynch to pay up to $5.8 billion of the $50 billion merger consideration as executive bonuses. Ultimately, $3.6 billion in bonuses were paid to Merrill Lynch executives despite record losses in 2008. BOA agreed to settle with the SEC and pay a $33 million penalty but did not admit or deny the allegations. Judge Jed Rakoff of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] rejected that settlement, ruling that it could be unfair to the public, noting that the basis of the $33 million figure is unspecified. Rakoff set a hearing for Monday.

The recent economic downturn has led to numerous SEC financial fraud suits. On Thursday, former American International Group (AIG) [corporate website] executives agreed to settle [press release; JURIST report] a suit [complaint, PDF] brought by the SEC alleging their involvement in inflating the company's reported financial records. On Tuesday, General Electric Co. (GE) agreed to settle [JURIST report] for $50 million an SEC suit which alleged that the company misled investors in regards to its financial statements.






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Ninth Circuit rejects private anti-spam suit
Andrew Morgan on August 7, 2009 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Thursday rejected [opinion, PDF] an appeal from an Internet domain owner seeking to recover $10 million in damages from an online marketer under the federal CAN-SPAN Act [text, PDF]. James Gordon had recruited his friends and relatives to collect thousands of unsolicited emails as evidence that Virtumundo, Inc., had violated the federal law limiting the activities of so-called "spammers." The US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] granted summary judgment [order, PDF] to Virtumundo in May on the grounds that Gordon had not suffered "adverse effects" within the meaning of CAN-SPAM. The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court's decision, finding that Gordon was not an "Internet access service" (IAS) provider, and that therefore the limited right of private action in the the Act did not provide him with standing to sue. Writing for the court, Judge Richard Tallman said:


[O]ur review of the congressional record reveals a legitimate concern that the private right of action be circumscribed and confined to a narrow group of private plaintiffs. [T]his demonstrates to us that lawmakers were wary of the possibility, if not the likelihood, that the siren song of substantial statutory damages would entice opportunistic plaintiffs to join the fray, which would lead to undesirable results. While Congress did not intend that standing be limited to fee-for-service operations, we think it did intend to exclude plaintiffs who, despite certain identifying characteristics, did not provide the actual, bona fide service of a legitimate operation.

The court noted that limiting a right of action under CAN-SPAM to the Federal Trade Commission [official website], various state and federal agencies, and "adversely affected IAS providers" was not the product of Congressional "insensitivity to the effects of spam on consumers," but rather an effort to limit enforcement to "those well-equipped to efficiently and effectively pursue legal actions against persons engaged in unlawful practices and enforce federal law for the benefit of all consumers."

In May 2008, the social networking site MySpace [corporate website] won default judgment [text, PDF] under CAN-SPAM in a suit alleging that two individuals gained illegal access to user profiles and used them to send more than 730,000 messages containing predatory and fraudulent advertising. Last September, a Virginia anti-spam law was struck down [JURIST report] as unconstitutional by that state's Supreme Court. Jeremy Jaynes, convicted [JURIST report] and sentenced to nine years in prison under the Virginia law in 2004, was the first person in the US convicted of a felony for spamming [JURIST news archive]. In April 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court withdrew its opinion [order, PDF] upholding the conviction [JURIST report] and granted Jaynes' petition for rehearing, allowing him to challenge the statute on its face.





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Indonesia tribe sues US mining company for environmental and rights abuses
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] An indigenous tribe in Indonesia on Thursday filed a $30 million lawsuit against a subsidiary of US mining company Freeport-McRoRan Copper & Gold [corporate website] for numerous environmental and human rights violations. The Amungme people are suing PT Freeport [corporate website, in Indonesian] for damages to their ancestral lands [Jakarta Globe report] in the Papua province, claiming that they are the rightful owners of the 2.6 million hectares on which the mine is located because the 1967 contract between the Indonesian government and Freeport was executed without their approval. The plaintiffs also allege that they were promised an annual fee of $1 million that was never received. Also named as defendants are the Indonesian government and PT Indocopper Investama, an investment company with a stake in Freeport. The South Jakarta District Court appointed a judge to seek a mediated settlement between the parties.

Freeport's Indonesian facility is the world's largest gold mine. It has been a frequent target [AP report] of environmental and human rights groups. The mine has been the site of several recent violent attacks. Last month, charges were filed [NYT report] against two mine employees after a series of ambushes and attacks left three dead and several others wounded.






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China executes former airport executive for bribery and embezzlement
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 7, 2009 10:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese authorities on Friday executed [Xinhua report] the former head of the company that owns the Beijing Capital International Airport, after he was convicted of bribery and embezzlement. Li Peiying, former chairman of the Capital Airports Holding Company [corporate website], was sentenced to death in February after being convicted of accepting bribes of 26.61 million yuan (USD $3.9 million) between 1995 and 2003 and embezzling 82.5 million yuan for personal use between 2000 and 2003. His death sentence was upheld last month by the Shandong Provincial Higher People's Court and was reviewed by the Supreme People's Court. Also this week, the Chinese government executed beauty parlor owner Du Yimin [Xinhua report] for defrauding investors out of 700 million yuan (USD $102.5 million), and Si Chaxian [AFP report], for defrauding investors out of 167 million yuan (USD $24 million).

Last month, anti-death-penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] said that although the number of countries with capital punishment, as well as the total number of executions was down in 2008 [report] from the previous year, China continues to account for more executions [JURIST report] than any other country. In 2008, the country executed at least 5,000 people, or more than 87 percent of the world's total. China said last month that it plans to reduce [China Daily report] the number of executions it conducts, reserving the death penalty for only a small number of severe crimes.






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Japan court reaches guilty verdict in first lay judge trial
Benjamin Hackman on August 7, 2009 9:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Japan's first jury trial since World War II ended Thursday, with the Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese] convicting Katsuyoshi Fujii of murder. A mixed panel of six lay and three professional judges sentenced [Kyodo News report] the 72-year-old Fujii to 15 years in prison for killing his neighbor in May. Fujii's trial began [JURIST report] Monday after the six lay judges were selected [Mainichi Daily News report] from 47 candidates summoned to court. Fujii pleaded guilty, though his lawyer said he may appeal the severity of the sentence. In Japan, murder sentences range from five years in prison to death. Demonstrators had gathered outside the court on Monday to protest the new system that may require them to stand in judgment of fellow citizens, which they believe violates the constitutional principles of freedom of thought and conscience.

Japan has revamped its criminal-trial system, which had been presided over only by professional judges, in order to make the trial process more efficient and transparent. In 2004, Japan's parliament, the National Diet, enacted the Lay Assessor Act [materials, PDF; Ministry of Justice backgrounder], which impanels professional and lay judges to decide and sentence capital cases and cases involving an intentional death. Panels can be made up of three professional judges and six lay judges or one professional judge and four lay judges. For their verdicts to stand, lay judges need the concurrence [BBC report] of at least one professional judge. The lay-judge system was to go into effect May 1, but 20 members of Japan’s parliament formed a group in April to delay [JURIST report] the system’s implementation.






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Blackwater ex-employees accuse company of misconduct in Iraq
Matt Glenn on August 7, 2009 8:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The security company known formerly as Blackwater Worldwide [official website; JURIST news archive] and its former CEO and founder Erik Prince illegally smuggled weapons into Iraq, indiscriminately killed Iraqi civilians, and committed a number of other crimes, according to sworn affidavits of two former employees filed this week in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website]. The affidavits of John Doe #1 [text, PDF] and John Doe #2 [text, PDF], filed Monday, allege that Prince fraudulently ran his corporations to avoid tax liability, encouraged the killing of Iraqis, deployed men he knew to be incompetent to handle lethal weaponry, provided his men in Iraq illegal weapons such as grenade launchers and ammunition that would explode after entering a target, illegally sold weapons, knowingly failed to stop the use of prostitutes &mdash including child prostitutes &mdash by his employees, and that Blackwater frequently used unnecessary force against Iraqis. Both John Does refused to give their real names, hinting that Blackwater had killed at least one other person who planned to testify against it. The affidavits were filed as part of a brief [text, PDF] opposing Blackwater's motion to dismiss [text, PDF] lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against by families of slain Iraqi civilians. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday. Blackwater, which is now named Xe, will respond [CNN report] to what it has termed false allegations in a brief that will be filed August 17.

Blackwater ended its operations in Iraq [JURIST report] in May. In February, a judge rejected a jurisdictional challenge [JURIST report] by five Blackwater employees accused of killing 17 Iraqis [JURIST report] in September 2007. The five guards were indicted [text, PDF; JURIST report] in December on charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter, and using and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence. The guards pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in January. A sixth guard pleaded guilty [text, PDF] to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the same incident.






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ICE announces major reforms to immigration detention policy
Matt Glenn on August 7, 2009 7:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US plans to implement large-scale changes to its immigration detention system, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] announced [press release] Thursday. According to ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton [official profile], the goal is to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in jails and jail-like facilities, to improve the living conditions of detainees, and to make sure the detainees' rights are not violated. To this end, Morton announced the creation of an Office of Detention Policy and Planning (ODPP), which will be charged with overseeing the location and operation of detention facilities, ensuring that detainees have access to health care, and taking steps to prevent the persecution of detainees. Morton also announced that the controversial T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center [ICE fact sheet] would cease to hold families, and proposed turning it into a center for women only. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called the closure of the family detention facility "extremely welcome and long overdue," but claimed [press release] that the measures announced Thursday "failed to address a number of holes in the system." Similarly, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy website], which last month issued a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] criticizing ICE, said [press release] Thursday's announced measures "are indicative of movement toward better protecting due process rights of detainees." However, the same statement said the measures "closely resemble policies already in place, and are insufficient." The plan is expected to be implemented over several years [WSJ report].

Since its creation in 2003, ICE has been criticized for many of the methods it uses to capture and detain illegal immigrants. Last month, the Immigration Justice Clinic [academic website] at the Cardozo School of Law released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] saying that immigration agents have committed numerous constitutional violations during raids on immigrants' homes. In February, the clinic reported that ICE documents [text, PDF] obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 USC § 552 text; JURIST news archive] show that Bush administration immigration enforcement tactics were both overly-aggressive and ineffective [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, the US Department of Homeland Security [official website] announced changes to immigration policies [press release; JURIST report] for state and local agencies. The new policies create uniform standards for local agencies that will require them to pursue all criminal charges leading to an immigrant's arrest prior to initiating removal proceedings.






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Senate confirms Sotomayor for Supreme Court
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 6, 2009 4:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] confirmed Sonia Sotomayor [WH profile; JURIST news archive] for the Supreme Court by a vote of 68-31 Thursday. The vote split mainly along party lines, with only nine Republicans voting to confirm. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Jeff Sessions [official website] (R-AL) delivered closing remarks before the vote, repeating his previous concerns [press release] that Sotomayor would be guided by personal bias. President Barack Obama [official website] said that he was pleased with the 68 votes [press release], stating:

The members of our Supreme Court are granted life tenure and are charged with the vital and difficult task of applying principles set forth at our founding to the questions and controversies of our time. Over the past 10 weeks, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate have assessed Judge Sotomayor's fitness for this work. They've scrutinized her record as a prosecutor, as a litigator, and as a judge. They've gauged her respect for the proper role of each branch of our government, her commitment to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand, and her determination to protect our core constitutional rights and freedoms.

And with this historic vote, the Senate has affirmed that Judge Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation’s highest court.
Sotomayor will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday morning, taking the place of retiring [JURIST reports] Justice David Souter [official profile, PDF; JURIST news archive]..

On Tuesday, the Senate began debate [JURIST report] on Sotomayor's confirmation. Her nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee [JURIST report] last week by a 13-6 vote, mostly along party lines. Prior to that vote, Sotomayor faced questions from senators during late July confirmation hearings [JURIST report]. Earlier last month, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary [association website] gave Sotomayor a unanimous "well-qualified" rating [JURIST report].





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Former AIG executives settle SEC financial fraud case
Christian Ehret on August 6, 2009 3:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Former American International Group (AIG) [corporate website] executives on Thursday agreed to settle [press release] a suit [complaint, PDF] brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] alleging their involvement in inflating the company's reported financial records. The SEC accused former CEO Maurice Greenberg and former CFO Howard Smith of being "control persons" under the Securities Exchange Act [text], making them liable for AIG's securities law violations. The SEC claimed that the two executives made false statements which allowed the company to misrepresent key earnings between 2000 and 2005. Greenberg will pay $15 million in disgorgement and penalties without admitting any charges [statement, PDF] to "put these issues behind him," while Smith will settle for $1.5 million.

The recent economic downturn has led to numerous SEC financial fraud suits and improved legislation. On Tuesday, General Electric Co. (GE) agreed to settle [JURIST report] for $50 million an SEC suit which alleged that the company misled investors in regards to its financial statements. Earlier this week, Bank of America (BOA) settled an SEC suit [JURIST report] for $33 million after being accused of misleading investors about billions of dollars paid to Merrill Lynch executives during the acquisition of the firm. Like Greenberg, BOA and GE did not admit to the allegations. In May, the US House of Representatives [official website] approved the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act [S 386 materials] to investigate the economic crisis and to allocate additional resources [JURIST report] for federal prosecutors to pursue financial fraud cases. In response to large bonuses paid to AIG employees, the House passed a bill [HR 1586 materials, JURIST report] in March that would set a 90 percent tax for employee bonuses of companies which received government stimulus money.






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Ninth Circuit denies FOIA request for potential blast ranges at military base
Christian Ehret on August 6, 2009 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US Navy did not have to disclose the locations and potential blast ranges of explosive artillery stored at a Puget Sound military base. On appeal from a district court's denial of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request, the court reasoned that the government's need to preserve sensitive information prevailed over the public's right to access government files. The Naval Magazine Indian Island base is used to store various munitions, weapons and explosives for the Navy, the Department of Homeland Security [official websites] and other federal agencies. Among other documents, the FOIA request sought files regarding Explosive Safety Quantity Distance [backgrounder] information, referred to as "arc maps," which display the maximum area at risk from a potential explosion. The majority found the request to fall under Exemption 2 of the FOIA which covers information "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency." One dissenting member of the three-judge panel argued that the majority's interpretation of Exemption 2 was inconsistent with the statute and existing case law, and found that the request did not fall within any of the other claimed exemptions.

Earlier this year, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced new FOIA guidelines [JURIST report] designed to increase transparency. The new guidelines rescinded a 2001 FOIA memorandum which stated that the Department of Justice would defend decisions to withhold information "unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk" in the ability to protect other important records. Holder's directive addressed a memorandum [text; JURIST report] issued by President Barack Obama in January which called for all agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure" in regard to FOIA requests.






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Sexual orientation anti-discrimination bill introduced in US Senate
Ingrid Burke on August 6, 2009 11:31 AM ET

[JURIST] A bill [S 1584 materials] aimed at banning workplace discrimination motivated by an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identification was introduced in the US Senate [official website] on Wednesday by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) [official website]. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), if passed, would protect employees from discriminatory hiring and firing practices, and from segregation or classification on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity. The bill would be the first aimed at ensuring workplace equality for individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (GLBTQ). Expressing the support of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) [official website], HRC president Joe Solmonese said:

We are a nation predicated on equality. And over the years, we have embraced an increasingly broader and more inclusive vision of what that means. By passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, we will simply be adding another proud chapter to the amazing American story of opportunity.
Earlier this month in another measure [JURIST report] aimed at ensuring equality for those who identify as GLBTQ, the US Senate approved a bill [S 909 materials] that would expand hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender. In 2007, the House and Senate [JURIST reports] passed similar legislation but the broadened language was ultimately removed [JURIST report] during subsequent negotiations. US President Barack Obama signed a memorandum last month [JURIST report] that would provide certain benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.





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India court sentences Mumbai bombers to death for 2003 attacks
Abigail Salisbury on August 6, 2009 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] A specially-mandated Indian court on Thursday sentenced three convicted terrorists to death [VOI report] for their roles in the 2003 Mumbai bomb attack [BBC backgrounder] that killed 52 people. Late last month, Ashrat Ansari, Hanif Sayed, and Fehmida Sayed were found guilty [JURIST report] of conspiracy, murder, and attempted murder, and their defense lawyers plan to appeal [NYT report] the decision. They have been linked to Pakistan's religiously-motivated terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder], and India has pushed for the prosecution of its leaders [Reuters report], but Pakistani officials on Thursday stated that Indian evidence does not further the case against the group.

Mumbai has suffered a number of terrorist attacks allegedly linked to the LeT in recent years, leading the government to consider controversial terrorism laws and institute special courts [JURIST reports] to try suspects. In July, India announced that it would continue the trial [JURIST report] of a man suspected in a 2008 hotel attack [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that killed more than 100 people, despite his mid-trial confession [JURIST report]. Pakistan has postponed the trial of five others [JURIST report] allegedly connected with the 2008 attack.






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Ninth Circuit prohibits construction, timber removal in National Forest System
Brian Jackson on August 6, 2009 9:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court ruling reinstating the Roadless Rule [text], which prohibited the building of roads or the use of roadless lands in National Parks for timber production. The Clinton administration measure was effectively overturned in 2005 by the State Petitions Rule [text], enacted by the US Department of Agriculture [official website] under President George W Bush. The State Petitions Rule allowed governors to petition for Roadless Rule protections, depending on their individual state needs, in lieu of blanket protection. Affirming the ruling, Judge Robert Beezer [official profile] wrote that the State Petitions Rule violated the National Environmental Policy Act because it was enacted without an environmental impact statement [EPA materials]:


In the context of this case, we cannot condone a marked
change in roadless area management without environmental analysis because it was the USDA’s preferred response to an untested district court injunction that was subject to possible reversal in a pending appeal.

As expected, reactions to the ruling varied. The environmental group Earthjustice [advocacy website] lauded the ruling, calling it a victory for all citizens [press release] who enjoy the outdoors, and for cities that rely on the wilderness for fresh water. The Intermountain Forest Association [advocacy website], a logging industry group, said that it was too early to say definitively what the ruling means [NYT report].

The Roadless Area Conservation Rule was implemented by former president Bill Clinton in 2001 and replaced [JURIST report] by the Bush administration in 2005. In March, the US House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 [HR 146 materials], a collection of more than 160 bills aimed at preserving federal land as wilderness areas. The Act includes a rule which allows governors to request that regulations on the management of roadless areas be developed to meet the needs of individual states. The Clinton-era rule would have prohibited mining, logging, and road construction in the forests of 38 states and Puerto Rico, totaling more than 58 million acres of land.





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Rights groups criticize Italy for deporting Tunisia national at risk of torture
Ingrid Burke on August 6, 2009 9:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Human rights advocates on Wednesday accused Italy of disregarding its obligations under past European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] judgments by deporting terror suspect Ali Ben Sassi Toumi to his native Tunisia. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the deportation [HRW report] "the latest example of how [Italy] flouts the absolute ban on such returns." Toumi's deportation was ordered despite numerous calls [AI report] on behalf of the ECHR to hold him in Italy due to the potential for torture and bodily harm upon his return to Tunisia. Amnesty International (AI) and other groups have heavily criticized [AI memo] Tunisian prisons, describing serious instances of detainee mistreatment:


Over the years, Amnesty International has received numerous reports of torture and other ill-treatment by the Tunisian security forces. In virtually all cases, allegations of torture are not investigated and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Individuals are most at risk of torture when in incommunicado detention. The most commonly reported methods of torture are beatings on the body, especially the soles of the feet; suspension by the ankles or in contorted positions; electric shocks; and burning with cigarettes. There are also reports of mock executions, sexual abuse, including rape with bottles and sticks, and threats of sexual abuse of female relatives.

Under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text], of which Tunisia and Italy are both signatories, the two countries are obligated to protect prisoners within their jurisdictions from torture and physical abuse.

The EHCR previously ruled that Italy should stay the deportations of two other suspected criminals in analogous cases. In June 2008, Sami Ben Khemais Essid was deported to Tunisia, and in December 2008 Mourad Trabelsi was returned despite similar calls from the EHCR. Italy also recently caused concern when it criminalized unauthorized immigration [JURIST report] last month. Italy's treatment of its minority ethnic Roma population has resulted in similar criticism from human rights groups. In February, the Italian government dismantled a number of Roma encampments, and last year it was accused of discrimination when it began recording the fingerprints [JURIST reports] of Roma children in a purported effort to reduce street crime.





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Former congressman convicted on bribery, money laundering charges
Andrew Morgan on August 6, 2009 9:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) [official profile; JURIST news archive] was found guilty [press release] on Wednesday of 11 counts of public corruption. Jefferson was convicted of using his position on the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee [official website] to promote the interests of companies involved in development projects in Africa, seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for himself and African government officials. While Jefferson faces a maximum of 150 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines for bribery, racketeering and money laundering, he was acquitted on five other counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DOJ materials] and obstruction of justice. The US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente [official profile], said that the conviction "should be a clear signal that no public official – and certainly not a US Congressman – can put their office up for sale and betray that office." Judge T S Ellis III allowed Jefferson to remain free on bond until his sentencing, scheduled for October 30, over the objections of prosecutors who cited his ties to Africa in labeling him a flight risk. The jury will decide Thursday whether Jefferson is required to forfeit $456,000 and stock allegedly acquired through corruption.

In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed [JURIST report] Jefferson's appeal seeking to have bribery charges against him dropped. He had argued the charges were based on evidence protected by the US Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause [text; backgrounder], which makes certain information relating to legislative action privileged. In March, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it planned to pursue the case against Jefferson despite an appeals court ruling [JURIST reports] that other evidence confiscated from his office during an FBI raid was protected by the Speech and Debate Clause. Jefferson pleaded not guilty to the charges [JURIST reports] against him in June. In January 2007, former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty [DOJ press release] to bribery charges for his role in the scheme.






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Illinois gives doctors 90 days to implement parental notices for abortions
Christian Ehret on August 6, 2009 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (DFPR) [official website] on Wednesday granted doctors a 90-day grace period [statement, PDF] for enforcement of the state's parental notification requirement for minors obtaining abortions. The grace period came at the recommendation of the state Medical Disciplinary Board who voted unanimously to forgive "willful" failure to provide notice to a legal guardian under the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995 [text]. The DFPR's announcement follows a decision [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last month by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] that reversed a district court injunction [JURIST report] barring the law's enforcement. The statute authorizes state judges to waive the notice requirement if doing so would be in a minor's best interest.

The US Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey [opinion] that a spousal notification requirement violated a woman's right to privacy in choosing to have an abortion. Statutory restrictions on this right are unconstitutional if they are found to impose an undue burden. Pro-life groups had argued prior to the Seventh Circuit's ruling that minors from surrounding states travel to Illinois to obtain abortions. Thirty-five other US states have enforceable parental notification or permission laws. In June 2007, the governor of New Hampshire signed a repeal of the state's parental notification law [JURIST report], which never took effect. In 2006, voters in Oregon and California rejected statutes that would have required notification [JURIST report], although those measures allowed minors to request a judge to bypass the requirement.






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China authorities to charge 83 in Xinjiang riots
Andrew Morgan on August 5, 2009 3:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Authorities in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on Tuesday announced [Xinhua report] charges of murder, intentional injury, arson, and robbery against 83 people accused of participating in violent demonstrations in the capital city of Urumqi in early July. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, are currently detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots as a result of police investigations of damaged stores, homes, and vehicles, as well as photographs and videos of the riots. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) [advocacy website] has accused [AP report] the government of intentionally under-reporting the number of people who have been arrested following the riots. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) [advocacy website] said that it is "extremely concerned" [press release] about the credibility of charges against some Uighur leaders included in a government-published "most wanted" list, and about the government's ability to carry out fair trials amidst political tension in the region.

In July, violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents in Xinjiang's regional capital. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [press release; JURIST report] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the WUC and the UAA maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice, and say that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Karadzic sues Serbia for 'kidnapping' alleging failure to report his arrest
Christian Ehret on August 5, 2009 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday sued the Serbian government for allegedly kidnapping him prior to announcing his arrest [JURIST report] last year. The former Bosnian Serb leader claims that Serbian authorities officially reported his arrest three days after [VOA report] he was actually detained, delaying his appearance before a judge. Karadzic's capture came 13 years after being indicted [text] by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] in 1995. He faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF] including genocide and murder for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Karadzic has defended himself on the grounds that he was granted immunity by former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke. Last month, the ICTY rejected the immunity claim [JURIST report] for the second time, citing irrelevance between the alleged deal and his trial. In June, the court said that Karadzic's trial would begin in late August [JURIST report] and possibly conclude in early 2012, making it the tribunal's last. Serbia has been criticized by the ICTY for its seeming reluctance to cooperate with the court, exemplified by its failure to find and capture [JURIST report] other war crimes suspects.






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Turkish court orders 52 more suspects to stand trial for alleged coup plot
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 5, 2009 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] A Turkish court on Wednesday accepted an indictment [text, PDF, in Turkish] against 52 individuals accused of planning to overthrow the country's ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. The individuals are accused of belonging to the country's secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] group, which is suspected of involvement in bombings, political assassination plots, and the death of journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary]. Among the accused are three retired generals, including former chairman of the National Security Council Tuncer Kilinc [Hurriyet reports, in Turkish]. Also indicted was former police chief Ibrahim Sahin [Hurriyet report, in Turkish], who was involved in a 1996 corruption scandal. A trial date was set for September 7.

This will be the third trial in connection with the Ergenekon probe. Last month, a Turkish court began the trial of two former generals and 54 others suspected of planning to overthrow [JURIST reports] the government. The trial of 86 others [JURIST report] began in October 2008. The probe has been criticized as an attempt by the AKP to silence opposition and further their imposition of Islamic principles [DPA report; JURIST report] in violation of Turkey's secular constitution [text]. In June, police arrested 20 others [JURIST report] in connection with the alleged plot. In May, the Turkish government merged [JURIST report] a case against a lawyer accused of killing a judge with its case against Ergenekon. In March, a Turkish court ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of Cumhuriyet journalist Mustafa Balbay and internet publisher Neriman Aydin for their alleged involvement with the groups. There are currently more than 200 suspects in custody, with 40 arrested January 7, another 12 arrested January 12, and 30 arrested January 19 [JURIST reports]. The suspects include journalists, academics, army officers, policemen, and Turkish Workers' Party [party website, in Turkish] leader Dogu Perincek [JURIST report].






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Taiwan ex-president Chen sues judges over detention
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 5, 2009 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] filed suit Wednesday against the three judges hearing his corruption case, accusing them of illegally prolonging his detention. Chen, who was indicted [JURIST report] in December, faces possible life in prison on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. He has staged three hunger strikes in protest of the charges against him, and in January he unsuccessfully appealed [JURIST reports] his pretrial detention. Last month, Judges Tsai Shou-hsun, Wu Ding-ya, and Hsu Chien-hui denied a third bail request. Chen has accused the judges of abusing their power [Taiwan News report], keeping him in custody for revenge. Also this week, prosecutors rejected plea bargain requests [Taiwan News reports] from six of Chen's associates, including his son and daughter-in-law, who are also accused of corruption.

Last month, the court said that a verdict in the corruption cases will be delivered [JURIST report] on September 11. Chen has long argued that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website; JURIST news archive] is using Chen's trial to distance himself from Chen's anti-China views. Chen called the proceedings against him "political persecution" when his trial began [JURIST report] in March. In February, Chen's wife, Wu Shu-Chen, pleaded guilty to charges [JURIST reports] of money-laundering and forgery, but denied charges that she embezzled from the presidential state affairs fund. Chen's sister-in-law has also pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to charges that she had forged documents and transferred money to bank accounts upon orders from Chen and Wu. Chen has asserted that he was unaware of Wu's actions. In September 2008, Chen was cleared [JURIST report] of separate defamation charges.






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SEC charges GE with fraud, reaching $50 million settlement
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 5, 2009 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed fraud charges [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against General Electric Co. (GE) [corporate website], resulting in GE agreeing to pay a $50 million settlement [press release]. The SEC accused GE of misleading investors in 2003 and 2003 by reporting false and misleading information in its financial statements. GE accounting executives allegedly approved accounting that did not comply with generally accepted accounting principles on four separate occasions. GE did not admit or deny the SEC's allegations, but agreed to pay $50 million and refrain from violating federal securities law. In a statement [text], GE said:


GE is committed to the highest standards of accounting. GE cooperated with the SEC over the course of its investigation, and GE and its Audit Committee conducted their own comprehensive review in conjunction with the investigation. The Company reviewed and produced approximately 2.9 million pages of e-mails and other documents to the SEC and incurred approximately $200 million in external legal and accounting expenses to ensure that all issues were addressed appropriately. We have concluded that it is in the best interests of GE and its shareholders to resolve this matter and put it behind us on the basis announced today, pursuant to which, consistent with standard SEC practice, we neither admit nor deny the SEC's allegations. The errors at issue fell short of our standards, and we have implemented numerous remedial actions and internal control enhancements to prevent such errors from recurring, as previously described in our SEC filings, including measures to strengthen our controllership and technical accounting resources and capabilities.

Earlier this week, the SEC charged [JURIST report] Bank of America (BOA) [corporate website] with misleading investors [complaint, PDF] regarding billions of dollars paid to Merrill Lynch [corporate website] executives during the acquisition of the firm. Like GE, BOA neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but agreed to settle for $33 million. In June, the SEC charged [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] former Countrywide Financial Corporation officials with securities fraud arising from misleading investors about credit risks involved in the company's efforts to build and maintain their market share. Countrywide was acquired by BOA in July 2008, making the bank the nation's leading mortgage originator.





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Russia court begins retrial of suspects acquitted of Politkovskaya murder
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 5, 2009 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] The Moscow Military District Court on Wednesday began the retrial of three men acquitted [JURIST report] of involvement in the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] ordered the retrial [JURIST report] of Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov in June after prosecutors argued the trial judge made procedural errors. As Wednesday's trial opened before a new judge, the prosecutor petitioned to combine the case [Itar-Tass report] with an investigation against other suspects, including Rustam Makhmudov, the brother of Dzhabrail and Ibragim, who is thought to be in hiding under an alias. Proceedings were adjourned until Friday, at which time Judge Nikolai Tkachuk is expected to rule on the prosecutor's petition.

Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were acquitted in February after a jury found that the evidence against the three was not enough [RIA Novosti report] to support convictions. A week later, prosecutors appealed the acquittals [JURIST report]. In November 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] requested a new judge [JURIST report], claiming that Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov had violated procedural rules. Zubov refused to recuse himself [JURIST report] from the trial. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were arrested [JURIST report] in August 2007 in connection with Politkovskaya's slaying.






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Federal judges order California to reduce prison population
Jaclyn Belczyk on August 5, 2009 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A special panel of federal judges on Tuesday ordered [opinion, PDF; opinion summary, PDF] California to reduce its prison population by nearly 43,000 inmates, finding that the prisons are overcrowded. Two inmates had brought a challenge against the state's prison system, alleging that the overcrowding had resulted in a failure to provide [Los Angeles Times report] adequate physical and mental health care, depriving them of their constitutional rights. The panel agreed, concluding:


Federal courts do not intervene in state affairs lightly. Principles of federalism, comity, and separation of powers require federal courts to refrain from addressing matters of state government in all but the most pressing of circumstances. Even then, federal courts must proceed cautiously, giving the states every opportunity to meet their federal constitutional and statutory obligations voluntarily. Unfortunately, during the 8 years of the Plata litigation and the 19 years of the Coleman litigation, the political branches of California government charged with addressing the crisis in the state's prisons have failed to do so. Instead, the rights of California's prisoners have repeatedly been ignored. Where the political process has utterly failed to protect the constitutional rights of a minority, the courts can, and must, vindicate those rights. We do so here, recognizing the seriousness of our action and with the hope that California's leadership will act constructively and cooperatively, and follow the mandate of this court and the [Prison Litigation Reform Act], so as to ultimately eliminate the need for further federal intervention.

The three-judge panel, composed of Stephen Reinhardt of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Thelton Henderson of the US District Court for the Northern District of California, and Lawrence Karlton of the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, ordered the state of California to submit within 45 a days a plan to reduce its prison population within two years to meet a cap of 137.5 percent of design capacity. The administration of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] plans to appeal [San Francisco Chronicle report] the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Overcrow