October 2009 Archives


UN report criticizes Russia on human rights
Jay Carmella on October 31, 2009 12:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Russia must undertake extensive legal reforms in order to protect human rights, according to a report [text] issued Friday by the UN Human Rights Committee [official website]. The committee found that Russia is failing to protect important human rights in a number of areas. The report emphasized the problems the country is having guaranteeing its citizens rights such as fair trials and freedoms of speech and of the press. The report specifically criticized the activities in Chechnya [JURIST news archive]. Despite not referring to specific cases, the report discussed the unsolved killings of journalists and human rights activists, violence against citizens, and discrimination against homosexuals. The Russian government has not responded to the report.

The UN report comes less than a week after prominent opposition leader and human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia [official website, in Russian], Maksharip Aushev, was shot dead [JURIST report] while traveling on a highway in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria. In August, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report]. Sadulayeva's death came less than a month after the death [JURIST report] of activist Natalia Estemirova. Also in July, the body of Russian human rights activist Andrei Kulagin [JURIST report], missing since May, was found in a quarry. In April, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin expressed concern [JURIST report] that activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency.






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ICC concludes charges hearing for alleged Sudanese rebel leader
Christian Ehret on October 31, 2009 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday completed the confirmation of charges hearing [press release] against Sudanese war crimes suspect Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials]. During the hearing, prosecutors alleged that Abu Garda controlled rebel forces during the September 2007 attack [BBC report] against African Union peacekeepers in North-Darfur. Abu Garda is suspected of having led the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [official website, in Arabic] during the attacks, resulting in the death of 12 African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) soldiers and several injuries. The defense argued that Abu Garda is not responsible for the attack and that the AMIS had lost its protected status [video] under international law, making it a legitimate military target. The hearing was to address three charges arising out of the attacks that include violence, pillaging, and intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission. The pre-trial chamber will announce its decision within 60 days, determining how the case proceeds. Abu Garda is the first suspect to appear before the ICC in regard to the Darfur situation [JURIST news archive].

The confirmation hearing, during which prosecutors had to allege sufficient evidence for each charge, began last week [JURIST report]. Abu Garda first appeared [JURIST report] before the ICC in May to deny responsibility for war crimes committed in Darfur. The court is also pursuing cases against Ahmad Harun, Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch Profiles], and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Al-Bashir is accused of leading the systematic harassment and murder of members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups under the pretext of counter-insurgency since 2003. In July, prosecutors appealed [JURIST report] the court's decision to not charge Bashir with genocide. The ICC originally issued the arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March, resulting in much controversy [JURIST news archive].






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Law Library of Congress refusing to retract report on Honduras coup: report
Sarah Miley on October 31, 2009 11:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A US Law Library of Congress (LLOC) [official website] spokesperson said Thursday that the LLOC will not retract its report [text, PDF] on the military-backed coup in Honduras [JURIST report], according to a McClatchy Newspapers report [text]. The statement came in response to demands [McClatchy Newspapers report] from senior congressional Democrats to retract the report, which the lawmakers charge is based on flawed legal analysis and has exacerbated the country's political unrest. The congressional research agency reportedly stands by its legal analysis of the ouster of Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], which concludes:


Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

Heads of the House and Senate foreign relations committees, John Kerry (D-MA) and Howard Berman (D-CA), have spoken out against the report stating that it is based on a provision of the Honduran Constitution that was struck down in 2003 and has been denounced by experts from the US, the Organization of American States (OAS), and Honduras. Republicans have called the objections an attempt to suppress opposition of the Obama administration's refusal to recognize the de facto government. While the congressional research agency's legal analysis supported the ousting of Zelaya, the report went on to say that the removal of Zelaya from the country by military force is in direct violation of the the constitution, and is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.

Also Thursday, the interim government of Honduras and Zelaya reached an agreement [JURIST report] allowing the ousted president to return to power conditioned on Supreme Court approval with a subsequent affirmative vote from the Honduran legislature. Last week, the interim government officially eased restrictions [JURIST report] on protests and media that were put in place in response to protests by Zelaya supporters. Also last week, a delegation from the OAS arrived in Honduras to investigate allegations of human rights abuses [JURIST report] that have occurred since Zelaya's ouster.





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Pennsylvania court overturns thousands of juvenile sentences in judge kickback scandal
Zach Zagger on October 31, 2009 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] on Thursday overturned [opinion, PDF] thousands of juvenile-offender convictions issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. The order voids about 6,500 convictions handed down by former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] president judge Mark Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008. Ciavarella, along with former president judge Michael Conahan, has been accused 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. The court accepted the recommendation of Special Master Arthurt Grim to vacate the convictions, finding:


Judge Grim refers to the “pall” that was cast over all juvenile matters presided over by Ciavarella, given his financial interest, and his conduct in cases where juveniles proceeded without counsel. We fully agree that, given the nature and extent of the taint, this Court simply cannot have confidence that any juvenile matter adjudicated by Ciavarella during this period was tried in a fair and impartial manner.

The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center [advocacy website], which advocated on behalf of the youth, applauded [press release] the court's decision, calling it, "an exceptional response to the most serious judicial scandal in the history of the United States." About 100 of the cases are eligible be reopened [Philadelphia Inquirer report], and the Luzerne County District Attorney has 30 days to decide whether to retry any of the defendants.

Ciavarella and Conahan were indicted in September after withdrawing the guilty pleas [JURIST reports] they entered in February. The plea withdrawal came after Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] rejected their plea agreements, finding that the men did not accept responsibility and that the prison sentences were too lenient [NYT report]. This prompted the two former judges to file a motion for their reinstatement. Kosik refused to reinstate the plea agreements, causing the former judges to withdraw their pleas and clearing the way for a trial. In March, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overturned [JURIST report] hundreds of Ciavarella's juvenile convictions in specific cases where the juveniles were not represented by lawyers. Robert Powell, the owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care juvenile facilities has pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to both Ciavarella and Conahan.





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Czech president prepared to sign Lisbon Treaty after opt-out clause agreement
Sarah Paulsworth on October 30, 2009 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus [official website, in Czech] said Friday that he will raise no further objections [press release, in Czech] to the European Union (EU) reform treaty, known as the Treaty of Lisbon [EU materials; JURIST news archive], after EU leaders reached an agreement on an opt-out clause. At European Council [official website] summit in Brussels, the Council agreed Thursday to add a protocol [text, PDF] to the Lisbon Treaty that will protect Czech citizens from property claims of ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia during WWII. Klaus said, "[s]olutions adopted by the EU Heads of State significantly strengthen the protection of the Czech Republic ahead of a possible breach of the so-called Benes decrees and reduces risks related to the legal security and property rights of Czech citizens." Despite his statement, Klaus cannot sign the treaty until it is approved by the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic [official website, in Czech], which last week delayed [press release, in Czech; JURIST report] its judgment until November 3.

The Czech Republic is the only EU member state that has not yet ratified the treaty. The Czech Republic's Chamber of Deputies [official website] approved [JURIST report] the treaty in February, and the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic [official website] voted to approve [JURIST report] the treaty in March. Efforts to ratify the treaty [JURIST news archive] in all 27 EU member states, as required for approval, have faced opposition. Poland and Ireland [JURIST reports] approved the treaty earlier in the month, but only after certain guarantees were made by the EU. Germany ratified [JURIST report] the treaty in September.






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China appeals court upholds sentences of Xinjiang rioters
Patrice Collins on October 30, 2009 1:10 PM ET

[JURIST] An appeals court in China's Xinjiang province on Friday affirmed the convictions of 21 people found guilty of murder and other crimes such as arson and robbery for their roles in July's violent demonstrations in Urumqi [JURIST news archive] that left about 200 people dead and many more injured. The Higher People's Court of Xinjiang upheld the sentences [Xinhua report], including nine death sentences handed down on October 12 and October 15 [JURIST reports], ruling that the sentences were appropriate and supported by sufficient evidence. The Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] is due to review and approve the death sentences before they take effect.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has criticized [JURIST report] the trials for failing to meet Chinese and international fairness and due process standards. The advocacy group claims that the government violated both Chinese law and international standards by failing to announce the trials and closing the proceedings to international journalists and observers. HRW has also claimed that more than 40 Uighur men have disappeared [JURIST report] since being detained by Chinese security forces. Originally 108 were charged [JURIST report] in connection with the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state-run media reported [Xinhua report] that most of the deaths were due to protesters. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Obama signs executive order strengthening intelligence oversight panel
Andrew Morgan on October 30, 2009 12:11 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama signed an executive order [text] Wednesday giving the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) [official website] the authority to report suspected violations of federal law related to intelligence gathering to the US attorney general. The order amends an executive order [text, PDF] signed by former president George W. Bush last February, which allowed the IOB to report suspected violations only to the president, the director of national intelligence, and the agency at which the infraction occurred. White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor said that the order was meant to clarify [NYT report] the IOB's authority and bolster its independence. The order does not restore the IOB's oversight authority over each US intelligence agency's inspector general and general counsel, which was removed [JURIST report] in Bush's executive order. Also on Wednesday, Obama announced [transcript] the appointment of former senators Chuck Hagel (R-NB) and David Boren (D-OK) [professional profiles] to chair the Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), the IOB's parent body charged with providing an independent source of advice to the president on the efficacy of intelligence operations.

The PIAB consists of up to 16 members [official backgrounder] not currently employed by the federal government, who are given top secret security clearances and authority to request detailed information from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies [DNI backgrounder]. The board was created in 1976 by then-president Gerald Ford after the Church Committee [backgrounder] investigations exposed [report text] domestic intelligence abuses. In July 2007, the Washington Post reported [text] that the IOB sent no reports of illegal agency activity to the attorney general during the first five-and-a-half years of Bush's presidency, even though the FBI alerted the board to hundreds of legal violations by its agents after the September 11 terrorist attacks.






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Venezuela legislature approves law banning violent toys, video games
Ximena Marinero on October 30, 2009 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The Venezuelan National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday gave final approval to a bill [text, PDF, in Spanish] banning violent toys and video games. Those who violate the law could face fines and prison terms of three to five years, as well as the confiscation of merchandise. The law stipulates that Venezuelan government will use funds from fines towards educational programs, and that private and public media will have to apply percentages of their programming and publicity to advance the purpose of the law in fostering a culture of non-violence. According to the Patria Para Todos (PPT) [party website, in Spanish], the party that proposed the bill, the law will reduce violence in the country by protecting the development of children who can become predisposed to aggression by playing with such toys. The PPT maintains that the law echoes principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [materials], as well as Articles 43 and 46 in the Venezuelan Constitution [text, PDF] about fostering a culture of non-violence in the country. The law will enter into effect three months after publication in the Official Gazette and will be administered by the Institute for the Defense of People's Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS) [official website, in Spanish].

The Venezuelan National Assembly unanimously gave preliminary approval [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] to the bill in August. Voting on the bill coincided with a study released 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.






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France judge orders ex-president Chirac to stand trial for corruption
Ann Riley on October 30, 2009 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge Xaviere Simeoni on Friday ordered former French president Jacques Chirac [official profile; BBC profile] to stand trial on charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds. While serving as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, Chirac allegedly financed the Rally for the Republic (RPR), now renamed as the Union for a Popular Movement [party website, in French], by illegally establishing fake city positions for party members to collect salaries totaling several million dollars. After reviewing the investigation materials, Simeoni found 21 contracts [AFP report] awarded by Chirac to be suspicious, with evidence of wrongdoing. The charges were filed in 2007 [JURIST report] after Chirac's presidency ended and he no longer had judicial immunity. Nine others, including Chirac’s former chief of staff Michel Roussin, and Jean de Gaulle, the grandson of former president Charles de Gualle, were also ordered to stand trial [Le Monde report, in French] for their involvement in the corruption scheme. Following this order, Chirac will be the first former French president to stand trial since the formation of the current Republic in 1958.

Simeoni, who is set to leave office in late October, failed to grant Paris prosecutors' requests [JURIST report] last month that the charges be dropped. In 2007, Chirac's lawyer Jean Veil indicated that judges would likely question Chirac [JURIST report], but emphasized that the Chirac would not answer questions concerning scandals that allegedly occurred during Chirac's tenure as president of France because the French Constitution grants judicial immunity [text, in French] to the president. In July 2007, French investigating magistrates questioned Chirac as a material witness [JURIST report] in their probe of the corruption allegations.






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Former 'enemy combatant' al-Marri sentenced on conspiracy charges
Brian Jackson on October 30, 2009 9:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Suspected al Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri [JURIST news archive] was sentenced [judgment, PDF] Thursday to eight-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to help the terrorist organization, including researching potential targets within the US for chemical weapon attacks. The sentence was less than the 15 years [Chicago Tribune report] sought by federal prosecutors. In handing down the lesser sentence, District Judge Michael Mihm made reference to the conditions under which al-Marri was held [JURIST report] prior to his trial. Mihm also delivered a stern rebuke against interrogation methods used on al-Marri, including the use of threats [Peoria JournalStar report] that his family may be harmed. With credit for time already served as well as previous good-behavior, al-Marri may serve only five or six years of his sentence [Straits Times report].

In May, al-Marri pleaded guilty to the charges [JURIST report] against him as part of a plea arrangement. Al-Marri also agreed not to appeal his sentence, pursue a habeas petition, or oppose his deportation to Qatar or Saudi Arabia after serving his criminal sentence. Al-Marri had previously pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges, after the US Supreme Court granted the government's motion to dismiss [JURIST report] his appeal for habeas corpus relief. Al-Marri was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois by civilian authorities in 2001, and was indicted for other crimes. In 2003, then-President George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and ordered the attorney general to transfer custody of al-Marri to the defense secretary, claiming inherent authority to hold him indefinitely. Until March, al-Marri was detained on a US Navy brig in South Carolina.






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Arizona Supreme Court rules electronic data is matter of public record
Brian Jackson on October 30, 2009 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The Arizona Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that data embedded in electronic versions of public records is part of the public record, and thus accessible through a records request. The court ruled in favor of David Lake, a sergeant with the Phoenix police department, who had requested access to public records regarding his job performance. When the physical documents raised Lake's suspicion that they may have been altered, he requested access to the electronic forms to assess creation and editing dates. The city denied Lake's request, and he filed suit. In holding that this electronic, or "metadata," is part of that public record, the court overruled both lower courts and their interpretation of the issue, saying:


The pertinent issue is not whether metadata considered alone is a public record. Instead, the question is whether a "public record" maintained in an electronic format includes not only the information normally visible upon printing the document but also any embedded metadata. ... The metadata in an electronic document is part of the underlying document; it does not stand on its own. When a public officer uses a computer to make a public record, the metadata forms part of the document as much as the words on the page.

The immediate impact of the ruling, aside from Lake's suit, may be to increase access [Arizona Republic report] and reduce the cost of producing public records for review.

While metadata has a number of different meanings, in the context most applicable to public records, administrative metadata [NISO backgrounder, PDF] refers to, "information to help manage a resource, such as when and how it was created, file type and other technical information, and who can access it." Perhaps the most visible case regarding metadata prior to the current was the 2005 case of Shirley Williams, who had sued Sprint/United Management Company for access to records in regards to an employment suit. In issuing an order for production of documents, Judge David Waxse of the US District Court for the District of Kansas threatened sanctions [opinion, PDF] against Sprint/United if it could not provide a legitimate reason for "scrubbing" electronic documents of metadata.





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Honduras agreement allows Zelaya return
Ximena Marinero on October 30, 2009 7:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The interim government of Honduras and ousted president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] reached an agreement [press release, in Spanish] Thursday allowing Zelaya to return to power conditioned on Supreme Court approval with a subsequent affirmative vote from the Honduran legislature. According to an interim government press release touting the agreement as the product of the Guaymuras Dialogue, a truth commission will produce a report on the incidents that resulted from the political impasse set off when Zelaya was removed from office [JURIST report] on June 28, identifying those responsible without the option of political amnesty. The agreement further stipulates that the November 29 elections will be recognized, with authority over the police for election purposes transferred [recorded video, in Spanish; El Heraldo report, in Spanish] from the military to the electoral court [official website, in Spanish] in compliance with the constitution. Included in the stipulations was also a request for the international community to drop sanctions against Honduras and send electoral observers. The accord comes a day after Honduras instituted proceedings [press release, PDF] against Brazil in the International Court of Justice [official website] alleging interference in purely domestic affairs by allowing Zelaya and his supporters [JURIST report] to take refuge at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Brazilian authorities have questioned [Estadao de Hoje report, in Portuguese] the legitimacy of the claims raised by a government that is not officially recognized.

The Guaymuras Dialogue began two weeks ago, as the interim government promised to repeal [JURIST report] an executive decree that had suspended several constitutional rights. The restrictions on protests and opposition media were not officially eased [JURIST report] until last week. A delegation from the Organization of American States arrived [JURIST report] last week in Honduras to conduct a three-week investigation on human rights violations that may have occurred since Zelaya's ouster. On the day after the OAS delegation arrived, the Honduran Human Rights Commissioner issued a statement decrying bias in the international community against the situation in Honduras. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International [materials] have circulated reports of human rights violations committed against protesters.






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ICC president cites oustanding arrest warrants as biggest challenge to tribunal
Brian Jackson on October 30, 2009 6:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Outstanding arrest warrants are the "biggest obstacle" facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], President Sang-Hyun Song [official profile] told [speech, PDF; press release] the UN General Assembly [official website] Thursday. In particular, Song discussed the case of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [JURIST news archive]. The ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March for crimes against humanity, but he has not yet been detained. Song stressed that "[i]t is the responsibility of States to arrest and surrender these persons in accordance with their legal obligations." In discussing other problems currently facing the court, Song focused on the lack of prior jurisprudence on which to base ICC decisions. Finally, Song discussed his priorities for the ICC, including advancing ratification of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] by providing information to states seeking ratification. The ICC is set to begin its second trial against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in November.

The US remains one of several UN member states that has not ratified the Rome Statute. In August, a Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] study urged US President Barack Obama not to ratify the treaty [JURIST report], claiming that the ICC threatens national sovereignty. The study came in response to media reports that suggested the Obama administration may be considering joining the ICC. Earlier that 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 October 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, Russia, and the Sudan.






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New House health care bill unveiled
Carrie Schimizzi on October 29, 2009 12:55 PM ET

[JURIST] House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) [official website] unveiled [press release] the House health care reform bill [text, PDF] at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning. The $894 billion health care package, a combination of similar bills passed by House committees over the summer, would provide insurance [AP report] to 36 million more people, extending coverage to nearly 96 percent of Americans. The bill, entitled the Affordable Health Care for America Act, would expand eligibility for Medicaid [official website], the federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans, and includes subsidies for middle-class citizens whose employers do not provide access to affordable coverage. The bill also includes a so-called "public option," a requirement for employers to offer insurance to their employees and a prohibition on refusing coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Speaking on the steps of the US Capitol, Pelosi praised the bill saying:


Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans. ... We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges.

House Democrats hope the bill will be up for a vote by next week, with a final vote before November 11, which would allow Obama to sign the bill by year's end. The Senate is also putting together its own version of the bill, and the two versions would have to be reconciled before being signed into law.

Last week, The US Senate Finance Committee [official website] voted 14-9 to approve [JURIST report] a health care reform bill [text, PDF] entitled The America's Healthy Future Act. Health care reform [JURIST news archive] has been a top priority of the Obama administration over the past several months. Some have complained that the lack of a public option for low-income individuals does not go far enough to fix the nation's health care system. Conservatives have argued that proposed additional taxes on expensive insurance policies already in place would make reform too costly. Approximately 47 million Americans are uninsured, according to the National Coalition on Health Care [advocacy website], though that number is disputed.





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Canada court sentences Rwanda war criminal to life imprisonment
Andrea Bottorff on October 29, 2009 12:28 PM ET

[JURIST] The Superior Court of Quebec [official website] on Thursday sentenced Rwandan Hutu Desire Munyaneza [Trial Watch profile] to life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after 25 years for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. Munyaneza was convicted [JURIST report] in May on seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text, PDF]. Munyaneza is the first person to have been charged under the act, which Canada ratified in 2000 in order to fulfill its obligations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Munyaneza's conviction heavily emphasized Canada's obligation as a signatory to the Rome Statute [text, PDF] of the ICC to try crimes against humanity that would otherwise not be prosecuted. Munyaneza's defense lawyer is appealing the decision and the hearing is expected next year.

Munyaneza moved to Toronto in 1997 and was denied refugee status because Canadian officials suspected him of involvement in the Rwandan genocide. He was arrested [JURIST report] in 2005 by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police [official website] after a five-year investigation by its war crimes unit [official website] and the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website]. The trial, which was briefly postponed [JURIST report] after Munyaneza was beaten by a fellow prison inmate, lasted two years and included evidence from multiple nations. International legal observers expect Munyaneza's trial to set precedent for future war crimes litigation.






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UN Security Council urges Guinea junta to investigate rights abuse allegations
Dwyer Arce on October 29, 2009 12:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council on Wednesday [official website] called [press release] for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by the Guinean military junta during the September 28 incidents at Conakry [BBC backgrounder]. Vietnamese Ambassador Le Luong Minh [official profile], whose country currently holds the Security Council presidency, released the statement on behalf of the body:

The Security Council remains deeply concerned by the situation in Guinea which might pose a risk to regional peace and security following the killings that occurred in Conakry on 28 September, when members of the army opened fire on civilians attending a rally. It strongly condemns the violence that reportedly caused more than 150 deaths and hundreds of wounded and other blatant violations of human rights including numerous rapes and sexual crimes against women, as well as the arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators and opposition party leaders.

The Security Council reiterates the need for the national authorities to fight against impunity, bring the perpetrators to justice, uphold the rule of law, including the respect for basic human rights and release all the individuals who are being denied due process under the law.
Minh went on to call for elections to take place in 2010 as previously scheduled and to applaud the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States [official website] to establish a transitional government in Guinea and to ensure fair elections that would exclude members of the current military leadership.

Last week, Guinean Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandre Cece Loua [GuineeNews profile] said during a visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] that the Guinean judiciary is capable of and intends to investigate [JURIST report] and prosecute any crimes committed during the incidents of September 28, in which more than 150 civilians were killed and more than 1,200 were wounded, according to the UN and human rights groups. The Guinea junta has created a National Commission for an Independent Investigation that will work with the committee established [JURIST report] recently by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] to look into possible human rights abuses by Guinean soldiers. Earlier this month, the ICC placed the Guinean military under preliminary investigation [JURIST report] for human rights violations during the September 28 incident. The leader of the military junta, Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], led a coup in December 2008 after the death of President Lansana Conte [BBC obituary]. Despite an initial reaction welcoming [Washington Times report] Camara after Conte's 24-year regime, there is now widespread opposition to the junta. Conditions inside the country have since declined [HRW report] with a rise in violence and governmental crackdown on opposition groups.





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Zimbabwe deports UN torture investigator
Steve Dotterer on October 29, 2009 12:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe deported UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official website; JURIST news archive] Thursday, citing concerns over a meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) [official website] leaders in the capital city of Harare. Nowak was detained Wednesday evening and placed on a flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, the following morning. Nowak later expressed anger [press release] at being expelled from the country, stating that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had invited him. Zimbabwean government officials, however, have criticized Nowak's own conduct in refusing to alter his travel plans after being asked to delay his visit [press release] by two days. Nowak had planned to meet with Tsvangirai to discuss alleged human rights violations [JURIST report] in the country.

Nowak's deportation adds to already high tensions between Tsvangirai and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [CNN profile; JURIST news archive], whose supporters have been implicated in Nowak's fact-finding mission. Although Tsvangirai and Mugabe formally share power in Zimbabwe's coalition government, earlier this month Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party began boycotting [AP report] Cabinet meetings in response to prosecution of Tsvangirai Cabinet nominee Roy Bennett [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. MDC and Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) have long vied [BBC backgrounder] for political control of the country, culminating in the formation of the coalition government [JURIST report] last year.






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Bosnia police arrest 3 suspected in Srebrenica massacre
Haley Wojdowski on October 29, 2009 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) arrested [press release, in Bosnian] three former Bosnian Serb policemen on Thursday on genocide charges related to the Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Dusko Jevic, Zoran Ilic, and Mendeljev Djuric were arrested in the northeastern town of Bijeljina after an investigation by the Special Department for War Crimes of the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH [official website, in Bosnian] suggested their involvement in the July 1995 attack on Bosnian Muslims. The former members of the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry are accused of committing genocide under sections 171 and 180 of the Bosnian Criminal Code [text, PDF]. While the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has jurisdiction over high level war crimes allegations, such as those against Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] and General Ratko Mladic [ICTY materials], the BiH courts [official website, in Bosnian] can try lower level allegations.

On Wednesday, the ICTY resumed proceedings [JURIST report] against Karadzic on 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian genocide [PPU backgrounder]. Karadzic denies all charges and boycotted the trial's opening day, though the ICTY announced that it would try Karadzic in absentia [JURIST report] if he failed to appear the second day. Earlier this month, the Court of BiH sentenced [JURIST report] former Bosnian Serb special police officer Vaso Todorovic [BiH backgrounder] to six years in prison for committing crimes against humanity. Last year, Bosnian police arrested [JURIST report] two other former police officers suspected of involvement in the Srebrenica massacre. During the 1995 forcible transfer of 40,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims) from a UN-protected area in Srebrenica to Potocari, Serbian forces allegedly summarily executed at least 7,000 Bosniak men between the ages of 13 and 17.






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US and EU reach agreement on treaty for international criminal investigations
Brian Jackson on October 29, 2009 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] on Wednesday announced [press release] an international criminal treaty with the European Union (EU) that will greatly increase cooperation between the two governments. Among the provisions in the "Washington Statement," or "Washington Declaration," was continued cooperation in fighting the trafficking of humans and illegal drugs. One of the more controversial aspects of the treaty is that it will reportedly allow the EU to refuse to extradite criminals to the US who would face the death penalty here [EU Observer report]. A key provision, simplifying travel between the US and EU, was not included in this agreement, but both governments pledged to work [joint statement, PDF] to lessen travel restrictions, acknowledging the "social and economic benefits to EU and US citizens from visa-free travel in a secure environment between our two continents." The EU was represented at the negotiations by Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask and Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy Tobias Billstrom, who released a statement [text] touting the benefits of the treaty, including protection of personal privacy. The provisions of the treaty will take effect in February [CN report].

This new treaty is the most recent effort to improve cooperation in tracking criminals between the US and the European continent. In September, the US and Switzerland agreed to share information [JURIST report] about individuals who evade taxes. In August, the two countries signed an agreement whereby Switzerland would grant the US access to certain anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in exchange for a US pledge to cease unilateral efforts to uncover account holders' identification.






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Birmingham mayor convicted on bribery charges
Daniel Makosky on October 29, 2009 11:47 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Larry Langford [official profile] on multiple bribery charges. Langford was accused [indictment, PDF] of directing $7.1 million in bond business to a friend in exchange for money and luxury goods [Bloomberg report] while serving as president of the Jefferson County Commission [official website]. Following six days of testimony, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning guilty verdicts on all 60 counts. Langford accused the Department of Justice of racial bias and criticized the media's handling of the case, and announced his intention to appeal.



In response to allegations that Langford was unfairly targeted due to his race, Assistant US Attorney George Martin said, "[w]e prosecuted this case because he took bribes and he committed fraud."



Langford’s conviction triggered his automatic removal [AP report] as mayor. City Council President Carole Smitherman [official profile] will succeed him on an interim basis. Langford faces a sentence of more than 500 years if he receives the statutory maximums.

Langford was elected mayor of Birmingham in 2007. In August, he was praised for pardoning [JURIST report] 2,500 people arrested in the city during nonviolent civil rights protests in the 1960s.






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France court refuses to hear embezzlement case against African heads of state
Megan McKee on October 29, 2009 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The Paris Court of Appeals on Thursday refused to hear an embezzlement case brought by the anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) [official website] against the late president of Gabon, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the president of Equatorial Guinea. The complaint [BBC report] accused the late Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the DRC, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, and their relatives, of acquiring luxury homes and cars in France with African public funds. In its decision to dismiss [Le Monde report, in French] the case, the court held that activists could not bring suit against foreign heads of state. In reaction to the ruling, TI has already announced its intention to appeal [press release]. Despite the disappointment, TI stressed the case's triumphs, citing the increase in the public's awareness of corruption and decreasing the barriers against prosecuting foreign heads of state in France.

The case was heard earlier this year by French Magistrate Francoise Desset, who ruled that the suit could move forward [Le Parisien report, in French]. French state prosecutors appealed that decision. The case is sensitive for France, with Gabon as a former colony. France has struggled with how to reconcile its colonial history [JURIST news archive].






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Obama signs bill allowing transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US for trial
Christian Ehret on October 29, 2009 8:56 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed [press release] the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 [HR 2892 materials] into law, which allows for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to be transferred to the US for prosecution. The bill allocates $42.78 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] and, among other provisions, requires certain information about each transferred detainee to be disclosed to Congress including costs, legal rationales, and possible risks. Additionally, in order to close the Guantanamo facility, the president will be required to submit a report to Congress detailing the disposition of each current detainee. The appropriations bill also contains provisions ending a rule that expelled foreigners who married into residency if their American spouses died within two years of marriage. The controversial expulsion rule had led to pending legal actions and a two-year deferment [press release] on DHS enforcement.

The House and Senate [JURIST reports] approved final versions of the bill earlier this month after terms of the legislation were agreed upon [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF]. The agreement came shortly after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that the Obama administration may miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials.






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Switzerland cabinet proposes restrictions on assisted suicide laws
Christian Ehret on October 29, 2009 8:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Counsel [official website] on Wednesday announced proposals [press release] to restrict the country's assisted suicide laws. The new guidelines will seek to prevent assisted suicide becoming a profit-driven business and to ensure that it is only available to the terminally ill. One of the proposals imposes criminal liability on those who assist unless certain stipulations are met. Those seeking assisted suicides will have to freely declare their wish to die and be given time to consider their decision. Patients will also need to show two medical certificates from independent doctors proving their capacity to make a decision and the existence of a terminal illness. Additionally, the regulations will ban the commercialization of the practice. The Swiss government believes that such restrictions will prevent the abuse of the practice and lessen "suicide tourism" in the country. Also proposed for parliamentary discussion is a complete ban on organized assisted suicide.

Last month, the UK released an interim policy [JURIST report] on assisted suicide that lists factors to be considered in determining which cases to prosecute. The interim policy was published pursuant to a July order [judgment text; JURIST report] from the UK Law Lords [official website] to clarify the issue. The order resulted from a case brought by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, who wanted to travel to Switzerland with her husband to end her life. Under the UK's Suicide Act 1961 [text], Purdy's husband faces criminal liability for aiding her suicide in another country. Many Britons have reportedly gone to the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] in Switzerland to obtain assisted suicides. In the US, assisted suicide is permitted by law in Washington state and Oregon. In May, a Washington state woman became the first person to commit physician-assisted suicide under the Death with Dignity Act [text, PDF; JURIST report].






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Connecticut residents sue ICE over constitutionality of immigration raids
Ximena Marinero on October 29, 2009 7:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Ten residents of New Haven, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit [press release, PDF] Wednesday against several US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] officials, alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments [text] in planning and carrying out raids in 2007. The suit maintains that the raids, conducted only 36 hours after the city passed a measure that provided ID cards to all residents regardless of immigration status, were intended as a reprisal [AP report]. The suit also alleges that the raids were motivated by race or ethnicity, citing ICE written communications and emphasizing that the raids singled out 33 New Haven addresses from 5,500 outstanding warrants. The plaintiffs allege that by entering their homes without arrest warrants or consent, ICE officials violated their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. In addition, the suit posits that ICE infringed on Connecticut's Tenth Amendment protected state powers by interfering with New Haven's affairs. ICE officials named in the suit include then-assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE Julie Myers and the former head of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations [official website] John Torres. Yale faculty and law students are representing [Yale Daily News report] the 10 residents in the suit.

In June 2007, the New Haven Board of Alderman voted [JURIST report] 25-1 to fund a program to provide a municipal identification card to all residents, including the approximately 15,000 undocumented immigrants that reside in New Haven. The measure went into effect [JURIST report] in July 2007, allowing cardholders to access public libraries, parks and recreational sites, and other municipal services as well as serving as debit cards and payment for parking meters. Since its creation in 2003, ICE has been criticized for many of the methods it uses to capture and detain illegal immigrants. In August, the agency announced plans to implement large-scale changes to its immigration detention system, and in the same month acknowledged [JURIST reports] that 11 deaths in immigration detention had gone unreported [press release]. In July, 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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Obama signs bill expanding hate crimes protections
Ximena Marinero on October 29, 2009 6:44 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law a defense appropriations bill that contains a measure extending the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The president hailed [press release] the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (NDAA) [HR 2647 materials] as a law containing long sought changes. Obama characterized [press release] the hate crimes measure, titled the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act [S 909 text], as "a victory decades in the making and steeped in blood and pain" that takes the nation further "on the journey towards a more perfect union." Judy Shepard of the Matthew Shepard Foundation [advocacy website] thanked Congress and the president "for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families," but said more must still be done. Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] president Joe Solomonese said [press release], "[t]oday's signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality."

Also included in the bill was a provision amending the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] to provide suspected terrorists with greater due process rights. The Constitution Project [advocacy website] said [press release] the amendments "raise[] serious constitutional concerns. Although they are an improvement from the 2006 version, the reformed commissions still fail to provide critical safeguards for the accused that are available in our traditional criminal justice system." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized [press release] the bill as "fail[ing] to bring the tribunals in line with the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions."

Last week, the US Senate [official website] voted [JURIST report] 68-29 [roll call] to approve the NDAA. Earlier this month, it was passed in the House of Representatives [official website] on a 281-146 [roll call] vote [JURIST report]. Conservative members of Congress in both instances charged that the hate crimes provision was an inappropriate measure to include in a military appropriations bill, while some specifically opposed special protections to victims from crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The ACLU and Human Rights Watch [press releases] have said that while the revisions to the military commissions system contained in the appropriations bill are improvements over the current system, they still contain unconstitutional provisions that do not cure the flawed system.






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Hawaii Supreme Court dismisses final claim in native land case
Hillary Stemple on October 28, 2009 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] The Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday dismissed the last claim seeking a permanent ban on the sale of lands ceded by the former monarchy. Claims were originally filed by four members of the Native Hawaiians [advocacy website] and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) [official website] in order to prevent the sale of 1.2 million acres of land. Three of the four Native Hawaiian defendants and OHA reached a compromise [Honolulu Advertiser report] with the state that would require approval by two-thirds of both houses of the state legislature before any of the ceded lands could be sold. The agreement was part of Hawaii State Senate Bill 1677. The fourth defendant, University of Hawaii professor Jonathan Osorio, rejected the compromise and continued with his lawsuit, but the court dismissed his suit Tuesday. Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett [official website] said [press release, PDF] he was "pleased" with the court's decision.

OHA originally won an injunction from the Hawaii Supreme Court preventing the sale of the land, but the US Supreme Court reversed [JURIST report] the lower court ruling in March. The Supreme Court's ruling held that the state court had erred in interpreting the 1993 Apology Resolution [text] as Congress's attempt to take away the right of the citizens of Hawaii to resolve an issue of such importance to the state.






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House committee approves new investment rating regulations
David Manes on October 28, 2009 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Financial Services Committee [official website] voted 49-14 Wednesday to approve new regulations governing investment rating agencies. The Accountability and Transparency in Rating Agencies Act [HR 3890 text], sponsored by Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) [official website], modifies the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF], giving the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] the authority to monitor and punish ratings agencies. Kanjorski sees the need for increased regulation, saying [press release]:


The Accountability and Transparency in Rating Agencies Act aims to curb the inappropriate and irresponsible actions of credit rating agencies which greatly contributed to our current economic problems. This legislation builds on the Administration’s proposal and takes strong steps to reduce conflicts of interest, stem market reliance on credit rating agencies, and impose a liability standard on the agencies. As gatekeepers to our markets, credit rating agencies must be held to higher standards. We need to incentivize them to do their jobs correctly and effectively, and there must be repercussions if they fall short. This bill will take such steps. I look forward to moving it through the legislative process.”

With the bill out of committee, a vote on the floor of the House could be scheduled as early as next month.

Since the subprime mortgage crisis, lawmakers have discussed extensive reforms to US financial regulations [JURIST news archive]. Although some reforms have already been enacted, President Barack Obama called for even stronger regulations [JURIST report] for certain aspects of the financial industry when he gave a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings. Lawmakers have charged investment rating agencies for misleading investors by promoting high-risk securities secured by subprime mortgages. In September, 2008, the SEC charged two former brokers [JURIST report] with fraud for misrepresenting subprime-backed securities.





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Kuwait constitutional court rules women lawmakers not required to wear headscarf
Megan McKee on October 28, 2009 1:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Kuwaiti Constitutional Court [official website, in Arabic] ruled Wednesday that female lawmakers are not required to wear the hijab [JURIST news archive], or traditional Muslim headscarf. The ruling was in response to a petition brought by four voters seeking to invalidate the election of two of the four women who became the first female members [BBC report] of the Kuwaiti National Assembly in June because they refuse to wear the hijab. The petitioners claimed [AFP report] that women who choose not to wear hijab should be excluded from the legislature because they are in violation of a clause in the 2005 electoral law [JURIST report], which gave women the full right to vote and run for parliament, but stipulates that women voters and candidates must comply with Islamic Sharia law. The court held [AP report] that the clause was vague and failed to specify to what regulations women must adhere. It also stressed the primacy of the 1962 Constitution [text] and the guarantees of personal freedoms it includes.

In another landmark ruling on women's rights, the Constitutional Court overturned [JURIST report] an article of the Personal Status Law that required a woman to obtain approval from her husband, parents, or guardian to apply for a passport. The court found that the law was also in conflict with the guarantees of personal freedom and gender equality inherent in the constitution.






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Italy court upholds former Berlusconi lawyer bribery conviction
Steve Dotterer on October 28, 2009 12:28 PM ET

[JURIST] An Italian appeals court on Tuesday upheld the bribery conviction of David Mills [JURIST news archive], a British barrister and former lawyer to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile]. Mills was sentenced [JURIST report] in February to a four-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly accepting USD $600,000 in bribes for offering false testimony at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi broadcasting company Mediaset [corporate website]. A lawyer for Mills said he plans to appeal [AKI report] to Italy's high court, the Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian].

Mills's testimonies at issue were given during trials accusing Berlusconi of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report]. Berlusconi was acquitted of all those charges. The bribery and corruption trial against Berlusconi and Mills began in 2007, but Berlusconi was removed as a defendant after a new law granted top Italian lawmakers immunity from prosecution [JURIST reports] while in office. Earlier this month, the Italian Constitutional Court struck down [JURIST report] that law, which means that the case could now be reopened.






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Federal judge dismisses stem cell research funding challenge
Dwyer Arce on October 28, 2009 12:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's decision [JURIST report] to ease restrictions on stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. Nightlight Christian Adoptions [advocacy website] claimed that the removal of restrictions on stem cell research would lower the number of embryos available for adoption. Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that this claim was speculative and that for Nightlight to have standing to sue they would need to show that donors were choosing to donate embryos for research instead of adoption:


[T]he Court finds that Nightlight lacks standing because its alleged injury is "mere 'unadorned speculation' as to the existence of a relationship between the [guidelines] and the third-party conduct." Indeed, if Nightlight suffers any injury at all, it will be because of the choices of third parties not before this court, and not because of the guidelines.

Executive director of Nightlight Rod Stoddart expressed his disappointment [NYT report] in the court's decision, stating that it had taken the "easy way out" and that his organization would consider filing an appeal.

The lawsuit was filed in August in response to the proposed guidelines [text; JURIST report] for funding human embryonic stem cell research released by the National Institute of Health (NIH) [official website] in April, which limited funding to embryos that were created to be used in fertility clinics but were no longer needed and would have been discarded. Additionally, the donor must have consented to giving the embryos for research purposes. The NIH guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding to only stem cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001.





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Chechnya president files criminal libel suit against Memorial rights activist: reports
Amelia Mathias on October 28, 2009 9:59 AM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov [JURIST news archive] said Tuesday that a criminal libel suit has been filed against the leader of human rights group Memorial [advocacy website, in Russian], according to media reports. Oleg Orlov, who accused Kadyrov of responsibility for the July death of Memorial journalist Natalia Estemirova [JURIST report], could face a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Orlov already lost a civil suit filed by Kadyrov, and must pay USD $2,300 in fines and remove his accusation [AP report] from Memorial's website. The charges come less than a week after Orlov won the prestigious Sakharov Award from the European Union for his work with Memorial.

Less than a month after Estemirova's death, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report] 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. The recent violence has reportedly caused Russian human rights activists to leave the region [JURIST report], with Memorial closing its Chechen offices after Estemirova's death.






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UN rights investigator warns US drone attacks may violate international law
Amelia Mathias on October 28, 2009 9:02 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] said Tuesday that the use of unmanned warplanes by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal. Alston criticized the US policy in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee and then elaborated at a press conference [press release; recorded video]:


My concern is that these drones, these predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons. The response of the US is simply untenable, and that is that the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly by definition have no role in relation to killings that take place in relations to an armed conflict. that would remove the great majority of issues that come before these bodies right now.

Alston's report was presented as part of a larger demand that no state be free from accountability.

Alston previously raised the issue of US drone attacks in June. The US government responded that its position is that such attacks are carried out in a war zone where the UN has no role. The controversial attacks have killed about 600 people in northwestern Pakistan since August 2008, including around 400 militants. US Senator John Kerry said this week that the attacks would continue [RTTNews report], claiming that they have been successful in combatting al Qaeda and have resulted in minimal collateral damage. Also this week, a Pakistani court upheld the dismissal of a petition [The Nation report] against US drone attacks that sought to declare the US an enemy state.





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Ninth Circuit to reconsider state secrets claim in CIA rendition lawsuit
Matt Glenn on October 28, 2009 8:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] agreed Tuesday to an en banc rehearing [order, PDF] of a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] request to dismiss a suit against a company that allegedly provided logistical support for CIA rendition [JURIST news archive] flights. At issue is whether the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] can prevent the suit from going forward. A three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit previously ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the state secrets privilege does not bar a lawsuit against the company. In June, the DOJ requested [DOJ brief, PDF; JURIST report] that the full court reconsider the ruling. The suit was brought by plaintiffs Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile; JURIST news archive], Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, and Bisher al-Rawi, who alleged that Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan [corporate website] knowingly supported direct flights to secret CIA prisons, facilitating the torture and mistreatment of US detainees. In 2007, the DOJ intervened before the defendant filed an answer, maintaining that the lawsuit posed a risk to national security. The appellate court overturned the lower court's dismissal of the case, ruling that the state secret privilege must be based on actual evidence in the case, not on what evidence might be involved. A staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which represents the plaintiffs decried [press release] Tuesday's order for a rehearing:

We are disappointed by the court's decision to re-hear this case, but we hope and expect that the court's historic decision to allow the lawsuit to go forward will stand. The CIA's rendition and torture program simply is not a "state secret." In fact, since the court's decision in April, the government's sweeping secrecy claims have only gotten weaker, with the declassification of additional documents describing the CIA's detention and interrogation practices. The Obama administration's embrace of overbroad secrecy claims has denied torture victims their day in court and shielded perpetrators from liability or accountability. We hope that the court will reaffirm the principle that victims of torture deserve a remedy, and that no one is above the law.
The state secrets privilege, which allows the exclusion of evidence based on a government affidavit that such evidence may endanger national security, has been highly criticized by rights groups and others. Julian Sanchez [Cato profile] of the Cato Institute [advocacy website] argued [JURIST comment] this month that Congress should implement state secrets reforms, rather than relying on the DOJ to increase oversight. Last month Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] a number of new state secrets policies seeking to increase government accountability and oversight. Also last month, OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] examining the privilege and other transparency issues, concluding that the current administration has improved transparency [JURIST report], but more should be done.





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ICTY resumes Karadzic war crimes trial in absentia
Andrea Bottorff on October 28, 2009 8:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday resumed proceedings [court schedule] against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive], one day after adjourning [JURIST report] because Karadzic failed to appear for the opening of his war crimes trial. Presiding judge O-gon Kwon [official profile] urged Karadzic to attend the trial, but later announced that the ICTY would try Karadzic in absentia if he failed to appear for the second day. Karadzic's legal adviser had previously said that Karadzic would not attend [AP report] the trial on Tuesday.

Karadzic announced last week that he planned to boycott [JURIST report] his trial because he had not been given adequate time to prepare a defense [text, PDF]. Earlier this month, Karadzic asked the UN Security Council to grant him immunity from trial after the ICTY appeals chamber rejected his argument [JURIST reports] that he was promised immunity by former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke in exchange for his resignation. Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian genocide [PPU backgrounder]. In June, the ICTY said that Karadzic's trial was expected to conclude in early 2012 [JURIST report]. His trial is planned to be the tribunal's last.






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France court convicts high-profile defendants in Angola arms trade case
Matt Glenn on October 28, 2009 7:19 AM ET

[JURIST] A French court convicted several high-profile defendants Tuesday for their roles in illegal arms sales to Angola during the 1990s, known as Angolagate [Global Witness report, PDF]. Among those convicted were former interior minister and current senator Charles Pasqua [official profile, in French], who was found guilty [Le Monde report, in French] of illegal lobbying, and Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of former French president Francois Mitterrand, who was found guilty [Times report] of accepting bribes. Pasqua was sentenced to a year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence and assessed a 100,000 euro fine while Mitterrand received a two-year suspended sentence and was fined 375,000 euros. The court's harshest punishment went to French businessman Pierre Falcone and Russian-Israeli businessman Arcadi Gaydamak [BBC profile], who were each sentenced to six years in prison [AFP report] for arms trafficking and other offenses. Gaydamak was sentenced in absentia and has eluded French authorities. Only six of the 42 defendants were acquitted, but most of those convicted, including Mitterrand, Pasqua, and Falcone, said they plan to appeal.

The complicated trial began [JURIST report] last year. The Angolagate affair involved large-scale arms sales to the Angolan government during the civil war between government forces led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos [BBC profile] and the UNITA [official website, in Portuguese] anti-communist movement, led by the late Jonas Savimbi. The Angolan civil war was largely a proxy war between Cuban communist-supported dos Santos government and the US-backed UNITA rebels. The Angolan government was supplied with arms, including rifles, land mines, grenades, and tanks.






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Czech court delays judgment on EU Lisbon Treaty
Jonathan Cohen on October 28, 2009 7:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic [official website, in Czech] delayed [press release, in Czech] judgment Tuesday on a challenge to the country's signing of the European Union (EU) reform treaty, known as the Treaty of Lisbon [EU materials; JURIST news archive]. The complaint was brought by a group of senators who claim that the treaty infringes [Ceske report] upon Czech sovereignty. In addition to surviving the legal challenge, the treaty must also be signed by Czech President Vaclav Klaus [official website, in Czech] before it takes effect, but Klaus has said he will wait to do so until after the court has made its decision. The postponement has been criticized [Ceske report] by various Czech politicians, and there has been speculation that Klaus will be pressured to make a decision on the treaty before a European Council meeting [materials] scheduled to begin on Thursday. The court expects to deliver an opinion by next week.

The Czech Republic is the only EU member state that has not yet ratified the treaty. In a statement [text, in Czech; JURIST report] last week, Klaus said he was satisfied with the the treaty, given the inclusion of an opt-out clause that would shield the country from property claims by ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia during World War II. The Czech Republic's Chamber of Deputies [official website] approved [JURIST report] the treaty in February, and the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic [official website] voted to approve [JURIST report] the treaty in March. Efforts to ratify the treaty [JURIST news archive] in all 27 EU member states, as required for approval, have faced some opposition. Members Poland and Ireland [JURIST reports] approved the treaty earlier in the month, but only after certain guarantees were made by the EU. Germany signed [JURIST report] the treaty in September.






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Former Bosnian Serb president released early from prison
Sarah Miley on October 27, 2009 2:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic [ICTY profile, PDF] was released [press release] from a Swedish prison on Tuesday after serving two-thirds of her sentence for war crimes committed between July 1991 and December 1992. Plavsic voluntarily surrendered herself to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] in 2001 and was indicted [text, PDF] on 8 counts of war crimes. In 2002, she pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity in a plea agreement [text, PDF] and was sentenced to 11 years in a Swedish prison. The Swedish prison alerted the ICTY in May that Plavsic would have served two-thirds of her sentence in October, and under the the agreement between the UN and the Swedish government on the enforcement of sentences of the ICTY, she was eligible for conditional release under Swedish law. The ICTY agreed last month to grant her release [JURIST report], citing good behavior and "substantial evidence of rehabilitation". Plavsic, known as the "Iron Lady," was the highest-ranking official from the former Yugoslavia to have pleaded guilty for her part in the Bosnian War.

Plavsic was originally indicted along with former Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive], against whom she agreed to testify as part of her plea deal. At Krajisnik's 2006 trial, the ICTY found him not guilty on a charge of genocide for which prosecutors had requested a life sentence [JURIST report], instead sentencing him to 27 years imprisonment. His sentence was reduced to 20 years [JURIST reports] in March after the charges of murder, extermination, and persecution were overturned on appeal. Krajisnik was transferred [JURIST report] to the UK in September to serve the remainder of his sentence, making him the third ICTY prisoner to begin serving his sentence in the UK [BBC report] under the rules of the ICTY.






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UN official cites obstacles to climate change agreement
Daniel Makosky on October 27, 2009 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Director of the UN secretary-general’s Climate Change Support Team Janos Pasztor said [recorded video] Monday that a December UN Climate Change Conference [official website] in Copenhagen, Denmark may not produce a treaty. Pasztor suggested that the success of the conference would be difficult to judge without the US Congress passing a climate bill and industrialized nations determining acceptable carbon dioxide emission levels and sources of funding to aid the reduction efforts of developing nations. Pasztor said:


The secretary-general believes that we must maintain the political momentum established by the 101 heads of state and government who attended the climate change summit and continue to aim for an ambitious, politically binding agreement in Copenhagen that would chart the way for future post-Copenhagen negotiations that lead to a legally binding global agreement.

Despite these concerns, Pasztor encouraged participating representatives to work toward defining the content of an eventual, legally-binding agreement [press release], noting that recent findings indicate the climate situation is worse than previously believed.

Some 1500 climate change negotiators from around the world met under UN auspices in Bangkok [official website] last week as a precursor to the major climate change meeting slated for Copenhagen in December. Thusfar, Western countries have been unable to convince developing nations to commit to reductions in emissions when the Western world has not done so either. In March, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change announced [JURIST report] at a UN Convention on climate change that the US is committed [video] to the creation of an international treaty designed to combat global warming, but that such efforts would only succeed if they were economically feasible. The Copenhagen meeting is supposed to establish a replacement for the controversial Kyoto Protocol [JURIST news archive], which the US did not sign. Negotiations on a new treaty began [JURIST report] last year.





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US religious freedom report criticizes Islamic nations
Jay Carmella on October 27, 2009 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [materials] Monday, criticizing Islamic countries for limiting religious expression. The report found that countries such as North Korea and Iran [JURIST news archives] have attempted to prevent religious defamation as a way to limit religious expression. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] said [transcript] that freedom of religion is essential not only in the US but in every society, and limiting an individual's right of expression reduces that freedom.

The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse.

Based on our own experience, we are convinced that the best antidote to intolerance is not the defamation of religion's approach of banning and punishing offensive speech, but rather, a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression.
In addition to North Korea and Iran, the report criticized Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan. Assistant State Department Secretary Michael Posner [official profile] supported [press briefing] the views expressed by Clinton during his briefing. He added, "we are all mindful of the fact that people of deep faith throughout the world are driven by and motivated by their religious beliefs. ... And we want to discourage people who misuse that faith in a way that's going to undermine basic human rights."

In May, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) [official website] released [JURIST report] its annual report on worldwide religious freedoms. The USCIRF moved several countries criticized in this week's DOS report from its "watch list" to its list of "countries of particular concern" (CPC). In 2007, Iraq was added to the "watch list" [JURIST report] for the first time since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. That same year, the Chinese government rejected the report [JURIST report] as prejudiced.





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EU lifts final sanctions against Uzbekistan despite rights concerns
Sarah Paulsworth on October 27, 2009 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Union (EU) [official website] announced [press release, PDF] Tuesday that it is lifting the final sanctions [text, PDF] still in place against Uzbekistan in connection with the May 2005 clashes in Andijan [JURIST news archive]. The decision was made in the face of resolute opposition due to Uzbekistan's poor human rights record. The EU statement says:


With a view to encourage the Uzbek authorities to take further substantive steps to improve the rule of law and the human rights situation on the ground, and taking into account their commitments, the Council decides not to renew the remaining restrictive measures set out in the Common Position 2008/843/CFSP.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] was among the organizations opposed to removal of the sanctions. In an October 14 letter [text] to EU foreign ministers, the organization noted that although the EU visa ban for Uzbek officials was lifted last October, the human rights situation in Uzbekistan has not improved. HRW said, "[t]his profoundly negative trend speaks volumes about the Uzbek government's lack of political will to improve its rights record, but also about failed EU policy toward Tashkent."

The European Union originally imposed sanctions [text, PDF] on Uzbekistan in November 2005 because the country refused to investigate the violent suppression of a protest of economic conditions in Andijan. The sanctions included suspending a cooperation accord, imposing an arms embargo, cutting aid to the country, and banning some Uzbek officials from traveling to Western Europe. Human rights groups claimed as many as 500 people were killed [JURIST report] in the Andijan clash between protesters and Uzbek soldiers and police, while Uzbek officials put the number at 173.





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China official confirms execution of Tibetan demonstrators
David Manes on October 27, 2009 12:13 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson announced Tuesday that the two Tibetan prisoners sentenced to death [JURIST report] for their role in the March 2008 Lhasa riots [advocacy backgrounder; JURIST news archive] have been executed. The Chinese government confirmed the executions [AP report] after Tibetan rights groups first broke the news, but did not release any additional details. The two Tibetans were sentenced to death in April after being convicted of starting separate fires that resulted in deaths. Tibetan courts convicted 76 others [JURIST reports] of demonstration-related crimes in February. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in March that hundreds of other protesters who were detained during the Lhasa demonstrations had not been accounted for one year later [JURIST report].

China also recently sentenced nine people to death for alleged crimes that occurred during the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive] in trials that were criticized by HRW [JURIST report]. HRW alleged that China violated national and international law in those trials by intimidating lawyers, employing biased judges, and closing proceedings to the press. The Xinjiang riots resulted in at least 12 deaths caused by police [JURIST report] and several other deaths.






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UN rights rapporteur: Guantanamo detainees should be tried or released
Safiya Boucaud on October 27, 2009 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] said Monday that all Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees should be brought before US federal courts for trial [recorded video] by the January 22 deadline for closure set by US President Barack Obama [official profile]. Scheinin said that the detainees should not be held indefinitely and that if they cannot be brought to the US for trial then they should be released. In response to a question about the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, Scheinin said:


My position on the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center is that it should be closed along the timeline announced by President Obama when he took office and that it should not be closed through trying and sentencing people through the military commissions because my assessment of the Military Commissions Act is very negative, and I don't think small fixes will help in making it compatible with the international standards of human rights or to that matter United States constitutional law. So what results from this is that there should be a division between persons who can be tried and they should be tried before proper courts - United States Federal courts within the territory of United States proper, and those who will not be tried, they should be released one way or the other.

Also Monday, Obama reiterated his plans to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay during his address at a congressional fundraiser in Miami, although he did not include his original January 2010 deadline as the proposed closure time.

Last week, the US Senate voted [JURIST report] 79-19 in favor of a bill permitting Guantanamo Bay detainees to be brought to the US for trial after members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF] reached an agreement [JURIST report] earlier this month. The agreement came shortly after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that Congressional opposition may cause the Obama administration to miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials. Also this month, Congress passed a bill amending [JURIST report] the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] to provide suspected terrorists with greater due process rights.





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Iraq renews call for UN inquiry after recent bombings
Steve Czajkowski on October 27, 2009 9:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari [official profile] on Monday renewed calls for a formal UN inquiry to investigate those responsible for bombings in the country following twin suicide bombings [JURIST report] in Baghdad Sunday, which are believed to have killed more than 150. Zebari asked the UN General Assembly and the Security Council [official websites] to appoint a special envoy to probe possible sources that are targeting the country's stability. Zebari's appeal echoes similar requests made by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [JURIST reports] following the August 19 bombing of the foreign and finance ministries [BBC report] that left close to 100 dead. The Iraqi government is blaming both attacks on al Qaeda and former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party. The government has accused [Reuters report] Syria of providing support to those behind the bombings, based on that country's refusal to hand over individuals suspected of planning the August attack.

The bombings targeted the ministry of justice and the headquarters of the local provincial government ahead of an attempt by the Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] to resolve a political stalemate that would permit changes to the country's election law. The elections, which are planned for January, cannot be held until a new election law is passed, and parliament continues to disagree about the exact changes to be made to the law, which was originally passed in September 2008. The Iraqi parliament's last attempt to change the election law [JURIST report] failed earlier last week. Iraqi political leaders reached an agreement on a compromise version Monday and sent it to parliament for debate on Tuesday.






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Sierra Leone war crimes court upholds sentences of former guerilla leaders
Steve Czajkowski on October 27, 2009 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday upheld [press release, PDF] the convictions of three former rebel leaders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], in what is to be the final proceedings of the Freetown-based court. The SCSL upheld the convictions of former RUF Interim Leader Issa Hassan Sesay and Senior RUF Commander Morris Kallon [Trial Watch profiles] on each of 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for violations committed during Sierra Leone's 11 year civil war [BBC backgrounder]. The conviction of former RUF Security Chief Augustine Gbao [Trial Watch profile] was also upheld on 14 counts. The court affirmed convictions for forced marriages and attacks on UN peacekeepers, which were a first for an international tribunal, as well as employing child soldiers in the war. With the decision, the SCSL confirmed the prior prison sentences [JURIST report] of Sessay, Kallon, and Gbao. They had been given terms of 52, 40, and 25 years respectively.

The only remaining indictee of the SCSL is Former Liberian president Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive], who is currently facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In July, Taylor denied war crimes allegations [JURIST report] while testifying in for the first time at his trial. Taylor faces 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone. Taylor also denied receiving jars full of diamonds by Liberian rebel forces. His defense claims that he could not have commanded rebel forces in Sierra Leone while acting as the president of Liberia. Taylor's trial began in Sierra Leone, but had been moved to The Hague [JURIST report] for security reasons.






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Federal judge dismisses Guantanamo habeas petition
Matt Glenn on October 27, 2009 7:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday dismissed without prejudice [memorandum and order, PDF] a petition for habeas corpus filed on behalf of a Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee after the detainee refused to meet with his appointed counsel to authorize the petition. The court dismissed the petition, which was filed in 2006 on behalf of Muieen Adeen Jamal Adeen Abd Al Fusal Abd Al Sattar by Sami al Hajj as "next friend," based on a 2008 order requiring "next friend" habeas petitions to be authorized and signed by the the detainee on whose behalf the petition was filed. The order gave lawyers 10 days from their second meeting with a detainee to obtain such an authorization. According to the opinion, Al Sattar refused to meet with his appointed lawyer all five times the lawyer attempted to meet with him, tore up a letter from the lawyer asking for a meeting, and threatened Guantanamo personnel when they attempted to arrange a meeting. Bates ruled that Al Sattar was unwilling, rather than unable, to authorize the petition on his behalf, and therefore dismissed the petition.

Earlier this month, a judge in the same court dismissed [JURIST report] a detainee's habeas petition for similar reasons. Last month, a judge denied [JURIST report] the habeas petition of Algerian Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi, bringing the total number of government victories to eight, while 30 detainees' habeas petitions have been granted. Also in September, a judge granted [JURIST report] the habeas petition of detainee Fouad Al Rabiah, ordering his release.






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Sri Lanka to order independent probe of human rights abuse allegations
Haley Wojdowski on October 26, 2009 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe [official profile] announced Monday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] has decided to appoint an independent committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations in that nation. "Incidents During the Recent Conflicts in Sri Lanka" [text], a US Department of State (DOS) [official website] report presented to Congress, recounts the alleged conduct of both the Sri Lankan government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which may constitute violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), crimes against humanity, and harms against civilians. The report focuses on January through May 2009, a period in which fighting intensified before Sri Lankan government forces put down the LTTE forces. Samarasinghe stated [official press release]:


The report does not reach legal conclusions as to whether the incidents described herein actually constitute violations of IHL, crimes against humanity or other violations of international law. Nor does it reach conclusions concerning whether the alleged incidents detailed herein actually occurred.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official website] expressed confidence that Sri Lanka’s legal system is capable of handling any ensuing complaints.

On Thursday, the DOS urged Sri Lankan officials to investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes connected with the last months of the internal armed civil conflict [JURIST reports] by both the government and rebel forces, and to prosecute those responsible. Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pasco [official profile] encouraged [JURIST report] the Sri Lankan government to conduct an independent inquiry, and to increase its pace in shutting down camps and achieving political reconciliation among the country's warring ethnic factions. The Sri Lankan government finished its internal investigation in June and refused to permit [JURIST report] an external probe to conduct a full investigation. Human rights advocates remain concerned about both potential human rights violations in the LTTE members' trials and Tamil civilians in camps. In May, as the country's decades-long civil war was coming to an end, Rajapaksa denied [JURIST report] humanitarian groups full access to refugee camps, saying that they still needed to be screened for rebel fighters.





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Israel government to form task force to respond to UN Gaza report
Hillary Stemple on October 26, 2009 2:53 PM ET

[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official profile] on Monday announced the formation of a task force to respond to the Goldstone Report [text, PDF], which accused both Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] and Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] fighters of war crimes during last winter's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security backgrounder]. The task force will be led [Haaretz report] by Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman. The Israeli government has reportedly ruled out conducting an independent investigation into the report's allegations, and IDF soldiers and officials will not be brought before a commission of inquiry. The task force will report back on the report's ramifications and make recommendations for further action.

The formation of the task force comes two weeks after the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution officially endorsing [JURIST report] the final report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], which recommended that both Israel and Hamas conduct credible investigations into the alleged human rights violations taking place during the conflict or face referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Israel condemned the UNHRC resolution, calling the report "one-sided" and urging the international community to reject the findings [JURIST report]. The IDF launched [JURIST report] an internal investigation into alleged misconduct in July. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report].






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Russia rights activist killed in North Caucasus region
Carrie Schimizzi on October 26, 2009 2:46 PM ET

[JURIST] A prominent opposition leader and human rights activist in Russia's southern province of Ingushetia [official website, in Russian; BBC backgrounder], Maksharip Aushev, was reportedly shot dead Sunday while traveling on a highway in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria. According to Russian media, the unidentified gunmen fired more than 60 shots [Moscow Times report] at Aushev's vehicle, killing him and wounding a female passenger. Aushev, an outspoken critic of former Ingush president Murat Zyazikov and Ingush state security forces, was the target of a failed kidnapping attempt in September and had been repeatedly threatened. Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who replaced Zyazikov, expressed his condolences and promised [official statement, in Russian] "to make every effort to uncover the crime." The Kabardino-Balkaria Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced a reward for information that helps identify the killers. Aushev was buried Monday in the village of Surkhakhi, where more than 3,000 supporters came to mourn his death [Moscow Times report].

Ashev's death is at least the third killing of a human rights defender in Russia in recent months. In August, Chechen activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report] after being abducted [Moscow Times report] from the office of her charity organization. The killings followed the kidnapping and shooting death [JURIST report] of one of Chechnya's best-known rights activists, Nataliya Estemirova [BBC obituary], in July. Earlier this year, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin [official profile] expressed concern [JURIST report] that rights activists in Russia were being attacked with greater frequency.






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Uruguay voters reject referendum to end amnesty for dictator-era rights abuses
Ann Riley on October 26, 2009 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Uruguayan voters on Sunday rejected an initiative to end the country's Expiry Law [text, in Spanish], which grants amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during the country’s 1973-1985 dictatorship. With approximately 48 percent voting in support, the referendum [text, PDF, in Spanish] to overturn the law fell short [El Pais report, in Spanish] of the required 50 percent majority to nullify. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website, in Spanish] last week urged [press release] voters to overturn the law, stating that the victims of the human rights violations deserved justice. AI alleges that 99 percent of political prisoners held under the dictatorship, numbering up to 7,000, claim to have been tortured.

Last week, the Uruguay Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] found [JURIST report] the Expiry Law unconstitutional. The court's ruling applies only to the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, allegedly murdered by the military in 1974. The Court ruled that the law violated separation of powers and constitutional sovereignty [El Pais report, in Spanish]. Though the law was not overturned by referendum Sunday, the ruling is likely to influence future decisions. Adopted in 1986 and upheld by a previous referendum in 1989, the law requires judges to consult executive officials to determine its applicability when hearing cases involving human rights violations. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar 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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Hawaii Supreme Court orders monthly closures to ease financial problems
Jay Carmella on October 26, 2009 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Hawaii [official website] announced [order, PDF; press release] Friday that state courts will be closed two Fridays each month beginning in November 2009. Chief Justice Ronald Moon [official profile] found that the difficult decision [Honolulu Star-Bulletin report] was necessary due to the financial conditions that currently exist in Hawaii. Moon ordered:


In consideration of (1) the economic circumstance of the State of Hawaii, (2) Judiciary employee furloughs due to the economic circumstance of the State of Hawaii, and (3) other resource changes due to the economic circumstance of the State of Hawaii, the courts of the State of Hawaii will be closed on days that would, in other circumstances, be usual and customary court business days.

The court's schedule [PDF] attempts to match other state government departments that have faced similar challenges due to employee furloughs. This includes the Department of Education [official website], which has faced criticism [Honolulu Star-Bulletin report] over a proposal to reduce the number of school days for financial reasons.

State workers in Hawaii are frustrated by the furloughs [Honolulu Star-Bulletin report], which began last week. The state has justified the action, by stating that furloughs are preferable to lay-offs or tax increases. Hawaii is not the only state judiciary that has faced closures due to financial concerns. In September, California began [JURIST report] closing state courts in an effort to reduce the state's budget gap. The California closures were authorized as part of California Code 68070 [text], which allows for closure of the courts one day per month, "for the transaction of judicial business for one day per month and may adopt rules of court to implement this section."





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ICTY adjourns Karadzic war crimes trial after failure to appear
Patrice Collins on October 26, 2009 12:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Monday temporarily adjourned proceedings against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] after Karadzic failed to appear for the opening of his war crimes trial. Karadzic announced last week that he planned to boycott [JURIST report] his trial because he had not been given adequate time to prepare a defense. Presiding judge O-Gon Kwon adjourned the first day of the prosecution's opening statements after waiting for Karadzic, who is representing himself, to appear. Kwon said proceedings would resume Tuesday, effectively preparing to try Karadzic in absentia if he fails to appear again. Karadzic's legal adviser told the Associated Press that Karadzic would not attend [AP report] on Tuesday.

Kwon previously denied Karadzic's request for a 10-month delay last month. Earlier this month, Karadzic asked the UN Security Council to grant him immunity from trial after the ICTY appeals chamber rejected [JURIST reports] his argument that he was promised immunity by former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke in exchange for his resignation. Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.






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Ontario law banning use of handheld devices while driving takes effect
Zach Zagger on October 26, 2009 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] An Ontario law [text] banning the use of handheld devices while driving took effect [press release] Monday, outlawing text messaging and talking on a cellphone while behind the wheel. The ban makes it illegal to use any handheld wireless communication devices but also extends to any device with a screen that can take the driver's eye off the road, including laptops and portable DVD players. Popular devices like iPods and GPSs are still legal as long as they are mounted to the dashboard. There are also exceptions for emergency workers and for all calls to 911. The new law will impose a CAN $500 fine [press release] after a three-month education period that ends on February 1, 2010.

Ontario joins other jurisdictions in Canada and the US to pass similar bans including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, California, and New York. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving. A 2006 study [study] by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute [official website] found that drivers who are dialing a handheld phone are 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash or near crash. Still, some have criticized bans on using technology while driving. Dave McCurdy, CEO of the Auto Alliance [advocacy website], an automobile industry advocacy group, cautioned [Huffington Post op-ed] that increasing restrictions on technology use in automobiles may cross a threshold and hinder more than help. But the Auto Alliance's official position [press release] supports legislation that bans text messaging while driving.






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South Korea scientist found guilty of embezzlement and bioethics violations
Jonathan Cohen on October 26, 2009 10:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The Seoul Central District court on Monday found Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk [BBC profile] guilty of embezzling research funds and bioethics violations. Hwang was acquitted on fraud charges and given a two-year suspended sentence instead of the four-year sentence requested by the prosecution. Hwang, who worked for the Seoul National University (SNU) [academic website], was charged [JURIST report] in 2006 with fraud, embezzlement, and violating bioethics laws for his claims that he had produced stem cell lines by cloning human embryos – a breakthrough that could lead to therapies for Alzheimer's disease and other now-incurable illnesses. SNU later discredted [report text] both claims.

Hwang, who is accused of using some USD $2.91 million dollars in public money to buy human eggs for his project, has apologized for the false claims but said he was deceived by two subordinates. Hwang sued SNU for reinstatement after his trial began [JURIST reports] in June 2006. In his reinstatement lawsuit, Hwang argued that Alzheimer's patients and others who could benefit in the future from Hwang's stem cell research were harmed by Hwang's dismissal, which prevented him from conducting further stem cell research. The UN called for a global ban [JURIST report] on human cloning [JURIST archive] in 2007.






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Former Uruguay military chief sentenced to 25 years for homicides during dictatorship
Safiya Boucaud on October 26, 2009 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Uruguay military dictator and army chief Gregorio Alvarez was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday for his role in 37 homicides during the country's 1973-1985 military rule [LOC backgrounder]. Alvarez, who served as commander in chief and later as de facto president, was allegedly responsible for the secret transfers and disappearance [El Pais report, in Spanish] of about 150 political prisoners in 1978, all of whom are presumed dead. Also Thursday, former navy captain Juan Carlos Larcebau was sentenced to 20 years on charges of aggravated homicide for his role in the killings of 29 people during the same era. Alvarez, who was indicted [JURIST report] for crimes against humanity in 2007, was not present in court when the sentence was handed down, citing illness.

Last week, the Uruguay Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled that the country's 1986 amnesty law [text], which has prevented suspects accused of human rights violations during the country's dictatorship from being brought to trial, is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. That ruling applied only to that particular case, but may set a precedent for future cases. In 2006, eight former Uruguay police and military officers were indicted [JURIST report] on counts of kidnapping and conspiracy related to the 1976 disappearances of five members of a Uruguayan leftist group who fled to Argentina and were detained by police.






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Baghdad suicide bombers target justice ministry amidst election law crisis
Amelia Mathias on October 25, 2009 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Twin suicide bombings in Baghdad Sunday targeted the ministry of justice and the headquarters of the local provincial government ahead of an attempt this week by the Iraqi parliament [official website] to resolve a political stalemate that would permit changes to the country's election law. The blasts destroyed the front of the ministry building and killed at least 132 people [Al Jazeera report], with more bodies expected to be found. The elections, which are planned for January, cannot be held until a new election law is passed, and parliament continues to disagree about the exact changes to be made to the law, which was originally passed in September 2008. The attacks are currently being blamed [Telegraph report] on al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party.

The Iraqi parliament's last attempt to change the election law [JURIST report] took place earlier this week. Disputes over voting procedures in Kirkuk [JURIST news archive] have caused amendment attempts to fail repeatedly. Kirkuk is inhabited by Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds, and has been a point of contention between the ethnic groups. Kirkuk also consistently produces nearly one million barrels of oil per day, accounting for almost half of Iraqi exports. Although parliament was eventually able to pass the previous election law in September 2008, it failed to come to an agreement [JURIST report] before the summer recess which began in August of that year.






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Rights groups cite no detainee access in Guantanamo tour refusals
Brian Jackson on October 25, 2009 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International USA, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch [advocacy websites] on Friday turned down an opportunity to tour the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], citing lack of access to detainees. The groups regularly send observers to the facility who have the same level of access as journalists, but have long been lobbying for the same level of access granted to the Red Cross under the Geneva Conventions [text]. The groups believe that full access to detainees is crucial [AP report] to fulfilling their mandate of protecting human rights and civil liberties. The US Department of Defense, which extended this most recent visiting offer to the groups on October 8, has not responded to the refusals.

While the rights groups expressed dismay at not being granted access to detainees, they did applaud the Senate [AI press release] for passing a bill that would allow Guantanamo detainees to be tried in the US [JURIST report]. Last week the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving 13 Uighur [JURIST report] detainees who could be released into the US. The past month has seen a number of detainee releases, including repatriation of detainees to Kuwait and Yemen, and an approved transfer of eight Uighurs to Palau [JURIST reports].






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US 'swine flu' emergency declaration allows regulatory waivers
Steve Czajkowski on October 25, 2009 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama's Saturday emergency declaration [text, PDF; press release] on the H1N1 flu [CDC backgrounder] has granted Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] authority under section 1135 of the Social Security Act [text] to allow medical providers to bypass federal regulations when it comes to treating large numbers of infected people. Hospitals and other facilities will be allowed to set up off-site care in order to accommodate more people, and also take measures to prevent uninfected people from catching the virus. The declaration also allows Sebelius to temporarily waive or modify certain provisions of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule [HHS backgrounder] as required.

On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [official website] announced [press release] that 46 states had reported widespread influenza activity. It is believed that there have been more than 1,000 deaths directly attributed [Washington Post report] to the virus, with another 2,400 deaths presumed to be related. The CDC also reported [press release] Friday, that it has more than 14 million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine, and that it has already shipped more than 11 million doses. In addition to the resources available from the CDC, the US government has developed a website [official website] providing pandemic flu information to the public.






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Argentina court finds retired officers guilty of involvement in 'Dirty War'
Christian Ehret on October 24, 2009 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] An Argentinian court Friday sentenced retired general Jorge Olivera Rovere and retired colonel Jose Menendez to life sentences for crimes committed during the Argentine military dictatorship, commonly referred to as the "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Rovere, who had authority over several detention centers during the dictatorship, was found guilty of four murders [Momento24 report] and responsible for 116 abductions and disappearances. He denied his involvement in all of the abductions and two of the murders. Menendez served as second chief of the Air Defense Artillery 101 between 1976 and 1979. Three others were acquitted during the proceedings.

During the "Dirty War," spanning between 1976 and 1983, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents. In August, former Argentine general Santiago Omar Riveros was convicted of human rights abuses [JURIST report] and sentenced to life in prison. Riveros was found guilty of killing 15-year-old Floreal Avellaneda and detaining his mother during the dictatorship. Also in August, 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 in July 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.






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Holder says US anti-terrorism efforts must respect rule of law
Brian Jackson on October 24, 2009 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the need for authorities to adhere to the rule of law when conducting investigations into potential terrorist activities in a speech [text] Friday on the role the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] plays in investigating terrorism. Holder appeared to take issue with how such investigations were handled by the Bush administration, saying:

Let me be clear – we cannot and need not sacrifice our core values in order to ensure our safety. Adherence to the rule of law strengthens our security by depriving terrorist organizations of their prime recruiting tools and legitimacy. When we commit to operating within a Constitutional framework, we distinguish ourselves from the enemy we are acting to defeat. We have to lead not only by overwhelming strength, but also by good example. A few seem to have forgotten what, to me, is this most basic of American values and have lost touch with what truly distinguishes us as a nation.
Holder concluded with a call to service, encouraging interested individuals to contribute not only as a part of the DOJ, but at the state and local law enforcement levels as well.





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Germany constitutional court rules same-sex partners have pension rights
Christian Ehret on October 24, 2009 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Germany's constitutional court [official website, in German] on Thursday ruled [press release] that surviving partners in a registered civil partnership have a right to collect under the occupational pension scheme for civil service employees. The court found that affording such payments to surviving spouses in a marriage but excluding civil partners violated the equal treatment provision in Article 3.1 of Germany's Basic Law [materials, in German]. The complaint was brought by a civil servant in a registered partnership who was denied placement [Deutsche Welle report] in a tax class for married employees by a public insurer, resulting in a 74 euros a month difference in pension payments and excluding his partner the right to collect on the pension in the result of his death. The court reasoned that such unequal treatment required justification because of the effect it had on same-sex partnerships.

While Germany does not allow same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], German law affords several rights [ILGA backgrounder] to registered same-sex partnerships including alimony and divorce, limited adoption provisions and pension rights that exclude federal civil servants. Belgium, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands all allow same-sex marriages while several other European countries allow partnerships with limited rights. Earlier this month, a Russian court refused to recognize [JURIST report] a marriage between two women. In August, Portugal's high court ruled [JURIST report] that the right to a same-sex marriage was not present in the country's constitution. In June, Ireland passed a bill that gave limited rights to same-sex partners. Last year, the European Court of Justice, spurred by a complaint from a German man, ruled that same-sex partners have a right to survivor pensions [JURIST report].






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Israel high court rules against segregation of West Bank road
Sarah Miley on October 23, 2009 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] on Thursday ruled against [judgement, PDF, in Hebrew] a military order prohibiting Palestinians from traveling on a central West Bank road. Finding in favor of a petition [press release] submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) [advocacy website], the court held that impeding the rights of several thousand Palestinians barred from the road was not justified by the benefits it gave to less than 200 Israelis who live near the road. Despite the ruling, ACRI lawyer Limor Yehuda [official profile] said the group was still concerned over other travel limitations on West Bank Palestinians:


It's important to analyze this ruling in its broader context, namely the institutionalization of segregation between Israelis and Palestinians in occupied territory. Israel has prohibited Palestinians from traveling on other roads in the West Bank and employs segregation there in other domains such as the justice system... As such, it is alarming that Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish refers to the notion of proportionality in the present ruling and avoids confronting the principle at stake: the legality of Israel's policy of segregation and discrimination in the West Bank.

The road at issue is one of several disputed roads that run between Israel and the West Bank [BBC backgrounder]. ACRI's 2007 petition for the desegregation of another such road [press release], Route 443, led to an interim decision allowing segregation until May 2010.

The Israeli Supreme Court has recently dealt with other issues concerning travel and Palestinian civil rights. Last year the court ruled [JURIST report] that the government must change the proposed route for its West Bank security barrier [official website; JURIST news archive], finding that the current plan encroaches too much on Palestinian territory. The court found the government in contempt [Jerusalem Post report] for failing to follow its previous instructions [JURIST report] to infringe on as little Palestinian land as possible. The barrier has been denounced by Palestinians as a land grab that has broken up communities and families, but Israeli officials insist it is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. In 2004, the International Court of Justice [official website] issued a non-binding advisory opinion [text; JURIST report] that parts of the wall should be torn down.





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House committee approves consumer financial protection agency legislation
Patrice Collins on October 23, 2009 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Financial Services Committee [official website] voted 39-29 Thursday to approve [press release] a bill [HR 3126 materials] that would create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The agency would regulate mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer credit instruments. Businesses that offer financial services such as car and home mortgage loans would be monitored by agency authorities. Although the agency would have examiners with vested authority to enter financial institutions, the bill states that all but the largest banks would be spared from such close scrutiny, including retailers, car dealers, accountants, and lawyers. Unlike existing regulatory agencies that have authority only over particular types of institutions, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency would have greater breadth in its institutional oversight. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner [official profile] hailed the bill [press release] as:

an important milestone in our efforts to reform the financial system.

This bill will create one agency focused on one simple mission - protecting consumers. While there is more work ahead, today we are much closer to putting in place strict new rules of the road for the financial industry.

The controversial agency has been rigorously opposed by the banking industry. Geithner appealed to Congress not to weaken the bill in the face of attacks from the American Bankers Association and the Chamber of Commerce [organization websites], which led a $2 million advertising campaign opposing the legislation.

The Financial Services Committee passed the legislation after originally delaying [JURIST report] it at the behest of financial industry leaders in July. The creation of the agency is a key step in the Obama administration's plans to tighten financial industry regulations. The administration originally proposed a broad series of financial regulatory reforms [press release] in June, calling [JURIST report] for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, among other reforms.





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Czech president says EU proposal satisfies demands for Lisbon Treaty opt-out clause
Sarah Paulsworth on October 23, 2009 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] The office of Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus [official website, in Czech] issued a brief statement [text, in Czech] Friday indicating that a proposal from the Swedish presidency of the EU [official website] satisfies demands Klaus has made for an opt-out on the bloc's Treaty of Lisbon [EU materials; JURIST news archive]. Klaus is seeking an opt-out clause that would shield his country from property claims by ethnic Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. The two-sentence statement provides no details about what the EU has proposed. President of the European Council, Swedish Prime Minster Fredrik Reinfeldt [official website] indicated details of the opt-out clause will be finalized during an EU summit next week in Brussels, saying [statement], "I welcome the statement by President Klaus. The Presidency will continue to work with this in view of next week's European [Summit].”

The Czech Republic has remained the lone holdout in the Lisbon Treaty ratification process, since Ireland’s ratification [JURIST report] last week. All 27 EU members must ratify by the treaty before it goes into effect. Poland and Britain already have opt-out clauses. The Czech Republic's Constitutional Court [official website; Czech] is scheduled to conduct a public hearing [JURIST report] on October 27 on challenges to the country's signing of the treaty. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] urged [press release] the Czech Republic to sign the treaty and not raise artificial objections, saying it would be "completely absurd" to reopen the ratification process in the other member states.






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ASEAN leaders establish human rights commission for region
Zach Zagger on October 23, 2009 10:40 AM ET

[JURIST] The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) [official website] announced Friday the establishment [press release, PDF] of a new commission on human rights for the region. The body will be known as the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and was introduced [opening remarks] by Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [BBC profile] at the annual ASEAN three-day summit in Cha-am, Thailand. The AICHR will be supported by financial contributions from the ASEAN member states, and ASEAN members have already pledged to provide $200,000 for the commission's first year. ASEAN leaders said the purpose of the body was to promote and protect of human rights in Southeast Asia:

The body was mandated to promote and protect human rights by promoting public awareness and education, providing advice services and capacity building to government agencies and ASEAN bodies, developing regional norms, obtaining information from Member States, engaging with stakeholders and other institutions, conducting studies on thematic issues as well as preparing reports to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, in accordance with its Terms of Reference (TOR) prepared by the High Level Panel and approved by ASEAN Foreign Ministers in July.
Despite its mission, some human rights activists have criticized [Irrawaddy report] the new body, saying that it may not be independent enough to be effective.

In February, ASEAN leaders met to discuss [JURIST report] the creation of a human rights commission, which was called for by the November 2007 ASEAN Charter [text, PDF; JURIST report]. Article 14 of the charter provides for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body in order to promote and protect human rights and other fundamental freedoms in member states. In July 2007, ASEAN members agreed in principle [JURIST report] to the creation of the human rights body, though Myanmar [JURIST report], Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam [JURIST news archives] have objected to its creation.





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UN investigator condemns North Korea human rights violations
Andrea Bottorff on October 23, 2009 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn [official profile] on Thursday criticized [UN News Centre report; press conference video] the country's "abysmal" and ongoing human rights violations in an independent report submitted to the UN General Assembly. Muntarbhorn said that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations, and widespread hunger. The report claims that nearly 9 million people in North Korea suffer from food shortages, despite government revenues generated by several billion dollars in export trade. Citing World Food Program (WFP) [official website] numbers, Muntarbhorn said that less than a fourth of those affected by shortages receive international food aid, which has decreased recently in a backlash against the government's nuclear weapons testing [JURIST report]. Muntarbhorn urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il [BBC profile] to cease human rights abuses and work closely with international aid organizations. North Korea's Deputy UN Ambassador Pak Tok-Hun condemned the report [NYT report] and denied the allegations.

Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who was appointed as a UN human rights expert in 2004, has not been allowed to enter North Korea to investigate. He based his report on testimonies of experts in the country and of North Korean emigrants. In March, Muntarbhorn told the UN Human Rights Council [official website] that he found egregious human rights violations [JURIST report] in North Korea. In October 2008, Muntarbhorn urged [JURIST report] North Korea to improve their treatment of prisoners and unsuccessful defectors, as well as to cooperate in locating kidnapped foreign citizens. In January 2008, Muntarbhorn made similar comments during his visit with a special UN envoy to Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. North Korea has frequently been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].






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France constitutional court approves Internet piracy law
Brian Jackson on October 23, 2009 9:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The French Constitutional Council [official website, in French] on Thursday approved [judgment, in French] a controversial Internet piracy law [JURIST news archive] that would restrict access to individuals who use the Internet to violate intellectual property laws. The bill was approved by the French Parliament [JURIST report] in September. Under the so-called "three strikes" law, the French government could send notices to Internet service providers to terminate an individual's Internet access for up to one year after a third violation of intellectual property laws for downloading or sharing movies and music. One of the key reasons this version of the law was upheld by the court, after it struck down an earlier version [JURIST report], is the requirement of judicial review prior to denial of Internet service. With court approval, the French government will move swiftly to enact the law. It is believed that the first notifications to violators could be sent at the beginning of 2010 [EU Observer report].

In contrast to the efforts of the French government, the Finnish government last week announced that Internet access is a legal right [JURIST report] becoming, the first country to make such a statement. In August, the British Department for Business Innovation and Skills [official website] proposed stricter sanctions [JURIST reports] against illegal file-sharing that would include restricting and suspending user Internet access.






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US Treasury issues rulings restricting executive compensation
Brian Jackson on October 23, 2009 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Treasury Department [official website] on Thursday released a series of rulings that would restrict executive compensation [press release] at institutions that received special assistance from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) [text]. Among the changes are a cash cap on compensation of $500,000 per year for most relevant employees, immediate vesting of stock options for those paid in that manner, and a limit on stock provided as incentive compensation, including ties to corporate performance and repayment of TARP funds. The restrictions would apply to the five most senior executives and the other 20 highest paid employees at American International Group (AIG), Citigroup, Bank of America, Chrysler, General Motors (GM), GMAC, and Chrysler Financial [corporate websites]. Also on Thursday, the Federal Reserve issued its own plan [press release, PDF] to monitor and reform compensation strategies at 28 large banking corporations, citing a need to, "Provide employees incentives that do not encourage excessive risk-taking beyond the organization’s ability to effectively identify and manage risk." As expected for an issue as contentious as executive compensation, responses to these restrictions were mixed. New York Governor David Paterson applauded the accountability [pres release] that such measures would provide, but lamented the loss of state tax revenue. Robert Reich, the secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, and a member of President Barack Obama's economic advisory team, expressed similar mixed feelings [Huffington Post op-ed], focusing instead on the lack of true regulatory reform to prevent a similar economic collapse in the future.

In late July, the US House of Representatives passed HR 3269 [JURIST report], which would regulate executive compensation. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Capping executive compensation is just one way the federal government has identified to protect consumers from future economic turmoil. In September, Obama renewed a call for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency and greater financial regulations [JURIST report]. In March, the House passed a bill that would impose a punitive tax [JURIST report] on bonuses received by executives at institutions that received TARP funds, however that bill remains in the Senate, with no significant action taken as of yet.






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Senate approves bill extending hate crimes protection
Ximena Marinero on October 23, 2009 7:28 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday voted 68-29 [roll call] to approve a bill that extends the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act [S 909 text] is part of a $681 billion military appropriations conference report for fiscal year 2010, and enables the Department of Justice to investigate or prosecute hate crimes that result in death or serious injury by assisting state and local authorities or by assuming a principal role if those authorities are unwilling or unable to act. The bill also creates a grant program to assist state and local authorities in combating juvenile hate crimes. Organizations like the Mathew Shepard Foundation and the Human Rights Campaign [advocacy websites] and Democratic Senators like Patrick Leahy (VT) and Dianne Feinstein (CA) [press releases] hailed the favorable vote on the act, which must now be signed into law by President Barack Obama. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) deplored [press release] the vote as a "a shame that this piece of legislation was added to a bill that's supposed to be about supporting our troops," while Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) characterized the bill as unacceptable [press release] because it "says certain victims of crime are more worthy of protection than others."

The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the House of Representatives earlier this month, also facing Republican opposition. The House approved similar bills in April 2009 and May 2007 [JURIST reports]. The Senate also passed [JURIST report] similar legislation in the form of an amendment to the 2008 Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials]. However, the broadened language was ultimately removed [JURIST report] during House and Senate negotiations.






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US urges Sri Lanka to investigate and prosecute armed conflict rights violations
Ximena Marinero on October 23, 2009 6:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Sri Lanka must investigate reports of human rights violations and war crimes during the last months of the internal armed civil conflict [JURIST report] by both government and rebel forces and prosecute those responsible, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] urged [transcript] Thursday. The statement from DOS spokesperson Ian Kelly came the same day the DOS released a report [text, PDF] on incidents that took place during those final months. The report, mandated by the Congressional Committees on Appropriations, documents more than 160 credible reports of incidents between January and May 2009, addressing subjects including children in armed conflict, enforced disappearances, harm to civilians by both the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST archive] forces, and the critical humanitarian conditions in Internal Displaced Persons and No Fire Zone Camps. The report abstains from legal conclusions or determinations of accuracy. The government of Sri Lanka rejected [statement] the findings of the report, characterizing it as "unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence," and an effort "to bring the Government of Sri Lanka into disrepute, through fabricated allegations and concocted stories." Also on Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution [text; press release] calling for Sri Lanka to improve the conditions [Al Jazeera report] of more than 250,000 Tamil civilians held in camps, "asking that their return be organized and that humanitarian organisations be given free access to the camps."

Last month, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the Sri Lankan government to conduct an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes during the civil war against the rebel LTTE forces, and to make quicker progress in shutting down camps and achieving political reconciliation among the country's warring ethnic factions. The Sri Lankan government finished its internal investigation of human rights violations in June while refusing to permit [JURIST reports] an external probe to conduct a full investigation. Concern in the international community continues over potential human rights violations in the trial of LTTE members and for Tamil civilians in camps. In May, as the country's decades-long civil war was coming to an end, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa denied [JURIST report] humanitarian groups full access to refugee camps, saying the camps still needed to be screened for rebel fighters.






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FCC approves adoption of 'net neutrality' rules
Brian Jackson on October 22, 2009 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to approve the formation of rules [notice, PDF] mandating so-called "net neutrality" [Google backgrounder; JURIST news archive], promising openness commensurate with the ideals of the Internet itself. The idea of net neutrality, supported unanimously by the FCC commissioners, is to allow an open flow of information over the Internet, regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. The implementation of new rules has been vigorously opposed by telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T [corporate websites], among others, which argue that such rules would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic. The FCC at the same time announced a call for public input [press release, PDF] to the process, in order to maximize consumer benefit under the proposed rules. Verizon released a statement [text] in response, calling the new rules an improvement over those previously considered, but renewing its claim that the Internet, as currently constructed, works efficiently.

The issue of net neutrality arises from concerns that broadband providers should not be free to accept money from content providers in exchange for preferential bandwidth treatment or to interfere with the content of competitors. In September, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new regulations [JURIST report], including preventing Internet providers from discriminating against particular Internet content and ensuring that Internet providers are transparent about their network practices. Last year, the FCC said that it was ready to act [JURIST report] to ensure a proper balance is struck between consumer proponents of net neutrality principles and the telecommunication industry's interest in controlling the flow and content of Internet traffic over its networks. In 2006, the House Judiciary Committee approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality bill [HR 5417 materials] that would have applied federal antitrust law to alleged breaches of net neutrality, but the legislation was never approved by the full House.






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Nokia sues Apple alleging iPhone patent infringement
Brian Jackson on October 22, 2009 1:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Finnish telecommunications company Nokia [corporate website] filed suit [press release] Thursday against Apple [corporate website] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware [official website], alleging that Apple infringed 10 of its patents on its iPhone. The patents cover wireless data transmission, speech coding, and security/encryption, specifically GSM, UTMS (3G), and WLAN standards. Nokia alleges that Apple has infringed its right to exclude others from those technologies since the first iPhone was released in 2007. Nokia's Vice-President of Legal and Intellectual Property Ilkka Rahnasto said that:


those companies who contribute in technology development to establish standards create intellectual property, which others then need to compensate for. ... By refusing to agree appropriate terms for Nokia's intellectual property, Apple is attempting to get a free ride on the back of Nokia's innovation.

It is believed that Nokia is seeking between $200 and $400 million in damages from Apple, a relatively low amount to seek from a company that expects revenues [MSNBC report] of over $11 billion this year. There has been no official response to the filing by Apple.

Nokia's suit is not the first time Apple has faced legal action over its iPhone brand. In November 2008, EMT Technologies Inc. sued Apple, claiming that Apple infringed its patent [Computerworld report] for "apparatus and method of manipulating a region on a wireless device screen for viewing, zooming and scrolling Internet content." Earlier that year, Apple settled a suit [CNET report] with Klausner Technologies, which, in December 2007, alleged Apple infringed a patent [CNET report] relating to its visual voicemail function. Earlier in 2007, Apple was the target of another patent infringement suit, this time relating to the keyboard on the iPhone [Ars Technica report].





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Canada Supreme Court declares Quebec language education law unconstitutional
Carrie Schimizzi on October 22, 2009 12:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Thursday unanimously struck down [judgment text; press release] a Quebec law restricting certain students' access to English-language schools as unconstitutional. The court's decision overturns Bill 104 [text], enacted by the Quebec government in 2002, rejecting two appeals by the Quebec government to protect the legislation. The controversial law was adopted to promote the French language in Quebec and closed a loophole in Bill 101 [text], which had allowed parents to enroll ineligible students in English-language public schools by first sending them to private English school for at least one year. The law was originally ruled unconstitutional [judgment text] by the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2007 for violating section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [official website], which guarantees minority-language educational rights. The Supreme Court is suspending the law for one year to allow Quebec's National Assembly to review and replace the legislation.

Quebec's strict language education laws have long been an issue of political debate. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld [JURIST report] Bill 101 itself, which requires French-speaking parents to send their children to francophone schools. Under the bill, parents must have received the majority of their own schooling in English to be able to have their children educated in that language. Eight families had sought to prove that Bill 101 was discriminatory in precluding their children from receiving an education in English. The court found that members of the linguistic majority have no constitutional right to an education in English, the minority language in Quebec.






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INTERPOL arrests Rwanda genocide suspect in Italy
Steve Dotterer on October 22, 2009 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] INTERPOL [official website] announced Thursday that Rwandan genocide suspect Emmanuel Uwayezu has been arrested [press release] in Italy. The former Rwandan clergyman had long been sought by Rwandan authorities in connection with the killings of approximately 80 Gikongoro province students in May 1994. At the time, Uwayezu served as director of the Groupe Scolaire Marie Merci college in Kibeho. INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services Jean-Michael Louboutin praised collaborative efforts between Italian and Rwandan police forces that resulted in Uwayezu's arrest:


The arrest of Uwayezu demonstrates the power and effectiveness of international co-operation between police worldwide in obtaining information in relation to the identification, location and apprehension of fugitives around the world.

The success comes in light of INTERPOL's history of collaboration with national police forces around the world to bring those accused of war crimes in Rwanda to justice. Uwayezu, who remains in Italian custody, will be extradited to Rwanda, where he faces charges of genocide, conspiracy and other crimes.

Uwayezu's arrest comes two weeks after the apprehension [JURIST report] of another high-profile Rwandan fugitive, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, a former Hutu intelligence chief wanted for his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. Nizeyimana was one of four suspects sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] in order to complete its work. Last week, Nizeyimana pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.





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Europe rights court rules Turkish authorities violated press freedom
Dwyer Arce on October 22, 2009 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment] Tuesday that Turkish authorities violated European human rights laws in shutting down four newspapers accused of publishing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The daily publications were shut down for periods of 15 days to one month between November 2006 and October 2007 on the orders of an Istanbul court. The unanimous ruling by the ECHR found that this periodic closure was in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF], which guarantees freedom of the press in signatory states. The ECHR stated in a press release [text, PDF]


The Court held that less draconian measures could have been envisaged by the Turkish authorities, such as confiscation of particular issues of the newspapers or restrictions on the publication of specific articles. The Court held unanimously that by having suspended entire publications, however briefly, the authorities had restricted unjustifiably the essential role of the press as a public watch-dog in a democratic society, in violation of Article 10.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the Turkish government and has engaged in an often violent struggle for autonomy in the Kurdish populated southeast. Since August, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [BBC profile] has sought to end the 25-year conflict [BBC report], which has been a major impediment to Turkey's bid to join the European Union (EU) [official website]. Last week, a European Commission found that freedom of the press remains a major concern [JURIST report] for Turkish EU accession. In May, the EC-Turkey Association Council urged [JURIST report] Turkey to improve its human rights record.





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Lithuania lawmakers demand investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons
Haley Wojdowski on October 22, 2009 11:39 AM ET

[JURIST] Lithuanian lawmakers on Wednesday demanded an investigation [press release, in Lithuanian] into allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] established a secret prison [JURIST news archive] for al Qaeda suspects in the Baltic country. The Lithuanian Parliament [official website, in Lithuanian] National Security and Defense Committee said it wants the full 141-member assembly to approve the probe next week. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite [official website, in Lithuanian] on Tuesday said that she has suspicions about the existence of secret prisons in the country [press release, in Lithuanian] and, if these facilities existed, that Lithuania should take responsibility for its actions and promise it will never happen again. Former CIA officials have reportedly told ABC News states that Lithuania provided the CIA with facilities [ABC News report] for a secret prison for high value al Qaeda suspects in order to improve relations with the US. The facilities were allegedly located in the outskirts of Vilnius, the country's capital, from September 2004 through November 2005, when they were moved because of public disclosures about the program. Former president Valdus Adamkus and former prime minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who were both in office during the specified time period, have denied reports of any clandestine prison in Lithuania. Lithuania, which in February announced [JURIST report] it had been asked to take in inmates from Guantanamo, warned that it would not accept any until cleared of CIA allegations.

On his third day in office in January, US President Barack Obama ordered the closure [JURIST report] of all CIA secret prisons. The European Parliament voted [JURIST report] in February 2007 to approve a report that condemned member states for cooperating with the CIA in operating secret prisons. In January 2007, the UK admitted knowledge of the CIA prison network, and then-president George W. Bush publicly acknowledged [JURIST reports] in September 2006 that these types of facilities existed. In June 2006, the Council of Europe [official website] released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] that 14 European countries collaborated with the CIA by taking an active or passive role in a "global spider's web" of secret prisons and rendition flights. The existence of CIA prisons in Europe was first reported in November 2005.






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Karadzic threatens boycott of ICTY war crimes trial
Daniel Makosky on October 22, 2009 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] on Thursday announced his intention to boycott the opening of his war crimes trial, set to come before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Monday. Karadzic claims that the tribunal's schedule does not provide him adequate time to prepare [text, PDF] his defense, and that two years would be necessary for a case of such magnitude. ICTY spokesperson Nerma Jelacic said that the trial would proceed as scheduled despite Karadzic's statement. Karadzic, underscoring his belief that the trial process has been rushed, said:


all this is happening in unequal, disproportionate and unjust circumstances, where the defence is deprived of an absolute minimum conditions for the preparations that would make the defence a serious and respectable opponent.

Also Thursday, the Swedish Ministry of Justice announced that it will release [press release] Karadzic's successor, Biljana Plavsic [BBC profile], next week after the completion of two-thirds of her 11-year sentence. The ICTY approved her release [JURIST report] last month.

Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. In June, the ICTY said that Karadzic's trial was expected to conclude in early 2012 [JURIST report]. His trial is planned to be the tribunal's last. Karadzic has twice refused to enter pleas [JURIST report] to 11 charges against him including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation, and "other inhumane acts," for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Karadzic was originally indicted [text, PDF] by the ICTY in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity until his arrest last year [JURIST report].





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Cambodia parliament votes to limit mass demonstrations
Megan McKee on October 22, 2009 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The Cambodian National Assembly [official website] approved legislation Wednesday banning demonstrations of more than 200 people. The bill, which passed [Phnom Penh Post report] Cambodia's lower house by a vote of 76-25, would also ban any gathering inside or outside the gates of factories or government buildings, and would require groups to obtain permission for planned demonstrations a minimum of 12 hours in advance. Officials from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) [party website] described the bill as an initiative to enhance security and public order. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party [party website] said that the legislation is a pretext to limit free speech [AFP report] and stifle dissent. The bill must be approved by the Cambodian Senate and King Norodom Sihamoni [official websites] before becoming law.

Earlier this month, the National Assembly approved [Phnom Penh Post report] a measure criminalizing defamation and insult, which was also opposed on free speech grounds. In August, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi [official profile] said that Cambodian restrictions on free speech were inconsistent [press release, PDF] with international standards. Subedi's comments came after the conviction [JURIST report] of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua on charges that he defamed Prime Minister Hun Sen [official profile]. By way of contrast, the South Korean Constitutional Court [official website, in Korean] overturned a ban on nighttime assemblies last month, ruling it to be an unconstitutional [JURIST] violation of the right to free assembly. South Korea's Assembly and Demonstration law was enacted in 1962, also under the auspices of protecting national security and public order.






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Military judges grant continuances in Guantanamo detainee cases
Christian Ehret on October 22, 2009 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military judges on Wednesday granted continuances for prosecutors in the cases of two Sudanese detainees allegedly involved with al Qaeda. Noor Uthman Mohammed [DOD materials; charge sheet, PDF], who is accused of working as a weapons instructor and logistician in Afghanistan, has already had his case delayed twice before at the request of the Department of Defense. Ibrahim al Qosi [DOD materials; charge sheet, PDF] is accused of serving as Osama Bin Laden's bodyguard and driver in Afghanistan, as a supply officer at a Jalalabad compound and as a member of a mortar crew. The continuances will make way for a decision [AP report] on whether to hold the remaining Guantanamo detainee proceedings in civilian or military court.

There are currently six active military commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. On Tuesday, the US Senate voted in favor [JURIST report] of a bill [HR 2892] that would permit Guantanamo detainees to be brought to the US for trial. The measure was part of a $42.7 billion Homeland Security spending bill and would require the Obama administration to develop a plan for addressing the anticipated January 2010 closure date of the facility. Last year, charges against Uthman were dismissed [JURIST reports], although he remained held until new charges were filed. Al Qosi was originally accused of being an al Qaeda payroll clerk but those charges were later dropped [Miami Herald report].






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Kuwait constitutional court rules women do not need permission to get passport
Ximena Marinero on October 22, 2009 8:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kuwaiti Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that a 1962 law requiring a woman's male guardian to grant her permission to obtain a passport is unconstitutional. The court found [Kuwait Times report] that the article in the Personal Status Law that required a woman to obtain the approval of her husband, her parents, or her guardian before she could obtain a passport violated guarantees of personal freedom and gender equality in the Kuwaiti Constitution [text]. Women and activists are currently working [Al Jazeera report] on equal access to government housing and the right of a mother to pass citizenship onto her children, while the conservative sector continues to advocate restricting women's rights and visibility in society. This month, legislator Mohammed al Hayef petitioned [National Report] the ministry of Islamic affairs to determine whether Sharia law requires women to wear the hijab as a result of ongoing controversy over recently elected female legislators who do not wear the hijab in the National Assembly.

Earlier this year, four women [BBC report] out of 16 candidates who ran were elected as the first female members of the Kuwait National Assembly. One of them served previously as the first appointed female member of Cabinet in 2005. The US State Department 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [DOS materials] praised [JURIST report] Kuwait for increased female participation in government. Women voted for the first time in parliamentary elections in June 2006, and the National Assembly granted [JURIST report] women the right to vote and run in parliamentary elections in May 2005.






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Guinea foreign minister to ICC: junta will prosecute rights abuses
Ximena Marinero on October 22, 2009 7:16 AM ET

[JURIST] Guinean Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandre Cece Loua [GuineeNews profile] said during a visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Wednesday that the Guinean judiciary is capable of and intends to investigate [press release] and prosecute any crimes committed during the September 28 incidents at Conakry [BBC backgrounder]. Loua met with Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] and Head of the Office of the Prosecutor's Jurisdiction, Complementarity, and Cooperation Division Beatrice Le Fraper du Hellen, who gave Loua a written request for information on the crimes and efforts to investigate and prosecute those crimes. As a party to the Rome Statute [text], Guinea continues to have the "primary responsibility to conduct proceedings", but the ICC would intervene "if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely."

The Guinea junta on Saturday appointed [AP report] a mixture of 31 doctors, lawyers, and judges to a National Commission for an Independent Investigation that will work with the committee established [JURIST report] last week by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] to look into possible human rights abuses by Guinean soldiers on September 28. Official Guinean reports recognize 56 deaths, in contrast to UN and human rights group estimates that more than 150 civilians were killed and more than 1,200 were wounded. The ICC last week placed the Guinean military under preliminary investigation [JURIST report] for human rights violations the September 28 incident. Military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile] led a coup in December 2008 after the death of president Lansana Conte [BBC obituary]. Despite an initial reaction welcoming [Washington Times report] Camara as a change from Conte's 24-year regime, there is now widespread opposition against the junta. Conditions inside the African country have since declined [HRW report] with a rise in violence and increasing crackdown on opposition.






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China courts sentence 6 to death for organized crimes
Carrie Schimizzi on October 21, 2009 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Two courts in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality sentenced [Xinhua report] six individuals to death on Tuesday for their connections with organized crime gangs. The First Intermediate People's Court sentenced two gang leaders to death and two other members to death with a two-year reprieve. Five other members of the gang were sentenced to 11 years to life in prison for violent crimes committed over an eight-year period. In another trial at the Third Intermediate People's Court, the leader of a 22-member gang was sentenced to death and his accomplice sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. The gang had been held responsible for the killing of one person and injuring at least four others last year. The gang's other 20 members were given sentences of one to 17 years. The convictions are the first in a series of organized crime trials expected to continue over the coming weeks.

Last week, the Urumqi People's Court sentenced [JURIST report] six individuals to death and three to life in prison for their role in the July riots in Urumqi [JURIST news archive], the capital of China's Xinjiang province. Earlier in the week, six other individuals were sentenced to death, and one more was sentenced to life in prison, for their roles in the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents that claimed the lives of approximately 200 people. In July, China said that it planned to reduce [China Daily report] the number of executions it conducts. Anti-death-penalty group Hands Off Cain has said that 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. Last year, China's chief justice instructed judges to impose harsh sentences [JURIST report], including the death penalty, for violent crimes.






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Germany appeals court rules trial of accused Nazi guard can proceed
Hillary Stemple on October 21, 2009 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, in German] rejected appeals by alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile, JURIST news archive] on Wednesday, setting the stage for his trial to begin next month. The rejected appeals [AP report] were filed in regards to Demjanjuk's health issues and the decision to keep him in custody. The decision upholds an earlier determination by the Munich Regional Court that he is fit to stand trial [JURIST report]. Demjanjuk faces 27,900 accessory counts stemming from his alleged involvement as a guard at the Sobibor [Death Camps backgrounder] concentration camp. The former Ohio resident was deported by the US in May after exhausting his appeals and after the German courts rejected his bid to block extradition [JURIST reports]. The court's decision that the trial may proceed is final and cannot be appealed.

In similar proceedings, Spanish judge Ismeal Moreno issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] last month for US residents Johann Leprich and Anton Tittjung and Austrian resident Josias Kumpf who are accused of being former Nazi guards. Demjanjuk is considered a fourth suspect in the case, but prosecutors in that case did not seek a warrant for his arrest in light of the German proceedings. A Spanish prosecutor asked in May that arrest warrants be issued [JURIST report] under Spain's universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] doctrine, which gives Spain jurisdiction over foreign torture, terrorism, and war crimes only if the case is not subject to the legal system of the country involved. The warrants were issued for the alleged torture and disappearance [El Pais report, in Spanish] of more than 4,300 Spaniards at the Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, and Flossenburg concentration camps.






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Malaysia appeals court dismisses former opposition leader's defamation suit
David Manes on October 21, 2009 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] A Malaysian appeals court on Tuesday rejected a defamation suit filed by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] against former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad [BBC profile]. The suit, which alleged defamation in connection with allegations that Anwar is a homosexual, was dismissed [AFP report] by the appeals court after Mahathir's lawyers complained that the appeal was written in English rather than Bahasa Malaysia, the country's official language. Anwar is now considering an appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia's highest court.

Anwar's appeal comes after his 2007 defamation suit was rejected by the High Court [JURIST reports]. Anwar filed that suit after Mahathir allegedly suggested at a human rights conference in 2006 that Anwar was unfit for office because of his supposed homosexuality. Anwar had previously sued Mahathir for defamation in 1999 but the case was rejected at the time as "unsustainable." Anwar was dismissed from office in 1998 over financial policy disagreements and has faced criminal charges [JURIST report] of corruption and sodomy.






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Israel deputy PM calls for internal Gaza war crimes investigation
Dwyer Arce on October 21, 2009 12:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor [official profile] called Wednesday for an independent Israeli investigation into the war crimes allegations detailed in the Goldstone report [text, PDF], which accuses Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) [official website] and Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] fighters of war crimes during last winter's Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The Israeli government has been resisting [JURIST report] mounting pressure from the international community to address the findings of the report, which also suggests referring charges to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in the event that credible internal investigations are not commenced on both sides. Meridor's statement [Haaretz report] comes amid the consistent refusal [JURIST report] by the Israeli government to conduct such an investigation and the assertion that anti-Israeli bias has influenced [JURIST report] the findings of the report. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official profile] has argued [Haaretz report] that an ICC investigation into IDF conduct in the Gaza conflict would make the military leaders of other states fighting terrorism vulnerable to international indictment. This has prompted him to direct [Al Jazeera report] the government to create plans for a "world-wide campaign" to change the international law of war following a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] endorsed [JURIST report] the final report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], which urges Israel and Hamas to investigate the conduct of their fighters during the 22-day war, or face referral to the ICC. Israeli officials have faced threat of arrest [JURIST report] during travels abroad recently under war crimes charges arising in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead. Richard Goldstone, head of the Gaza mission, presented his findings [JURIST report] to the UNHRC last month. The Goldstone mission began [JURIST report] its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation, and concluded hearings [JURIST report] in July. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amid strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel.






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China officials 'disappeared' Uighurs after Xinjiang riots: HRW
Ann Riley on October 21, 2009 12:21 PM ET

[JURIST] More than 40 Uighur men have disappeared [HRW release] since being detained by Chinese security forces following the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive], according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF] released Tuesday. HRW alleges that in the days following the riots, the Chinese police conducted large-scale sweeps of Uighur neighborhoods in Urumqi, unlawfully arresting young men. This was followed by the disappearances of many of the detainees. According to the report, the enforced disappearances place the detainees outside the scope of the protections of the law, while failing to disclose the detainees' whereabouts and declining to acknowledge their rights and liberties. The HRW report indicates that the victims of the disappearances were mostly young Uighur men in their 20s, the youngest being 14 years old. While HRW has documented 43 disappearances, the advocacy group suggests that the number of disappeared persons is likely much higher. HRW Asia director Brad Adams said:


China should only use official places of detention, so that everyone being held can contact family members and legal counsel. "Disappearing" people is not the behavior of countries aspiring to global leadership. ... The United States, the European Union, and China's other international partners should demand clear answers about what happened to those who have disappeared in Xinjiang. They should not let trade relations or other political considerations lead them to treat China differently than other countries which carry out this horrific practice.

China has a history of unlawful enforced disappearances following the 2008 protests in Tibet [JURIST report].

Last week, the Urumqi People's Court sentenced [JURIST report] six individuals to death and three to life in prison for their role in the protests. HRW alleged [JURIST report] Thursday that the trials failed to meet Chinese and international fairness and due process standards. Six other individuals have been sentenced to death [JURIST report], and one more sentenced to life in prison, for their roles in the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents that claimed the lives of approximately 200 people. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media [Xinhua report] has reported that most of the deaths were due to protesters. For their part, the Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.





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HRW dismisses allegations of bias against Israel
Amelia Mathias on October 21, 2009 9:59 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] responded [press release] Tuesday to a New York Times editorial [text] written by former chairman Robert Bernstein that accused the group of bias against Israel. HRW responded that the group covers "open" societies such as Israel and the US as well as "closed" ones. The group defended its coverage of Israel, saying:


Human Rights Watch does not devote more time and energy to Israel than to other countries in the region, or in the world. We've produced more than 1,700 reports, letters, news releases, and other commentaries on the Middle East and North Africa since January 2000, and the vast majority of these were about countries other than Israel. Furthermore, our Middle East division is only one of 16 research programs at Human Rights Watch. The work on Israel is a tiny fraction of Human Rights Watch's work as a whole.

The human rights group has been criticized for reporting on Israeli human rights abuses while giving comparatively light coverage to Saudi Arabia. The group has also been criticized for demanding that Israel investigate abuses and only recently demanding that Hamas due the same [Ynet.com report]. Members of the International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor [advocacy website] have also responded [NYT op-ed] to Bernstein's criticisms in the New York Times.

In August, HRW accused Israeli soldiers [JURIST report] of killing 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. In April, HRW called on Palestinian [JURIST report] Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] authorities to end the systematic detention, torture, and execution of supporters of Israel and the rival Fatah party [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. In March, HRW accused Israel [JURIST report] of unlawfully and extensively using white phosphorous [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] munitions during Operation Cast Lead.





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Senate passes bill allowing transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US for trial
Amelia Mathias on October 21, 2009 8:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] voted 79-19 [roll call vote] Tuesday in favor of a bill [HR 2892 materials] permitting Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to be brought to the US for trial. The measure was part of a $42.7 billion spending bill for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website].While the detainees still may not be released on US soil or housed in US jails, the bill requires the Obama administration to develop a plan [RTT report] for the anticipated closure date of Guantanamo Bay in January 2010. Navy Rear Admiral Tom Copeman has announced that he can clear the base of all detainees [Miami Herald report] given only 10 days notice and appropriate logistical support. Meanwhile, a group of retired generals has launched a national ad campaign [AP report] in support of closing the facility. Tuesday's bill also extends the life of the E-Verify program [NYT report], which permits employers to check on the immigration status of their new employees. The bill will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The House of Representatives approved the bill [JURIST report] last week. Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF] reached an agreement [JURIST report] earlier this month to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to the US for trial. The agreement came shortly after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that Congressional opposition may cause the Obama administration to miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials. Also this month, the House passed a non-binding motion [JURIST report] to instruct the conferees to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the US for prosecution or incarceration. The motion instructed House committee members to insist on such prohibitions during negotiations.






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France prosecutors seek suspended sentence, fine for ex-PM accused in Sarkozy defamation
Matt Glenn on October 21, 2009 8:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Paris prosecutors requested Tuesday that former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] receive an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a €45,000 fine for his role in an alleged plot to defame several businessmen including current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors claim de Villepin failed to stop the circulation of false documents [France 24 report] alleging Sarkozy profited from illegal arms deals when the two were vying for the presidency. The charges against de Villepin carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. De Villepin denied breaking the law [Parisien report, in French] and claimed Tuesday that Sarkozy ordered the prosecution for personal and political reasons. A verdict is expected early next year.

De Villepin and his alleged co-conspirators went on trial [JURIST report] last month. Last November, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for "complicity in slanderous denunciation" in connection with a long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. In 2006, French authorities searched de Villepin's home and questioned [JURIST reports] him for 17 hours in connection with the scandal. De Villepin's political image was tainted by the allegations as well as by his advance of an unpopular youth labor law [JURIST news archive] during his time as prime minister.






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Spain judge releases underage Somali pirate suspect
Jonathan Cohen on October 20, 2009 2:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz on Tuesday ordered the release of accused Somali pirate Abdou Willy to the Spanish Juvenile Court. Pedraz ordered the release after medical examinations could not determine his age [El Pais report, in Spanish] to be over 18. Willy and one other man were charged [indictment, in Spanish, PDF; JURIST report] last week with multiple counts of kidnapping and armed assault for allegedly helping take over the Alakrana, a Spanish ship currently under the control of Somali Pirates. The results of the age test are contrary to other reports [El Pais report, in Spanish] that Willy was 19 years old and subject to jurisdiction under the National Court. Spanish officials have claimed jurisdiction over the case because Spanish citizens are involved and because the two were arrested outside of the area in which the European Union has agreed [JURIST report] to turn captured pirates over to Kenya. The pirates in control of the Alakrana have said that they would not relinquish control [El Pais report] of the ship until the two accused pirates are released.

A study released in July found that acts of piracy doubled [JURIST report] in the first six months of this year from the same period in 2008. In April, a US Coast Guard chief called for the enforcement of international piracy laws [JURIST report], citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. Last October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].






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Colombia prosecutor reports more than 20,000 forced civilian disappearances
Andrea Bottorff on October 20, 2009 2:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Colombian prosecutor Luis Gonzalez said Monday that at least 27,384 civilians disappeared between 1988 and 2002, with nearly 75 percent of them allegedly kidnapped by illegal right-wing militias. The government's judicial Justice and Peace Office [official website, in Spanish] compiled the list after a three-year investigation of forced disappearances that included testimonies of the relatives of the missing persons. Under the 2005 Justice and Peace law [AI backgrounder, JURIST report], more than 25,000 militants have demobilized, confessed to murders, and led officials to the graves of 2,300 Colombians. Despite having collected medical and dental records during the investigation, Gonzalez said it is still unclear [Caracol Radio report, in Spanish] how many bodies have been recovered.

The controversial Justice and Peace law has been criticized [JURIST report] for giving lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm. Last year, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish] urged [JURIST report] Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder] guerrillas to abandon arms and release political hostages, promising those who respond to the call a reward and freedom. A recent UN fact-finding mission in Colombia uncovered [JURIST report] evidence of ongoing and widespread human rights violations. Paramilitaries have been fighting the Colombian armed conflict [BBC backgrounder] since the 1960s.






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Rwanda genocide tribunal begins trial of former mayor
Sarah Miley on October 20, 2009 2:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The trial of Rwandan genocide suspect Jean-Baptiste Gatete [Trial Watch profile; case materials] began [press release] Tuesday with opening statements from the prosecution and defense before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website]. Gatete, the former Mayor of Murambi Commune in Byumba prefecture, is charged [indictment, PDF] with six counts of genocide including complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity. As leader of the Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary group, Gatete is thought to be responsible for the massacre of 6,000 Tutsis who had taken refuge in Kiziguro and Mukarange Churches, as well as ordering the widespread rape of women in the parishes. Gatete was arrested [UN News Centre report] in the Republic of Congo in September 2002 and was transferred by Congolese authorities to the United Nations detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania.

In accordance with the completion strategy [text, PDF] of the ICTR, the prosecution requested to transfer Gatete to the national jurisdiction of Rwanda, but the request was denied in November 2008. The ICTR has received criticism for its refusal to transfer cases to Rwanda. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga addressed [press release] the UN Security Council [official website] in June stating that the ICTR's decision not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including Gatete, undermines his country's judicial reforms and hinders national reconciliation. Emphasizing that Rwanda has continued to cooperate with the tribunal, Ngoga expressed the country's desire to have the cases transferred to Rwandan jurisdiction at the completion of the ICTR's mandate in 2010, a plan discussed [JURIST report] by UN Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Pamela O'Brien [official profile] in March.






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Supreme Court to hear Uighur Guantanamo detainees' appeal
Jay Carmella on October 20, 2009 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday granted certiorari [orders list, PDF] in two cases. In Kiyemba v. Obama [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether a group of 13 Uighur Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees can be released into the US. In February, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] reversed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] an October 2008 district court order [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] that would have provided for their release. The DC Circuit found that admission of aliens into the US was a decision for either the executive or legislative branch, and no statutory or constitutional right was being denied to the detainees. Last month, US Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the Supreme Court that the US plans to transfer [JURIST report] up to eight of the remaining 13 Uighur detainees to Palau and that six have already agreed to the transfer. According to the letter, the government of Palau is willing to accept 12 of the 13 Uighurs still at Guantanamo. Four Uighur detainees were transferred to Bermuda [JURIST report] in June.

The court also agreed to hear the consolidated cases of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha v. Regal-Beloit Corp. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Regal-Beloit Corp [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The court will consider whether the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 [49 USC § 11706] applies to the inland rail transportation of goods in the US that originate out of the country when the shipment involved an extension of the Carriage of Good by Sea Act (COGSA) [46 USC § 30701]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] found [opinion, PDF] that the district court did not consider whether the parties had properly opted out of the Carmack Act, without which the COGSA does not apply.






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Uruguay high court overturns amnesty law for rights violations during dictatorship
Daniel Makosky on October 20, 2009 1:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Uruguayan Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] on Monday found unconstitutional the country’s Expiry Law, which granted amnesty to military officials accused of human rights violations during the country's 1973-1985 dictatorship. The court's ruling applies only to the case of Nibia Sabalsagaray, allegedly murdered by the military in 1974, but the law is also subject to a voter referendum scheduled for Sunday. Ruling that the law violated separation of powers and constitutional sovereignty [El Pais report, in Spanish], it is likely to influence future decisions in the event that it is not overturned by voters.

The law, adopted in 1986 and upheld by referendum in 1989, requires judges to consult executive officials to determine its applicability when hearing cases involving human rights violations. In 2005, Argentina's Supreme Court struck down similar 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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Federal court grants stay of execution for fourth Ohio inmate
Sarah Paulsworth on October 20, 2009 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Thursday issued a stay of execution for Ohio death row inmate Kenneth Biros, as the state continues to review its lethal injection procedures. Biros is the fourth Ohio death inmate to be granted a stay of execution since the failed attempt to execute Romell Broom [JURIST report] in September 2009. Along with Broom, the executions Darryl Durr and Lawrence Reynolds have also been postponed [JURIST report]. Biros was convicted of a 1991 murder and attempted rape and was scheduled to be executed on December 8.

In July, Ohio conducted the 1000th execution [JURIST report] by lethal injection in the US since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia [opinion text]. In June, Ohio first used its new lethal injection method [JURIST report], called "set-to-die." The procedure requires officials to shake and call out to the prisoner after a sedative has been administered, and a second dose can then be given, if necessary. A de facto national moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty ended last year when the US Supreme Court ruled in Baze v. Rees [JURIST report] that the three-drug lethal injection sequence [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states does not violate the Constitution.






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Iraq parliament fails to update controversial election law
David Manes on October 20, 2009 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Parliament [official website, in Arabic] delayed a vote Monday that would have updated the controversial provincial election law [JURIST report] it passed in September 2008. The proposed election law changes, which include ballots that list candidates rather than closed lists of parties, particularly affects the city of Kirkuk [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and is designed to make the election process more transparent. The elections are scheduled for January 16 of next year, and are an important milestone in the US plan for withdrawal. Full US military withdrawal is scheduled to be completed before December 31, 2010, according to the US-Iraq Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF]. US President Barack Obama on Tuesday encouraged [AFP report] Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to make sure that parliament passes the proposed changes, reiterating the US promise to meet the deadline for troop withdrawal.

Disputes over voting procedures in Kirkuk caused the Iraqi Parliament to fail multiple times in its attempts at amendment. Kirkuk is inhabited by Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds, and has been a point of contention between the ethnic groups. Kirkuk also consistently produces nearly one million barrels of oil per day, which accounts for almost half of Iraqi exports. Although the parliament was eventually able to pass the previous election law in September 2008, it failed to come to an agreement [JURIST report] before the summer recess which began in August. Kurdish lawmakers had previously staged a walkout [JURIST report] during the debate in July.






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Nicaragua Supreme Court panel lifts ban on consecutive presidential terms
Safiya Boucaud on October 20, 2009 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The constitutional branch of the Supreme Court of Nicaragua [official website, in Spanish] on Monday struck down a constitutional provision that bans presidential candidates from running for two consecutive terms. Under Article 147 of the Nicaraguan Constitution [text, in Spanish], a president can serve a maximum of two terms in office, but the terms cannot be consecutive. Monday's decision will allow President Daniel Ortega [official website, in Spanish], who took office in 2007, to run for reelection in 2011. The court's decision followed a petition made by Ortega and a group of mayors. Opposition leaders have called the move illegal [La Prensa report, in Spanish] because a change in the constitution would have required approval by two-thirds of the national assembly, where Ortega does not have a majority. The six judges on the Supreme Court panel are also regarded as supporters [El Nuevo Diario report, in Spanish] of Ortega's Sandinista party. The decision will also benefit mayors and other elected municipal officers. The ruling must be ratified by a majority of the 16 Supreme Court justices before it can take effect.

Several Latin American countries have recently dealt with the controversial issue of extending presidential term limits. Last month, the Colombian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill [text, PPS, in Spanish] to hold a referendum on whether President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile] can run for a third presidential term. In March, then-president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] proposed [JURIST report] a government poll that would determine whether voters would be receptive to referendum establishing constitutional reform, in which extension of presidential term limits were suspected to be on the agenda. Zelaya was later removed from office [JURIST reports] following a judicial order [La Prensa report, in Spanish] issued by the Honduran Supreme Court after he tried to carry out a nationwide referendum on constitutional reform, despite the Supreme Court ruling against it. In recent years, Chavez in Venezuela and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [JURIST reports] have succeeded in passing constitutional reforms extending presidential terms and enhancing presidential powers.






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Supreme Court blocks release of names on same-sex marriage petition
Matt Glenn on October 20, 2009 9:09 AM ET

[JURIST] US Supreme Court [official website] Justice Anthony Kennedy [official profile, PDF] issued a temporary order [text, PDF] Monday prohibiting the publication of the names of those who signed a Washington state petition to overturn a state law giving same-sex partners the same rights as married partners. Kennedy's order, which reversed an order [text, PDF] issued last week by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], prohibits the publication of signers' names until the Court orders otherwise. The petition, which gathered enough signatures to be placed on this fall's ballot, puts to a statewide vote a bill [text, PDF; JURIST report] passed in April by the legislature giving domestic partners the same legal rights and benefits as married partners. Protect Marriage Washington [advocacy website], which started the petition, worries that if the names are released, those who signed the petition risk persecution [AP report] from advocates of gay rights and that making their names public would stifle their First Amendment rights. Opponents of the petition argue that the public has a right to know who is behind the referendum. The state of Washington filed a response [text, PDF] Monday afternoon in favor of releasing the names.

In January 2006, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed [JURIST report] into law a gay civil rights act [HB 2661 text, PDF] that expanded the Washington Civil Rights Act to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment. That law made Washington the seventeenth state in the nation to have an anti-discrimination law that covered sexual orientation. In April 2007, Gregoire signed domestic partnership legislation [text, PDF; JURIST report] that guaranteed gay and lesbian couples some of the legal rights that previously were afforded only to husband and wife including hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and the ability to authorize medical decisions for their partner. The April law is seen by some as completing the grant of rights that the previous legislation had begun.

2:00 PM ET - The Court upheld [order, PDF] Kennedy's temporary order, blocking the release of the signatories' names. The order will remain in effect until the Court decides whether to grant certiorari in the case. Justice John Paul Stevens was the sole dissenter.

10/22/09 - The Ninth Circuit issued an explanatory opinion [text, PDF] in support of its previous order.






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US hedge fund founder denies insider trading allegations
Matt Glenn on October 20, 2009 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Galleon Group [partnership website] hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam [Financial Times profile] denied any wrongdoing Sunday, promising to fight charges brought against him in one of the US government's largest insider trading cases to date. Rajaratnam was arrested Friday and charged [complaint, PDF; press release] along with five other individuals and two business entities with insider trading. The complaint alleges that the individuals, including a managing director at Intel Corp., a director at McKinsey & Co., and a senior executive at IBM [corporate websites] who were charged with Rajaratnam, provided Galleon Group and another hedge fund with material nonpublic information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Also on Sunday, the government of Sri Lanka accused Rajaratnam of helping fund [Financial Times report] the Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive], a group designated as a terrorist organizations by several countries including the US. Although records show that Rajaratnam contributed money to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, a charity that the US claimed was a front for the LTTE, Rajaratnam denies funding the LTTE and has not been charged with funding the LTTE.

In July, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] promised to increase oversight [JURIST report] and enforcement of securities laws to better protect investors. The policy reforms come in the wake of recent fraud litigation. In June, financier Bernard Madoff [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to 150 years in prison [JURIST report] on securities fraud charges [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] stemming from his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Billionaire financier Allen Stanford [BBC report] pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in June to 21 charges [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction related to a $7 billion fraud scheme. Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [defense website; JURIST news archive] was ordered [JURIST report] to pay $2.88 billion to shareholders after being found guilty of fraud for inflating company profits, insider trading and other charges.






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Afghanistan runoff set after UN-backed election commission rejects votes
Steve Czajkowski on October 20, 2009 7:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] on Tuesday agreed to a runoff election against challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile] after the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] announced [press release, PDF] Monday that it had invalidated [ECC materials] election results from 210 polling stations in Afghanistan's disputed August presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. The EEC found clear and convincing evidence of fraud and also ordered Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] to invalidate a percentage of votes from both candidates based on the EEC's September 8 recount order [JURIST report]. Additionally, the EEC held that the results 18 polling stations, which had been under quarantine by the IEC, could be counted because it did not find clear and convincing evidence of voter fraud. According to an estimate by the US election monitoring group Democracy International [official website], the EEC order reduces [press release] Karzai's vote totals to 48.3 percent from 55 percent as previously reported [BBC report], forcing a runoff election because no candidate received at least 50 percent of the votes. The group also estimated the order will raise Abdullah's totals to 31.5 percent from 28 percent. The runoff election is set for November 7 [NYT report].

Last week, one of the two Afghans on the ECC resigned [JURIST report], citing "foreign interference." Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai's resignation raised doubt about the commission's work and generated allegations that the resignation was influenced by Karzai - allegations that have been refuted by Karzai's campaign. The ECC had released a statement [text, PDF] expressing its disappointment over Barakzai's resignation. According to Rule of Procedure 2.4 [text, PDF], the panel only needs a quorum of three people, including one Afghan in order to meet and issue rulings. In addition to the two Afghans on the panel, the five-member panel consists of one American, one Canadian, and one Dutch national.






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Fifth Circuit grants Katrina victims standing in global warming class action suit
Jay Carmella on October 20, 2009 7:22 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] has ruled [opinion, PDF] that 14 victims of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] have standing to sue companies for allegedly contributing to global warming [JURIST news archive], which they claim played a role in increasing the severity of the hurricane. The court found Friday that the plaintiffs had presented enough evidence against the oil, coal, and chemical companies named in the complaint [text, PDF] to allow the class action lawsuit to proceed. The ruling reversed the decision of the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi [official website], which dismissed the case for lack of standing and on political question grounds. The appeals court wrote:


Here, the plaintiffs' complaint alleges that defendants' emissions caused the plaintiffs' property damage, which is redressable through monetary damages; for example, the plaintiffs allege that defendants' willful, unreasonable use of their property to emit greenhouse gasses constituted private nuisance under Mississippi law because it inflicted injury on the plaintiffs' land by causing both land loss due to sea level rise and property damage due to Hurricane Katrina.

The court also rejected the finding of the district court that the case presented a political question. While the appeals court acknowledged the difficulty in proving causation for any plaintiff in such a case, the result could potentially lead to a rise [WSJ report] in the lawsuits brought on the subject of climate change.

While last week's ruling is the first to grant individuals standing in a case involving climate change, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] last month that states can sue power companies for emitting carbon dioxide, allegedly contributing to global warming. The Obama administration has taken several steps this year to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In June, the US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] a climate bill [HR 2454 materials] that focuses on clean energy. The bill calls for a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 by establishing a cap-and-trade system. It also establishes for the first time limits on greenhouse gases that will become progressively stricter, providing an incentive for a transition to green energy sources ranging from "wind, solar, and geothermal power to safer nuclear energy and cleaner coal."





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Honduras interim government officially relaxes restrictions on protests
Hillary Stemple on October 19, 2009 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The Honduran interim government officially eased restrictions on protests and opposition media Monday, two weeks after acting-president Roberto Micheletti [BBC profile] promised to repeal [JURIST report] the executive decree [text, Spanish] issued in September suspending several constitutional rights. The decree suspended five articles of the Honduran Constitution [text] and was issued in response to protests being organized in support of deposed president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. The National Telecommunications Commission [official website, in Spanish] was authorized by the decree to suspend any media outlet whose actions were deemed detrimental to peace and public order. Radio Globo [media website, in Spanish] and television Channel 36, outlets allegedly supporting Zelaya, were taken off the air in September and have not yet resumed production [Reuters report]. Micheletti convened his council of ministers to repeal the decree earlier this month, but the repeal did not take effect until being published in the official gazette Monday.

A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] arrived in Honduras Sunday to investigate human rights violations that may have occurred since Zelaya was removed from office [JURIST reports] in June following a judicial order [La Prensa report, in Spanish] issued by the Honduran Supreme Court. The order was issued when Zelaya tried to carry out a nationwide referendum on constitutional reform, despite the Supreme Court ruling against it. In August, Spanish National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile] said during a visit to Honduras that he is gravely concerned by the human rights situation [JURIST report] in the country. Also in August, the Honduran Office of the Prosecutor of Common Crimes indicted 24 Zelaya supporters [JURIST report] on charges of sedition and damaging public property.






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Israel urges international community to reject UN rights council Gaza resolution
Steve Dotterer on October 19, 2009 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli government on Friday rejected [press release] a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution [text, PDF; JURIST report] endorsing the final report [JURIST report] of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website]. The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the resolution "one-sided" and called on the international community to join Israel in rejecting it, issuing the following statement:


The adoption of this resolution by the UNHRC impairs both the effort to protect human rights in accordance with international law, and the effort to promote peace in the Middle East. This resolution provides encouragement for terrorist organizations worldwide and undermines global peace.

Israel asserts that the resolution, passed by a vote of 25-6, with 11 abstaining, fails to address Hamas violence against Israeli civilians and overlooks measures Israel has adopted to curb Palestinian civilian deaths.

The resolution expresses support for Goldstone Report [text, PDF], which points to the commission of war crimes by both Israel and Hamas during a series of Palestinian-Israeli clashes in late 2008 and early 2009 collectively referred to as Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Richard Goldstone presented [JURIST report] the mission's findings to the UNHRC last month. The US has threatened to veto Security Council resolutions that may arise from the matter.





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ICC begins Sudan rebel leader preliminary hearing
Ann Riley on October 19, 2009 12:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Monday commenced the confirmation of charges hearing against Sudanese war crimes suspect and rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials], the first suspect to appear before the ICC in regard to the Darfur [JURIST news archive] situation. Abu Garda is accused [press release] of committing war crimes by orchestrating a September 2007 attack [BBC report] against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) [official website]. The ICC alleges that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [official website], under Abu Garda's command, killed 12 and wounded eight AMIS soldiers. Abu Garda voluntarily appeared in front of the ICC at the opening of the confirmation hearing [recorded video; recorded audio]. The confirmation hearing, at which the prosecutor must establish sufficient evidence for each charge against Abu Garda in order for the case to proceed to trial, is scheduled [text, PDF] to continue until October 29.

Abu Garda first appeared [JURIST report] before the ICC in May to deny responsibility for war crimes committed in Darfur. The court is also pursuing cases against Ahmad Harun, Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch Profiles], and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Al-Bashir is accused of leading the systematic harassment and murder of members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups under the pretext of counter-insurgency since 2003. The ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The controversial warrant [JURIST news archive] for his arrest had long been sought by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], who in July 2008 filed preliminary charges [JURIST report] against al-Bashir alleging genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute [text]. The court had originally refused to charge Bashir with genocide, but prosecutors appealed that decision [JURIST report] in July. This was the first time the ICC had issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.






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DOJ directs prosecutors to end raids on medical marijuana facilities
Patrice Collins on October 19, 2009 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] issued guidelines Monday directing federal prosecutors to respect state-sanctioned medical marijuana use and distribution, ending raids on facilities complying with state law. The memorandum [text] outlining DOJ priorities concerning illicit trafficking directs prosecutors not to focus on individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Though the DOJ declared its commitment to the Controlled Substances Act [text], the memo states the administration's intention to make "efficient" use of limited federal resources.


For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources

Prosecutors were instructed to focus on enterprises that illegally profit from the sale and distribution of marijuana and individuals who claim compliance with state laws to "mask" illegal consumption. The memo provides prosecutors with a non-exhaustive list of characteristics to help determine when conduct is not in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law.

Holder announced plans [JURIST report] to end federal raids on medical marijuana facilities in March. The announcement fulfilled President Barack Obama's campaign pledge [Boston Globe report] to end raids of medical marijuana distributors, routinely practiced by the Drug Enforcement Agency [official website] under the Bush administration. Currently 14 states have legalized medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain and terminal illnesses, with Rhode Island [JURIST report] becoming the latest to do so in June. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Reich [opinion text; JURIST report] upheld Congress's power to criminalize the growth and use of medical marijuana if it so chooses.





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Delaware Catholic diocese bankruptcy filing delays clergy abuse trials
Safiya Boucaud on October 19, 2009 11:01 AM ET

[JURIST] The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington Delaware [diocesan website] on Sunday filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection [press release], one day before eight clergy sexual abuse trials were set to begin. The filing will delay the trials, which were scheduled to take place in the Kent County Superior Court. The lawyer representing some of the alleged sexual abuse victims has criticized the move saying that it is an attempt to cover up the scandal. In the press release issued by the diocese, Bishop W. Francis Malooly said:


The Chapter 11 filing is in no way intended to dodge responsibility for past criminal misconduct by clergy – or for mistakes made by Diocesan authorities. Nor does the bankruptcy process enable the Diocese to avoid or minimize its responsibility to victims of abuse. Instead, the Chapter 11 filing will enable the Diocese to meet its obligations head-on and fulfill its responsibility to all victims.

The sexual abuse claims were brought under the Delaware Civil Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse [text] law that created a two-year window that allows claims to be filed regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired. Of the more than 100 claims that were filed, four have been settled. Wilmington is the seventh Catholic diocese to file for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection.

Last December, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] that it had settled 59 sexual abuse claims against the church through voluntary arbitration. In August 2008, 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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OAS delegation arrives in Honduras to investigate human rights situation
Jonathan Cohen on October 19, 2009 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] arrived in Honduras Sunday to investigate human rights violations that may have occurred since the ouster of Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] as president. The investigative team was commissioned by the UN [UN News Centre report] earlier this month, and is set to be in Honduras for three weeks [Tiempo report, in Spanish]. The foreign minister of Honduras stressed [press release] during a press conference last week that the human rights situation in Honduras has continued to deteriorate. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] is to prepare a comprehensive report on the situation after the team's return in November. The Honduran interim government has previously expressed concern that the OAS report would be biased [JURIST report] because OAS has already called the ouster a coup and called for Zelaya's reinstatement

Last month, the de facto interim government issued an executive decree [text, in Spanish] suspending constitutional rights such as personal freedom, freedom of expression, and the requirement of an arrest warrant, but later repealed [JURIST reports] the measure. In August, Spanish National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile] said during a visit to Honduras that he is gravely concerned by the human rights situation [JURIST report] in the country. Also in August, 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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Karadzic asks UN Security Council for trial exemption citing alleged immunity deal
Safiya Boucaud on October 19, 2009 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] on Friday asked [notice of request, PDF] the UN Security Council to pass a resolution exempting him from trial based on an alleged immunity agreement reached with former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke in 1996. Last week, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] upheld the trial chamber's dismissal of Karadzic's immunity claim, and set the trial date [JURIST reports] for October 26. Holbrooke has continued to deny the existence of an immunity agreement, and the ICTY has ruled that even if such an agreement existed, it would not exempt Karadzic from trial. This was the second time [JURIST report] the ICTY has rejected Karadzic's claim of immunity. In his letter, Karadzic asserted:

In the face of this evidence, the Appeals Chamber changed course and held that even if I had been reasonable in relying on the apparent authority of Richard Holbrooke to negotiate on behalf of the Security Council, the agreement was not legally binding without a resolution of the Security Council. Of course, it was never my responsibility to obtain such a resolution, and Mr. Holbrooke neglected to do so. ...

Therefore, I respectfully request that the UN Security Council honor the agreement entered into by Mr. Holbrooke by enacting a resolution that I not be prosecuted at the ICTY.
Karadzic also argued that a failure to honor the alleged agreement would set a bad precedent for negotiating with world leaders to end other conflicts.

Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. In June, the ICTY said that Karadzic's trial was expected to conclude in early 2012 [JURIST report]. His trial is planned to be the tribunal's last. Karadzic has twice refused to enter pleas [JURIST report] to 11 charges against him including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation, and "other inhumane acts," for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Karadzic was originally indicted [text, PDF] by the ICTY in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity until his arrest last year [JURIST report].





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Spain protesters oppose relaxation of abortion law
Amelia Mathias on October 18, 2009 4:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish protesters rallied in Madrid on Saturday in opposition to a law that would relax restrictions on abortions. Protesters adopted the slogan "Every life matters" and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar spoke [El Pais report, in Spanish] in support of the protesters. Estimates claim that between 250,000 and two million protesters attended, but no objective count [BBC report] was made. The new bill would permit a girl 16 years or older to terminate a pregnancy without the permission of her parents and would ease current abortion laws [NYT report], which require a woman to prove that her mental or physical health is in danger before receiving an abortion.

Spain's Council of State approved the bill [JURIST report] last month. The changes were proposed [JURIST report] in March by a panel of legal and medical experts led by the Minister of Equality Bibiano Aido [official website, in Spanish], eliciting widespread protests [JURIST report] throughout Spain. The panel was formed [JURIST report] last September at the request of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero [official profile, in Spanish] as part of a series of social reforms including same-sex marriage [JURIST report] and streamlined divorce proceedings. The conservative Popular Party [official website, in Spanish] has repeatedly expressed the opinion [El Pais report, in Spanish] that relaxed abortion laws would stand in opposition to Article 15 of the Spanish Constitution [text, in Spanish], which guarantees the right to life. Spanish abortion laws [BBC backgrounder] are among the most restrictive in European nations.






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UN SG Ban establishes committee to investigate alleged Guinea rights abuses
Amelia Mathias on October 18, 2009 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] established [statement] an investigation committee on Friday to look into possible human rights abuses by Guinean soldiers on September 28. The Guinea junta on Saturday also appointed [AP report] a mixture of doctors, lawyers, and judges to a National Commission for an Independent Investigation, with similar goals. A spokesperson for Ban said:


The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned by the tense situation in Guinea following the violent crackdown, which he had strongly condemned, on unarmed civilians on 28 September in Conakry. This crackdown resulted in many deaths and injuries and allegedly in gross violations of human rights, including rape. The Secretary-General has therefore decided to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate those incidents with a view to determining the accountability of those involved. A mission will be sent immediately to look into the modalities for the setting up of this commission.

The incident stemmed from a pro-democracy demonstration against military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who intended to push elections forward three months and stand for re-election. Soldiers allegedly opened fire on demonstrators, and 57 are reported dead [AFP report], with more than 1,000 more injured or raped.

The International Criminal Court last week placed the Guinean military under preliminary investigation [JURIST report] for human rights violations for the September 28 incident. Camara led a coup in December 2008 after the death of president Lansana Conte [BBC obituary]. The coup received mixed reactions among Guineans, some of whom welcomed [Washington Times report] a change from Conte's 24-year regime. Camara promised to remain in power only long enough to assist the country's transition to a new election in which he would not run himself. The international community decried the coup, and conditions inside the African country have since declined [HRW report] with a rise in violence and increasing crackdown on opposition.





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UN rights council adopts Gaza conflict report
Steve Czajkowski on October 18, 2009 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution [press release; text, PDF] Friday endorsing the final report [JURIST report] of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], which recommends that both Israel and Hamas should conduct credible investigations into alleged human rights violations that took place during Operation Cast Lead [Global Security backgrounder], or face referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The council voted 25-6, with 11 abstaining, to back the report and recommended that the UN General Assembly [official website] examine the report during its current session. In adopting the resolution, the UNHRC strongly condemned actions by the Israelis, which limited Palestinians' access to their lands. The resolution also called for an end to Israeli policies in East Jerusalem [B'Tselem backgrounder] which have resulted in the confiscation of land, demolishing of homes, and expansion of new settlements, and demanded that Israel respect the religious rights of those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [OHCHR backgrounder], according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and other international conventions. Ultimately, the resolution calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile], to monitor the human rights situation in and around East Jerusalem.

Last month, Richard Goldstone, head of the Gaza mission, presented his findings [JURIST report] to the UNHRC. The Goldstone mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amid strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Israel has rejected [JURIST report] the findings of the Goldstone report, and has said that it will not comply with its calls for independent investigations.






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Zimbabwe opposition cabinet nominee trial delayed
Steve Czajkowski on October 18, 2009 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Proceedings against Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] party treasurer and deputy agriculture minister-nominee Roy Bennett [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] were delayed Saturday, after his lawyers requested more time to develop their defense. Bennett faces charges [CNN report] under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act [materials] for unlawfully possessing weapons and provoking others "to commit terrorism, banditry and sabotage." The weapons charges involve a possible death sentence. In response to Bennett's charges, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has said that his MDC party would boycott [AP report] Zimbabwe's new power-sharing coalition government [BBC report], which is made up of members of the MDC and the African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Tsvangirai denounced the charges as a deliberate plot by Mugabe and tried to make it clear that he and his party were not withdrawing from the government, but that they would not participate in cabinet meetings and other executive functions with Mugabe's party.

Bennett was originally arrested on weapons charges in February, and was later released [JURIST reports] on bail in March. Bennett was then re-arrested [Reuters report] on the same charges earlier this week, only to be released on bail on Friday. Bennett was originally sought for questioning [JURIST report] in relation to similar allegations in 2006, but he had been seeking asylum in South Africa until recently [IOL report]. Treason charges against him were dropped [Times report] in favor of the terrorism and other charges.






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China Xinjiang riot trials fail to meet international standards: HRW
Matt Glenn on October 17, 2009 2:15 PM ET

[JURIST] This week's trials of those involved in the deadly July riots in Urumqi [JURIST news archive], the capital of China's Xinjiang province, failed to meet [HRW release] Chinese and international fairness and due process standards Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Friday. HRW alleges that defendants were not allowed access to the lawyers of their choice due to veiled government threats against lawyers who would take cases and not cooperate with the government. HRW also claims that the cases went to judges based on their political leanings, violating the defendants' rights to an independent judge. Finally, HRW claims that the government violated both Chinese law and international standards by not announcing the trials and closing the proceedings to international journalists and observers. Other trials are expected as this week's defendants represent only a small number of the 108 people charged [JURIST report] with crimes related to the protests.

On Thursday, the Urumqi People's Court sentenced six individuals to death and three to life in prison for their role in the protests. Earlier this week, six other individuals were sentenced to death [JURIST report], and one more was sentenced to life in prison, for their roles in the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents that claimed the lives of approximately 200 people. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media [Xinhua report] has reported that most of the deaths were due to protesters. For their part, the Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Federal judge rules against releasing Guantanamo interrogation documents
Matt Glenn on October 17, 2009 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] refused [opinion, PDF] Friday to force the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official websites] to release non-redacted versions of documents that allegedly describe the torture and abuse of 14 Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. Judge Royce Lamberth denied a request [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text], ruling that the documents fell under two exemptions of the FOIA allowing government agencies to keep information classified if allowed by executive order or by statute. Although the court originally ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the government did not have to release the documents last October, it agreed to rehear the case in light of several subsequent developments, including President Barack Obama's executive orders to end the use of certain enhanced interrogation techniques and close Guantanamo Bay, as well as the government's decision to declassify [JURIST reports] Bush-administration memos outlining the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. In June, the CIA released [JURIST report] redacted versions of the documents, but the ACLU maintained its demand that the agency release non-redacted versions. The ACLU announced that it plans to appeal [press release] the ruling.

Last month, OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website] reported that the Obama administration has improved government transparency [JURIST report] over the Bush administration, but there is more that should be done. Also in September, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] plans to increase transparency in the government's use of its state secrets privilege. That same week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] requesting information on the treatment of prisoners at Bagram Air Base [JURIST news archive] in Afghanistan. The lawsuit came after a CIA announcement [JURIST report] that the agency would not release any more documents related to the treatment of prisoners at Bagram. In August, the ACLU successfully forced the CIA to release documents [JURIST report] detailing the use of sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and physical abuse overseas as interrogation techniques during the Bush administration.






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Taiwan high court dismisses ex-president Chen's appeal over replaced judges
Christian Ehret on October 17, 2009 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Taiwan's Constitutional Court [official website, in Chinese] on Friday dismissed an appeal by former president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who faces a life sentence [JURIST report] on corruption charges. Chen's appeal was based on a claim that his constitutional rights were violated when judges were replaced [AFP report] during the proceedings against him. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) [official website, in Chinese], previously led by Chen, has argued [press release] that the judicial process "contained flaws and disputes" that were in violation of procedural justice. Citing political bias, the DPP has demanded an end to Chen's detention and has called for the court to be "transparent and open."

An additional charge [JURIST report] was filed against Chen last month, after his conviction, alleging that he embezzled over $330,000. Last month, the Taipei District Court denied [JURIST report] Chen's request for release pending appeal. Chen has filed suit [JURIST report] against the three judges hearing his case, claiming that they were unjustly prolonging his detention. Chen was initially indicted [JURIST report] on the corruption charges in December. He 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.






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UK High Court orders disclosure of redacted torture allegations
Christian Ehret on October 17, 2009 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A British High Court ruled [judgment, PDF] Friday that previously redacted text regarding the alleged torture of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed [JURIST news archive] should be publicly disclosed. The text in question relates to Mohamed's allegations that, while being held in Pakistan, he was tortured by Pakistani agents and interrogated by US and UK agents who were complicit in his abuse. The seven paragraphs at issue were not made public in the court's 2008 ruling on the matter at the request of Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official profile], the listed defendant. Miliband and others were concerned that the release of the information would pose a risk to the national security of the UK and its relations with the US. Lord Justice John Thomas and Justice David Lloyd Jones reversed their prior holdings, concluding that:


[A]s the public interest in making the paragraphs public is overwhelming, and as the risk to national security judged objectively on the evidence is not a serious one, we should restore the redacted paragraphs to our first judgment...[and] shall therefore re-issue our first judgment with the paragraphs restored.

After the court's ruling, Miliband said that the UK government was "deeply disappointed" and maintained a strong interest to appeal [statement]. Miliband said that the "summary of US intelligence material" to be released goes to the "heart of the efforts made to defend the security of the citizens of [the UK]."

In July, the UK Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) [official website] announced that it would investigate [JURIST report] Binyan's alleged mistreatment by British intelligence officers. In May, London High Court judges agreed to reconsider a prior decision [JURIST reports] to redact information from a ruling regarding Binyam after it was challenged on the grounds that the information may be essential to his defense. Following four years of detention at Guantanamo, Binyam was returned to the UK in February. He was originally sent to the prison based on suspicion of war crimes in connection with an alleged involvement with al Qaeda attacks on the US. The charges against him were dismissed [JURIST report] in October 2008.





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Ireland completes EU reform treaty ratification process
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 16, 2009 4:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Irish President Mary McAleese [official website] on Thursday signed the European Union (EU) reform treaty, known as the Treaty of Lisbon [EU materials; JURIST news archive], completing the country's ratification process. Ireland has become the 26th nation to ratify the treaty, leaving the Czech Republic as the only one of the 27 member nations that has not yet done so. Irish voters approved the treaty [JURIST report] in a second referendum vote held earlier this month after the EU offered guarantees on representation, national sovereignty, and other legal matters. Ireland was the only member state to constitutionally require a voter referendum in order to ratify the treaty.

After the treaty was approved by Irish voters, Polish President Lech Kaczynski [official website] ratified [JURIST report] the document. Last week, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic [official website, in Czech] announced that it will hold a public hearing [JURIST report] on October 27 regarding a challenge to the country's signing of the treaty. EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] urged [press release] the Czech Republic to sign the treaty and not raise artificial objections, saying it would be "completely absurd" to reopen the ratification process in the other member states.






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Spain parliament passes law limiting reach of universal jurisdiction statute
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 16, 2009 3:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The Spanish Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday gave final approval [press release, in Spanish] to a law limiting use of the country's universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] statute to those offenses committed by or against Spaniards, or where the perpetrators are in Spain. The measure, which was approved [El Pais report, in Spanish] by a vote of 319-5 with three abstentions, enjoyed support from the opposition Popular Party (PP) as well as the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) [party websites, in Spanish], echoing a non-binding resolution [JURIST report] passed by the Congress in May. The legislation was approved [JURIST report] by the lower house in June and then amended in the Senate [official website, in Spanish]. The new law, which will take effect the day after it is published in the official gazette, will only apply prospectively, allowing cases currently being heard under universal jurisdiction to proceed, including investigations of Israeli actions in Gaza in 2002, detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay and allegations of war crimes and genocide in Rwanda, Tibet, Guatemala, and China [JURIST reports]

Spain's current statute allows the exercise of universal jurisdiction over foreign torture, terrorism and war crimes if the case is not subject to the legal system of the country involved, regardless of its connection to Spain. In June, human rights groups urged [JURIST report] the Spanish government to continue the broad exercise of universal jurisdiction, while some countries, including Israel [Haaretz report], have argued [JURIST report] for changes to the practice. Universal jurisdiction has been used by prominent Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon [JURIST news archive] to bring several high-profile cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives].






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France court denies woman access to semen of deceased husband
Andrew Morgan on October 16, 2009 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] A French court on Thursday ruled that a woman cannot recover semen samples donated by her husband prior to his death. The High Court in the Western city of Rennes said that Fabienne Justel could not take [AFP report] her husband's sperm abroad to be used in an artificial insemination because it runs counter to a French law that prohibits the procedure after divorce, separation, or death of one partner. Justel said that her husband donated the sample after being diagnosed with terminal cancer with the intention of allowing her to fulfill their dream of having a child together, and should therefore be allowed access to the sample. The government argued that the terms of the contract between Justel's husband and the fertility center explicitly required his presence and approval before his sample could be released. She plans to appeal [Le Monde report, in French] the ruling.

In March, a New York appeals court denied [JURIST report] the parents of a deceased donor access to a semen sample that he donated prior to undergoing cancer treatment. In October 2006, the court initially denied the motion [opinion, PDF] for preliminary injunction and declared that the parents of Mark Speranza had no legal right to semen specimens because they were not part of Mark's estate.






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Australia court convicts 5 in domestic terrorism case
Andrew Morgan on October 16, 2009 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The New South Wales Supreme Court [official website] on Friday convicted five men were of conspiracy to do acts in preparation of terrorist attacks. The men, who cannot be named publicly [ABC report] due to other ongoing trials, were found guilty of having stockpiled ammunition and bomb-making materials in order to conduct a terrorist attack on an unspecified location [Australian report] to protest Australia's military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four co-conspirators had previously pleaded guilty [ABC report] to related charges, although this information was kept from the jury [Australian report] during the trial. The five face a maximum of life in prison [Reuters report] when they are sentenced on December 14.

The jury returned the convictions after deliberating for 23 days [UPI report], hearing from 300 witnesses and examining 3,000 exhibits which included 30 days of video surveillance [ABC report] and 18 hours of taped phone calls. The men were arrested [ABC report] in a series of raids in 2005. In August, another group of men was arrested [UPI report] in Sydney, accused of plotting to attack an Australian army base. The raids were made public by the Australian prior to being carried out, which has led to a corruption investigation, and possible charges [The Age report] against a Victoria detective.






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DOJ pledges to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation
Brian Jackson on October 16, 2009 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Assistant US Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez [official profile] said Wednesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is committed to fighting discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. One tool Perez indicated would be useful in this new endeavor is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, currently under consideration in the House of Representatives [HR 3017 materials] and the Senate [S 1584 materials; JURIST report]. Perez also referenced a bill [HR 2647 materials] passed [JURIST report] recently by the House that would expand the federal hate crimes definition to include crimes based on sexual orientation. That bill will now go before the Senate. This new commitment [AP report] by the DOJ comes just days after President Barack Obama remarked [JURIST report] during a speech [text] to the Human Rights Campaign that, "[m]y expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians - whether in the office or on the battlefield."

While his election was hailed by many as the spark needed to bring about equality based on sexual orientation, to many, Obama's actions have not matched his promises [Houston Chronicle column]. In that same speech, Obama reiterated his campaign promise to end the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [text] policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces, but the administration has yet to take any action to further that goal. Support has grown for repeal of the policy, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari [JURIST report] on a claim that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' violates equal protection and substantive due process. In the wake of that denial, the Senate Armed Services Committee declared that it would hold hearings on the issue [JURIST report] this fall.






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France constitutional court strikes down laws legalizing Islamic finance instruments
Ximena Marinero on October 16, 2009 8:32 AM ET

Photo source or description

[JURIST] The French Constitutional Court [official website, in French] on Wednesday struck down [decision, in French] two articles in a small and medium enterprise (SME) access to credit law that would have legalized Islamic law compliant financial instruments in France. Socialist Party (PS) [party website, in French] members of the National Assembly [official website, in French] petitioned the court to review two articles that would have legalized Sharia-compliant sukuk, securities that have been likened to bonds. The court found that the procedure through which Articles 14 and 16 were included in the SME access to credit law was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the inserted article 14 amending the Monetary and Financial Code and the inserted article 16 altering the Civil Code departed from the purpose of the law proposal meant to facilitate SME access to credit. The PS asserted [Al Arabiya report] that the inserted articles would have compromised secular law, while supporters of the law charged that it would allow France to tap into Islamic finance capital.

France is the Western European country with the largest Muslim community, and French secular values have led to conflicts over restricting Islamic practices in aspects of secular life, such as wearing religious attire in public schools and courts. In July, a commission [official website] created by the National Assembly began hearings to consider [JURIST report] whether to enact laws banning the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive] or other "full veils." In December 2008, 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 July 2008, a Muslim woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] because she failed to assimilate to French culture and she practiced a type of Islam found incompatible with French values.




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Russia prosecutors charge WWII historian with violation of privacy laws
Brian Jackson on October 16, 2009 7:42 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian historian who was researching his country's treatment of German prisoners of war during World War II was charged on Thursday with violating privacy laws. Mikhail Suprun was in the process of conducting research on the hardships faced [HistoryNet backgrounder] by captured German soldiers and civilians held at prisons in Arkhangelsk, northeast of St. Petersburg, when he was detained last month [Barents Observer report]. Under the Constitution of the Russian Federation [materials], privacy rights are protected through two provisions in chapter two, Articles 23 and 24, and it appears that Russian authorities are basing the charges on Suprun's violation of the privacy rights of Soviet citizens of German heritage [AFP report] who were held at Arkhangelsk. If convicted, Suprun faces up to four years in prison [Guardian report].

Many critics believe that Suprun's arrest is the latest in a series of acts by the Russian government meant to rehabilitate the image of the Soviet Union. Earlier this week, a Russian court rejected a libel suit [BBC report] brought by Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili against the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta for a report that Stalin order the death of Soviet citizens. In September, critics of this rehabilitation expressed outrage when a renovated Moscow train station was unveiled with inscriptions praising Stalin [CNN report]. Dzhugashvili may have been partly prompted to bring the suit based on the results of a controversial December 2008 poll in which Russians voted his grandfather the third most popular Russian [BBC report] in history, a result criticized by many.






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EU says Turkish rights record compromising accession bid
Ximena Marinero on October 16, 2009 6:30 AM ET

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[JURIST] Turkish human rights and foreign relations are reportedly compromising the country's efforts toward European Union (EU) accession, receiving mixed reviews [press release] Wednesday in the European Commission's annual reports on enlargement strategy and candidate progress [reports, PDF]. According to the reports, "[c]oncerns remain in a number of areas, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, civilian oversight of the military and women's rights." Turkey was lauded for signing [JURIST news report] a landmark accord with Armenia last week that is expected to normalize relations between the two countries and open up borders, and for playing a positive role in the Western Balkans. In these areas, Turkey's progress report was evaluated in good standing as pertaining to EU common foreign and security policy. Relations with Cyprus continue to compromise Turkey's candidacy, despite an ongoing settlement negotiation with Cyprus under UN auspices. The Commission found in particular that Turkey is far from achieving full non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement [materials], with the country's refusal to open its ports to Cyprian vessels as an obstacle to the free movement of goods and lack of communication between air traffic control centres to the detriment of safety in the transportation sector.

Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward accession to the EU [criteria materials]. In May, an EU advisory council said that Turkey should do more [JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights, and various other efforts in order to further its request for accession. Earlier that month, secular judges in Turkey warned [JURIST report] the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] that proposed constitutional amendments were going too far in promoting an Islamic agenda. Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the EU since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. Earlier this year, a report [text, PDF, in Turkish] by advocacy group Tesev [advocacy website] argued that Turkish property rights still fell short [JURIST report] of those required to join the EU. Last year, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] addressed the Turkish parliament [JURIST report] to applaud the government's efforts to reform a controversial provision of the Turkish penal code [JURIST report] but stressed that further efforts would be necessary.




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House passes bill allowing transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US for trial
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 15, 2009 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 307-114 [roll call vote] Thursday to approve legislation that would allow Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to be transferred to US soil for prosecution. The measure was part of a $42.7 billion spending bill [HR 2892 materials] for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website]. The legislation would forbid the release of Guantanamo detainees onto US soil and allows their transfer only for purposes of prosecution in federal courts and only after a thorough security assessment. The legislation also requires that Congress be provided with details before a detainee is transferred overseas. Republican lawmakers strongly opposed the measure, and attempted to send the bill back to committee, but that attempt was voted down 193-224 [roll call vote]. The bill will now go before the US Senate.

Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF] reached an agreement [JURIST report] last week to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to the US for trial. The agreement came shortly after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that the Obama administration may miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials. Earlier this month, the House passed a non-binding motion [JURIST report] to instruct the conferees to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the US for prosecution or incarceration. The motion instructed House committee members to insist on such prohibitions during negotiations.






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Madoff victims file $2.4 million negligence suit against SEC
Brian Jackson on October 15, 2009 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Two of the victims of Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff [JURIST news archive] sued the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] in federal court on Wednesday, seeking $2.4 million in damages. The complaint [text, PDF], filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], alleges that the SEC owed a duty of care to investors and that employees of the agency were negligent in their investigation of the scheme, which is believed to have defrauded investors of over $65 billion. The complaint summarized the issue as follows:

[D]espite numerous credible and detailed complaints, the SEC never properly examined or investigated Madoff's trading and never took the necessary, but basic steps to determine if Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. Had these efforts been made with the appropriate follow-up at any time beginning in June of 1992 until December 2008, the SEC could have uncovered the Ponzi scheme well before Madoff confessed.

Plaintiff Phyllis Molchatsky seeks a minimum of $1.7 million, and plaintiff Steven Schneider a minimum of $752,000, from the government, in addition to fees and costs. No timetable has been set for the trial, and there has been no official statement on the suit by either the SEC or the Justice Department.

This suit against the SEC comes just over a month after the SEC inspector general released a report [JURIST report] detailing the agency's missteps in investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the Madoff investment plan. In July, SEC chair Mary Schapiro pledged more thorough enforcement of security policies in the wake of Madoff's sentencing [JURIST reports]. Several former Madoff employees have been implicated in the Ponzi scheme, including former financial chief Frank DiPascali and accountant David Friehling [JURIST reports].





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China sentences 6 more to death for Xinjiang riot killings
Brian Jackson on October 15, 2009 12:21 PM ET

[JURIST] A court in China sentenced six individuals to death on Thursday for their part in the July riots in Urumqi [JURIST news archive], capital of China's Xinjiang province. The convictions stemmed from assaults that resulted in the deaths of at least four people and damage to property estimated at over 1.6 million yuan. In addition to the six individuals sentenced to death, three were also sentenced to life in prison [Xinhua report], and the court stripped them of their political rights. With these convictions, 12 people have now been sentenced to death, and nearly 100 still await trial.

Earlier this week, six other individuals were sentenced to death [JURIST report], and one more was sentenced to life in prison, for their roles in the riots between Han Chinese and Uighur residents that claimed the lives of approximately 200 people. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media [Xinhua report] has reported that most of the deaths were due to protesters. For their part, the Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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UN rights chief endorses Gaza conflict report
Andrew Morgan on October 15, 2009 12:10 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday reiterated her support [statement text] for the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website; JURIST news archive]. In a statement to the 12th Special Session [materials] of the UN Human Rights Council [official website] on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Pillay said that she agrees with the report's findings [JURIST], describing it as a "call for urgent action to counter impunity":


I encourage the Council and the broader international community to give full consideration to the Fact Finding Mission's report. I also wish to underscore the necessity for all parties to carry out impartial, independent, prompt, and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law in compliance with international standards.

Pillay said that the international response to the conflict must be based in international human rights law, and that "no party can claim that, in defending or supporting its own population, it is allowed to disavow the rights of others." On Wednesday, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe [official profile] also endorsed [UN News Centre report] the report's findings, calling it a "wake up call" in a meeting [minutes] of the UN Security Council held to discuss [JURIST report] the Gaza Conflict. Pascoe reiterated calls by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] that both Israel and Hamas should conduct credible investigations into alleged human rights violations. A vote on a draft resolution to endorse the report's findings is expected Friday.

Thursday's UNHRC meeting came at the request of the Palestinian authority, which had originally agreed to delay a vote on the resolution, but later reversed [JURIST reports] its position. Last month, Richard Goldstone, head of the Gaza mission, presented his findings [JURIST report] to the UNHRC. The Goldstone mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amid strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations.





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ICTY sets Karadzic trial date for October 26
Andrew Morgan on October 15, 2009 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] announced [order, PDF] on Wednesday that the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] will begin on October 26. Karadzic will stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity after the ICTY Appeals Chamber rejected [JURIST report] his plea for immunity, allegedly promised by former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke in exchange for Karadzic's resignation. Echoing a similar dismissal [JURIST report] in April, the Appeals Chamber held that even if Karadzic could prove the existence of the agreement, which Holbrooke denies, it would not limit the ICTY's authority. Karadzic's trial was originally set to begin October 19, but was delayed after his appeal was rejected.

In June, the ICTY said that Karadzic's trial would start in late August [JURIST report], estimating that it will conclude in early 2012. His trial is planned to be the tribunal's last. Karadzic has twice refused to enter pleas [JURIST report] to 11 charges against him including genocide, murder, persecution, deportation, and "other inhumane acts," for war crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Karadzic was originally indicted [indictment text] by the ICTY in 1995 but had been in hiding under an assumed identity until his arrest last year [JURIST report].






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Finland government declares legal right to broadband Internet access
Christian Ehret on October 15, 2009 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications [official website, in Finnish] announced Wednesday that broadband Internet access would become a legal right [press release, in Finnish] for all citizens. Becoming the first country to institute such a policy, the agency declared that Internet providers must afford everyone a connection that is at least one megabyte per second. Communications Minister Suvi Linden said that the required minimum would improve the quality and availability of connections in sparsely populated areas and contribute to rural vitality. Additionally, the agency hopes that the requirement will improve business by enabling electronic transactions. As of last year, out of a population of more than 5.2 million, there were approximately 4.35 million Internet users [statistics text] and 1.6 million broadband subscribers in Finland. The policy will take effect in July 2010.

While Finland is the first country to require broadband connections for its citizens, the right to Internet access recently became an issue in France with respect to Internet piracy legislation [JURIST news archive]. In September, the French Parliament gave final approval [JURIST report] to the latest version [text, in French] of the piracy bill, which aims to take away Internet access for third-time offenders. The French bill was originally struck down [judgment, in French; JURIST report] by the Constitutional Council [official website, in French] in June on the grounds that Internet access was a right that could not be taken away at the discretion of an administrative authority. The new version of the bill leaves suspension of access up to a judicial determination. The opposition Socialist party, who brought the initial suit, will continue to challenge [Reuters report] the legislation.






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Federal judge rules Proposition 8 challenge can proceed
Christian Ehret on October 15, 2009 8:29 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss a case challenging California's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said that a trial is needed [LA Times report] to determine issues regarding the level of constitutional protection afforded to same-sex couples and the state's motivations behind the ban. Walker rejected the argument that only a rational basis was needed for the amendment, pointing out that the US Supreme Court [official website] does not have a clear level of scrutiny for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Walker also dismissed arguments of tradition and procreation. The trial is set for January.

The lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report], filed in May, challenges Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], which amended the California Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, on due process and equal protection grounds. The suit was filed by former US solicitor general Ted Olson and prominent litigator David Boies [professional profiles], of Bush v. Gore [opinion] fame, shortly after the California Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that challenges under state law lacked merit. In August, Walker ruled that several advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Campaign for California Families [advocacy websites], could not intervene in the suit. 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.






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ICC investigating alleged Guinea military violence
Ximena Marinero on October 15, 2009 7:53 AM ET

Photo source or description

[JURIST] Chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno Ocampo [official profile] confirmed [press release] Wednesday that the Guinean military is under preliminary investigation for the September 28 incident [NYT report] at a Conakry pro-democracy rally in which soldiers allegedly opened fire, killing more than 150 civilians and wounding more than 1,200. Ocampo's preliminary investigation will determine "whether crimes falling under the Court's jurisdiction have been perpetrated." The ICC announcement comes the same day as EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Progess Karel de Gucht called [Reuters report] for military junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile] to be tried for crimes against humanity for the Conakry incidents. Last week, the Obama administration also condemned [AllAfrica report] the incident, calling for the UN and the international community to take actions to address the crisis in Guinea. An estimated 50,000 people were gathered in Conakry to protest Camara for his intention to run in the January 2010 elections when soldiers and uniformed individuals allegedly opened fire on the crowds and carried out other forms of violence, including the rape [AFP report] of more than 150 women.

Camara led a coup in December 2008 after the death of president Lansana Conte [BBC obituary]. The coup received mixed reactions among Guineans, some of whom welcomed [Washington Times report] a change from Conte's 24-year regime. Camara promised to remain in power only long enough to assist the country's transition to a new election in which he would not run himself. The international community decried the coup, and conditions inside the African country have since declined [HRW report] with a rise in violence and increasing crackdown on opposition.




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Chile to apply antiterrorism law to prosecute indigenous dissidents
Ximena Marinero on October 15, 2009 6:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Chilean Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced [press release, in Spanish] Tuesday that Chile will use a 1984 antiterrorism law [text, in Spanish] to prosecute indigenous Mapuches for attacks allegedly committed in the southern region of Araucania. The Chilean government has declared [La Nacion report, in Spanish] that it will apply the measure to criminals regardless of their ethnicity, and that only a minority of Mapuches are responsible for the recent attacks in an attempt to disturb negotiations over Mapuche demands. The government has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Council [reports], which maintain that the antiterrorism law unfairly singles out Mapuches, who are Chile's largest minority, accounting for an estimated 4 to 6 percent of the country's population. The law dates from the Pinochet regime and abrogates due process rights for the accused, including a longer wait before arraignment and access to a lawyer once charged. The law also allows the imposition of sanctions up to three times what is established by the Chilean Criminal Code, and considers that acts perpetrated with the general intent of causing fear in the general population or imposing demands upon authorities have a terrorist intent.

Last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [official website, in Spanish] proposed [AP report] the creation of an Indian Affairs Ministry. The proposal has been rejected by the Mapuche indigenous group, which continues to advocate for autonomy. Chile has ruled out such an option but has undertaken land redistribution [Santiago Times report] in Araucania to Mapuche members in response to their demands. Recently, Chile has also attempted to accommodate the demands [La Nacion report, in Spanish] of the Rapa Nui residents of Easter Island, another indigenous group, by undertaking a consultation process [JURIST report] on the subject of immigration and tourism to the island. The consultation comes as the Chilean Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] last week that a measure requiring all visitors to Easter Island to fill out Special Visitor's Cards with information about the length of and reason for their trip is unconstitutional.






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Rwanda genocide suspect pleads not guilty
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 14, 2009 4:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Hutu intelligence chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana [BBC profile; case materials] on Wednesday pleaded not guilty [press release] in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] to charges related to his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. The ICTR indicted [text, PDF] Nizeyimana in 2000 for genocide and crimes against humanity, but the military leader had evaded authorities until his arrest [JURIST report] last week. Prosecutors claim that Nizeyimana ordered troops to kill Tutsi families and to kidnap and kill a ceremonial Tutsi queen, charging him with four counts of genocide, or in the alternative complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. A trial date has not yet been set.

Nizeyimana was one of four top accused sought by the ICTR in order to complete its mission. In July, 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. 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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Supreme Court hears arguments on property seizure, attorney's fees
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 14, 2009 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in two cases. In Alvarez v. Smith [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [text] requires state and local governments to allow probable cause challenges to property seizures, and if so, what the requirements for those hearings should be. Six plaintiffs whose property was seized without a warrant brought suit against Cook County, Illinois, arguing that the Illinois statute allowing warrantless property seizure is unconstitutional. The case comes before the court after the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that some hearing was due, but had remanded the case to the district court in order to determine the applicable test. Counsel for petitioner Cook County argued that no post-seizure adversarial hearing should be required in addition to the civil forfeiture hearing itself. Counsel for respondents argued that due process requires an adversarial hearing.

In Perdue v. Kenny A. [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether an attorney's fee award under a federal fee-shifting statute can be enhanced based on quality of performance and results obtained when these factors already are included in the lodestar calculation. The lodestar calculation is used by courts in awarding attorney's fees and is the product of reasonable hours worked and a reasonable hourly rate. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] the lower court's enhancement of attorney's fees in a class action suit, finding that factors such as quality of performance and results obtained may appropriately be considered. Counsel for the petitioners argued:

This Court has previously held that factors, such as novelty and complexity of the issues, contingency, and superior performance cannot be used to increase the lodestar amount because the factors are subsumed within that determination.

But because of this Court's indication that, in rare or exceptional circumstances, upward adjustments may be permissible, district courts, such as the one below, have used quality and results to increase lodestar awards, even though the - the multiplication of the reasonable number of hours expended times the reasonable hourly rate constitutes a fully compensatory fee and serves the purpose of the statute, which is to attract competent counsel without providing a windfall.
Counsel for the respondents argued that fees should be able to be enhanced by quality of performance and results obtained.





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International convention needed to combat organ trafficking: report
Amelia Mathias on October 14, 2009 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] An international convention is needed to protect the victims of organ, tissue, and cell (OTC) trafficking, according to a new report [text, PDF; press release] released Tuesday by the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] and the UN. The report calls for a separate OTC convention in addition to the convention against human trafficking, drawing a distinction between OTC trafficking and trafficking in humans for the removal of organs. At a press conference [press release], COE Director of Cooperation Marja Ruotanen said, "[w]e have legislation and definitions covering the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal, but the study points out that there is a legal vacuum for the traffic in organs, tissues and cells." The report estimates that 10-15 percent of kidney transplants worldwide come from trafficked organs. The authors of the report hope to introduce a bill to the UN General Assembly on the topic.

OTC trafficking has become a widespread problem throughout the world. In August, the Chinese vice-minister of health estimated that 65 percent of organ transplants in China have their origin in executed prisoners [JURIST report]. Last October, Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic and Albanian state prosecutor Ina Rama met to discuss allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo, but Albania refused to initiate an investigation [JURIST reports]. Both Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe have completed reports into the allegations [JURIST reports], urging further investigation.






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Senate Finance Committee approves health care reform bill
Amelia Mathias on October 14, 2009 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Finance Committee [official website] voted 14-9 to approve [press release, PDF] a health care reform bill [text, PDF] Tuesday. The America's Healthy Future Act, introduced by committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) [official website], would require most US citizens to obtain health insurance and would create tax breaks for low-income families purchasing insurance. The bill would also prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions and create tax incentives for small businesses purchasing insurance for employees. While employers would not be required to provide employees with coverage, employers with more than 50 employees would have to pay a fee for employees who get federally subsidized benefits. The bill does not contain a controversial public insurance option, which has been supported by President Barack Obama, but strongly opposed by Republican lawmakers. Obama expressed enthusiasm [press release] that the bill had passed, while acknowledging its imperfection and the amount of work still to be done. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) [official website] because the first Republican to support Obama's health care reform plan by voting in favor of the bill. Four other health care reform bills have been approved by Senate and House committees, and all five bills must now be debated and reconciled.

Health care reform has been a top priority of the Obama administration over the past several months. Some have complained that the lack of a public option for low-income individuals does not go far enough to fix the nation's health care system. Conservatives have argued that proposed additional taxes on expensive insurance policies already in place would make reform too costly. Approximately 47 million Americans are uninsured, according to the National Coalition on Health Care [advocacy website], though that number is disputed.






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ICTY appeals chamber upholds rejection of Karadzic 'immunity' claim
Matt Glenn on October 14, 2009 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] dismissed [decision, PDF] an appeal claiming immunity by former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] in a ruling released Tuesday. Karadzic, who stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, argued that the ICTY cannot prosecute him because US diplomat Richard Holbrooke promised him immunity if he resigned his leadership. Holbrooke denies the existence of any such agreement. The appeals chamber, in affirming an ICTY trial chamber decision [text, PDF; JURIST report], held that even if the agreement could be proven, it would not limit the ICTY's jurisdiction or its ability to prosecute Karadzic. In April, the appeals chamber affirmed [decision, PDF; JURIST report] the trial chamber's previous rejection [decision, PDF; JURIST report] of a claim by Karadzic on similar grounds. The trial had been scheduled to begin October 21, but the ICTY decided Tuesday to delay the trial to allow Karadzic more time to prepare a defense.

Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. In August, Karadzic sued the Serbian government for allegedly kidnapping him prior to announcing his arrest [JURIST reports] last year. He claimed that Serbian authorities officially reported his arrest three days after he was actually detained, delaying his appearance before a judge. Karadzic's capture came 13 years after being indicted by the ICTY in 1995.






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Spain judge charges accused Somali pirates
Matt Glenn on October 14, 2009 7:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon charged two suspected Somali pirates accused of helping take over the Alakrana, a Spanish ship currently under the control of Somali Pirates. The suspects, Abdou Willy and Raagegeesey, were charged [NYT report] with 36 counts of kidnapping as well as armed assault. Neither suspect has admitted to breaking any laws. The two were arrested [Barcelona Reporter report] last week leaving the Alakrana and flown [El Pais report, in Spanish] from East Africa to Madrid. Spanish officials have claimed jurisdiction over the case because Spanish citizens are involved and because the two were arrested outside of the area in which the European Union has agreed [JURIST report] to turn captured pirates over to Kenya. The pirates in control of the Alakrana said Tuesday that they would not relinquish control [El Pais report] of the ship until the two accused pirates are released.

A study released in July found that acts of piracy doubled [JURIST report] in the first six months of this year from the same period in 2008. In May, five suspected Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in Holland, accused of attempting to hijack [NRC Handelsblad report] a Dutch Antilles freighter in the Gulf of Aden. In April, a US Coast Guard chief called for the enforcement of international piracy laws [JURIST report], citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. Last October, the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1838 [text, PDF; press release], condemning all acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia, and calling on states to "deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively fight piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia." Although maritime piracy is increasingly widespread, Somalia's coast has been ranked as the most dangerous in the world [BBC report] due to a surge in attacks on ships carrying traded goods or humanitarian aid [NPR report].






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Supreme Court hears arguments on intervening in Carolina water dispute
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 13, 2009 3:30 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in three cases. In South Carolina v. North Carolina [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether additional parties may intervene in a lawsuit between two states, over which the Court has original jurisdiction. A special master recommended [report, PDF] that three parties - the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Catawba River Water Supply Project, and Duke Energy Carolinas - be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit brought by South Carolina over water flows from the Catawba River. The state of South Carolina and the US government both dispute that recommendation, arguing that the states should speak for the interests of all their citizens. Counsel for plaintiff South Carolina argued that the special master incorrectly applied the standard for intervening. Counsel for the US also argued on behalf of South Carolina as amicus curiae:

In order to intervene in an original action in this Court, a citizen of a State that is a party to the action must show a compelling interest, separate from that of other citizens, that is not properly represented by the State. In an equitable apportionment action, the interest that is at stake is not a private property interest in water. Rather it is the sovereign interest of the State in a particular share of the waters of an interstate river. For that reason, a private interest in water is not an appropriate basis for intervention in such a proceeding.
Counsel for the interveners argued that the special master's "recommendation deserves some deference because she is in the best position to know whether these parties would assist her in the adjudication of this complex dispute." Counsel for defendant North Carolina argued "the intervention motion directly affects each of these interveners and they have a right to be heard with respect to that intervention."

In Padilla v. Kentucky [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the Sixth Amendment [text] guarantee of effective assistance of counsel requires a criminal defense lawyer to advise a non-citizen client that pleading guilty to an aggravated felony will trigger mandatory, automatic deportation. The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled [opinion, PDF] that a guilty plea induced by bad advice does not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel and does not warrant setting aside the guilty plea. Counsel for petitioner, Honduras native Jose Padilla, argued:
The Kentucky Supreme Court announced a categorical rule so restrictive of the Sixth Amendment that the United States Government disavows it. The court held that the Sixth Amendment never provides a remedy to a defendant who pleads guilty to a crime on the false advice of his attorney that he would not be deported as a result.
Counsel for the Commonwealth of Kentucky argued that "advice of counsel is just a tool to ensure" that a defendant's plea is voluntary. Padilla shares the same name as convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, currently serving a 17-year sentence, but is of no relation.

In Smith v. Spisak [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit contravened the directives of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text, PDF] by extending Mills v. Maryland [opinion text] to resolve in a habeas petitioner's favor questions that were not decided or addressed in Mills. The Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the jury instructions in defendant John Spisak, Jr's trial violated Mills by requiring unanimity in the finding that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors. Counsel for petitioner, the state of Ohio, argued:
the extension of Mills that the Sixth Circuit's ruling made here is not clearly-established law even today. ... There is a - the vast majority of Circuits, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, have rejected the position the Sixth Circuit took here, and in fact, this case is quite distinct from Mills even if Mills were applicable.
Counsel for respondent Spisak argued that the Sixth Circuit applied Mills correctly.





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Czech court to hold public hearing on challenges to EU reform treaty
Jay Carmella on October 13, 2009 2:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic [official website, in Czech] announced Tuesday that it will hold a public hearing on October 27 regarding a challenge to the country's signing of the European Union (EU) reform treaty, known as the Treaty of Lisbon [EU materials; JURIST news archive]. The court will hear arguments [Ceske report] against the treaty from various government representatives, including President Vaclav Klaus [official website, in Czech]. In addition, a group of 17 Czech senators announced on Tuesday that their legal challenge [Xinhua report] will involve whether the treaty violates the Constitution of the Czech Republic [text]. As the last remaining country to ratify the treaty, the Czech Republic is receiving pressure from the remainder of the European Union. EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] urged [press release] the Czech Republic to sign the treaty and not raise artificial objections, saying it would be "completely absurd" to reopen the ratification process in the other member states.

Efforts to ratify [JURIST news archive] the treaty in all of the 27 member countries required for approval have met some obstacles. The treaty was finally approved by Poland and Ireland [JURIST reports] earlier in the month, after certain guarantees were made by the EU. Germany signed [JURIST report] the treaty last month. In March, the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic [official website] voted to approve [JURIST report] the treaty, but Klaus refused to ratify the document. The Czech Republic's Chamber of Deputies [official website] approved [JURIST report] the treaty in February.






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Gabon court declares Bongo victor in disputed presidential election
Jay Carmella on October 13, 2009 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Gabon upheld on Monday the presidential election victory of Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba [BBC Profile]. Bongo, former minister of defence and foreign affairs and of son of long-time Gabonese president Omar Bongo [BBC Profile], received over 40 percent of the vote, but was accused of fraud [Gaboneco report, in French] by his challengers. The court rejected [AP report] the claims filed by the opposition, and ordered that the inauguration can take place in the coming days. Bongo represents a minority party in the nation. This is believed to have played a part in the violence that erupted [NYT report] following the election. Former colonial power, France, had previously acknowledged Bongo as the electoral victor.

Accusations of election fraud and related violence have been widespread in Africa. Earlier this month the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] announced [JURIST report] it will prosecute responsible parties for the December 2007 Kenyan post-election violence [JURIST news archive]. In 2008, opposition parties in Zimbabwe alleged [JURIST report] that the government rigged the results of the re-election of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile, JURIST news archive]. In 2007, the Nigerian presidential election received sharp criticism [JURIST report] from outside observers and opposition leaders, despite what appeared to be a landslide victory for Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile].






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Peru Catholic bishops criticize proposed abortion law
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 13, 2009 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The Peruvian Catholic Bishops Conference (CEP) [organization website, in Spanish] on Monday strongly condemned a proposed law that would legalize abortion [JURIST news archive] in cases of rape or fetal deformity. The CEP's statement called the proposed legislation "arbitrary," labeling it "not just a matter of religion but of ethics, dignity, human rights and civilization." According to the CEP:

So life can not be waived for any reason, or sacrificed for others, even to save someone. When allowed exceptions to this principle, the door is opened to abortion, euthanasia, and any other discriminatory procedures.

Those who are inclined to sacrifice the life of the fetus in order to protect the life of the mother, even in unfortunate instances of rape, start from the assumption that the mother's life is worth more than the child, which is arbitrary and false. All human beings have equal dignity and equal worth.

Our Constitution recognizes that human life begins at conception, and notes that the unborn child is a subject of law in every respect. And the greatest of these rights is precisely the right to life.
The bill was approved by a parliamentary committee last week, and will now be debated before the full Congress [official website, in Spanish]. Abortion is currently legal in Peru only in cases of imminent threat to the woman's health

Abortion has been an extremely contentious issue throughout Latin America, which has a large Catholic population. Last November, the Uruguayan Parliament [official website, in Spanish] failed to override [JURIST report] the presidential veto of a bill that would have decriminalized abortion. With the exception of Cuba, abortion is restricted across Latin American countries [HRW backgrounder], although most countries have passed legislation partially decriminalizing it in some, usually extenuating, circumstances.





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Afghanistan official resigns from UN-backed electoral commission
Safiya Boucaud on October 13, 2009 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] One of the two Afghans on the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) [official website] resigned on Monday, citing "foreign interference." The panel is tasked with investigating the allegations of fraud surrounding the disputed August presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Maulavi Mustafa Barakzai's resignation has raised doubt about the commission's work and has generated allegations that the resignation was influenced by President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] - allegations that have been refuted by Karzai's campaign. The ECC released a statement [text, PDF] on Monday expressing its disappointment over Barakzai's resignation. There is no word on whether Barakzai will be replaced but according to Rule of Procedure 2.4 [text, PDF], the panel only needs a quorum of three people, including one Afghan in order to meet and issue rulings. In addition to the two Afghans on the panel, the five-member panel consists of one American, one Canadian, and one Dutch national. The panel must determine whether Karzai has enough votes to be declared the winner of the election or whether he will have to face a runoff vote against challenger Abdullah Abdullah [BBC profile].

Last month, the EEC ordered a recount [JURIST report] of ballots from about 10 percent of polls. Also in September, the ECC invalidated ballots [JURIST report] from certain polls in Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika [press releases, PDF] provinces. The ECC also ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) [official website] to conduct a partial recount [JURIST report] of votes from polling stations with high irregularities. The IEC said earlier in September that it is conducting its role faithfully and impartially [JURIST report] in an attempt to reassure the Afghan public amid allegations of voter fraud, mainly in response to the more than 100 complaints [JURIST report] filed with the ECC by Abdullah's campaign alleging ballot stuffing, inflated vote counts, and intimidation at the polls by Karzai supporters. Election observers also reported at least two instances of voters fingers, marked with indelible ink to avoid voter fraud, being cut off by Taliban insurgents.






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Supreme Court to hear Enron ex-CEO appeal
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 13, 2009 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in four cases, including the case of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archives]. In Skilling v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC § 1346 text] requires the government to prove that the defendant's conduct was intended to achieve "private gain" rather than to advance the employer's interests, and, if not, whether § 1346 is unconstitutionally vague. The second issue is whether the government must rebut the presumption of jury prejudice, which arose because of pretrial publicity and community impact of the alleged conduct, and, if so, whether the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no juror was actually prejudiced. In February, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] denied [JURIST report] a petition for an en banc rehearing for Skilling after a three-judge panel upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] his previous convictions and ordered him to be resentenced due to error in the lower court. Skilling's appeal was based on a previous Fifth Circuit ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that overturned convictions for other Enron executives based on "honest services theft" because they had acted in Enron's best interest by direction and did not profit from their actions. The panel ruled that Skilling's case differed from these previous rulings because "no one at Enron sanctioned Skilling's improper conduct" and because Skilling's compensation structure was aligned with Enron's earnings. In 2006, Skilling was convicted [JURIST report] of 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud and is currently serving a 24-year sentence. Skilling initially appealed [JURIST report] his conviction in September 2007 claiming prosecutorial and judicial errors.

In United States v. Marcus [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will decide whether the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] erred in its interpretation of Rule 52(b) [text] of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Second Circuit adopted [opinion, PDF] as the appropriate standard for plain-error review of an asserted ex post facto violation whether "there is any possibility, no matter how unlikely, that the jury could have convicted based exclusively on pre-enactment conduct."

In Health Care Service Corporation v. Pollitt [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will decide whether federal law [5 USC §§ 8901–14] on federal employees' health benefits preempts a state court lawsuit filed against a government contractor administering such benefits. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that the state law claims were not preempted.

In Holland v. Florida [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether "gross negligence" by a state-appointed defense attorney in a death penalty case provides a basis for extending the time to file a federal habeas challenge, in a case where the habeas plea was filed late despite repeated instructions from the client. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] against extending time to file the challenge.






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California Supreme Court chief justice criticizes voter initiative process
Safiya Boucaud on October 13, 2009 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] California Supreme Court [official website] Chief Justice Ronald George [official profile] on Saturday criticized [transcript] California's voter initiative process, which gives Californians the right to initiate or make new laws via the ballot box. In a speech to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences [professional association website], George said the process, which effectively allows voters to bypass the legislative process, has made the state government dysfunctional. In his comments on the initiative process, George said:


One Bar leader has observed: "California's current constitution rivals India's for being the longest and most convoluted in the world.... [W]ith the cumulative dross of past voter initiatives incorporated, [it] is a document that assures chaos." Initiatives have enshrined a myriad of provisions into California's constitutional charter, including a prohibition on the use of gill nets and a measure regulating the confinement of barnyard fowl in coops. This last constitutional amendment was enacted on the same 2008 ballot that amended the state Constitution to override the California Supreme Court's decision recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry. Chickens gained valuable rights in California on the same day that gay men and lesbians lost them.

George also stressed the need for fundamental reforms to the voter initiative process in order to create function and accountability at the state government level.

George's references to the right of same-sex couples to marry relate to Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], which amended the California Constitution [text] to prohibit same-sex marriage. In May, the California Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that constitutional challenges to Proposition 8 lacked merit and that the amendment stands as lawful. Proposition 8, approved by voters [JURIST report] last 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 voter initiative became 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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Pakistan court drops charges against leader of group suspected in Mumbai terror attacks
Steve Czajkowski on October 13, 2009 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] A Pakistani court on Monday dismissed charges against Islamic cleric Hafiz Muhammad Saeed [Global Jihad backgrounder], the founder and leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)[CFR backgrounder], an Islamic group suspected of playing a key role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks [JURIST news archive]. A two-judge panel of the Lahore High Court dismissed [NYT report] the charges, which included using language criticizing Pakistan and seeking money for a banned group, citing a lack of evidence. The charges had been filed under the Pakistani Anti-Terrorism Act [text], and were related to speeches Saeed gave while visiting Faisalabad last month. It is claimed that he discussed [Times of India report] the significance of Jihad and asked for funding for his charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front for the LeT. Saeed's lawyer successfully argued that JuD was not a banned group.

Saeed has been on virtual house arrest [JURIST report] since last month, after Pakistani officials ordered his movements to be restricted over security concerns. Previous restrictions had ended [JURIST report] in June, after the Lahore High Court found there was not enough evidence to link him and his group to the Mumbai attacks. Last month, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that his government would indict seven suspects [JURIST report] for their role in the attacks, also requesting further evidence from India that Saeed was involved in planning the attacks. 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 to institute special courts [JURIST reports] to try suspects.






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Uruguay parliament approves sex change law
Steve Czajkowski on October 13, 2009 7:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The Uruguayan Parliament [official website, in Spanish] on Monday unanimously approved [press release, in Spanish] legislation that provides rules for individuals seeking to change their gender identity. The bill, which was approved by Uruguay's Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Monday, had been approved by the House of Representatives [official website, in Spanish] last month. The legislation allows [El Pais report, in Spanish] an individual to undergo a sex change at age 18, and allows the person to change his or her name and sexual identity on any official documents, including those dealing with marriage and travel. The bill must now be signed by President Tabare Vazquez [BBC profile] in order to take effect.

Uruguay has been on the forefront in dealing with issues concerning gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals in Latin America. Last month the Uruguayan Senate voted 17-6 to approve [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] a law legalizing adoption by same sex couples. The new law will permit adoptions by couples in both marriages and civil unions after four years of cohabitation. 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.






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Palestinian Authority president reverses position on UN rights council Gaza delay
Matt Glenn on October 13, 2009 7:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] proposed Monday that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] reconvene to vote to endorse the findings of a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website], which criticized Israel's role in last winter's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security backgrounder]. Abbas's statement comes less than two weeks after the UNHRC decided to postpone the vote until March 2010, due, in part, to the PA's endorsement of such a postponement. Abbas, facing criticism [JURIST report] from fellow Palestinians and human rights organizations, also announced Sunday the formation of a panel [Haaretz report] to investigate who authorized the PA to endorse delaying the vote. US and Israeli officials have said that a vote to endorse the report, which recommends sending the report to the UN General Assembly and could eventually lead to prosecution of Israeli officials before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for war crimes and crimes against humanity, would complicate peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders. The PA's decision not to pursue an immediate vote, however, has delayed [Al Jazeera report] the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Abbas's Fatah party and Hamas, one of Abbas's harshest critics for the PA's decision to delay the vote. Abbas suggested he would like a hearing before the UNHRC by as early as next week

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Joe Stork urged [JURIST comment] US President Barack Obama to endorse the report. Last week, B'Tselem [advocacy website] Executive Director Jessica Montell argued [JURIST comment] that Israel should take advantage of the postponed vote to conduct its own investigation into its conduct during the conflict. Last month, an Israeli newspaper reported that Israel conditioned [JURIST report] a proposed mobile phone network in the West Bank on the PA dropping its request that the ICC investigate Israel for war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. The UN commission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report].






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Chile reconsidering Easter Island tourism after court ruling
Ximena Marinero on October 12, 2009 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The Chilean government will begin a non-binding consultation process [El Mercurio report, in Spanish] on Tuesday to survey the indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island on tourism influx and immigration into the island. The consultation comes as the Chilean Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] last week that a measure requiring all visitors to Easter Island to fill out Special Visitor's Cards (TEV's) with information about the length of and reason for their trip is unconstitutional. The high court reasoned that the TEV's, required for all visitors since September 15, infringed on Article 19 of the Chilean Constitution [text, PDF], which guarantees the right to personal freedom, including the right to move or remain in any place in the country, and ordered that the TEV's could only be requested on a voluntary [La Nacion report, in Spanish] basis. The results from Tuesday's consultation will be used in the Chilean Parliament to debate [Radio Universidad de Chile report, in Spanish] another proposed measure, one that would amend the constitution to enable local Easter Island authorities to exert more control over visitors and immigration to the island. To consult the Rapa Nui, Easter Island's indigenous residents, Subsecretary of the Interior Patricio Rosende announced that the Chilean government will develop [Terra report, in Spanish] workshops across the island, use media to engage residents, and will conduct a plebiscite-like vote on October 24.

Tuesday's consultation is part of a series of measures that the Chilean government has undertaken in response to recent demands and protests [La Nacion report, in Spanish] by Rapa Nui groups. They fear that tourism will ruin [Economist report] Easter Island's resources as the number of annual visitors continues to climb from 14,000 in mid-1990s to 70,000 last year. One of the islanders' organizations, then Rapa Nui Parliament, has staged protests [El Mercurio report, in Spanish] and has threatened to remove all non-indigenous residents from the island.






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Sudan court again sentences 4 men to death for murder of USAID workers
Jay Carmella on October 12, 2009 2:09 PM ET

[JURIST] A Sudanese court again sentenced four men to death on Monday for the January 2008 murder of two US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website] employees. The men were previously convicted [JURIST report] and sentenced to death in June for the murders of John Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, but their sentences were vacated after Abbas's father forgave them. The sentences were reinstated at the request of both victims' families, as Sudanese law permits victims' families to forgive the murderer, demand compensation, or request execution. Following the original conviction, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] welcomed the convictions as an "important step in bringing justice for" Granville and Rahama. A controversy developed over the issue of whether a Muslim can be sentenced to death for the killing of a non-Muslim. The judge ruled that under Sudanese and Islamic law, all men are equal.

The trial for the men began [JURIST report] last August. Following the shooting, a previously-unknown extremist group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid claimed responsibility [VOA report] for the shootings. Granville was the first US diplomat killed in Sudan since the deaths of US Ambassador Cleo Noel and US Embassy staffer George Curtis Moore [Arlington Cemetery memorials] in 1973. Tense diplomatic ties between the US and Sudan have been strained by the on-going conflict in the country's western Darfur [JURIST news archive] region.






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UAE court convicts US citizen for terrorist activities
Jay Carmella on October 12, 2009 1:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) [JURIST news archive] on Monday convicted an American citizen of engaging in terrorist activities and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Naji Hamdan, who confessed to the terrorist activities while being tortured, pleaded not guilty [AP report] at the trial. Hamdan consistently denied the charges, claiming his confessions were coerced through torture. Hamdan expressed disappointment at the conviction, which cannot be appealed. His family said they expect his release soon [AFP report], as he has already been in prison for 14 months.

Hamdan faced three separate charges of terrorism, including providing financial support for attacks against Israel and being connected to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Despite being of Lebanese descent, Hamdan lived for 20 years in the US. The FBI questioned Hamdan [BBC report] in 1999 regarding his connection to terrorist organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] suspected the US government of pushing the case onto UAE officials because it did not have enough evidence to charge Hamdan. The ACLU asked for the US government to intervene [press release], but the request was denied in August.






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China court sentences 6 to death for Xinjiang riot killings
Safiya Boucaud on October 12, 2009 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The Intermediate People's Court in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang province on Monday sentenced to death [Xinhua report] six men convicted of murder and other crimes such as arson and robbery for their roles in July's violent demonstrations [JURIST news archive] that left about 200 people dead and many more injured. A seventh man was given life imprisonment because he confessed to his crime and aided the police in finding the other culprits. Although the mens' ethnicities were not publicized, their names suggest that they are all Uighurs. The verdict comes after Chinese officials said Saturday that 21 people will be put on trial [JURIST report] for crimes such as arson, robbery, and murder. Since the riots, more than 100 people have been charged. The seven men sentenced Monday were the first to be convicted in connection with the riots.

In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] in Urumqi between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. 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 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 says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Gay rights activists march in DC after Obama pledges support
Safiya Boucaud on October 12, 2009 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Tens of thousands of gay rights activists participated in the National Equality March in Washington, DC on Sunday to demand equal rights, one day after US President Barack Obama pledged his support [transcript, video] to the gay and lesbian community. At a Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] event on Saturday, Obama spoke directly to gay Americans, vowing to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy [10 USC § 654 text; HRC backgrounder], which subjects openly gay individuals to discharge from the military:

We are moving ahead on Don't Ask Don't Tell. We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we're fighting two wars.

We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford — for our military's integrity — to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you.
Obama also mentioned his desire for Congress to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], which bars recognition of same-sex marriage. HRC President Joe Solomonese said, "[t]his was a historic night when we felt the full embrace and commitment of the President of the United States. It's simply unprecedented."

Last month, legislators introduced [JURIST report] a bill to repeal the 1996 DOMA. In July, the US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would hold hearings this fall to review the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] to review the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In November 2008, more than 100 retired admirals and generals of the US military called for a repeal [JURIST report] of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In June 2008, he US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld [JURIST report] "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The First Circuit's decision stands in stark contrast to a May 2008 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held [JURIST report] that a soldier could not be dismissed on the basis of sexual orientation alone.





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Argentina president signs controversial media bill into law
Amelia Mathias on October 11, 2009 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Argentinian President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner [official profile; BBC profile] Saturday signed into law a controversial bill giving her government more power to regulate the media, while limiting the power of private media companies. The executive branch now has the power to appoint [NYT report] representatives to a media regulating board. The new law is said be particularly directed at media conglomerate Clarin [media website, in Spanish], which owns several major newspapers and television channels. Current media holdings will not be grandfathered in [Buenos Aires Herald], but rather given one year to adjust to the new regulation.

Kirchner reportedly has blamed her 20 percent approval rating and a mid-term election loss on Clarin, which controls 46 percent of the Argentina cable market, and wanted to pass the law before losing [VOA report] her Congressional majority in December. Last week, tax agents raided [BBC report] the Clarin newspaper office, and currently, Argentine judges are holding a hearing [AP report] to determine whether the children of a Clarin director are illegally adopted orphans from Argentina's so-called "Dirty War" [JURIST news archive].






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Turkey and Armenia sign accord restoring ties after long rift over 'genocide'
Steve Czajkowski on October 11, 2009 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Turkey and Armenia [JURIST news archives] signed [text, PDF; Anadolu Anjasi report] a landmark accord Saturday in Zurich, Switzerland, which is expected to normalize relations between the two countries and open up borders. The accord, which actually consists of two protocols, contains provisions to establish a common border between the two countries, to establish an intergovernmental commission, and to set up sub-commissions which will deal with a variety of policy issues ranging from the environment to education. In a tense moment, the signing of the protocols was delayed for three hours because of a disagreement over statements that were to be made after the signing ceremony. Mediation by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] apparently resolved [press release] the dispute, which involved neither of the signatory foreign ministers making a statement after the signing. The Turkish and Armenian parliaments must still approve [Xinhua report] the agreement before it takes effect.

Despite the apparent appeal of the agreement, there is opposition by factions in both countries. Many Armenian nationalists want Turkey to acknowledge the killings of 1.5 million Armenian citizens during World War I, which many refer to as the "Armenian Genocide" [BBC backgrounder]. Turkey has long disputed [Al Jazeera report] the numbers, and has said the killings were a result of a civil war that took place after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. Turkey has expressed concern over its ally Azerbaijan, which has been fighting [DW report] with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Turkey closed its border to Armenia in 1993 after Armenian separatists began fighting with Azerbaijani military to show its support for the preservation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.






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China putting 21 on trial over Xinjiang riots
Steve Czajkowski on October 11, 2009 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese officials said Saturday that 21 people who were charged with arson, robbery, and murder after July's violent demonstrations [JURIST news archive] in China's Xinjiang province, will be put on trial. A total of 108 people have so far been charged [China Daily report] as a result of the riots in the city of Urumqi, located in the Uighur Autonomous Region. Chinese prosecutors in Urumqi said they have been slow to start proceedings against more of the indicted because they are trying to build strong cases. Additionally on Saturday, a man was sentenced [Xinhua report] to death and his co-worker was given a lifetime prison sentence, for causing a fight at a toy factory in China's Guangdong Province in June, which left two Uighur workers dead. It is believed that the altercation at the toy factory was the impetus [AFP report] for the Xinjiang riots.

In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] in Urumqi between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. 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 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 says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.






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Congress drops border fence extension from Homeland Security appropriations
Christian Ehret on October 10, 2009 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Members of the US Congress have removed an amendment [S AMDT 1399 materials] to the 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill [HR 2892 materials] that sought to require additional construction of the US-Mexico border fence [JURIST news archive]. The amendment, introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website], had been narrowly passed [roll call vote] by the Senate in July. It called for the completion of 700 miles of reinforced fencing along the border, not to be substituted for "virtual fencing" or low-rise vehicle barriers. Of the $42.78 billion allocated for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), $10.1 billion is directed toward Customs and Border Protection [official websites], $800 million of which is for fencing, infrastructure and technology [agreement, PDF] along the Southwest border. Currently, nearly 700 miles of the border are enforced with a combination of fencing, virtual-fencing, patrol and other means. It is estimated that the fence will cost $2.4 billion to complete [report, PDF] and an additional $6.5 billion to maintain it for 20 years.

Border fence construction has been met with many legal challenges. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] in County of El Paso, Texas v. Napolitano [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which it was asked to consider whether the DHS secretary's broad authority in constructing a border fence was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. That same month, a lawsuit brought against the DHS by the Texas Border Coalition [advocacy website] was dismissed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in federal court. The Coalition had challenged [JURIST report] the condemnation of land for fence construction and land access compensation under the Administrative Procedure Act [text, PDF], the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and the Fifth Amendment [text] due process clause. The fence construction was authorized [JURIST report] in 2006 by then-president George W. Bush.






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Poland ratifies EU Lisbon Treaty
Christian Ehret on October 10, 2009 12:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Poland ratified [press release] the European Union (EU) reform pact known as the Lisbon Treaty [EU materials; text] on Saturday, becoming the 26th country to do so. Before signing the agreement, Polish President Lech Kaczynski [official website] expressed confidence that the treaty would be successful [BBC report]. European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] expressed approval [press release] at the signing ceremony, saying that the treaty's final ratification will better the EU's ability to face future challenges and to become "a Europe of freedom and solidarity." The agreement will take effect if it is ratified by the Czech Republic, the only holdout among the 27 EU member states.

The treaty was approved by voters in Ireland last week, who initially rejected it [JURIST reports] over a year ago, after certain guarantees were made by the EU. Kaczynski had previously refused to sign [JURIST report] the charter for Poland, saying that doing so would be “pointless” without Ireland's approval. During initial negotiations for the agreement, Poland raised numerous objections regarding the proposed Council of Europe voting system but still signed [JURIST report] in December 2007.






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House passes amendments to Military Commissions Act
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 9, 2009 2:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday passed a bill [HR 2647 materials] that amends the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF] to provide suspected terrorists with greater due process rights. The Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF] was approved by a vote of 281-146 [roll call] as part of the National Defense Authorization Act granting $681 billion in military appropriations for the 2010 fiscal year. Among the bill's provisions are limitations on the use of hearsay or coerced evidence and greater defense access to witnesses and evidence. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] said that while the bill represents an improvement over the current system, it still contains unconstitutional provisions [press release]:


While this bill contains substantial improvements to the current military commissions, the system remains fatally flawed and contrary to basic principles of American justice. While the bill takes positive steps by restricting coerced and hearsay evidence and providing greater defense counsel resources, it still falls short of providing the due process required by the Constitution. The military commissions were created to circumvent the Constitution and result in quick convictions, not to achieve real justice.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] that the amendments "fail[] to remedy the system's serious flaws." Also included in Thursday's bill were provisions expanding the definition of federal hate crimes [JURIST report] to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The bill must now be approved by the Senate.

The use of military commissions [JURIST news archive] to try suspected terrorists remains controversial. Last month, the government sought additional delays [JURIST report] in the proceedings against several Guantanamo detainees. Earlier in September, military lawyers for Guantanamo detainee and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh [JURIST news archive] asked [petition, PDF] the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] to declare the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In July, a former prosecutor at Guantanamo testified [JURIST report] before the House Judiciary Committee [official website] that the military commission system is "broken beyond repair."





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DHS rescinds controversial 'no-match' employment rule
Andrew Morgan on October 9, 2009 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Deparment of Homeland Security (DHS) on Wednesday rescinded [rule, PDF] a rule that would have required employers to fire workers whose information did not match Social Security Administration (SSA) [official website] records. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) [advocacy websites] filed suit [case materials] against DHS in 2007 challenging the "no-match" rule [NILC backgrounder, PDF], concerned that inaccurate records and clerical errors would threaten legal US workers. Calling the issuance of the final rule a "victory for workers," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said [press release]:


The "no match" program was a flawed and ineffective immigration enforcement tool that would have hurt U.S. citizens and other authorized workers. Employers have been able to game the immigration system for too long. We need comprehensive immigration reform that respects workers' rights, protects our borders and holds employers accountable.

NILC Executive Director Marielena Hincapie [official profile] urged the SSA [press release, PDF] to "send an unequivocal message" that Social Security number mismatches are not grounds for dismissal by "terminating the 'no match' letter program" altogether. A preliminary injunction [text, PDF] issued by the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] in October 2007 prevented the rule from ever being put into effect.

Despite the repeal, the Obama administration has expressed support [press release] for the E-Verify system [official website], a largely voluntary system that also relies on matching employee information with the SSA. In June 2008, then-president George W. Bush issued an executive order [JURIST report] requiring that all federal contractors and subcontractors participate in E-Verify. Earlier that month, a federal court in Oklahoma granted a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of employer-related provisions in a state immigration law [JURIST report] that required employers to verify the eligibility of their employers using the E-Verify system. In March 2008, the governor of Rhode Island also issued an executive order [JURIST report] requiring state agencies and companies doing business with the state to use the E-Verify system to verify that all employees are legal residents. In February 2008, a federal appeals court refused to grant an emergency injunction blocking enforcement of an Arizona law [JURIST report] that requires employers to check the legal status of new hires using the E-Verify system.





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House passes bill to extend hate crimes protections
Andrew Morgan on October 9, 2009 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday approved a bill [HR 2647 materials] that extends the definition of federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act [text, PDF] was passed 281-146 [roll call] as part of the conference report authorizing $681 billion in military appropriations for the 2010 fiscal year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) [official website] welcomed [press release] the bill's passage:


This nation was founded on the promise of pluralism; a commitment to equality and opportunity; and the belief that "liberty and justice for all" is not simply an empty pledge – it rests at the core of our identity as a people. No American should ever have to suffer persecution or violence because of who they are, how they look, or what they believe

House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] said that Republicans did not support the bill because it relied on a person's subjective state of mind to determine the level of punishment. In addition to amending the definition of hate crimes, the measure creates a $5 million grant program for state and local law enforcement agencies investigating hate crimes and directs the US attorney general [official website] to give priority to multi-state and rural crimes. The bill now moves to the Senate [official website].

The House approved similar bills in April 2009 and May 2007 [JURIST reports]. The Senate also passed [JURIST report] similar legislation in the form of an amendment to the 2008 Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials]. However, the broadened language was ultimately removed [JURIST report] during House and Senate negotiations.





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Accused 'Toronto 18' leader pleads guilty
Brian Jackson on October 9, 2009 9:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The accused leader of the so-called "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder; JURIST news archive] Zakaria Amara pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of planning to bomb three targets within the province of Ontario in 2006. Those targets included the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service office in Toronto, as well as a military base between Toronto and Ottawa. Amara is the fifth member of the group [CP report] to plead guilty or be convicted in the plot, and, because of his leadership status, likely faces life in prison [Globe and Mail report], though sentencing will not take place for several weeks. Charges are still pending against six of the suspects, including the alleged co-leader of the group.

Last week, a member of the group, Ali Mohamed Dirie, was sentenced to seven years in prison [JURIST report] for his part in the plot, while another, Saad Gaya, pleaded guilty. One month prior, the first of the group to plead guilty, Saad Khalid, was sentenced to 14 years in prison [JURIST report], though the Canadian government is seeking to alter that sentence, after the court credited him seven years [Reuters report] for time already served. In May, the first of the suspects to be convicted was sentenced and released [JURIST report], with the court citing time served.






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Guantanamo detainee repatriated to Kuwait
Brian Jackson on October 9, 2009 8:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Friday that Kuwaiti Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Khaled Al-Mutairi has been returned to his home country [press release]. The US government alleged that Al-Mutairi had fought against American troops in Afghanistan, but in his almost eight years at the facility, no charges were ever filed. Al-Mutairi maintains that he had traveled to Afghanistan to provide monetary support for schools. In his home country, Al-Mutairi will participate in a rehabilitation program [AFP report] set up by the Kuwaiti government, designed to help former Guantanamo detainees recover and reintegrate into civilian life. The DOJ also announced that a second detainee, whose identity has not been released, was released to Belgium. Al-Mutairi's release leaves 222 detainees who must be dealt with before the Obama administration's goal of closing the facility [JURIST report] can be realized.

Al-Mutairi's release was ordered [JURIST report] by federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] when she granted his petition [opinion, PDF] for habeas corpus in July. Al-Mutairi was one of several Kuwaiti detainees remaining at Guantanamo. Most recently, Kollar-Kotelly ordered the release JURIST report] of Fouad Al Rabiah, another Kuwaiti man who had been held for seven years under suspicion of aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Two weeks before that order, Kollar-Kotelly denied the petition [JURIST report] of Kuwaiti detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah, who admitted to traveling to Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban.






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Senate committee approves reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 8, 2009 4:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] voted 11-8 Thursday to approve [press release] legislation [S 1692 materials] reauthorizing three provisions of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] set to expire at the end of the year. The portions of the act to be renewed allow federal authorities to conduct "roving" wiretaps, compel the production of business, medical and library records, and designate suspects as "lone wolf" agents of a foreign power. The bill would also impose greater oversight on the FBI's use of its surveillance powers and would cause several provisions of the act to expire after another four years. At the opening of Thursday's executive business meeting [materials], bill sponsor and committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said:


I remain mindful of our responsibility to ensure both security and liberty as we proceed. All of us know that the threats to Americans' safety are real and continuing. Our bill will provide the tools that are being used to protect us, while increasing the protections of our vital constitutional rights, as well. The bill we consider today will serve to extend the authorization of the three expiring Patriot Act provisions requested by the administration. We also provide for increased Government accountability requiring audits and reviews of how these vast authorities are being used.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized the bill [press release], saying it does not go far enough to protect civil liberties. The bill will now go before the full Senate.

Last week, a US Department of Justice (DOJ) official told the committee that the Obama administration supports the reauthorization [JURIST report] of the expiring provisions. The 2009 expiration date on Section 215, the "business records" provision, and Section 206, the "roving wiretap" provision, were set in March 2006 when the 16 key provisions [DOJ report] of the Patriot Act were renewed and 14 made permanent [JURIST report]. Additional civil liberties safeguards built into the renewal included allowing recipients of Section 215 subpoenas to challenge the accompanying gag order. In the wake of these amendments, the ACLU withdrew a lawsuit challenging Section 215 [JURIST report]. Despite the amendments, a federal judge ruled last year that imposing gag orders on recipients of NSLs is unconstitutional without judicial review [JURIST report]





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UN Security Council to discuss Gaza conflict report in rescheduled meeting
Andrew Morgan on October 8, 2009 1:53 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] agreed Wednesday to reschedule October's meeting on the Middle East in order to discuss the final report [JURIST report] of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict [official website]. The meeting was pushed forward [BBC report] at the request of Libyan diplomats, with the support of many Arab members. US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff [official profile] said that the Council had only agreed that the meeting would be moved forward from the October 20 to the 14, and that all delegations are free "to raise whatever issue they think are pertinent." Reiterating US and Israeli criticism [JURIST report] of the report's conclusions, Wolff said that the proper venue to discuss the report was the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], which postponed [JURIST report] further discussion of the report until March.

Last month, Richard Goldstone, head of the Gaza mission, presented his findings [JURIST report] to the UNHRC. The mission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. Goldstone was appointed to head the investigation [JURIST report] in April, amid strong criticism [JURIST report] from Israel. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report]. Israel has already disputed [JURIST report] a previous report to the UNHRC that accused it of human rights violations.






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Annan urges Kenya to establish tribunal for perpetrators of post-election violence
Brian Jackson on October 8, 2009 12:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday urged Kenya to establish a local tribunal [statement text] to prosecute those who perpetrated violence in the wake of the 2007 presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Annan made the remarks at the end of a three-day visit to Kenya to monitor the progress of the peace agreement and coalition government that he helped broker in the wake of the election. Annan said that Kenya has pledged to cooperate [BBC report] with the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], which last week said that it would seek to prosecute [JURIST report] those responsible for the violence. Annan also expressed disappointment with the pace of reforms [JURIST report] in Kenya, warning that general elections scheduled for 2012 might face similar issues as those in 2007.



While Annan calls for Kenyan involvement in policing their own matters, not all observers believe such action is possible. In August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for an independent tribunal [JURIST report] with international support and participation because "the Kenyan judiciary lacks independence," and the necessary reforms announced [transcript] by the Kenyan Cabinet [official website] in late July would be insufficient. Earlier this year, the Kenyan parliament rejected [JURIST report] the proposed document that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and opposition leader Raila Odinga [campaign website] agreed to draft [JURIST report] to establish a new Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009 [text, PDF], along with a Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009 [text, PDF] that would have set up a special domestic court to try those allegedly responsible for the post-election violence. Tens of thousands of protesters took to Kenya's streets accusing Kibaki of election fraud after early opinion polls suggested rival Odinga was in the lead.






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Australia rights committee urges greater legislative protections
Brian Jackson on October 8, 2009 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The Australian public wants legislative protections for human rights in their country, according to a government report [materials] released Wednesday by the Human Rights Consultation Committee [official website]. According to the report, Australians believe that their country adequately protects human rights, but that further protections could be extended to a number of vulnerable groups. Among those groups that require extra protections, citizens felt that the elderly and those with mental illness, particularly in areas of the country with significant indigenous populations, were most likely to fall through the cracks of Australia's human rights systems. The Committee's recommendation was that Australia adopt a federal human rights act:


that recognises and fully protects the non-derogable civil and political rights and that offers a process for engagement by all three branches in government when parliament legislates to set limits on other civil and political rights could constitute a useful, cost-effective means of repairing some of the holes in Australia's patchwork of rights protection.

The government, despite releasing the report, has made no official statement, while advocacy groups have begun a vigorous debate [Brisbane Times report] on the issue.

Earlier this year, Australia endorsed [JURIST report] the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, in an effort to continue to "close the gap" between the indigenous and non-indigenous people of Australia. The topic of human rights, particularly with regard to Australia's indigenous people, was a prominent portion of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's election platform. In February 2008, Rudd released a statement apologizing [text] for Australia's past treatment of indigenous population. Australia's endorsement of the UN Declaration represented a significant change from the attitudes of former Prime Minister John Howard, who said [speech text] that the declaration would result in a national attitude of "victimhood".





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DOJ investigating IBM antitrust allegations: reports
Christian Ehret on October 8, 2009 9:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is investigating IBM for allegations of antitrust violations stemming from their sales of mainframe computers, according to Wednesday media reports. Competitors allege that IBM is dominating the mainframe computer market [NYT report] by not allowing its operating systems to run on non-IBM mainframes. The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) [trade website] maintains [backgrounder text] that the effects of IBM's actions have "walled off vital corporate and government applications and data from the rapidly evolving high-end server market." The trade group argues that limiting the operating system's use to one platform presents problems and "retards innovation." A DOJ spokesperson had no comment on the investigation.

In January, T3 Technologies [corporate website] filed a complaint [press release; CCIA backgrounder] against IBM with the European Commission alleging that IBM refused to sell their operating system to T3's customers. T3's US suit was recently dismissed in a New York District Court, although the company plans to appeal. In August, a district court dismissed [JURIST report] a consumer class action antitrust lawsuit against telecommunications company Qualcomm [corporate website] that alleged the company has used the licensing of CDMA [industry backgrounder] related patents to adversely affect competition.






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Senate committee urged to clarify employment age discrimination law
Andrew Morgan on October 8, 2009 9:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] was urged Wednesday to adopt measures [hearing materials; recorded video] to address recent Supreme Court decisions interpreting the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act [text]. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] expressed concern [testimony] that protections put in place by the ADEA would be undermined by the Court's June decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services [JURIST report], which found that age must be the "but for" cause of dismissal in order to prove discrimination. Leahy said that the decision may allow employers to dismiss older workers "so long as they cloak it with other reasons." Pennsylvania State University law professor Michael Foreman told the committee [testimony, PDF] that the decision:


requires employees who are victims of age discrimination to meet a higher burden of proof than someone alleging discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin under Title VII. This result runs contrary to our national commitment to equality. Congress should thus take positive steps to ensure that our civil rights and employment laws protect all American workers.

However, employment lawyer Michael Fox said that the Gross decision was consistent [testimony, PDF] with the adoption of the ADEA independent of the more liberal Title VII [text] rules addressing race and gender and that Congress "meant from the beginning [for] the enforcement mechanisms of the two statutes [to be] dramatically different." The committee also addressed the Court's 2001 decision in Circuit City Stores, Inc. v. Adams [opinion text], which validated the use of binding arbitration provisions in pre-employment contracts. Leahy said that when Congress enacted the Federal Arbitration Act [text], it meant to provide sophisticated businesses with an alternative dispute mechanism, and "never intended this law to become a hammer for corporations to use against their employees." Council for Employment Law Equity Mark de Bernardo disagreed [testimony, PDF], saying that arbitration is an "alternative to costly, time-consuming, deleterious, and relationship-destructive litigation" which has been supported by both management and organized labor.

In January, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 [JURIST report], which extended the deadline for employees to sue their employers for unequal pay discrimination, and effectively overturned the Supreme Court's ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The initial lawsuit was brought by Lilly Ledbetter, a 19-year Goodyear employee, who alleged that she received less pay than male counterparts because of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court upheld the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's reversal [opinion, PDF] of a district court decision awarding Ledbetter $360,000 in damages.





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US lawmakers compromise on domestic prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees
Christian Ehret on October 8, 2009 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF] reached an agreement [text, PDF] Wednesday that would allow Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to be transferred to the US for trial. The compromise would allocate $42.78 billion for the Homeland Security appropriations bill [HR 2892 materials] and would stipulate that current detainees may be transferred to the US for prosecution after information is disclosed to Congress. Officials would have to submit a plan to Congress that details risks, costs, and legal rationale and verifies the attorney general's certification for each detainee to be transferred. In order to close the facility, the agreement would require the president to submit a report to Congress detailing the disposition of each current detainee. Ranking committee minority member Hal Rogers (R-KY) [official website] called the agreement "a fairly reasonable compromise" but expressed his concerns [statement text] about transferring the detainees to US soil. Committee Chairman David Price (D-NC) [official website] said that the agreement was substantial progress [press release] toward strengthening Homeland Security. The appropriations bill still needs final approval from Congress before being presented to the president.

Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that the Obama administration may miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials. Last week, the House passed a non-binding motion [JURIST report] to instruct the conferees to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the US for prosecution or incarceration. The motion, introduced by Rogers, instructed House committee members to insist on such prohibitions during negotiations. In June, the House approved a spending bill [JURIST report] that denied the administration $60 million requested to close the prison. The Senate amended a supplemental appropriations bill [JURIST report] in May to delay a similar $80 request until a detailed plan was made available.






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US military judge replaces Khadr defense lawyer with civilian lawyers
Ximena Marinero on October 8, 2009 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge on Wednesday dismissed the military lawyer for Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] in accordance with Khadr's request. During Wednesday's brief hearing, Col. Patrick Parrish accepted the resignation [Miami Herald report] of Navy Lieutenant Commander William Kuebler [JURIST news archive], who will be replaced by former federal prosecutors and civilian lawyers, Barry Coburn and Kobie Flowers [professional profiles] of the Washington, DC firm Coburn & Coffman PLLC [firm website]. Court affidavits obtained by the Toronto Star allegedly detail [Toronto Star report] that Kuebler's performance had become detrimental to the defense, seeming paranoid and reckless, and going to the extent of witholding information from the legal team and from Khadr. Khadr asked to have his US military lawyers dismissed [JURIST report] in June for arguing and disagreeing among themselves. The disputes among the members of Khadr's US defense team arose from chief defense counsel Colonel Peter Masciola's efforts to dismiss [JURIST report] Kuebler as lead counsel for Khadr after Kuebler filed a formal complaint against Masciola alleging a conflict of interest. Khadr's case will resume on November 16, at the end of a review of the military commission system by the Obama administration.

The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] agreed last month to consider the Canadian federal government's appeal [JURIST report] of a Federal Court of Appeal [official website] decision [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] ordering the government to press for Khadr's release and repatriation. In August, 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. 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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Italy high court strikes down immunity law that shielded Berlusconi
Ximena Marinero on October 8, 2009 7:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] on Wednesday struck down [press release, DOC, in Italian] the 2008 law granting immunity from prosecution to the four highest officials of the country, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile], finding it unconstitutional. The high court ruled 9-6 against the law, basing the decision on principles contained in article 3 and article 138 [text, in Italian] of the Italian Constitution, which provide that all citizens are equal before the law, and that granting immunity of public officials requires a constitutional change rather than an ordinary law. The 2008 law, known in Italy as Lodo Alfano, was a second attempt to block prosecution against Berlusconi by drafting legislation granting him immunity. The court's decision means that some of the four cases against Berlusconi that were blocked by the law could be reopened, including one involving his former lawyer, British barrister David Mills [JURIST news archive]. While members of the opposition welcomed [Libero report, in Italian] the ruling, members of the center-right planned to continue backing Berlusconi.

In February, Mills was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for accepting a $600,000 bribe to give false testimony [JURIST reports] at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. The bribery and corruption trial against Berlusconi and Mills began in 2007, but Berlusconi was removed as a defendant in July 2008 after the new law granted top Italian lawmakers immunity from prosecution [JURIST report] while in office. Berlusconi has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October 2007, Italy's highest court of appeals upheld Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi's ally, and later defense lawyer, Gaetano Pecorella. The trial resumed [JURIST report] after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. In 2005, Berlusconi was acquitted of corruption charges despite testimony accusing him of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report].






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Supreme Court hears arguments in First Amendment religious display case
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 7, 2009 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in three cases. In Salazar v. Buono [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether an individual has Article III [text] standing to bring a suit under the Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the First Amendment challenging the display of a religious symbol on government land and if an Act of Congress directing the land be transferred to a private entity is a permissible accommodation. The dispute concerns a Latin cross on a rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve [official website]. The display of the cross on public property had already been found in violation of the Establishment Clause, so the government sought to transfer the portion of land on which the cross was located to a private entity. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the transfer of the land is not a permissible accommodation. Counsel for the US Department of the Interior argued that the "Establishment Clause does not prohibit the sensible action Congress took in enacting Section 8121 and thereby divesting the Federal Government of the property at issue in this case." Counsel for the respondent argued:

that what the government has done here by selecting a particular transferee who has been given preferential access to the land in the past to the exclusion of others who wanted to erect other symbols, that the government is taking affirmative steps to permit, through this transfer statute, the display of the cross that they are enjoined from doing.
In Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a US code provision on copyright infringement [14 USC § 411(a), text] removes federal court subject matter jurisdiction over settlement agreements between parties in infringement cases. Under § 411(a), only those copyright holders who have registered their works may pursue infringement claims. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had invalidated [opinion, PDF] a lower court's approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit on the grounds that the law did not allow federal courts to consider such agreements. Counsel for the petitioners argued that "[t]he Second Circuit's decision vacating for lack of jurisdiction a settlement agreement that compensated authors for all their arguably infringed works in the face of Congress's direction that Federal district courts shall have jurisdiction over any civil action arising under copyright." Amicus counsel argued in support of the judgment below that "there is no reason in this case to reverse the Second Circuit."

In Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the Railway Labor Act [text] authorizes courts to set aside final arbitration awards for alleged violations of due process by the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB), and if the Board can adopt a new, retroactive interpretation of the standards governing its arbitration proceedings. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that courts may set aside the NRAB's decisions.





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Federal judge dismisses Yemeni Guantanamo detainee habeas petition
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 7, 2009 1:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday granted [order, PDF; memorandum opinion, PDF] the government's motion to dismiss the petition for habeas corpus brought on behalf of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris [NYT profile]. The petition was filed in 2005 by the Federal Public Defenders [official website] with Guantanamo detainee Sami Muhyedin al Hajj acting as "next friend" for Idris. Lamberth emphasized in the opinion that Idris had repeatedly refused to meet with his lawyers and dismissed the petition for lack of authorization of representation. Lamberth wrote:


Contrary to petitioner's counsel's assertion, the Court finds that it is not necessary for counsel to meet with petitioner for petitioner to validly refuse to authorize counsel to pursue his action. By refusing to meet with counsel on at least five occasions, petitioner has unequivocally refused to authorize counsel to go forward with his case. Indeed, petitioner has had ample opportunity to change his mind and meet with counsel in order to authorize his case to proceed, but he has refrained from doing so.

Lamberth also denied a motion to compel discovery on Idris's competence, knowledge, and voluntariness.

Last month, a judge denied [JURIST report] the habeas petition of Algerian Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi, bringing the total number of government victories to eight, while 30 detainees' habeas petitions have been granted. Also in September, a judge granted [JURIST report] the habeas petition of detainee Fouad Al Rabiah, ordering his release.





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Holder says Guantanamo may not close by January deadline
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 7, 2009 11:18 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters Tuesday that the Obama administration may miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Holder said that is concerned [AP report] with US lawmakers' claims that detainees are too dangerous to be housed on US soil. On Tuesday, the US Senate passed a defense spending bill [HR 3326 materials] that prohibits the Obama administration from transferring detainees to the US. That bill must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the US House of Representatives. Last week, the House approved a non-binding motion to instruct conferees [CSPAN backgrounder] to prohibit the transfer [JURIST report] of Guantanamo detainees to the US for any reason, including prosecution and incarceration. Holder said that despite the difficulties in transferring detainees, the administration is committed [LAT report] to closing the prison as soon as possible.

Holder's statements echo those of other top administration officials who said last month that the January deadline may be missed [JURIST report]. In early September, US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] general counsel Jeh Johnson [official profile] said that the administration remains committed [JURIST report] to closing the military detention facility by early next year. Officials are reportedly still considering creating a military-civilian prison facility that would house its own court at a site in Michigan, but local residents have strongly opposed [JURIST reports] the plan. Officials are also considering trying detainees in federal courts, with cases assigned to federal prosecutors [JURIST report] last month.






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Canada court rules security services may monitor citizens' communications abroad
Amelia Mathias on October 7, 2009 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Federal Court [official website] released a decision Tuesday ruling [judgment, PDF] that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service [official website] may monitor the communications of Canadian citizens abroad. The case arose from two Canadian nationals who had their communications abroad monitored after a judge issued an emergency warrant permitting the interception. Judge Richard Mosley, who also issued the emergency warrant, wrote:


Canada has given [the Communications Security Establishment] a mandate to collect foreign intelligence including information from communications and information technology systems and networks abroad. It is restricted as a matter of legislative policy from directing its activities against Canadians or any person within Canada, but it is not constrained from providing assistance to security and law enforcement agencies acting under lawful authority such as a judicial warrant. CSIS is authorized to collect threat-related information about Canadian persons and others and, as discussed above, is not subject to a territorial limitation.

Neither the names of the men nor the country in which they were monitored have been released [Canwest report].

The Federal Court ruled in 2008 that intelligence services may not monitor the calls [JURIST report] of suspected terrorists to their lawyers. The issue arose in the case of Mohammad Mahjoub, an Egyptian detainee suspected of ties to al Qaeda who had been held since 2000. Mahjoub was released on bail [CBC report] in April 2007. Leading up to his release, he agreed to have his phone calls monitored so authorities could ensure he was not a threat to national security, but his lawyers did not realize that phone calls between them and their client would be intercepted.





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US to improve immigration detention facilities
Amelia Mathias on October 7, 2009 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites] on Tuesday announced [press release; fact sheet, PDF] a plan for improving immigration detention policies and facilities in response to recent widespread allegations of poor conditions and abuse. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] explained that the emphasis is to move detained illegal immigrants [BBC report] awaiting deportation or processing out of the jails and criminal settings where they currently reside and into residential centers. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called the announcement "encouraging," saying that the measures are expected to provide better access [ACLU press release] to immigration and social services for detainees and also prove less expensive than current housing situations. However, the ACLU also said that the announcement failed to address certain key problems such as providing due process to avoid unnecessary detentions:


It's encouraging that DHS is calling for improved immigration detention conditions that reflect the nature of the detained population. However, meaningful reform of the system must focus not only on the conditions under which immigrants are being detained, but on why they are being detained in the first place – often for prolonged periods of time – when other forms of supervised release would be sufficient to address the government's concerns, as well as the need for basic due process.

ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton [official profile] is to begin seeking out converted hotels, nursing homes, and other residential facilities by the end of the month.

In August, ICE acknowledged that 11 deaths in immigration detention facilities had gone unreported [JURIST report]. The revelation of the additional deaths came in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit seeking documents pertaining to detainee deaths. In response Morton directed a review of all detainee deaths to make sure there were no other omissions. Also in August, 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. In July, a report [text, PDF] by the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy website] and two other groups found that US detention centers for illegal immigrants have failed to meet basic standards [JURIST report] for the treatment of those held at the facilities.





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Honduras interim government repeals decree suspending constitutional rights
Ximena Marinero on October 7, 2009 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] The head of the Honduran interim government Roberto Micheletti on Monday convened his council of ministers to repeal [La Prensa report, in Spanish] the executive decree [text, in Spanish] issued last week that suspended several constitutional rights. The repeal was scheduled to become official when published on Tuesday in the official newspaper, but ousted president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] warned on Tuesday that this had not yet taken place [Telesur report, in Spanish]. Micheletti had said last week that he would lift the restrictions [JURIST report] by the end of last week. After the decree, two media outlets were closed by the Honduran government under allegations that they were violating the terms of the decree. Micheletti said that those media outlets would have to turn to the courts for relief. Also on Monday, the Honduran Court of First Instance of Judicial Review derogated [La Prensa report, in Spanish] the executive decree issued by Zelaya in March that led to his subsequent ouster in June. The decree had authorized a poll to ask voters if they would be receptive to a vote on establishing a new constitution. A delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) is due to arrive [AP report] in Honduras on Wednesday to aid in the Guaymuras Dialogue [La Prensa report, in Spanish], the current negotiations between Micheletti and Zelaya.

Zelaya has taken refuge at the Brazilian Embassy [official website, in Spanish] since returning to Honduras last month, despite calls [JURIST report] from Micheletti to hand him over under an arrest warrant [text and materials, PPT, in Spanish] issued by the Honduran Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] in June. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] on June 28 following a judicial order [press release, in Spanish] asserting that 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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Costa Rica ex-president convicted on corruption charges
Ximena Marinero on October 7, 2009 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Costa Rican president Rafael Calderon [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] was convicted Monday on corruption charges and sentenced to five years in prison. Calderon was unanimously convicted [Inside Costa Rica report] by three judges at the Second Judicial Circuit Courts of Goicochea, who found him guilty of embezzling $520,000 [La Nacion report, in Spanish] during a nine-month period in his 1990 to 1994 term, a crime punishable under article 354 of the Costa Rican Penal Code [text, PDF in Spanish]. Only one person was exonerated in what has been called the Caja-Fischel scandal after the Social Security Fund [official website, in Spanish] from which the money came and the Fischel Corporation [corporate website, in Spanish], the company involved in the kickbacks. Also convicted for embezzlement were three former public officers including former president of the Social Security Fund Eliseo Vargas Garcia and two officers from the Fischel Corporation. Calderon has said that he will appeal his conviction, and maintains that he is innocent, alleging that the funds he received were for consulting services rendered. He had been planning to run for president once again in the February 2010 election, but has now withdrawn. The formal reading of the sentence is scheduled for November 3, and all parties will be able to appeal at that time. Pending any appeals, the order would proceed to the Cassation Court and any jail sentences would then be enforced.

Calderon was accused and arrested [JURIST report] in 2004 along with seven others on charges of embezzling and taking kickbacks that amount to an estimated $8 million from a $32 million Finnish loan for the purchase of medical equipment and $7.5 million from state funds. Calderon is the first Costa Rican president to be tried and convicted for corruption charges, but another former president is currently on trial for similar charges. Miguel Angel Rodriguez [OAS profile] is on trial for receiving kickbacks from purchases made by the Costa Rican national health system. Rodriguez served as president from 1998 to 2002, and pending charges from the current case against him forced him to resign [JURIST report] from his role as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).






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Supreme Court hears arguments in animal cruelty video case
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 6, 2009 2:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in three cases. In United States v. Stevens [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a federal law [18 USC § 48 text] that bans depictions of animal cruelty, violates the First Amendment. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the law illegally restricts speech, overturning the conviction of Robert Stevens, who was prosecuted for selling videos depicting dog fights. At oral argument, counsel for the federal government argued that the law was narrowly tailored to target certain videos depicting small animals being crushed to death. Counsel for respondent Stevens argued that the law was overly broad, saying "I think at some level Congress has a job to write with a scalpel and not a buzz saw in the First Amendment area." The majority of justices appeared to agree that the law as written might be overly broad or too vague, implying a willingness to overturn it.

In Johnson v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether a conviction for battery involving possible touching of another person meets the physical force requirement of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [19 USC § 924 text] to be considered a violent felony for sentencing enhancement purposes. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that such a battery does constitute a violent felony. Counsel for petitioner Darnell Johnson argued:

Mr. Johnson's conviction for battery in the State of Florida can be sustained by the slightest contact. Such a conviction does not qualify as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. A violent felony means one that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another. Physical contact is not the same as physical force.
Counsel for the US responded that "[t]he primary definition of violent felony in the Armed Career Criminal Act ... almost precisely tracks the general definition of the crime of battery; that is, the unlawful application of physical force to the person of another."

In Bloate v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether time granted to prepare pretrial motions is excludable under federal law [18 USC § 3161(h)(1) text], which lists exceptions to the requirement that a criminal defendant be tried within 70 days of indictment or his first appearance in court. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld [opinion, PDF] Taylor Bloate's conviction, ruling that time granted to file pretrial motions is automatically excludable. Counsel for the petitioner argued that is "abundantly clear" that "[p]retrial motion preparation time is not automatically excluded under Section 3161(h)(1) of the Speedy Trial Act. Such delays are subject to exclusion only on a case-by-case basis." Counsel for the US government argued that pretrial motion preparation time is automatically excluded under the language of the statute.





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Top Rwanda genocide suspect arrested
Matt Glenn on October 6, 2009 1:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Hutu intelligence chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana [BBC profile; case materials], wanted for his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder], has been arrested [ICTR press release] in Uganda, officials announced Tuesday. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] indicted [text, PDF] Nizeyimana in 2000 for genocide and crimes against humanity, but the military leader had evaded authorities until his arrest [Daily Monitor report] Tuesday. Prosecutors claim that Nizeyimana ordered [NYT report] troops to kill Tutsi families and to kidnap and kill a ceremonial Tutsi queen. Officials said Nizeyimana is being transferred [BBC report] to Arusha where he will face the ICTR. Nizeyimana is one of four top accused sought by the ICTR in order to complete its mission.

In July, 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. 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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Russia court denies same-sex marriage petition
Matt Glenn on October 6, 2009 1:05 PM ET

[JURIST] A Russian court ruled Tuesday that Russian law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, affirming a registry office's refusal to recognize a marriage between two women. The couple, Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko, applied for a marriage license in March, but were refused by the registry. They appealed to the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow, arguing [RIA Novosti report] that nothing in the Russian Constitution [text] prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The court, however, refused [Reuters report] to overturn the registry's decision. Fedotova-Fet and Shipitko plan on marrying in Canada later this month.

Gay rights have been a contentious issue worldwide with little global consensus. In August, Portugal's highest court [JURIST report] failed to find a right to same-sex marriage in the Portuguese Constitution. In June, Ireland passed a bill [JURIST report] giving same-sex partners certain rights. Sweden legalized [JURIST report] same-sex marriage in April. In November, the parliament of Burundi criminalized homosexuality, and the Supreme Court of Nepal approved same-sex marriages [JURIST reports]. In the US, same-sex marriages are now permitted in six US states, with New Hampshire passing same-sex marriage legislation [JURIST report] in June.






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US government not seeking death penalty in ex-Guantanamo detainee civilian trial
Safiya Boucaud on October 6, 2009 11:09 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told federal prosecutors in a letter released Monday that the US government will not seek the death penalty for a former Guantanamo detainee now facing a civilian trial. Tanzanian national Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] is accused of involvement in the 1998 bombing attacks against US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya that left hundreds dead including 12 Americans. There were no reasons given for the decision not to see the death penalty. The other defendants involved in the embassy bombings have already received life sentences because the US agreed not to seek the death penalty as a condition of extradition.

Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006 following his 2004 arrest in Pakistan, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the US in June to face 286 separate counts including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance. In a rare move [JURIST op-ed] this June, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] tentatively granted [JURIST report] Ghailani's request that his military lawyers be allowed to represent him in civilian court. The announcement [JURIST report] that Ghailani would be tried in federal court came this past June following the ordered review of all Guantanamo detainees pursuant to plans to close the detention facility [JURIST news archive].






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Ohio governor issues execution reprieves in order to review lethal injection process
Safiya Boucaud on October 6, 2009 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Ohio Governor Ted Strickland [official website] on Monday issued a temporary reprieve [press release] of two scheduled executions in order to give officials an opportunity to review the lethal injection procedures employed by the state. The reprieve comes after an unsuccessful lethal injection attempt last month resulted in corrections officials trying for two hours to find a vein in which to administer the injection to condemned murder Romell Broom. Strickland issued a temporary reprieve for Lawrence Reynolds, scheduled to be executed October 8, and for Darryl Durr, scheduled to be executed November 10. In the warrants of reprieve, Strickland explained:

The circumstances faced by the Department on September 15 were truly extraordinary, and Department personnel acted with dignity and professionalism in attempting to fulfill their legally mandated obligations. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that the assigned Department personnel would ever face such a situation again. Nonetheless, and although not legally or constitutionally required to do so, since September 15, the Department has been working to establish a back-up or alternative lethal injection protocol that would be available should those responsible for carrying out executions for the State ever again be unable to access a sustainable vein at the time of an execution.
Also Monday, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a stay of execution [opinion, PDF] for Reynolds, ruling that Ohio's legal injection protocol should be reviewed. Strickland said he expects the review to be completed before the next execution, scheduled for December 8, but that he would issue additional reprieves if necessary.

After the unsuccessful attempt to execute Brown, the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio delayed his execution [JURIST report]. In July, Ohio conducted the 1000th execution [JURIST report] by lethal injection in the US since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia [opinion text]. In June, Ohio first used its new lethal injection method [JURIST report], called "set-to-die." The procedure requires officials to shake and call out to the prisoner after a sedative has been administered, and a second dose can then be given, if necessary. A de facto national moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty ended last year when the US Supreme Court ruled in Baze v. Rees [JURIST report] that the three-drug lethal injection sequence [DPIC backgrounder] used in most states does not violate the Constitution.





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Israel cabinet minister cancels UK trip over fears of war crimes arrest
Steve Czajkowski on October 6, 2009 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] An Israeli cabinet minister canceled a trip to the UK out of concern that he would be arrested for war crimes allegedly committed during his tenure as the Israeli military's chief of staff, a foreign affairs spokesperson said Monday. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon [official profile] decided to call off the scheduled trip to attend a fundraising event for the Jewish National Fund [advocacy website] after legal advisers from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) [official website] said that he may be arrested over his involvement in a 2002 airstrike that killed Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh and 14 civilians. Israeli officials are concerned about the possibility of being charged with war crimes in foreign countries based on the theory of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder], which allows a country to prosecute serious crimes against humanity no matter where the activity takes place. A spokesperson for Yaalon said he made the decision not to travel [Guardian report] in order to avoid going along with anti-Israeli propaganda.

Last week, Palestinian officials attempted [Jerusalem Post report] to have Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak [official profile, in Hebrew] arrested on charges of war crimes while he was in Britain for a meeting with UK government leaders. The Palestinians submitted a court petition seeking the arrest of Barak for his involvement in Operation Cast Lead [Global Security Backgrounder] in the Gaza strip earlier this year. A British court rejected the petition, saying Barak was a state guest and not subject to such proceedings. In 2006, the MFA warned [JURIST report] top Israeli military officials that inflammatory statements some made about the conflict with Lebanon, such as advocating the bombing of villages that housed Hezbollah rebels, could lead to war crimes prosecutions abroad, the Israeli Army Radio reported Monday. Several Israeli Defense Forces [official website] generals opted not to take trips to Europe because they feared being arrested on war crimes charges. Israeli officials have said that government officials should enjoy immunity from prosecution but there is concern that military leaders, especially retired officials, could be subject to prosecution.






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UK Supreme Court hears inaugural case
Steve Czajkowski on October 6, 2009 7:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] held its first session [press release, PDF] Monday, hearing an appeal by a group of four terrorism suspects whose assets were frozen by the government. The new Supreme Court, created by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 [text], replaces the judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website] as Britain's highest tribunal, with 12 Law Lords [official backgrounder] from the House of Lords serving as the first Supreme Court justices. The court accepted [AP report] its first case because it involves human rights and terrorism, particularly whether the government can freeze assets without due process when terrorism charges are involved. In its first ruling [Press Gazette report] issued Monday, the court held that the media should be able to identify at least one of the men in the group because they are accused of supporting terrorism.

The Supreme Court was created to emphasize the split between the judicial and legislative branches of government. The court has said that "it will transform the public's awareness of justice at the highest level" and a "fundamental aim is to be as transparent as possible." The court will be the first in the UK to record proceedings [JURIST report] and make them available to the media. In most cases, the court will stand as the final court of appeal for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Additionally, the justices of the Supreme Court will no longer be able to sit or vote with the House of Lords as they had done in their capacity as Law Lords. The Law Lords issued their final ruling [JURIST report] in July.






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Supreme Court declines to review ex-Qwest CEO insider trading conviction
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 5, 2009 3:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday declined to review [order list, PDF] the conviction of former Qwest Communications [corporate website] CEO Joseph Nacchio [JURIST news archive] on charges of insider trading. The Court denied Nacchio's petition for certiorari without comment, ending his appeals process. Nacchio's conviction was overturned [JURIST reports] by a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in March 2008 due to improperly excluded expert testimony, but was reinstated [opinion, PDF] in a February 2009 en banc rehearing requested [JURIST report] by the prosecution.

In August, the Tenth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that Nacchio was incorrectly sentenced to six years in prison due to flawed methodology and remanded the case for resentencing. In April, Nacchio reported to the minimum security prison camp [JURIST report] at FCI Schuylkill [official website], marking an end to nearly two years of appellate proceedings following hisFederal prosecutors indicted Nacchio in December 2005 on 42 counts of insider trading [JURIST report]. He and other former Qwest executives still face civil fraud charges [JURIST report] brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] on allegations that Qwest improperly reported approximately $3 billion in revenue that eased its 2000 merger with US West.






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INTERPOL ex-president pleads not guilty at South Africa corruption trial
Matt Glenn on October 5, 2009 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Former INTERPOL [official website] president and South African police chief Jackie Selebi [official profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty [plea explanation, PDF] to corruption charges Monday at the start of his trial in the Johannesburg High Court. Selebi is charged [JURIST report] with receiving $170,000 in bribes from convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti [Guardian profile], who was suspected of killing South African mining magnate Brett Kebble. Selebi claims that charges against him were fabricated in retaliation for his corruption investigation of two members of the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) [official website], including Vusi Pikoli. Then-president Kgalema Motlanthe fired Pikoli from the NPA in part for his decision to prosecute Selebi. The government denied [Eyewitness News report] Selebi's allegations and announced [Independent report] that it will call several witnesses against Selebi, including Agliotti. The trial is expected to last about five weeks.

Selebi was a close political ally of South African President Thabo Mbeki [official profile], and the South African government extended [BBC report] Selebi's contract for an additional year in June 2008, around the time a court established [JURIST report] Selebi's trial date. Selebi was suspended from his police post and forced to resign as INTERPOL president after the NPA announced the impending charges [JURIST reports]. The NPA has alleged that Selebi ignored Agliotti's drug trafficking and warned Agliotti that he had been identified in a murder investigation.






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Canada court sentences 'Toronto 18' conspirator to 7 years in prison
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 5, 2009 2:39 PM ET

[JURIST] A Canadian court on Friday sentenced a member of the "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder; advocacy website] to seven years in prison for his role in the plot to carry out terrorist attacks in Toronto. Ali Mohamed Dirie pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last month to charges of participating in the activities of a terrorist group. Dirie was given credit [Toronto Star report] for five years already spent in custody and will serve two more years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in one year. Also last week, a third suspect, Saad Gaya, pleaded guilty [Globe and Mail report] to involvement in the plot.

Dirie's sentence comes less than a month after the first member of the group to plead guilty was sentenced [JURIST report] to 14 years in prison for his role in connection with the plot. In May, 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. The "Toronto 18," arrested [JURIST report] in 2006, are accused of planning a series of violent attacks on civilians, public officials, and government buildings. Although little information was released about the minors arrested among the Toronto 18, the charges eventually laid against the 12 adult males included participating in a terrorist group, receiving training from a terrorist group, training terrorists, and importing weapons and ammunition for terrorism.






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Supreme Court opens 2009 term with oral arguments in interrogation, discovery cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on October 5, 2009 1:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] officially opened its 2009 term Monday, hearing oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] in two cases. In Maryland v. Shatzer [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether the Edwards v. Arizona [opinion text] prohibition against interrogation of a suspect who has invoked the Fifth Amendment right to counsel is inapplicable if, after the suspect asks for counsel, there is a break of more than two years before commencing reinterrogation. The Court of Appeals of Maryland ruled [opinion, PDF] that there was no break in custody and that the Edwards prohibition against interrogation was still applicable. At oral arguments, counsel for the state of Maryland said the state's position is "that a break in custody from custodial interrogation should be the bright line that this Court adopts in order to end the irrebuttable presumption that this Court created in the Edwards case." Counsel for the US government supported Maryland's position, arguing:


This Court has repeatedly made clear that Edwards v. Arizona is a prophylactic rule designed to implement the protections of Miranda v. Arizona, and it does so by operating as an anti-badgering rule. On the facts of this case, I don't think there is any colorable argument that Mr. Shatzer was badgered into waiving his Sixth Amendment rights.

Counsel for Shatzer responded that "[c]reating exceptions to the rule of Edwards means a clear rule is lost. It introduces uncertainty into the determinations of what constitutes custody and what length of time might be adequate to excuse the protection."

In Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether a party may immediately appeal a discovery order to disclose materials that party believes are covered by the attorney-client privilege. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that there is no such right to an immediate appeal. The Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split on the issue. Counsel for the petitioner distinguished information protected by the attorney-client privilege from other protected information such as trade secrets by emphasizing "the central and important role that the privilege plays in the administration of justice." Counsel for the respondent argued, "[b]efore 1997, no circuit held that there was appeal as of right for privilege or waiver, and most of the circuits continue that approach. That is the right approach..." Counsel for the US government supported respondents, arguing:

In the last 15 years, this Court ... has repeatedly stressed that a necessary requirement is that the order involved and the issues implicated be important and, particularly, that the issues be so important as to outweigh the values served by the important and usual rule of a final judgment requirement. In our view, the denial of an assertion of attorney-client privilege in an individual case does not rise to that level...





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Palestinian Authority criticized for supporting UN rights council delay on Gaza resolution
Matt Glenn on October 5, 2009 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Hamas leaders on Monday condemned the Palestinian Authority (PA) for supporting Friday's decision by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] to delay [press release] a vote on resolution [text] adopting the recommendations of the UN Fact Finding Commission on the Gaza Conflict [official website]. The postponed resolution would have also condemned Israel for its refusal [JURIST report] to assist in the investigation, which determined [text, PDF; JURIST report] that Israeli and Palestinian forces had likely committed war crimes during last winter's fighting in the Gaza strip. Hamas leaders accused [Haaretz report] PA President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] of committing treason by supporting the delayed vote and said they no longer consider him Palestinian. Hundreds of protesters gathered [Al Jazeera report] in the West Bank city of Ramallah to show their outrage for what they saw as betrayal by Abbas. Syria, also upset with the PA's decision, canceled [Jerusalem Post report] a planned visit by Abbas. Some members of the UNHRC, including the US, had asked the PA to support delaying the vote. The UNHRC will vote on the proposal in March. It is not clear whether Monday's response by Hamas will effect a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party announced [AFP report] in Jordan Monday and set to be signed October 26.

Last week an Israeli newspaper reported that Israel conditioned [JURIST] a proposed mobile phone network in the West Bank on the PA dropping its request that the International Criminal Court investigate Israel for war crimes during Operation Cast Lead [Global Security backgrounder]. The UN commission began its field operations in Gaza in June, entering Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing after Israel announced that it would not cooperate with the investigation because it doubted the mission's objectivity, and concluded hearings [JURIST reports] in July. The probe followed a previous report [text, PDF; JURIST report], authored by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which criticized Israel for failing to take adequate precautions to distinguish between civilians and combatants in their offensives in the region. Both Israel and the US criticized [DOS briefing] the report, calling the rapporteur's views "anything but fair." In April, an internal Israeli military investigation found that war crimes had not been committed [JURIST report] in the offensive despite individual reports by Israeli soldiers [Haaretz report].






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Annan urges Kenya constitutional reform before next election cycle
Safiya Boucaud on October 5, 2009 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday called for constitutional reform in Kenya before the next electoral cycle begins in 18 months. In addition to pressing for constitutional reform, Annan also said there was need for police and judicial reform. Annan's statements came during a trip to Kenya to monitor the progress of the peace deal he helped broker that resulted in a coalition government after the 2007 presidential election [JURIST report], which resulted in violent protests that left about 1,500 dead. Annan's trip comes as the US government has threatened prominent Kenyan officials with travel bans [Daily Nation report] if the pace of reform does not improve. The trip also closely follows an announcement by International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that the ICC will prosecute [JURIST report] the responsible parties for the post-election violence, as the deadline for Kenya to establish an appropriate tribunal has lapsed.

In August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for an independent tribunal [JURIST report] with international support and participation because "the Kenyan judiciary lacks independence," and the necessary reforms announced [transcript] by the Kenyan Cabinet [official website] in late July would be insufficient. Also in July, Moreno-Ocampo received and reviewed a sealed envelope sent to the ICC [JURIST reports] by Annan that contained a list of suspects believed to be responsible for the post-election violence. Earlier this year, the Kenyan parliament rejected [JURIST report] the proposed document that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and opposition leader Raila Odinga [campaign website] agreed to draft [JURIST report] to establish a new Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2009 [text, PDF], along with a Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill, 2009 [text, PDF] that would have set up a special domestic court to try those allegedly responsible for the post-election violence. Tens of thousands of protesters took to Kenya's streets accusing Kibaki of election fraud after early opinion polls suggested rival Odinga was in the lead.






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Germany court rules accused Nazi guard can be tried as accessory to murder
Steve Czajkowski on October 4, 2009 11:27 AM ET

[JURIST] A German court ruled Friday that alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile; JURIST news archive] can stand trial on accessory to murder charges that took place during World War II. The Munich Regional Court said that it would hear the case and ordered that Demjanjuk remain in custody despite pleas by his friends and family that he is too old and sick to face trial. The ruling follows an earlier determination by German prison medical experts that Demjanjuk is fit to stand trial [DPA report]. Demjanjuk faces 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. The former Ohio resident was deported in May by the US after exhausting his appeals for a stay and having his objections to extradition rejected [JURIST reports] by a German court. The court did not set an exact date for the start of the trial, but it indicated [Bloomberg report] it is likely to be in November.

Similar proceedings are currently taking place in Spain. Last month, Spanish judge Ismael Moreno issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for US residents Johann Leprich and Anton Tittjung and Austrian resident Josias Kumpf who are accused of being former Nazi guards. The three allegedly participated in the torture and disappearance [El Pais report, in Spanish] of more than 4,300 Spaniards at the Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen and Flossenburg concentration camps. A Spanish prosecutor had asked in May that arrest warrants be issued [JURIST report] under Spain's universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] doctrine, which gives Spain jurisdiction over foreign torture, terrorism, and war crimes only if the case is not subject to the legal system of the country involved. The prosecutor did not seek a warrant for Demjanjuk who is considered a fourth suspect in that case. The suit was initiated in June 2008 by rights group Equipo Nizkor [advocacy website], which petitioned [press release, in Spanish] Spain's National Court to press charges against the four accused guards.






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UK High Court criticizes Ministry of Defense probe of war crimes allegations
Steve Czajkowski on October 4, 2009 9:25 AM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the UK High Court [official website] strongly criticized [Guardian report] the Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] Friday for its failure to properly setup an independent inquiry into claims that war crimes had been committed by British soldiers following a May 2004 gun battle, known as the "Battle of Danny Boy" [BBC backgrounder], in Southern Iraq. The panel, which was composed of Lord Justice Scott Baker, Justice Silber, and Justice Sweeney, derided the MOD's lack of disclosure of information in the case, saying that MOD's chief witness, deputy head of the Royal Military Police (RMP) [official website] Colonel Dudley Giles, lacked credibility because his actions appeared to have blocked the proper function of the inquiry. The MOD had originally agreed [JURIST report] to set up the independent investigation in July, as the result of allegations [JURIST report] brought by a group of Iraqis who claimed that British soldiers killed as many as 20 detainees and tortured others following the battle. The panel is scheduled to reconvene in two weeks to decide a proper course for the inquiry.

In July, UK Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth [official profile] admitted to the High Court that the MOD had failed to disclose documents that showed that senior government officials were aware of allegations of torture, mutilation, and murder by British troops at Camp Abu Naji following the battle of Danny Boy, and therefore hindered the ongoing judicial review of an RMP investigation. In April, six Iraqis brought suit [BBC report] alleging mistreatment and illegal killings following the firefight and sought the creation of an independent inquiry into the incident. The MOD initially refused this request and urged reliance on an early RMP investigation [Guardian report], which found no evidence of wrongdoing, saying that the lack of timely complaints by Iraqis discredited the allegations. However, soon thereafter documents were made available by the MOD that showed that the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website] had recorded the complaints within days of the incident.






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Ireland voters approve EU reform treaty
Christian Ehret on October 3, 2009 1:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Ireland approved [press release] the European Union (EU) reform treaty, known as the Lisbon Treaty [EU materials; text], in a second referendum vote held Friday, the European Commission announced Saturday. The vote, which amends Ireland's constitution, was approved by approximately 67 percent of voters, according to an official poll [results]. European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso applauded [statement, PDF] the treaty's approval, saying that the results show Ireland's recognition of the EU's role in responding to the economic crisis. Irish voters originally rejected the referendum over a year ago, but the government agreed to hold a second vote [JURIST reports] after the EU offered guarantees on representation, national sovereignty, and other legal matters.

Efforts to ratify [JURIST news archive] the treaty in all 27 member countries have been met with some obstacles, but Ireland's approval may now pave the way for the treaty to enter into effect. Last week, German President Horst Koehler [official website, in German] signed [JURIST report] the Lisbon Treaty, completing that country's problematic ratification process. Although the treaty has now been approved in 25 countries, Ireland's rejection of the treaty last year led Czech President Vaclav Klaus [official website] to refuse to sign the measure, despite approval [JURIST report] by the country's senate. In July 2008, Polish President Lech Kaczynski [official website] also refused to sign [JURIST report] the treaty despite parliamentary approval, calling it "pointless" in light of the Irish rejection.






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Federal judge orders DOJ to release Cheney CIA leak interview documents
Bhargav Katikaneni on October 3, 2009 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday ordered [order, PDF; memorandum opinion PDF] the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to release some files from its interview with former vice president Dick Cheney [BBC profile] over his role in leaking the name of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agent Valerie Plame [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The lawsuit, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) [advocacy website] under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text], sought more than 60 pages of interviews that the FBI and the DOJ conducted with Cheney. The DOJ withheld all of the pages detailing Cheney's interview, claiming that statutory exemptions under FOIA permitted them to do so for national security purposes. Ordering a partial release of the documents, Judge Emmet Sullivan said:


[T]he Court concludes that the agency has met its burden of demonstrating that certain limited information was appropriately withheld from disclosure to protect the well-recognized deliberative process and presidential communications privileges under Exemption 5, personal privacy under Exemptions 6 and 7(C), and national security interests under Exemptions 1 and 3. The Court cannot, however, permit the government to withhold the records in their entirety under Exemption 7(A) on the basis that disclosure might interfere with some unidentifiable and unspecified future law enforcement proceedings.

The documents were subpoenaed [JURIST report] last year by the US House Judiciary Committee.

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