January 2010 Archives


Spain judge Garzon beginning investigation of suspected Guantanamo torture
Dwyer Arce on January 31, 2010 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will begin an inquiry into the suspected torture and ill-treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], Spanish media reported [El Pais report] Saturday. The inquiry follows claims made by several Spanish groups - including the Association for the Dignity of Prisoners of Spain, the Free Association of Lawyers, the United Left and the Human Rights Association of Spain [advocacy websites, in Spanish] - about alleged torture, abuse, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees at the facility. The Obama administration has not responded to Garzon's questions regarding the open investigation of detainee abuses at the facility. Garzon's inquiry has focused on Spanish citizen and ex-Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Abderraman Hamed [CNN report], and three others who Garzon has stated have significant connections with Spain. The domestic focus is due to new Spanish laws on the exercise of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] passed [JURIST report] by Spain's parliament in November. The new law limits the use of universal jurisdiction to offenses committed by or against Spaniards, or where the perpetrators are in Spain.

Garzon has been known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Latin American dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives]. In March, he asked prosecutors to examine [JURIST report] the US lawyers reportedly behind the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, including David Addington, John Yoo [JURIST news archive], and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales [BBC profile]. The case was reassigned [JURIST report] to another judge the following month. The continued inquiry comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to close the detention facility. It was reported [JURIST report] earlier this month that 35 Guantanamo detainees now face trial or military commissions, adding to the five detainees that are already scheduled to be tried in New York for the 9/11 attacks and six detainees who have been chosen to face military tribunals [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DOJ ethics report clears Bush administration 'torture memo' lawyers
Dwyer Arce on January 31, 2010 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Former US Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] lawyers John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive] and Jay Bybee [academic profile] have been cleared of allegations of wrongdoing in relation to their controversial memos asserting the legality of enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive], it was reported Friday. The results of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website] investigation of the two former OLC lawyers have yet to be officially released, but the probe is reported [Newsweek report] to have concluded that the lawyers exercised poor judgment in crafting the 2002 memos, a finding that does not qualify as professional misconduct. Originally, the OPR investigation had concluded that Yoo and Bybee had violated their professional obligations in crafting the memos, but this finding was softened by the reviewer. The implications of the original findings would have been far reaching, and could have led to significant sanctions against the former officials. Yoo, now a professor at the University of California Berkeley School of Law [official website], could have faced disbarment. Bybee, now a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], could have faced impeachment proceedings.

A report prepared in the final months of the Bush administration came to similar conclusions, but was returned [Washington Post report] to the OPR for further investigation by then Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The five-year statute of limitations on Yoo's alleged misconduct lapsed shortly after. In June, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a private lawsuit against Yoo could proceed. Judge Jeffrey White refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] that claims Yoo's legal opinions endorsing enhanced interrogation techniques led to Padilla's torture. Yoo has appealed the decision. The ruling was the first time a judge has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against a government lawyer for his opinion in the interrogation memos [JURIST report]. The Department of Justice [official website] in April released four of the memos [JURIST report] from the OLC outlining controversial CIA interrogation techniques and their legal rationale in response to a Freedom of Information Act [text] lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] during the Bush administration.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Italy judges walk out over proposed judicial reforms favoring Berlusconi
Steve Czajkowski on January 31, 2010 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Hundreds of judges in Italy walked out of their courtrooms Saturday, in protest over judicial reform legislation proposed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The legislation, which has been approved [JURIST report] by the Italian Senate [official website, in Italian], aims to shorten the trial and appeals process by putting strict time limits on its duration. The protests were organized [press release, PDF; in Italian] by the National Magistrates Association (ANM) [official website, in Italian] on Wednesday and took place at ceremonies marking the beginning of the judicial year. Judges all across Italy, including Milan, Naples, Palermo, and Rome, got up and walked out [BBC report] carrying a copy of the Italian Constitution as government officials began to speak. According to the ANM, judges are concerned [press release, PDF; in Italian] that the reforms would act as a de facto amnesty for persons accused of crimes committed prior to May 2, 2006 and would endanger future trials.

The bill [S 1880 materials, in Italian] approved by the Senate would limit the three stages of a case - trial, initial appeal, and final appeal - to between 6.5 and 10 years depending on the crime, and cases that exceed the time limit would end in an automatic acquittal of the defendant. Because of the bill's retroactive effect, two pending corruption cases [JURIST report] against Berlusconi himself would be automatically dismissed. Members of Berlusconi's center-right coalition have defended the bill as a way to speed up [Times report] the slow Italian justice system while his critics have called it an ad personam bill, passed by his allies to help Berlusconi with his legal troubles [Financial Times report]. The bill would become law if it is approved by the lower house Chamber of Deputies and signed by President Giorgio Napolitano [official websites, in Italian].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed likely to be executed after trial: White House
Steve Czajkowski on January 31, 2010 9:59 AM ET

[JURIST] White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during an interview [transcript] Sunday on CNN's State of the Union that upon being tried and convicted, alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] would likely be executed. Gibbs stressed that the heinous nature of the crime he is accused of merits such severe punishment. When asked about the increasingly-unclear location of the trial Gibbs said the focus was still to have the trial in New York:

We are talking with the authorities in New York. We understand their logistical concerns and their security concerns that are involved. We have been discussing that with them.

As you know, they were originally supportive of this. We want to see this man tried and brought to justice in the place in which the crime was committed. We will work with them and come to a solution that we think we bring about justice for those that lost loved ones on such a horrific day on 9/11.
Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official profile] cited [JURIST report] costs and potential disruptions to the lives of New Yorkers in urging the federal government to move the trials. Bloomberg said a military base may be a more appropriate venue [AFP report] for the trial since they are generally in secluded areas, though he said his request was not based on security concerns. Bloomberg originally backed the idea of trying some of the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in Manhattan due to its proximity to ground zero and the symbolic significance of convicting the suspects there. In light of criticism, the Obama administration has reportedly been considering [JURIST report] other locations but has not yet decided on a specific alternative venue [MSNBC report].





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Hawaii lower house shelves vote on same-sex civil unions
Ximena Marinero on January 30, 2010 5:39 PM ET

[JURIST] The Hawaii House of Representatives [official website] on Friday postponed indefinitely a vote on legislation [text, PDF] that would have allowed persons in same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] the same rights as married heterosexual couples. The postponement was decided by voice vote; only a two-thirds majority in the Hawaii House would allow further action on the bill. In the weeks leading to the vote, the Hawaii Family Forum and the Hawaii Catholic Conference [advocacy websites] had rallied [Maui News report] in a campaign against the civil union bill. Gay rights organization Equality Hawai'i characterized the voice vote result as a "cowardly move" motivated [press release] by "election considerations," and decried the use of the procedure, which avoids having to record the specific vote of each legislator.

The Hawaii Senate [official website] had voted [JURIST report] 18-7 only last week in favor of legislation [text, PDF] allowing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The state of Hawaii has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement since the 1990s [timeline]. In 1993, a Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] decision ruled that the state must show compelling reason to deny same-sex marriage. In 1998, Hawaiian voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to reserve for the State Legislature the authority to define marriage. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and is set to become legal in Washington DC [JURIST reports], pending Congressional inaction. New Jersey has recognized same-sex civil unions [JURIST report] since 2006.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US rejects Russian security treaty proposals
Ximena Marinero on January 30, 2010 1:57 PM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] Friday dismissed [transcript; press release] two Russian proposals for new European security treaties and reaffirmed US commitment to "unified" European security. In prepared remarks delivered at the L’Ecole Militaire in Paris, Clinton said:

the Russian Government under President Medvedev has put forth proposals for new security treaties in Europe. Indivisibility of security is a key feature of those proposals... However, we believe that these common goals are best pursued in the context of existing institutions, such as the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council, rather than by negotiating new treaties, as Russia has suggested...
Clinton also affirmed that American troops will continue to be stationed in Europe as part of American commitment to European security, while casting the occasion as an "extraordinary opportunity to work together" with Russia on security.

In recent months, Russia has campaigned to gain a greater say in security issues with both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [official website] and the United States. On Tuesday, the parties of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) agreed [press release] on the "NRC-MR Framework for NATO-Russia Military-to-Military Cooperation" that will set the agenda for working out details on military cooperation. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official profile; BBC profile] said [JURIST report] that negotiations on nuclear arms reduction would likely resume in early February to draft a new treaty to succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [text]. In November, the Kremlin proposed [Christian Science Monitor report] a treaty [text] with NATO that would require consultation between all members on European security issues, and that analysts decried as a proposal to give Russia veto power over NATO affairs.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France PM asks high court for help in drafting burqa ban
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 30, 2010 11:55 AM ET

[JURIST] French Prime Minister Francois Fillon [official profile, in French] has asked the country's highest court, the State Council [official website, in French], for input on implementing a proposed law that would ban [AFP report] public wearing of the burqa, the full Islamic veil [Press TV report]. In a letter to Jean-Marc Sauve [official profile, in French], the Vice-Chairman of the State Council, Fillon ordered [text, in French] the Council to "study legal solutions to achieve a ban, that is as wide as possible, on wearing the full veil" while addressing legal concerns that other members of the National Assembly had. Sauve's report is expected back by the end of March.

In July 2009, a French commission began hearing testimony [JURIST report] on the proposed ban. The commission released a report this past Tuesday calling for a partial ban [JURIST report] that would apply in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and public transportation, and to any individual attempting to receive public services. The panel also recommended that permanent residency and citizenship be denied to anyone displaying their adherence to "radical religious practices." The commission was established [JURIST report] after French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive] strongly criticized [transcript, PDF, in French] the practice of wearing veils, saying that "the burqa is not welcome in France."






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Vivendi found liable for securities fraud
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 30, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Friday found giant French entertainment corporation Vivendi SA [official website] liable [Dow Jones report] on 57 counts of violating US federal securities laws. The jury found that Vivendi SA had made material misstatements [Bloomberg report] regarding its financial health in 2001-2002 before a three-way merger with Seagram Co. and Canal Plus [corporate website, in French], and that investors who brought stock relying on those misstatements later lost money after its stock price fell. Jean-Marie Messier [BBC profile], Vivendi SA's former CEO, and Guillaume Hannezo, the former finance director, were found not liable by the same jury. Vivendi SA has said that it will appeal [press release] the verdict. The company said:

Vivendi believes that there are many grounds for appeal, including, but not limited to the Court’s decision to include French shareholders in the class, its rulings on jurisdiction and the plaintiffs’ erroneous method of proving and calculating damages, as well as the numerous incorrect rulings made during the course of the trial. Furthermore, Vivendi believed, and continues to believe strongly, that it did nothing wrong and that this case raises significant legal issues for foreign corporations doing business in the United States that need to be definitively resolved.
Arthur Abbey [firm profile], a plaintiff's attorney with Abbey, Spanier, Rodd and Abrams [official website] who litigated the case, said that Vivendi might ultimately have to pay out [WSJ report] between four and nine billion dollars in damages.

Messier, the former CEO, had earlier testified [LAT report; Bloomberg report] that the fall in stock price was not due to securities fraud but because of the then economic climate. In 2003, Vivendi paid a 50 million dollar fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] to settle the complaint. Messier paid a one million dollar fine and agreed [NYT report] to give up his claim to a 26 million dollar severance payment. Vivendi had previously sued [JURIST report] Messier to recover the severance payment, claiming [NYT report] that board members had been coerced by Messier into signing off on the payment, but later withdrew its lawsuit as part of the settlement with the SEC





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Rights group criticizes Cambodia opposition leader's conviction
Steve Czajkowski on January 29, 2010 2:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Friday called [press release] the closed door trial of Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy [official profile] and two others a "farce," saying the ruling demonstrates the government's control over the country's judiciary. Rainsy was convicted [RFA report] Wednesday, in absentia, of inciting racial discrimination and intentionally destroying posts demarcating the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. Two villagers were convicted of the same crimes. HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said the decision was the result of political motivations by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen [official profile]:


The Cambodian government's relentless crackdown on critics continues apace in 2010. Hun Sen seems intent on reversing the political pluralism that has been created over the past two decades. Any hopes of slowing Hun Sen's assault on the political opposition now depends on the donor community, which props up the government financially. This political trial should make donors recognize the gravity of the situation.

Rainsy was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 8 million riels (approximately USD $2,000), and the two villagers were each sentenced to one year in prison. All three were required to pay 55 million riels (approximately USD $13,000) for destroying the border markings.

The charges stem from an incident [Phnom Penh Post report] in October where Rainsy joined Cambodian villagers in removing six temporary border markers, which the villagers said were placed on their lands by Vietnamese authorities. Rainsy called the planting of the border markers a border incursion and said his conviction was requested by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung [BBC profile]. Rainsy was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in November, and an arrest warrant was issued for him in December after he failed to appear for questioning about the incident. He has said he would return to the country and allow himself to be taken into custody if the two villagers are released from prison.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama orders federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
Steve Dotterer on January 29, 2010 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Friday ordered the federal government to reduce [press release] its greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST news archive] by 28 percent by 2020. The reduction is pursuant to Executive Order 13514 [text, PDF], signed by Obama in October. The order provides, in part:


It is therefore the policy of the United States that Federal agencies shall increase energy efficiency; measure, report, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from direct and indirect activities; conserve and protect water resources through efficiency, reuse, and stormwater management; eliminate waste, recycle, and prevent pollution; leverage agency acquisitions to foster markets for sustainable technologies and environmentally preferable materials, products, and services; design, construct, maintain, and operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations; strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities in which Federal facilities are located; and inform Federal employees about and involve them in the achievement of these goals.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) [official website] will be responsible for implementing the initiatives outlined in the order at the agency and departmental levels.

Obama's announcement comes a month after the UN Climate Change Conference [official website] in Copenhagen. Although the conference failed to produce any legally binding resolution [JURIST report], 192 countries, including the US, agreed to "take note" of the non-binding Cophenhagen Accord [text, PDF]. Climate change [JURIST archive] has been a central policy concern of the Obama administration since taking office. Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] announced a finding that greenhouse gases threaten [JURIST report] public health and the environment.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Canada high court rules government not required to seek Khadr repatriation
Zach Zagger on January 29, 2010 1:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled [judgment text] Friday that while the treatment of Canadian Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] violated his rights, the government does not have to press for his return to Canada. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the interrogation of Khadr by Canadian officials while in detention violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. According to the ruling, Canadian officials questioned Khadr, who was captured at age 15, even though they knew he was being indefinitely detained, and, in March 2004, he was questioned with knowledge that he was subjected to three weeks sleep deprivation by US authorities. Still, the court said that forcing the government to press for his return was not an appropriate remedy. The court reasoned that ordering such a remedy would overreach its authority by not respecting the power of the executive to act on issues of foreign affairs. The Canadian chapter of Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged [press release] the government to exercise its authority to remedy the violations of Khadr's constitutional rights:


Amnesty International is calling on the Canadian government to respond immediately to today's unanimous Supreme Court of Canada declaration that Omar Khadr's rights have been violated. As a remedy to those violations, Amnesty International continues to call on the Canadian government immediately to seek Omar Khadr's repatriation from Guantanamo Bay back to Canada.

It is unclear how the government will respond to Friday's ruling.

Friday's ruling overturned a Federal Court of Appeal [official website] decision, which upheld a lower court order [JURIST reports] requiring the federal government to seek Khadr's repatriation. The federal government immediately appealed [JURIST report] the ruling to the Supreme Court. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] said in November that Khadr will likely be tried [JURIST report] by a US military commission [JURIST news archive]. In October, Khadr's military lawyer was dismissed [JURIST report] and replaced with civilian lawyers by a US military judge on Khadr's request after court affidavits showed the lawyer's performance had become detrimental to his defense. 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.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Nigeria court rules president not required to transfer power to VP
Sarah Paulsworth on January 29, 2010 11:59 AM ET

[JURIST] A Nigerian court ruled Friday that ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile] is not required to formally transfer his powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan [Online Nigeria profile] or any other interim leader. The Federal High Court in Abuja rejected [BBC report] a lawsuit brought by the Nigerian Bar Association [official website], seeking to have presidential powers temporary endowed in Jonathan pursuant to Article 145 of Nigeria's Constitution [text]. Last week, the court ordered [JURIST report] Nigeria's cabinet to pass a resolution within 14 days on whether Yar'Adua is capable of running the country. Earlier this month, a judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court ordered [JURIST report] Jonathan to assume executive powers in Yar'Adua's absence. Yar'Adua has been receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia since late November

In 2008, the Nigerian Supreme Court upheld the results of disputed 2007 election that brought Yar'Adua to power, despite opposition groups' allegations of fraud [JURIST reports]. Yar'Adua had promised to step down if the court invalidated the election. A tribunal [JURIST report] formed before the 2007 election to deal with allegations of fraud ruled that the opposition groups lacked enough evidence of fraud to have the results overturned.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama may move 9/11 trials out of New York City
Jonathan Cohen on January 29, 2010 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The White House is considering moving the trials of alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive] and other high-profile terror suspects out of New York City, a senior official said Friday. Although the deputy press secretary reaffirmed [transcript] earlier this week that US President Barack Obama "agrees with the Attorney General's opinion that ... he and others can be litigated successfully and securely in the United States of America, just like others have," the administration is now considering moving the trial [NYT report] after strong local opposition. Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official profile] cited costs and potential disruptions to the lives of New Yorkers in urging the federal government to move the trials. Bloomberg reiterated that position Friday, saying [recorded audio, MP3] that "it would be phenomenally expensive and it is very disruptive to people who live in the area and businesses in the area ... and it would be better to do it elsewheres [sic] if they could find a venue."

In November, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] appeared before the Senate to defend plans [JURIST reports] to try Mohammed, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh [JURIST news archive], Walid Bin Attash, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsaw in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Earlier in November, the US Senate defeated [JURIST report] an amendment [S AMDT 2669 materials] to an appropriations bill [HR 2847 materials] that would have prevented Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in 9/11 from being tried in federal courts. In October, Obama signed [JURIST report] into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 [HR 2892 materials], which allows for Guantanamo Bay detainees to be transferred to the US for prosecution and, among other provisions, requires certain information about each transferred detainee to be disclosed to Congress including costs, legal rationales, and possible risks.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France prosecutors to appeal acquittal of former PM for Sarkozy defamation
Patrice Collins on January 29, 2010 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] A French public prosecutor on Friday announced plans to appeal the acquittal [JURIST report] of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], which cleared him of all charges for his role in an alleged plot to defame several businessmen, including current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French; JURIST news archive]. The appeal comes shortly after Sarkozy announced that he would not appeal [NYT report] the verdict. According to French Media Advisor Franck Louvrier, prosecutors were not given instructions from the president, and Sarkozy will not be a civil party to the appeal [Le Monde report, in French].

In October, de Villepin denied breaking the law and claimed that Sarkozy ordered the prosecution [JURIST report] for personal and political reasons. De Villepin and his alleged co-conspirators went on trial [JURIST report] last September. In November 2008, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for his connection with the long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

ICC prosecutor expects genocide charge against al-Bashir
Daniel Makosky on January 29, 2010 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] said [Reuters report] Thursday that he believes the ICC's appeals chamber will add a genocide charge to the case against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The chamber will rule [press release] next Wednesday on an appeal challenging the ICC's decision not to include a count of genocide in its March arrest warrant [JURIST reports] for al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur [JURIST news archive]. The court found insufficient evidence to support the additional charge at the time, though Moreno-Ocampo argued that the evidentiary standards imposed by the pre-trial chamber in advance of the March indictment were an improper interpretation of Article 58 of the Rome Statute [texts]. Al-Bashir has denied all accusations, and will seek re-election in April.

The warrant was met with mixed reactions, with some believing that its enforcement would jeopardize peacekeeping efforts [JURIST report] in Sudan. The African Union [official website] reversed its initial opposition to the warrant, later recommending cooperation [JURIST report] on the principle that those sought by international courts should be required to face the charges against them. Al-Bashir scoffed [JURIST report] at the warrant upon its issuance, saying that it represents an effort by Western countries to reassert colonial power over Sudan, and criticized the ICC for failing to take action in conflicts in Iraq and the Gaza Strip. He 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Vietnam court sentences democracy activist to prison for propaganda
David Manes on January 29, 2010 8:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A Vietnamese court sentenced writer and democracy activist Pham Thanh Nghien to a four-year prison term on Friday on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. Foreign observers were not permitted to attend the trial, which took place in the city of Haiphong in the northern region of Vietnam [JURIST news archive] and lasted less than a day [AFP report]. Nghien was sentenced under Vietnam's Penal Code Article 88 [text], which provides for up to 20 years in prison for crimes including "propagating against" the government or "circulating documents ... with contents against" the government. Convictions under Article 88 have been criticized [press release] by groups such as Amnesty International [advocacy website], which calls the law "vaguely worded" and accuses authorities of a "long history of using its sweeping provisions to silence voices they deem unacceptable."

Nghien is the latest in a string of dissidents to be convicted for anti-government activities. Last week, a Vietnamese court convicted four democracy activists [JURIST report] of subversion in a one-day trial. Prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive], Le Thang Long, and Nguyen Tien Trung were given prison sentences between 5-7 years, and Internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc received a 16-year sentence. Dinh was originally charged [JURIST report] with spreading propaganda under Article 88, but was eventually convicted of the more serious crime of subversion. Last month, pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim was also sentenced [JURIST report] to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion. In 2009, two Vietnamese newspaper editors were dismissed from their jobs for protesting the arrests of two journalists [JURIST reports] who reported on government corruption. The arrested reporters, accused of "abusing freedom and democracy," were sentenced to two years of prison and "re-education" for reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Kenya parliamentary committee abolishes prime minister position in draft constitution
Matt Glenn on January 29, 2010 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Thursday recommended [statement] eliminating the position of prime minister in the country's draft constitution [text, PDF]. Other PSC proposals [Daily Nation report] include an expanded parliament, with some seats guaranteed to women, a prohibition on members of parliament serving in cabinet positions to maintain a separation of powers, and a presidency that requires a candidate to receive a majority of the popular vote as well as at least a quarter of the vote in at least half the counties. The PSC will share its decisions with Kenya's Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review [official website] for it to consider.

Last week, the PSC decided that it would not recommend marriage rights [JURIST report] for women equal to those of men. The first draft of the constitution was unveiled [JURIST report] in November. The changes are intended to reduce the widespread injustice throughout the country, and specifically address issues that led to violence following the 2007 presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. In October, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] called for constitutional reform in Kenya before the next electoral cycle begins in 15 months. In 2007, tens of thousands of protesters took to Kenya's streets accusing President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] of election fraud after early opinion polls suggested rival Raila Odinga [campaign website] was in the lead.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Malaysia court blocks development company from destroying indigenous homes
Matt Glenn on January 29, 2010 7:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Malaysia's Kuching High Court [official website] has issued an injunction to stop a company from destroying the homes of indigenous Malaysians. Last week, state-government agents began tearing down [BMF report] Iban houses on land controlled by the native Iban people [backgrounder] at the request Tatau Land Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of ASSAR Group [official website], a government-owned holding company seeking to develop the land. Between 25 and 30 houses were destroyed. The injunction [Bintulu report], issued Monday, prohibits Tatau Land and government agencies from entering the Iban land until at least February 9, when the court will conduct a full hearing.

A number of indigenous people have attempted to assert land rights in recent years. In August, an indigenous Indonesian tribe sued a subsidiary [JURIST report] of US mining company Freeport-McRoRan Copper & Gold [corporate website], claiming it owned the land the company was mining. In May, the Swedish Sami Association [advocacy website, in Swedish] brought a lawsuit [JURIST report] against Sweden's government, claiming the state was violating Sami hunting rights. In March, Brazil's Supreme Court expelled 200 rice farmers [JURIST report] from an area of land, ruling that the land belonged to indigenous peoples. In 2008, the New Zealand government and several Maori groups signed a deed of settlement [JURIST report] worth nearly NZ $196 million to resolve certain indigenous claims concerning land taken by British settlers in the 19th century.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US war crimes ambassador says US unlikely to join ICC in 'foreseeable future'
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 28, 2010 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp [official profile; introduction by Professor Charles Jalloh, PDF] said Thursday that no US president is likely to present the Rome Statute [text] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to the US Senate for ratification in the "foreseeable future." Speaking at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Rapp said that while the US has an important role in international criminal justice, it is unlikely to join the ICC anytime soon. Rapp cited fears that US officials would be unfairly prosecuted and the US's strong national court system as reasons it would be difficult to overcome opposition to ratification. Rapp also said that the US has a role to play in a three-part system for ending international impunity. The US must work to strengthen national court systems, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US must work with countries that exercise universal jurisdiction [JURIST news archive] when there is some relation between the country and the crime, and the US should continue to support the work of international criminal tribunals.

In August, the Obama administration was urged by the Heritage Foundation [advocacy website] not to re-sign and ratify [JURIST report] the Rome Statute. The study came in response to media reports that suggested the Obama administration might 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 August 2009, only 110 of the 192 UN member states have ratified the treaty. Other states that have refused to ratify it include China, India, and Russia.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Rights group criticizes Ireland abortion laws
Sarah Miley on January 28, 2010 2:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Ireland's restrictive abortion laws [advocacy backgrounder] increase health risks to women and expose them to deliberate misinformation about abortion procedures, according to a report [text; press release] released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. Ireland's current legislation prohibits abortion for any reason except when the mother's life is threatened and carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment. The report states that Ireland's restrictive laws create a heavy financial and emotional burden on women who are forced to find alternatives either secretly or abroad. According to HRW, "[s]ince 1980, hundreds of thousands of women have traveled to the UK from Ireland to terminate their pregnancies." HRW women's rights advocacy director Marianne Mollmann said:


Women in need of abortion services should, as a matter of international law and - frankly - human decency, be able to count on support from their government as they face a difficult situation. But in Ireland they are actively stonewalled, stigmatized, and written out.

According to the report, the government also fails to regulate "rogue" pro-life agencies who provide women with false information about abortions.

The release of this report comes as Ireland awaits what may be a landmark decision on women's rights in Ireland. In December, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] in a case brought by three women alleging that current Irish abortion laws violate their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The three women, who all traveled to the UK to have abortions, lodged the complaint in July 2005, alleging that the current Irish abortion laws make the procedure "unnecessarily expensive, complicated, and traumatic." A judgment is expected [Irish Times report] in six to eight months.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama chides Supreme Court again in State of the Union speech
Daniel Makosky on January 28, 2010 12:21 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions, in his State of the Union Address [transcript] Wednesday night. Obama warned of the increased potential for powerful interest groups, both foreign and domestic, to wield excessive influence over American elections and called for bipartisan support of legislation to counteract the decision. In addition to his support for campaign finance reform, the president also reiterated his previous commitment to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibits gay Americans from serving in the military, despite the advice of Pentagon lawyers [JURIST reports] to postpone reviewing the matter. Health care and clean energy initiatives were also addressed. Obama acknowledged the difficulties facing comprehensive health care reform [JURIST news archive], but encouraged lawmakers to continue working toward a functional and acceptable solution. Stressing the importance of clean energy [JURIST news archive], the president pushed for legislation to support investment in such technologies to promote both job creation and climate change.

In its ruling last week, the Supreme Court cited First Amendment concerns in overturning Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The Court, in a 5-4 decision [opinion, PDF], said that, "[t]he Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether." The White House immediately responded [press release] by pledging to work with Congress "to develop a forceful response."






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Canada privacy commissioner launches new Facebook probe
Haley Wojdowski on January 28, 2010 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner [official website] announced Thursday that it would launch a new probe [new release] of Facebook [website] to investigate privacy issues in response to a recent complaint. Facebook's privacy tool, which it introduced in December, requires users to review their privacy settings. The complaint alleges that these default privacy settings "have made his information more readily available than the settings he had previously put in place." Elizabeth Denham [official profile], the assistant privacy commissioner who led last year's investigation, noted that the complaint reflected concerns currently held by the office and reported to Facebook in recent months.

In August, Facebook announced [press release; JURIST report] that it would give users more control over the private information they share through their profiles. The changes were announced after discussions with the Canadian privacy commissioner, who in July released a report [text, PDF] that was critical of Facebook's compliance with Canadian privacy laws. Also in August, five Facebook users filed suit [JURIST report] in a US federal court alleging that the site violates California privacy laws. In late July, Facebook announced it had corrected a loophole [CNET report] whereby users could see strangers' posted photos without those individuals' knowledge. In February, Facebook, facing a federal complaint [PC World report], reversed a change to its Terms of Use policy that gave Faceboook ownership of all information posted on a user's profile, even if the page were deleted.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Honduras president pardons military leaders, former president
Jonathan Cohen on January 28, 2010 11:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Honduran President Porfirio Lobo [NYT profile] on Wednesday granted amnesty to both former president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and military leaders accused of participation in a June 2009 coup [JURIST report] against Zelaya. Making the decree during his inaugural address [Wall Street Journal report], Lobo said that it would allow the country to move past the conflict. He also said that he would appoint a special commission to investigate the circumstances of the coup, even though no prosecutions would result. Commentators suspect that Lobo may face trouble legitimizing his presidency [NYT report], though the US sent a delegation to his inauguration [press release] as a sign of support for the leader. Also Wednesday, Zelaya left the country to go into exile in the Dominican Republic.

The amnesty decree was approved by the Honduran National Congress [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday. Also Tuesday, the Honduran Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] exonerated six military leaders [JURIST report] accused of abuse of power for their alleged role in the coup. Last month, the Honduran Congress voted 111-14 not to reinstate [JURIST report] Zelaya. His ouster was the result of a judicial order [press release, in Spanish] that asserted that Zelaya had broken Honduran law by attempting to conduct a controversial referendum on constitutional reform [JURIST report], contrary to a Supreme Court ruling. Zelaya, along with the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union, maintain that his removal was a coup.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iran executes 2 for post-election violence, 9 others sentenced to death
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 28, 2010 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Iranians were executed [ISNA report, in Persian] Thursday and nine others have been sentenced to death for their roles in last summer's post-election protests [JURIST news archive], according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) [media website]. The two executed men, identified as Momammed Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, were convicted [NYT report] on charges of mohareb, or being enemies of God, and had earlier been appeared in televised show trials. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned [press release] the executions, saying, "[t]hese shocking executions show that the Iranian authorities will stop at nothing to stamp out the peaceful protests that persist since the election."

Earlier this month, Iran's Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei [GlobalSecurity profile] called for sedition trials [JURIST report] against leaders of protests following last June's contested presidential election. The Iranian government has faced significant international scrutiny for its handling of the post-election protests and treatment of thousands arrested as a result. Last month, AI labeled [JURIST report] human rights violations committed by the Iranian government following the election among the worst of the past 20 years. In September, human rights groups called for [JURIST report] the UN General Assembly [official website] to appoint a special envoy to investigate allegations of rights violations. Alleged human rights abuses of detainees include sexual assault, beatings, and forced confessions [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Apple could face legal battle over naming rights for iPad device
Brian Jackson on January 28, 2010 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Apple [corporate website] could face legal problems in registering a trademark for its new iPad tablet computer product announced [press release] on Wednesday. Since 2003, the computing company Fujitsu has been attempting to register the "IPAD" [USPTO record] mark in the US for a wireless retail computing device. Apple, however recently filed for an extension [USPTO materials, PDF] to allow itself sufficient time to prepare an opposition to Fujitsu's registration of the mark. It may be possible for both companies to register the mark [Bloomberg report], as long as Apple can successfully argue that there would not be any likelihood of confusion between its personal tablet and Fujitsu's retail device.

Apple's potential dispute over trademark rights with Fujitsu is the latest example of Apple's intellectual property issues. In October, Nokia sued Apple alleging that the iPhone contains technology that infringes 10 Nokia patents [JURIST report]. In April, Apple was found to have infringed a predictive snooping patent [Ars Technica report] owned by Opti. Inc. In July 2008, the inventor of so-called "visual voicemail" settled a patent infringement case [Reuters report] with Apple over the company's use of that function in the iPhone.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France court acquits ex-PM of Sarkozy defamation
Andrea Bottorff on January 28, 2010 9:31 AM ET

[JURIST] A French court on Thursday acquitted former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of all charges for his role in an alleged plot to defame several businessmen, including current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors claimed de Villepin failed to stop the circulation of false documents [France24 report], alleging Sarkozy profited from illegal arms deals when the two were vying for the presidency. Before his acquittal, de Villepin had faced the possibility of an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a €45,000 fine. Sarkozy said Thursday that he will not appeal the verdict [NYT report].

In October, de Villepin denied breaking the law and claimed that Sarkozy ordered the prosecution [JURIST report] for personal and political reasons. De Villepin and his alleged co-conspirators went on trial [JURIST report] last September. In November 2008, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for his connection with the long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France president calls for stronger global banking regulations
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 28, 2010 9:12 AM ET

[JURIST] French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French; JURIST news archive] called Wednesday for strong banking regulations [speech, PDF; press release] to restore the "moral dimensions" of capitalism. Speaking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting [official website] in Davos, Switzerland, Sarkozy called the current financial malaise a "crisis of globalization." He promised to target trade imbalances [Times report] between the East and West and called for a new currency exchange system [FT report] to prevent monetary dumping, as well as writing new laws to curb banks from speculating [Independent report]. Sarkozy said:


The other question we can no longer avoid is that of the role banks must play in the economy. The banker's job is not to speculate, it is to analyse credit risk, assess the capacity of borrowers to repay their loans and finance growth of the economy. If financial capitalism went so wrong, it was, first and foremost, because many banks were no longer doing their job. Why take the risk of lending to entrepreneurs when it is so easy to earn money by speculating on the markets? Why lend only to those who can repay the loan when it is so easy to shift the risks off the balance sheet?

President Obama is right when he says that banks must be dissuaded from engaging in proprietary speculation or financing speculative funds. But this debate cannot be confined to a single country, whatever its weight in global finance. This debate must be settled within the G20.

Sarkozy also called for "invest[ing] massively in the technologies of the future that will drive the digital revolution and the ecological revolution."

The US has recently taken several steps toward financial reform. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama proposed new banking rules [JURIST report] that he claims would stabilize the banking system and reduce the risk of future bank failures. The legislation would prohibit banks from owning, investing in, or sponsoring hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading funds for profit where the funds do not benefit the banks' customers. In December, the US House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that would create a consumer protection agency, strengthen financial oversight and prohibit certain types of predatory and abusive lending. The US House Financial Services Committee [official website] had approved a bill to create a consumer financial protection agency in October, after originally delaying [JURIST reports] it at the behest of financial industry leaders in July. The creation of the agency is a key step in achieving Obama's stated goal of tightening financial industry regulations. In June, the administration proposed a broad series of regulatory reforms [press release; JURIST report] aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia hate crimes decrease in 2009: rights group
Andrea Bottorff on January 28, 2010 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Russian racial hate crimes decreased slightly in 2009 [press release] because of increased police efforts, according to the SOVA Center [advocacy website] on Wednesday. According to the group, 71 people were killed and 333 wounded in racially motivated attacks in 2009, down from 110 killed and 487 wounded in 2008. Deputy head of SOVA Galina Kozhevnikova credited the first decrease in hate crimes in the last six years [Moscow Times report] to a combination of revised legislation, extended criminal trials, and enhanced police tactics. Despite the lower violent crime statistics, Sova's annual report also noted the increasing volume of xenophobic propaganda [AP report], particularly among right-wing, political youth groups.

Last year, the SOVA Center reported a slight rise in hate crimes in 2008 after a 13 percent rise in hate crimes in 2007 [JURIST reports]. Kozhevnikova criticized Russian authorities at the time for not responding to the increase in violence, saying that many hate crimes were only prosecuted as incidents of hooliganism, which would carry a lighter sentence than hate crimes. In 2008, Human Rights First [advocacy website] published a hate crime survey [text] that called attention to the then increasing number of violent crimes against immigrants and non-Slavic people in Russia.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

NYC mayor asks federal government to consider moving 9/11 trials
Matt Glenn on January 28, 2010 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website] on Wednesday cited costs and potential disruptions to the lives of New Yorkers in urging the federal government not to try alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archive] and other high-profile terror suspects in New York City. Bloomberg said a military base may be a more appropriate venue [AFP report] for the trial since they are generally in secluded areas, though he said his request was not based on security concerns. Earlier this month Bloomberg claimed [JURIST report] that providing security for the trial in New York would cost the city more than $216 million in the first year and $206 million in any additional years. Bloomberg originally backed the idea of trying some of the terrorists currently held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in Manhattan due to its proximity to ground zero and the symbolic significance of convicting the suspects there.

In November, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] appeared before the Senate to defend plans [JURIST reports] to try Mohammed, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh [JURIST news archive], Walid Bin Attash, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsaw in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Earlier in November, the US Senate defeated [JURIST report] an amendment [S AMDT 2669 materials] to an appropriations bill [HR 2847 materials] that would have prevented Guantanamo detainees accused of involvement in 9/11 from being tried in federal courts. In October, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 [HR 2892 materials], which allows for Guantanamo Bay detainees to be transferred to the US for prosecution and, among other provisions, requires certain information about each transferred detainee to be disclosed to Congress including costs, legal rationales, and possible risks.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Mumbai terror suspects plead not guilty in US court
Matt Glenn on January 28, 2010 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] US citizen David Headley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 12 charges related to the 2008 Mumbai terror attack [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and an alleged conspiracy against the Danish creator and publishers of controversial cartoons [JURIST news archive] depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The government has accused [indictment, PDF] Headley of conducting surveillance for terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder] in Mumbai to prepare for the 2008 attack. Headley and two others are also charged in the same indictment with conspiring to bomb the headquarters of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten [media website, in Danish], which published the cartoons. Tahawwur Rana, an alleged LeT member who was charged with Headley, also pleaded not guilty in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website]. The US government has not yet apprehended the two men accused of plotting with Headley to attack Jyllands-Posten. A hearing is scheduled for February 23.

Earlier this week, an Indian court rejected [JURIST report] a request by the lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks for an international trial. Muhammad Ajmal Amir Kasab claims he will not receive a fair trial in India. Kasab, whom India claims participated directly in the Mumbai attacks, said during his trial that he met Headley, but only while in jail after being arrested. Headley was indicted [JURIST report] earlier this month along with Rana, a Canadian citizen living in Chicago, retired Pakistani military officer Abdur Rehman, and Ilyas Kashmiri, an alleged terrorist leader believed to have ties to al Qaeda. The indictment was a superseding indictment, reiterating charges originally brought [JURIST report] against Headley in December.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US judge grants asylum to German immigrants wanting to homeschool
Brian Jackson on January 28, 2010 6:46 AM ET

[JURIST] A US immigration judge granted asylum [press release] to a German family on Tuesday, ruling that Germany's laws against homeschooling [HSLDA backgrounder] gave the family a well-founded fear of persecution. The Romeike family fled Germany [AP report] in 2008, two years after pulling their children out of German public school so that they could be homeschooled, and one year after a controversial German court ruling that social service workers could remove children from the home if the parents refused to send them to school. Judge Lawrence Burman's opinion was critical of German policy regarding educational freedom, calling the country's laws against homeschooling a violation of basic human rights. The case has caused controversy over religious persecution in Germany [Der Spiegel report], as the Romeikes claimed that German curriculum has turned against Christian values with the passage of time. It is not known if the US government will appeal the ruling.

Unlike in Germany, homeschooling is legal and increasing in popularity in the US, with recent figures suggesting that as many as 1.7 million children [USA Today report] are homeschooled. Each state has its own homeschooling laws [HSLDA backgrounder] with varying levels of regulatory scrutiny, ranging from no notice required to homeschool children to mandatory notification of achievement and compliance with state curriculum. Homeschooling was outlawed in Germany in 1919 [constitution text], and the ban is enshrined within article 7 [text] of the current constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UN rights chief urges improvement in treatment of Haitians
Brian Jackson on January 27, 2010 1:52 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Wednesday that strengthening human rights is an integral part of the rebuilding process [statement, PDF] in Haiti. In her remarks, Pillay mentioned the role that the inhumane living conditions may have had in the high casualty numbers resulting from the January 12 earthquake [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive], placing blame on the Duvalier regime for those conditions. According to Pillay, the high number of casualties could have been predicted by the damage sustained in that country following a series of tropical storms in 2008 [CNN report]. Pillay concluded her remarks with a call to action, saying:


As the Secretary-General noted we must help Haiti build back better. This also entails re-constructing and strengthening the national human rights protection systems through an effective and independent judiciary and a law enforcement apparatus respectful of human rights. A reliable National Human Rights Institution and a vigilant civil society must be empowered to be active partners in this endeavour.

Pillay also urged the rule of law to be reestablished, citing fears that escaped prisoners [JURIST report] would engage in violent criminal activities.

Last week, US President Barack Obama signed a bill that will allow US citizens to claim donations to Haitian relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 tax returns [JURIST report]. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that Haitian nationals present in the US before the earthquake will be given temporary protected status and will not be deported for the next 18 months, but Haitian refugees who arrive in the US illegally will be sent back to their home country [JURIST reports]. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has been estimated at 150,000.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK Supreme Court rules orders freezing assets of terror suspects unlawful
Carrie Schimizzi on January 27, 2010 1:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; press release, PDF] Wednesday that executive orders allowing the government to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists are illegal. The five men involved in the court's inaugural case [JURIST report] argued that the government exceeded its power when the Treasury Department [official website] froze their assets without the approval of Parliament. They are accused by the British government of terrorism offenses, but have not been formally charged by any court. Justice Lord Hope said the orders, which can be extended indefinitely, are unduly burdensome on those accused of links to terrorism:


The consequences of the Orders that were made in this case are so drastic and so oppressive that we must be just as alert to see that the coercive action that the Treasury have taken really is within the powers that [Parliament] has given them. Even in the face of the threat of international terrorism, the safety of the people is not the supreme law. We must be just as careful to guard against unrestrained encroachments on personal liberty.

The court found that the government exceeded its authority by allowing Treasury to freeze assets based solely on "reasonable suspicion" of involvement in terrorist activity, and by not providing for judicial review of the seizures.

The Supreme Court's ruling affirms a 2008 High Court ruling [JURIST report], which found that the Treasury Department may not freeze the assets of the five suspected terrorists without the approval of Parliament. The seizures were conducted pursuant to two Orders in Council [backgrounder], the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures] Order 2006 [texts]. The orders implemented UN resolutions requiring UN member states to freeze the assets of people on a UN list of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban associates [UN materials]. The High Court rejected the orders because they were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they came into force.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Yemen to build rehabilitation center for Guantanamo Bay detainees
Haley Wojdowski on January 27, 2010 1:12 PM ET

[JURIST] A Yemeni government official said Wednesday that Yemen will build a rehabilitation center for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainees. According to the anonymous official, Yemen will begin building [Reuters report] once it receives funding for the $11 million project promised by the US. It is believed the rehabilitation center will be internationally financed and monitored [Telegraph report]. The project will be discussed on Wednesday at a meeting intended to garner international support in the wake of discovering that a Yemeni branch of al Qaeda trained the Nigerian man involved in the attempted Christmas day bombing [JURIST news archive].

The White House announced earlier this month that the US government will suspend transfers [JURIST report] of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen based on security concerns. Most of the nearly 200 detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many detainees have been transferred back to Yemen. Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the detention [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee Ghaleb Nassar Al-Bihani [NYT materials], ruling that he can remain in US custody, but, last month, the US government transferred six detainees [JURIST report] back to Yemen. Also last month, a federal judge granted Yemeni detainee Saeed Hatim's petition for habeas corpus, ordering his release [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China high court announces new anti-corruption rules for judges
David Manes on January 27, 2010 12:48 PM ET

[JURIST] China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) [official website, in Chinese] on Wednesday announced new anti-corruption rules in an effort to increase public confidence in the rule of law. The new regulations [Xinhua report] prohibit various activities including accepting bribes, having sex with litigants, intimidation, and intentionally prolonging court proceedings, with punishments ranging from demerits to removal. Chinese courts are under the control of the Communist Party of China (CPC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which announced plans [JURIST report] earlier this month to increase its oversight of the families of government officials to control corruption. A communique released by the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which is in charge of detecting and preventing corruption in the CPC, ordered other CPC organs to carefully monitor officials to make sure they are not accepting bribes or receiving improper gifts.

China's new judicial regulations come after the conviction [JURIST report] of former SPC vice president Huang Songyou on bribery and embezzlement charges earlier this month. Huang is the highest-ranking judge to be charged with corruption since the founding of the People's Republic of China. Between 2005 and 2008, Huang allegedly embezzled 3.9 million yuan (about $574,000 USD) while serving as vice president of the SPC, and he allegedly embezzled 1.2 million yuan (about $175,000 USD) while serving as president of the Intermediate People's Court of Zhanjiang in 1997.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia upper house ratifies Europe rights court reform protocol
Haley Wojdowski on January 27, 2010 12:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Federation Council [official website, in Russian] on Wednesday voted to ratify Protocol 14 [text] to reform the European Convention of Human Rights [text, PDF]. Council members voted 137-0 [results, in Russian] to pass the legislation, following earlier approval [JURIST report] by the State Duma. The ratification process will be complete once Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] approves the provision [AFP report]. Russia is the last member of the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] to ratify the protocol, which includes reforms to increase efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], such as filtering out inadmissible and repetitive cases. Russia was initially opposed to ratifying the protocol, which it claimed was politically motivated.

In June, the COE harshly criticized Russia's judicial system and called for reform [JURIST report]. In recent years, Russia has had the largest number of cases pending in the ECHR out of any COE member-state. In 2009, Russia had 32,600 cases pending, followed next by Turkey, which had 12,800 cases pending, and in 2008 [statistics, PDF] Russia had 27,250 cases pending, followed next by Turkey, which had 11,100 cases pending. In 2008, Medvedev proposed that Russian courts become more transparent [JURIST report] in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the ECHR.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Bangladesh officials execute coup officers for 1975 presidential assassination
Carrie Schimizzi on January 27, 2010 12:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Bangladesh officials on Wednesday executed two of five former military officers sentenced to death for the 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman [Hindustan Times profile], the country's founding president, just hours after the country's Supreme Court [official website] rejected their petitions for review. The five men, Syed Faruk Rahman, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Baziul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin, and Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, had appealed an earlier ruling [JURIST report] that upheld their death sentences. Under Bangladesh law, a convict sentenced to death has the right to appeal the final judgment of his case and can petition the president for clemency. Three of the five men had already made clemency pleas, which were rejected [IANS report] last week by President Zillur Rahman. The remaining three are expected to be executed shortly.

Mujibur was killed at his home, along with his wife and three sons, in a military coup only four years after Bangladesh won independence [TIME backgrounder] from Pakistan in 1971. His daughter, the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed [official website], was abroad at the time of the killings and had promised to make her father's murder trial a priority of her administration when she was elected in 2008 to a second term in office [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Uganda war crimes court may include foreign judges
David Manes on January 27, 2010 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Ugandan Principal Judge James Ogoola said Monday that the newly established War Crimes Division (WCD) [official website, JURIST news archive] of the High Court will seek to recruit foreign judges. Ogoola explained the need [New Vision report] for foreign judges, citing the international nature of the cases. He said that foreign judges would improve both the quality of the WCD's work and the public's perception of the court. In June, WCD officials began reaching out to the areas most affected by the war with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] in the Acholi, Lango, Teso, and District of Adjumani regions of the country, seeking to lay the groundwork for future investigations.

Ogoola appointed three High Court Judges to serve on the WCD in July 2008 after the new division was created [JURIST report] in May of that year. The WCD was formed specifically to try war crimes cases involving the LRA and will not hear other allegations [JURIST report] of war crimes. Uganda's government agreed to create the war crimes court [JURIST report] in February 2008 during peace negotiations with the LRA. At the time, there was speculation that the WCD, which has the authority to try LRA leaders, was created to persuade the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to drop its arrest warrants for LRA leaders. More than four years after the warrants were initially issued, the ICC is still seeking the arrest [JURIST report] of LRA leader Joseph Kony [BBC profile] and his deputies.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Zimbabwe high court rejects African tribunal's land reform ruling
Jay Carmella on January 27, 2010 10:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The Zimbabwe High Court [official website] ruled on Tuesday that it is not bound by the decision of the Southern Africa Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal) [official website] that ordered the state to halt its controversial Land Reform Program [official website]. The court refused to register [Zimbabwe Telegraph report] a SADC Tribunal ruling [JURIST report] that prevents the state from acquiring land for the purpose of resettlement. Justice Bharat Patel believed that enforcing the ruling, which was in favor of white farmers whose land was taken over in the government's farm redistribution program [JURIST report], would violate the Zimbabwean Constitution and would be against public policy. Patel believed that a decision in favor the SADC ruling would lead to the removal of the majority of the people that the government was trying to support through the redistribution program.

The Zimbabwe High Court had previously ruled [JURIST report] that the SADC Tribunal is not superior to the courts of the individual SADC member countries. In December 2008, four white Zimbabwe farmers were charged with trespassing [JURIST report] on state property for failing to vacate lands that the government seized for the land reform program, in open defiance of the November 2008 SADC Tribunal ruling. One of the farmers, Colin Cloete, filed suit to cause the government and attorney general to register the SADC ruling in the High Court Registry, a step necessary to enable its enforcement in the country. Government officials have expressed that the land reform program is necessary [JURIST report] to correct past racial disparities that favored the white farmers, and the land reform program will continue.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UN study reveals worldwide use of secret detention centers to counter terrorism
Jay Carmella on January 27, 2010 9:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Dozens of countries have illegally used secret detention facilities in their counter-terrorism efforts, according to a joint study [text, DOC; press release] issued Tuesday by four independent UN investigating groups. Information for the detailed study was collected through a questionnaire completed by 44 countries, as well several interviews with former detainees, their families, or their legal counsel. The study was particularly critical of actions taken by the US government since it began its "War on Terror" [JURIST news archive] in 2001. The report also acknowledged [Reuters report] that detainees are being secretly held in Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Russia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The study stated:


International law clearly prohibits secret detention, which violates a number of human rights and humanitarian law norms that may not be derogated from under any circumstances. If secret detention constitutes enforced disappearances and is widely or systematically practiced, it may even amount to a crime against humanity. However ... secret detention continues to be used in the name of countering terrorism around the world. The evidence gathered by the four experts for the present study clearly show that many States, referring to concerns relating to national security – often perceived or presented as unprecedented emergencies or threats – resort to secret detention.

The study will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in March, and will contain many recommendations, including making secret and unofficial detention strictly prohibited.

The US has recently come under fire for its alleged use of secret detention facilities [JURIST news archive] operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. Last month, a Lithuanian parliamentary committee confirmed that the CIA had established two secret prisons for al Qaeda suspects, prompting a dispute that led to the resignation [JURIST reports] of the country's foreign minister. On his third day in office last 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.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Honduras court finds military officials not guilty for Zelaya removal
Jay Carmella on January 27, 2010 8:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Honduran Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] President Jorge Rivera on Tuesday exonerated six military leaders accused of abuse of power for removing former president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from the country last June. Rivera found [Honduras Weekly report] that the leaders did not intend to harm Zelaya and that his removal was necessary in order to preserve the peace. The Supreme Court had charged [JURIST report] the commanders - head of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces Romeo Vasquez, deputy head of the Joint Chiefs Venancio Cervantes, Inspector General Carlos Cuellar, Commandant of the Army Miguel Garcia, Commandant of the Navy Juan Rodriguez, and Commandant of the Air Force Luis Javier Prince - last week and ordered them to remain in the country until after the court had reached its decision. The charges were filed when prosecutors argued [JURIST report] to the court that the military commanders violated the Honduran Constitution [text, in Spanish] when they seized Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. If they had been convicted, the military leaders could have faced up to six years in prison. Also Tuesday, the Honduran National Congress [official website, in Spanish] approved amnesty for both Zelaya and the military.

Tuesday's ruling comes the day before Porfirio Lobo is scheduled to be sworn into office as president and Zelaya is expected to leave the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras. Last month, congress voted 111-14 not to reinstate [JURIST report] Zelaya. This followed a non-binding advisory opinion from the Supreme Court that Zelaya could not legally return to office [JURIST report]. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] in June, 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 Supreme Court ruling. Zelaya, along with the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union, maintain that his removal was a coup, while the interim government of Roberto Micheletti asserts that it was a lawful transition of power.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US transfers Uzbek Guantanamo detainee to Switzerland
Jay Carmella on January 27, 2010 7:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] on Tuesday that an Uzbek Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee has been transferred to Switzerland. The detainee, whose identity will not be disclosed in order to facilitate his transition into life in Switzerland, was unanimously approved for transfer. The Swiss government agreed [JURIST report] to accept the detainee for resettlement "on humanitarian grounds" after reassurances from the US that the man was not convicted of any crime and will not be a threat to public safety. The detainee was originally cleared for release in 2005, but could not return to Uzbekistan for fear of persecution.

The transfer to Switzerland is the latest in series of recent transfers that may demonstrate a renewed commitment from the Obama administration to close the military facility. Other detainees have recently been sent to Slovakia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Somaliland and Yemen [JURIST reports]. Earlier this month, however, the White House announced [JURIST report] that further transfers of detainees to Yemen will be suspended due to security concerns. Last week, a presidential task force recommended [JURIST report] that 35 Guantanamo detainees face trial or military commissions.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Former UK legal advisor testifies Iraq invasion was illegal
Sarah Miley on January 26, 2010 3:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Former chief legal adviser to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] Sir Michael Wood [UN profile, PDF] told the Iraq Inquiry [official website] in a public hearing [video] on Tuesday that he had advised the Foreign Ministry that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal. Woods testified that the invasion was "contrary to international law" because it was never authorized by the UN Security Council [official website]. Woods said that then-Foreign Ministry secretary Jack Straw [parliamentary profile] rejected his advice that there was no legal basis for the invasion and that it was not supported by UN resolutions, including Resolution 1441 [text]. During the inquiry, Woods stated [transcript, PDF]:


He took the view that I was being very dogmatic and that international law was pretty vague and that he wasn't used to people taking such a firm position. When he had been at the Home Office ... he had often been advised things were unlawful and he had gone ahead anyway and won in the courts.

Last week, Wood released a written statement [text, PDF] outlining the legal advice he had given to the foreign ministry. In his statement, Woods held that self defense requires an imminent attack, and Iraq's regime change alone was not considered an actual or imminent threat. He went on to state that taking preemptive steps beyond self defense "had no basis in international law."

Earlier this month, the Iraq Inquiry released [JURIST report] a 2002 letter [text, PDF] from former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [professional profile] to former secretary of defense Geoffrey Hoon [personal profile] in which Goldsmith warned the Cabinet that the Iraq invasion was not supported by international law. The letter stated that Goldsmith was having "considerable difficulty" supporting a legal foundation for the Iraq invasion. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism after the Inquiry released a letter from Goldsmith written to Blair in July 2002, warning [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. The existence of this letter will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion. Blair is scheduled to testify before the Inquiry this week.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Israel legislature adopts measure to pardon 400 protesters of 2005 Gaza disengagement
Sarah Paulsworth on January 26, 2010 2:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Israel's Knesset [official website, in Hebrew] approved legislation on Monday to grant immunity to approximately 400 protesters involved in violent protests in connection with the 2005 removal [JURIST report] of settlers in the Gaza Strip [JURIST news archive]. The amnesty measure, which passed by a vote of 51-9 [Haaretz report], does not extend immunity to people who committed acts that endangered human life, but rather mainly affects approximately 400 teenagers who were charged with committing minor criminal infractions. This is the third general amnesty measure issued by Israel. The first was issued was in 1949, after the War of Independence, and the second was issued in 1967, after the Six-Day War.

The tenuous relations between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza have been under international scrutiny lately in light of more recent conflicts. Earlier this month, Israeli military officers cancelled a planned trip [JURIST report] to the UK for fear they would be arrested on charges of war crimes for their involvement in last winter's Operation Cast Lead [Global Security Backgrounder] in the Gaza Strip. In November, the UN adopted [JURIST report] a resolution requiring independent investigations into Operation Cast Lead. According to the UN report [text], both Israel and Palestine committed war crimes [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France parliamentary commission recommends partial burqa ban
Megan McKee on January 26, 2010 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The French parliamentary commission charged with investigating whether to enact laws banning the wearing of burqas [JURIST news archive] or other "full veils" released its report [text, PDF; in French] Tuesday calling for a partial ban. The panel urged a ban [Al Jazeera report] that would apply in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and public transportation, and to any individual attempting to receive public services. The panel also recommended that permanent residency and citizenship be denied to anyone displaying their adherence to "radical religious practices." The commission did not recommend a total ban on the burqa because not all members agreed that such a move would be constitutional. The potential ban has received widespread support [CNN report] throughout France. Any legislation will probably not be voted on until after the French regional elections in March.

The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. The panel has heard testimony from numerous experts, including anthropologist Dounia Bouzar [TIME profile], who suggested that a broad ban on covering one's face to conceal identity is preferable to a law that singles out Muslims. Bouzar said that the recent popularity of the burqa amongst French Muslims was due to religious "gurus" who have misconstrued the teachings of Islam. The commission also heard from University of Nice [academic website, in French] philosopher Abdennour Bidar, who urged the commission to find a way to prevent the spread of the practice, though he was unsure whether this goal is best accomplished through legislation.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

California Supreme Court authorizes DNA warrants for unknown suspects
Sarah Miley on January 26, 2010 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST]The Supreme Court of California [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-2 Monday to authorize the use of "John Doe" arrest warrants, which replace an unknown suspect's name with his or her DNA profile as the unique identifier. Prosecutors have increasingly been using these warrants as a means of satisfying the statute of limitations in criminal cases. California law, which echoes the language of the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment [text], holds that prosecution for an offense commences when an arrest warrant is issued and "names or describes the defendant with the same degree of particularity required for [a] complaint." Focusing on the point of particularity, the court held that DNA profiles describe the suspect sufficiently for identification:


A warrant or complaint is an accusation against a person, and not against a name, and [w]hen the name is unknown, the person may be identified with the best description available. ... A genetic code describes a person with far greater precision than a physical description or a name. ... For purposes of the Fourth Amendment, we conclude that the arrest warrant in question, which described the defendant by his 13-loci DNA profile and included an explanation that the profile had a random match probability such that there was essentially no chance of its being duplicated in the human population except in the case of genetically identical sibling, complied with the mandate of our federal Constitution that the person seized be described with particularity. ... We likewise conclude the arrest warrant in question described the defendant with sufficient particularity to avoid a violation of the warrant particularity requirement of our state Constitution.

Dissenting judge Carlos Moreno questioned the authenticity of John Doe warrants, claiming that the document was "a clever artifice intended solely to satisfy the statute of limitations until the identity of the perpetrator could be discovered." Moreno stated that the warrant did not become effective until a fictitious name is replaced with the suspect's real name, and at that point the statute of limitations has expired.

The court's ruling upheld the conviction of Paul Robinson on sexual assault charges. Evidence linking Robinson to the crime was discovered when his DNA was mistakenly collected and entered into the state's DNA database, which matched his profile with that of the suspect profile in the John Doe warrant. DNA databases are a controversial issue. In May, a federal court upheld the constitutionality [JURIST report] of mandatory DNA collection for all persons arrested or detained under federal authority. Judge Gregory Hollows of the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] found that although the collection of DNA from those arrested on federal felony, sexual abuse, or violent crime charges does constitute a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, a person arrested based on probable cause "has a diminished expectation of privacy in his own identity." Federal agencies began collecting DNA samples [JURIST report] in 2008, although they had been authorized to do so since 2006.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iraq Interior Ministry targeted in car bombing
Sarah Paulsworth on January 26, 2010 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside of the Forsenics Lab of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's Criminal Investigation Department on Tuesday, killing 21 people and injuring at least 80 others. The building collapsed [Al Jazeera report] shortly after the attack, which comes one day after a wave of attacks [AP report] against several Baghdad hotels frequented by westerners. Some have suggested that the attacks might be in retaliation for Monday's execution [JURIST report] of Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known as "Chemical Ali." Tuesday's bombing has also aroused concerns about Iraq's ability to ensure citizens' safety in the run-up to the general election scheduled for next month. Iraq's election legislation was just amended [JURIST report] in December, causing the election to be pushed back [Reuters report] from January 31 to February 27.

This is not the first time Iraqi ministries have been targeted by suicide bombers. Earlier this month, an Iraqi court sentenced 11 men to death for the August 19 bombing of the foreign and finance ministries [BBC report] in Baghdad that left close to 100 dead. Iraq is also seeking an investigation into the twin suicide bombings [JURIST report] in Baghdad in October that killed at least 132 people. 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 to permit changes to the country's election law. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari [official profile] renewed calls [JURIST report] in October for a formal UN inquiry to investigate those responsible for the bombings. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China court sentences 4 more to death for Xinjiang riot killings
Ann Riley on January 26, 2010 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese court Tuesday sentenced four more people to death in connection with the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive]. The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi sentenced eight others to life in prison and one to the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, which is usually commuted to life in prison. To date, at least 26 people have received death sentences for their roles in the riots. In November, the Chinese government carried out the executions [JURIST report] of nine others convicted in connection with the riots for murder, assault, arson, and robbery, after a review by the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] upheld their sentences.

The actions of the Chinese government in the aftermath of the riots have been heavily criticized [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW has stated that the trials of the suspected rioters have been marred by infringements on due process and political considerations. Additionally, HRW reported [JURIST report] that more than 40 Uighurs had disappeared while in the custody of Chinese authorities after large-scale sweeps by police. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media has reported [Xinhua report] that most of the deaths were due to protesters. 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. Violence broke out July 5, after Uighurs attacked Han Chinese during protests ignited by an attack at a factory in southern China that left two Uighurs dead.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US government bans texting for commercial drivers
Ann Riley on January 26, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Transportation (DOT) [official website] announced Tuesday a federal ban on texting while driving [press release] for commercial truck and bus drivers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood [official profile] said [remarks] that the prohibition will take effect immediately. Drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. The regulation, proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) [official website] applies to inter-state truck drivers as well as commercial bus or van drivers who carry more than eight passengers. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro [official profile] said:


Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab. ... We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.

The regulation will be publicly posted in the Federal Register on Thursday and appear in print on Friday.

The DOT sponsored a summit on distracted driving [Federal Register notice; official website] in September to assess the distractions caused by devices and address issues to reduce accidents on the roadways. The federal ban for commercial drivers comes weeks after Illinois, Oregon, and New Hampshire joined the nearly 20 states and the federal government [JURIST report] to prohibit texting while driving [JURIST news archive]. In October, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [official website] released the results of a study [text, PDF] that reported 5,800 deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries in traffic accidents in 2008 where driver distraction was indicated on the police report.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia court grants child custody to HIV-positive woman
Andrea Bottorff on January 26, 2010 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian court on Monday awarded an HIV-positive woman custody of her younger brother. Svetlana Izambayeva sought custody rights [RIA Novosti report] in February after her mother's death left the boy orphaned, but was denied by a city court because of her HIV status. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan [official website] overruled the lower court decision. Human rights groups following the case had called the lower court decision unfair and alleged widespread discrimination [AFP report] against people with HIV in Russia.

Monday's court decision could set an important precedent in Russia. As many HIV-positive Russians claim to experience discrimination from people who do not understand HIV/AIDS, the government and other groups continue to make an effort to raise awareness and educate the public. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) [official website], there are more than 900,000 people living with HIV [UNAIDS fact sheet, PDF] in Russia. Efforts to alleviate discrimination also continue in other countries. Earlier this month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [official website] removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases of public significance, ending a 22-year-old policy [JURIST report] prohibiting people with HIV or AIDS from entering the country. In 2008, an Indian court awarded custody [IANS report] to an HIV-positive woman after her in-laws refused to turn over the child.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Pennsylvania prosecutor will not retry juveniles associated with sentencing scandal
Hillary Stemple on January 26, 2010 8:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll [official website] agreed on Monday to drop efforts to retry 46 juveniles whose original convictions were overturned [JURIST report] because they had been issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. In October, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned about 6,500 convictions handed down by former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] president judge Mark Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, but gave prosecutors permission to seek retrial of more than 100 youths who were still under court supervision. 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 decision ends all efforts at retrying any of the convicted juveniles, who will now have their juvenile records cleared. The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center [advocacy website] issued a statement [press release] applauding the decision, indicating that "justice has finally been attained" for the juveniles.

Ciavarella and Conahan are awaiting trial after being indicted in September, following a withdrawal of 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; JURIST op-ed]. 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. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DOJ approves Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger after settlement
Ximena Marinero on January 26, 2010 7:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Canadian Competition Bureau [official websites] reached an agreement on Monday to allow the merger [press release] between Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc. and Live Nation, Inc. [corporate websites]. The two companies agreed to the 10-year settlement terms set by the DOJ and the Competition Bureau, which had determined [press release] after reviewing the original merger terms that the move "raised serious economic concerns" and "would deter other companies from entering the market to compete against the merged" corporation. According to the DOJ, the settlement [press release]:


will require Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. to license its ticketing software, divest ticketing assets and subject itself to anti-retaliation provisions in order to proceed with its proposed merger with Live Nation Inc. ... [to] protect competition for primary ticketing, which will in turn maintain incentives for innovation and discounting.

The settlement will enable Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and another suitable buyer, likely Comcast-Spectacor [corporate websites], to compete with the merged corporation.

The Obama administration has pledged to increase reviews of proposed mergers. In September, the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission [official website] announced [press release] that they are considering revisions to the Horizontal Mergers Guidelines. In May, the DOJ announced [JURIST report] that it would reverse Bush administration antitrust policies [press release] that made it difficult to act against large companies that harm the interests of smaller companies. In September 2008, three of the four sitting FTC members denounced [JURIST report] a report [PDF text; DOJ materials] released by the DOJ as "a blueprint for radically weakened enforcement" of federal antitrust law.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Three former Bosnian Serb police indicted for Srebrenica massacre
Ximena Marinero on January 26, 2010 6:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) war crimes court [official website] confirmed [press release] on Monday that three former Bosnian Serb policemen have been indicted on charges of genocide for their alleged roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. Dusko Jevic served as Deputy Commander of the Special Police Brigade, while Mendeljev Duric and Goran Markovic served as Jahorina Training Center Squad Commanding Officers. According to the court, the three former policemen:


commanded their units, acting individually and in concert with other participants, planned, ordered, incited and took part in the realization of the systemic and joint criminal act. The accused allegedly during the period from 10 July until 19 July 1995, as co-perpetrators, inflicted severe bodily and mental injuries to a group of Bosniaks, committed killings of male members of the group of Bosniaks and forcefully transferred women, children and elderly persons from the UN protected zone Srebrenica in order to completely exterminate national, ethnic and religious group of Bosniaks.

The three men were arrested [JURIST report] in late 2009.

Last week, the US extradited [Reuters report] to BiH Bosnian Serb Nedjo Ikonic, a former commander of a special police brigade, who will also be tried by the BiH war crimes court for his role in the Srebrenica massacre. Earlier this month, police in BiH arrested [JURIST report] Ratko Dronjak and Dragan Rodic, two former Bosnian Serb detention camp guards who were allegedly responsible for the death of about 50 civilians and Bosnian soldiers during the Bosnian civil war. The BiH war crimes court was set up in the 2005 to relieve the caseload of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], and is authorized to try lower-level war crime suspects. The court delivered its first sentences [JURIST report] against war crimes suspects from Yugoslavia's violent ethnic conflicts of the 1990s in July 2008, convicting seven of genocide for their involvement in killings committed at the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] prison camp. The ICTY retains 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].





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US transfers 3 Guantanamo detainees to Slovakia
Steve Dotterer on January 25, 2010 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that three Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to Slovakia. Slovakia announced [JURIST report] last week that it would accept the detainees, in what was widely seen as an endorsement of US president Barack Obama's foreign policy. The DOJ made this statement about the transfer:


The identities of these three individuals are being withheld at the request of the Government of Slovakia for security and privacy reasons. The United States is grateful to the Government of Slovakia for its willingness to support US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

The latest transfers follow a series of other recent detainee transfers to Algeria and other countries [JURIST reports].

The Obama administration had planned to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010, but has been stymied by opposition from Congress and the recent suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. In November, the Center for American Progress [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] blaming missteps by the Obama administration for the delay in closing the facility.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

'Chemical Ali' executed in Iraq for ordering gassing of Kurdish village
Patrice Collins on January 25, 2010 12:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi officials on Monday executed [press release, in Arabic] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known as "Chemical Ali," for ordering the Kurdish village of Halabja gassed in 1988. Government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stated that al-Majid had committed crimes of mass murder and premeditated bodily harm against the Iraqi population. Al-Majid was convicted [JURIST report] earlier this month of ordering the gassing and sentenced to death. The gassing, which killed 5,000 Kurds, was part of the wider Anfal campaign [JURIST news archive] against Kurds in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime, and is considered one of the worst attacks on the ethnic minority.

Al-Majid had received three prior death sentences. In March, al-Majid received his third death sentence [JURIST report] for his role in the 1999 killings of protesters who rioted in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. In December 2008, the Tribunal sentenced al-Majid to death [JURIST report] for his involvement in the repression of Shiites in southern Iraq during the Saddam regime. Al-Majid was also sentenced to death for another killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the Anfal campaign.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France burqa ban proposal likely limited to public buildings: reports
Megan McKee on January 25, 2010 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The French parliament [official website, in French] will likely limit a proposal to ban the burqa [JURIST news archive] and niqab, full face veils worn by some devout Muslim women, to public buildings only, according to Monday reports. A parliamentary panel charged with examining the issue is set to report its recommendations [Daily Mail report] on Tuesday, and they are unlikely to press for a complete ban. The potential French "burqa ban" [BBC report] has received widespread support from the government, including from President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French]. Any legislation will probably not be voted on until after the French regional elections in March. There is still ongoing debate as to what the proposal should include and whether the ban would violate the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF].

The parliamentary panel [JURIST report] was created by the National Assembly in July. The panel has heard testimony from anthropologist Dounia Bouzar [video, in French; TIME profile], who suggested that a broad ban on covering one's face to conceal identity is preferable to a law that singles out Muslims. Bouzar said that the recent popularity of the burqa amongst French Muslims was due to religious "gurus" who have misconstrued the teachings of Islam. The commission also heard from University of Nice [academic website, in French] philosopher Abdennour Bidar [video, in French], who urged the commission to find a way to prevent the spread of the practice, though he was unsure whether this goal is best accomplished through legislation. The issue of imposing a full veil ban came to the forefront after a niqab-wearing woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] in 2008 for failing to assimilate to French culture.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

India court rejects Mumbai terror attack suspect's request for international trial
Carrie Schimizzi on January 25, 2010 12:14 PM ET

[JURIST] An Indian court on Monday rejected a request by suspected Mumbai terror attack [BBC Backgrounder; JURIST news archive] gunman Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab [NDTV profile] to be tried in an international court. Kasab claimed he would not receive a fair trial in India and that police had falsely accused him of taking part in the 2008 terror attacks. Special Court Judge ML Tahaliyani denied [Times of India report] Kasab's request, calling it "premature." Kasab also requested that he be allowed to examine defense witnesses, including passport officers and government staff, from Pakistan and that he be allowed to meet with Pakistani officials. Tahaliyani told Kasab he should file a petition [AP report] through his lawyer. Kasab is facing 86 charges, including murder, for his role in the attacks and, if convicted, could receive the death penalty [JURIST report]. A verdict in the trial is expected sometime early this year.

Last month, Kasab withdrew his confession [JURIST report], claiming he was tortured and framed by police. Kasab originally pleaded not guilty last year, but interrupted his trial to confess and change his plea to guilty [JURIST reports] in July. Tahaliyani continued the trial [JURIST report] despite Kasab's confession, ruling that it was incomplete but should be entered into the record. Kasab claimed that he is not the man [Times of India report] seen in a photograph holding an assault rifle in the train station. Kasab testified that he had been arrested by police days before the attacks for being Pakistani and that police shot him to make it look like he had been injured during the attacks. He also claimed to have met David Headley, the Chicago man charged [JURIST report] in connection with the attacks, but only after the attacks when Headley allegedly came to question Kasab in the company of three FBI agents.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court declines to hear Noriega extradition appeal
Andrew Morgan on January 25, 2010 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday declined to hear [order list, PDF] an appeal brought by former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] challenging a lower court ruling denying his habeas corpus petition and authorizing his extradition to France on money laundering charges. Noriega, who has been declared a prisoner of war, sought to enforce a provision of the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder] that requires repatriation at the end of confinement. In an April decision [JURIST report], the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that his claim was precluded by § 5 of the Military Commission Act of 2006 [text, PDF], which the Government argued "codifie[d] the principle that the Geneva Conventions [a]re not judicially enforceable by private parties." Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented from the denial of certiorari, arguing that the Court should use the opportunity to resolve confusion over its decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] granting federal courts the power to review habeas petitions brought by "enemy combatants."


It is incumbent upon us to provide what guidance we can on these issues now. Whatever conclusion we reach, our opinion will help the political branches and the courts discharge their responsibilities over detainee cases, and will spare detainees and the Government years of unnecessary litigation.

They said that Noriega's case presented a unique opportunity to address the constitutional question regarding the Suspension Clause [Justia backgrounder] without the complications of dealing with classified evidence or "issues relating to extraterritorial detention."

The Court also granted certiorari in the consolidated cases of Abbott v. United States and Gould v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to consider whether the minimum sentencing guidelines for armed offenses in 18 USC § 924(c) [text] includes the drug offense giving rise to the sentence, or another weapons offense for the same transaction.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Zimbabwe court rejects coerced statements in trial of cabinet nominee
Ann Riley on January 25, 2010 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe’s high court Monday struck out evidence from a key witness in the trial of Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] party treasurer and deputy agriculture minister-nominee Roy Bennett [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Peter Michael Hitschmann was called as the attorney general’s main witness against Bennett, but alleged in court that security officials tortured him while in custody to obtain statements against Bennett. The State sought to use the confessions and additional e-mail correspondence as evidence to impeach Hitschmann [MDC press release] for inconsistent statements. Judge Chinembiri Bhunu ruled that the statements made by Hitschmann were not freely made, invalid, and could not be used as evidence as they were not signed by Hitschmann.

Bennett's trial began in November after being delayed [JURIST reports] in October to allow counsel more time to develop a defense. Bennett's defense lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, asked the court to prohibit evidence obtained from Hitschmann. 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. 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 in October, only to be released on bail again. 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. Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had nominated Bennett to be deputy agriculture minister.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rules city lacks standing to bring suit against 'tax-free' cigarette website
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 25, 2010 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-3 in Hemi Group, LLC v. City of New York [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the city government lacks standing under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] to bring a suit against Hemi Group, which operates websites offering cigarettes for sale "tax-free." The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the city of New York had standing to bring the RICO suit. In reversing the lower court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:


It bears remembering what this case is about. It is about the RICO liability of a company for lost taxes it had no obligation to collect, remit, or pay, which harmed a party to whom it owed no duty. It is about imposing such liability to substitute for or complement a governing body's uncertain ability or desire to collect taxes directly from those who owe them. And it is about the fact that the liability comes with treble damages and attorney's fees attached. This Court has interpreted RICO broadly, consistent with its terms, but we have also held that its reach is limited by the "requirement of a direct causal connection" between the predicate wrong and the harm. The City's injuries here were not caused directly by the alleged fraud, and thus were not caused "by reason of" it. The City, therefore, has no RICO claim.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a separate opinion, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was a member of the three-judge panel on the Second Circuit and took no part in the decision.

Also Monday, the Court released its opinion [text, PDF] in Briscoe v. Virginia [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], in which the Court was asked to decide whether a state violates the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment [text] by allowing a prosecutor to introduce a certificate of a forensic laboratory analysis without presenting the testimony of the analyst who prepared the certificate. The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that there was no Confrontation Clause violation because the accused has a right to call the analyst as his own witness. The entire text of the Court's per curiam opinion read:

We vacate the judgment of the Supreme Court of Virginia and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with the opinion in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts

Just last term, the Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] 5-4 in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a forensic analyst's laboratory report is testimonial evidence under the Confrontation Clause, giving criminal defendants a right to cross-examine the analysts.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US seeks extradition of Guatemala ex-president on money laundering charges
Dwyer Arce on January 25, 2010 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Guatemalan authorities have issued an arrest warrant for former president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish], after the US government requested his extradition on Sunday to face charges of money laundering [indictment; press release, PDF]. Portillo, who was president of Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, has been charged [El Periodico report, in Spanish] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on information provided by former members of Portillo's government. Portillo is accused [BBC report] of taking $15.8 million from funds designated for the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense and siphoning it into bank accounts in Europe and Bermuda. More than 100 officers of the National Civil Police, members of the army, and officers of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala [official website] were dispatched to apprehend Portillo, carrying out four raids throughout the country, but Portillo has evaded capture.

In 2008, Portillo was extradited [JURIST report] back to Guatemala from Mexico, where he had fled after his immunity expired along with his term in office. The extradition order was first signed [JURIST report] in 2006, but Portillo challenged it in court, until the Mexican Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled against him in January 2008. Numerous members of Portillo's cabinet have been arrested and tried on fraud charges during his time in exile.

1/26/10 - Portillo has been captured in Guatemala and is being transported to that country's capital.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Myanmar official says Suu Kyi to be released in November
Hillary Stemple on January 25, 2010 8:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A Myanmar government official has said that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will be released from house arrest in November when her sentence is scheduled to end. Witnesses reported [Reuters report] that Home Minister Major General Maung Oo [official website] made the statement Thursday during a speech to several hundred local officials in the town of Kyaukpadaung. The government of Myanmar is planning to hold the country's first elections since 1990 sometime this year, although a date has not yet been set, and Suu Kyi's supporters see the statement as an indication [AP report] that she will not be permitted to participate in the elections. Maung Oo's statement came just days after the Myanmar Supreme Court heard Suu Kyi's appeal contesting an 18-month extension to her house arrest [JURIST reports] that was imposed by a lower court in August. The court is expected to issue a ruling [CNN report] in the case within a month.

The extension of Suu Kyi's house arrest stems from an August conviction for violating state security laws by allowing American John Yettaw to stay in her home after he swam across a lake to get there. Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years in prison with four years of hard labor, was released [JURIST report] in August after negotiations with US Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). Suu Kyi was initially sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor, but her sentence was immediately commuted by junta chief General Than Shwe. Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention, and her latest conviction has been condemned [BBC report] by many world leaders as a political move to prevent her from running in the upcoming elections. Her conviction has given rise to international sanctions [JURIST report] against Myanmar's junta and members of the judiciary.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Italy PM Berlusconi may face third corruption trial: reports
Amelia Mathias on January 24, 2010 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] could face a third corruption trial based on new information that recently surfaced, according to Saturday reports. Berlusconi, who is already facing two separate trials on charges of corruption and bribery, is accused of embezzlement and tax fraud related to his television company Mediaset [official website, in Italian], though his lawyers have dismissed any substance to the charges [Reuters report]. Berlusconi's son and 11 other members of Mediaset's board are also implicated [Times report]. A Milan judge will decide if there is enough evidence to hold a trial, which could begin as early as February [AFP report].

In October, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] struck down a 2008 law granting immunity [JURIST report] to Berlusconi and four others, allowing charges to be reinstated. Earlier this week, the Italian Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] to place time limits on the trial process, which would have the effect of dismissing charges against Berlusconi. Last week, Italian judges postponed [JURIST report] Berlusconi's corruption trial at his lawyers' request. He is charged with paying his British lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] to provide false testimony in two trials involving Mediaset. Berlusconi's tax fraud trial has also been postponed [JURIST report]. Berlusconi has been previously acquitted of false accounting and bribery [JURIST reports], and has had some other charges against him dropped [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia PM calls for human rights protections in Caucasus region
Amelia Mathias on January 24, 2010 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] on Saturday called [transcript, in Russian] for a new age of human rights and safety in the embattled Caucasus region of Russia, where the killings of journalists and human rights activists have become increasingly common. The announcement comes in tandem with the appointment of Aleksandr Khloponin [RT report] as new presidential envoy to the area. Speaking at a meeting on the development of the North Caucasus Federal District, Putin said:


I invite representatives of regional authorities, representatives of local authorities, and law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to ensure proper operation and functioning of human rights organizations, those working within the framework of existing legislation in Russia to help people.

Deaths of human rights workers are often blamed on the local police and security forces [WP report], who rarely face charges.

In October, the UN published a report on reforms Russia must take to protect human rights, highlighting the Caucasus region [JURIST report]. The UN report came 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.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US to appeal dismissal of charges against Blackwater guards: Biden
Steve Czajkowski on January 24, 2010 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] US Vice President Joe Biden [official profile] announced [YouTube video] Saturday that the US will appeal a ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] dismissing voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges against five Blackwater [JURIST news archive] guards who were indicted for their involvement in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in September 2007. Biden made the announcement during a visit to Baghdad where he met with Iraqi political leaders to help deal with issues over parliamentary elections [NYT report] scheduled for March. Biden expressed personal regret over the shootings and said that while the charges were dismissed, that was not the same as the men being acquitted. Biden added:


The United States is determined to hold accountable anyone who commits crimes against the Iraqi people. While we fully respect the independence and the integrity of the US judicial system we were disappointed by the judge's decision to dismiss the indictment, which was based on the way in which some evidence had been acquired."

Biden said that the US Department of Justice will file the appeal next week.

In December, Judge Richardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed charges against the five Blackwater guards. Urbina cited statements of the defendants that he said were given under the threat of job loss and with the promise of immunity. Because of the unconstitutionality of the statements, Urbina determined, prosecutors had to put together a case without them. The Blackwater incident caused domestic outrage in Iraq and has prompted legal controversy in the US. A FBI inquiry into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report].





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal judge reduces $1.92 million jury verdict in music file-sharing case
Steve Czajkowski on January 24, 2010 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday reduced [order, pdf] a $1.92 million jury verdict against a Minnesota woman who was found to have violated music copyrights to about $54,000. Chief Judge Michael Davis of the US District Court for the District Court of Minnesota [official website] called the damages amount "monstrous and shocking" and said the facts of the case could not justify the jury verdict. Davis emphasized that Jammie Thomas-Rasset was an individual consumer who downloaded music for her own use and not for profit, and also said that the damages to the plaintiffs, members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [trade website], did not support the verdict. The judge ultimately decided the award should be triple the statutory minimum of $750 per song, because Thomas-Rasset willfully shared 24 songs on the file-sharing program KaZaA [website] and because of the need for deterrence. The ruling also denied a request for a new trial by Thomas-Rasset and gave the RIAA seven days to accept the decision or request a new hearing on the damages issue.

In June, a federal jury in Minnesota found [JURIST report] that Thomas-Rasset had violated music copyrights and assessed damages at $80,000 per song for 24 songs. She was found to have willfully violated copyright law by sharing songs on KaZaA, which has since become a legitimate music purveyor. The proceedings against Thomas-Rasset were a retrial of a previous judgment against her, granted by a federal judge on the grounds that the court erred by instructing the jury that making the music available on the KaZaA network was enough to violate the Copyright Act and that the $222,000 in damages [JURIST reports] was excessive. In December, the RIAA said that it would discontinue its controversial policy [JURIST report] of suing suspected file-sharers and instead will seek cooperation with major Internet service providers to cut off access to repeat offenders.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Germany court issues arrest warrant for Argentina 'Dirty War' junta leader
Ximena Marinero on January 23, 2010 1:46 PM ET

[JURIST] A German court in Nuremberg has issued an arrest warrant for Argentina's former de-facto president Jorge Videla for helping to cover up the death of a German citizen in 1978, at the height of the "Dirty War" [JURIST news archive]. The Bayern prosecutor [official website, in German] reopened [DW report] the case in December and requested an order of arrest for Videla after the remains of Rolf Stawowiok [La Razon report, in Spanish] were identified through genetic testing in early 2009. The local Nuremberg court had closed [El Pais report, in Spanish] the case in 2008 citing a lack of physical evidence as well as an Argentine court ruling declining to extradite Videla for the deaths of another two German citizens [EFE report, in Spanish]. Stawowiok's remains were exhumed in 2004 and were found to have evidence of torture and bullets. Argentine authorities have said that Videla will remain in prison [El Mundo report, in Spanish] until he has served his prior sentence.

Videla has been in prison since 2008 while an investigation is underway for his role in the abduction of children born to political prisoners and forced disappearance victims during Argentina's Dirty War. He is also under investigation for the deaths of 31 political prisoners [El Pais report]. A court revoked the house arrest conditions he had been granted in 1998 when the investigation began. Previously, he had served five years from a life sentence for human rights violations committed during his term in power, until in 1990 he was pardoned by then-president Carlos Menem. In 2006, a federal judge ruled that the presidential pardon was unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Italy has also requested [JURIST news report] Videla's extradition to prosecute him for the deaths and forced disappearances of Italian citizens during the Dirty War. During the period Videla was head of the military junta (1976-1981), an estimated 90,000 civilians were killed or disappeared.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Hawaii Senate approves same-sex civil unions
Daniel Makosky on January 23, 2010 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The Hawaii Senate [official website] voted 18-7 Friday in favor of legislation [text, PDF] allowing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The act would confer upon homosexual and heterosexual couples rights and benefits equal to those afforded married couples in the state. Originally introduced [materials] last year, public notice requirements forced a vote on the matter to be delayed after an amendment was adopted one day prior to the close of the legislative session. The bill now returns to the House [official website], though leaders indicate that they may decline to act on it if they do not have sufficient support to override a potential veto from Governor Linda Lingle [official profile].

The New Jersey Senate defeated legislation to allow same-sex marriage earlier this month, and the New York Senate did so [JURIST reports] in December. In November, Maine voters vetoed a same-sex marriage bill passed by that state's legislature, while Washington voters approved expanded domestic partnership rights [JURIST reports]. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and is set to become legal in Washington DC [JURIST reports], pending Congressional inaction. New Jersey has recognized same-sex civil unions [JURIST report] since 2006.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama approves tax benefit for Haiti earthquake relief
Daniel Makosky on January 23, 2010 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Friday signed [press release] a bill [text, PDF] that will allow Americans to claim contributions made to Haitian earthquake [JURIST news archive] relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 federal income tax returns. Under the new law, monetary donations made between January 11 and March 1, 2010, including those made by cellular telephone, are eligible for the exemption. The measure is designed to encourage additional contributions, as without the bill, taxpayers would not be able to receive credit until next year. Similar legislation [text, PDF] was passed in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami [JURIST news archive].

On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50 percent of buildings [statement, PDF] have been destroyed or damaged, including the presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the main prison, allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape [JURIST report]. Thousand of US military troops have been deployed to assist the Haitian police and international peacekeepers as they confront rising lawlessness [JURIST report] in the country. Haitian government officials estimate [Al Jazeera report] the death toll to be as high as 100,000 to 200,000.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Switzerland court rules UBS may not disclose US taxpayer's financial information
Ximena Marinero on January 23, 2010 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Administrative Court [official website, in French] ruled [judgment, PDF, in German; press release, PDF, in French] Thursday that an American taxpayer's financial information at Swiss bank UBS [corporate website] may not be disclosed to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] pursuant to an August 2009 agreement [text, PDF; JURIST report]. The court ruled in favor of an undisclosed American taxpayer, who appealed a November decision by the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (AFC) [official website, in French] that would have allowed the disclosure. The Federal Administrative Court considered that in light of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties [text, PDF], the current US-Switzerland double taxation convention [text, PDF] controls the subject matter of the case. The 2009 agreement under which the AFC acted does not supersede or amend the tax convention. The court also held that the American taxpayer's failure to file a W-9 form with information about her off-shore finances is akin to failing to declare taxes, even if it pertains to significant amounts of money, and does not rise to the level of tax fraud, which would grant US authorities access. The decision applies to the cases of 25 other American clients of UBS and may not be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court [official website, in French].

The Swiss Federal Administrative Court ruled [JURIST report] earlier this month that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) [official website, in German] violated the law in February 2009 when it ordered UBS to disclose information to the US on more than 250 of the bank's clients without the authority to do so. In September, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement, constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], came one month after a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. In March, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Lithuania foreign minister resigns amid disagreement over secret CIA prisons
Steve Czajkowski on January 23, 2010 8:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas [official profile] resigned [press release] Thursday in the midst of a dispute with President Dalia Grybauskaite [official profile] over secret US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] secret prisons [JURIST news archive] in the country. Grybauskaite has publicly said that she believes there were prisoners held in Lithuania, but Usackas has denied this. The dispute follows a parliamentary report [JURIST report] that found that the CIA had been provided two facilities in Lithuania to interrogate al Qaeda [JURIST news archives] suspects. Usackas has maintained [EUobserver report] that no prisoners were actually held at the locations. On Wednesday, Grybauskaite had urged [press release] Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius to dismiss Usackas because he had lost the President's confidence and trust.

In December, the Lithuanian Parliament [official website, in Lithuanian] National Security Committee reported that the CIA had established secret prisons for al Qaeda suspects in the Baltic country. Lawmakers demanded the investigation [JURIST report] in October after ABC News reported in August that former CIA officials said 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 parliamentary committee concluded that the Lithuanian State Security Department provided the CIA with two secret facilities [AP report], but it is unclear whether either facility was used to interrogate detainees. The committee uncovered no evidence that former president Valdus Adamkus and former prime minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who were both in office during the specified time period, were told about the secret detention centers.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Turkish high court overturns law allowing civil courts to prosecute military personnel
Steve Czajkowski on January 22, 2010 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] on Thursday overturned a law that allowed the prosecution of military personnel in civilian courts and prevented military prosecution of civilians during peacetime. The court was unanimous [AA report] in its decision to overturn the law, which was seen as necessary for Turkish accession [JURIST report] to the European Union (EU) [official website]. The law would have allowed civilian courts to prosecute members of the military for attempting to overthrow the government, threats to national security, and violations of the constitution. The decision is seen as a hindrance [DPA report] to current investigations concerning an alleged plot [JURIST news archive] by the country's secular Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] group to overthrow the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish].

The law was challenged by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website, inTurkish] on the basis that it was technically flawed and unconstitutional. In June, Turkish President Abdullah Gul [official website, in Turkish] approved [JURIST report] the law after receiving a letter from Turkish military officials urging him not to approve the law because it runs counter to Article 145 [text] of the Turkish Constitution. At that time Gul said that the law was necessary for accession, but suggested [BBC report] that parliament should amend the law to clarify the civil court's jurisdiction over service members.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China official says missing rights lawyer 'where he should be'
Steve Dotterer on January 22, 2010 1:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesman Ma Zhaoxu [official profile] stated in a press conference Thursday that Chinese human rights lawyer and activist Gao Zhisheng [JURIST news archive] is "where he should be." Ma stated that holding Gao in Chinese custody since February 2009 comports with the law. The official version of the press conference transcript [text, Chinese] omitted the exchange between the media and Ma over Gao's situation. Chinese authorities have shown reticence to discuss Gao's case, but made the recent statements under mounting demands [JURIST report] from rights groups that Gao be located after being reported missing since September.

Gao drew international attention in September 2007 when he wrote a letter [JURIST report] to the US Congress requesting assistance in improving human rights in China. Gao, who has also defended Christians and coal miners in China, claimed [AP report] that he was tortured after his arrest in 2007. Gao was originally part of the Chinese Communist Party and handled prominent cases involving the outlawed Falun Gong movement [Falun Dafa website], but fell into disfavor with the government in 2006 when he was convicted of subversion [JURIST report] and placed under house arrest. China has long received criticism [JURIST news archive] from watchdog groups for its treatment of rights activists such as Gao.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

EU considering 'enhanced cooperation' to develop cross-border divorce laws
Zach Zagger on January 22, 2010 1:33 PM ET

[JURIST] European Union (EU) [official website] justice ministers considered Friday whether to use "enhanced cooperation" [EU backgrounder] to enable some EU countries to work together to create uniform marriage laws for mixed-nationality couples. Incoming EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding [official website] said that she would enter a demand [AFP report] for enhanced cooperation, a technique used when only some EU member states agree. In hearings before the European Parliament [official website] earlier this month, Reding said [press release] that she did not like to use such a technique but it must be used for important issues where unanimity is impossible. Reding said in a statement [press release] earlier this month that cross-border divorces provide a problem for the EU, citing a common hypothetical situation:


A German has married a Greek and they are living together in Belgium. Then they have a divorce. What happens with the children? Where are the children going? What law applies to this divorce to the good of the children afterwards? All this has to be clarified at the European level so that these matrimonial questions will not be headache anymore but that people will get concrete solutions and the children are treated for the better of children.

EU member states have inconsistent marriage and divorce laws. For instance, in July, a British appellate court recognized a pre-nuptial agreement [JURIST report] for the first time in the UK. Such agreements had been generally disregarded by UK courts hearing divorce proceedings, despite the fact that the rest of the EU and much of the rest of the world recognize such contracts as valid.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia foreign minister says US nuclear arms treaty imminent
Dwyer Arce on January 22, 2010 1:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official profile; BBC profile] said Friday that nuclear arms reduction negotiations with the US are likely to resume in early February and will soon result in a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty. The treaty is to be the successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [text], which expired in December. Official negotiations in Geneva stopped during the holiday season, and have yet to resume, although US National Security Advisor James Jones and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen [official profiles] were in Moscow this week to further the treaty negotiations. Both US and Russian officials have expressed their desire to conclude negotiations quickly in order to set an example before the upcoming Global Nuclear Security Summit [NTI backgrounder] in April, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference [CAC fact sheet] in May.

Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished [JURIST report] during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the former Cold War rivals, which reached their worst point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder]. In July, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profiles] agreed [NYT report] that the treaty should reduce the maximum number of nuclear warheads that each country could have to between 1,500 and 1,675, down from the previous limitation of 2,200. They also agreed to reduce the maximum number of delivery vehicles allowed to between 500 and 1,100, down from 1,600.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Task force recommends trials or military tribunals for 35 Guantanamo detainees: AP
Sarah Paulsworth on January 22, 2010 12:46 PM ET

[JURIST] A presidential task force has recommended that 35 Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] prisoners face trial or military commissions [AP report], the Associated Press reported on Friday. Government officials said that the proceedings for these detainees will most likely be carried out on US soil. The 35 detainees named in the task force report include five detainees that are already scheduled to be tried in New York for the 9/11 attacks and six detainees who have been chosen to face military tribunals [JURIST reports]. Taking into consideration the detainees to be held without charge, the total number of detainees potentially slated for transfer to the US could reach 80. It is anticipated that at least some of these detainees will be held at Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) [DOC backgrounder] in Illinois, which the Obama administration announced in December it plans to buy [JURIST report].

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration is considering bringing charges [JURIST report] in a Washington, DC, federal court against Guantanamo Bay detainee Riduan Isamuddin [BBC profile], the suspected planner of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [BBC backgrounder]. In October, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] into law the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010 [HR 2892 materials], which allows for Guantanamo Bay detainees to be transferred to the US for prosecution. However, in December, House minority leader John Boehner expressed doubt [JURIST report] that the two pieces of legislation needed to bring detainees to Illinois will be passed. The Obama administration originally intended to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010, a deadline that expired on Friday.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France imam in favor of burqa ban
Jonathan Cohen on January 22, 2010 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Imam Hassen Chalghoumi of Paris gave his support Friday to a proposed law that would ban wearing the burqa [JURIST news archive] or niqab in public. In an interview [text, in French] with Le Parisien, Chalghoumi said that the full veil is not a part of French culture and that a woman should move to a country where it is accepted if she wishes to wear one. While Chalghoumi supports the ban, he criticized conservative lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope [official profile, in French] for introducing legislation [JURIST report] without waiting to hear the results of the commission established by National Assembly [official website, in French], which are expected next week.

Cope's move to introduce legislation last week was in direct opposition to the National Assembly's November decision not to push for specific legislation [JURIST reports] banning the burqa. The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. The controversy between the Muslim community and the secular French government has gone on for several years. 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 Muslim students for refusing to remove their headscarves. In July of that year, a Muslim woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] because she failed to assimilate to French culture and practiced a type of Islam found incompatible with French values.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Haiti earthquake refugees may not migrate to US: DHS secretary
Jonathan Cohen on January 22, 2010 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] said Friday that Haitians who arrived illegally after last week's earthquake [JURIST news archive] would be sent back to Haiti. Napolitano told a news conference [Reuters report] that Haitians should not view the earthquake as an open opportunity to migrate to the US, but should remain in their country to help rebuild. Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] granted temporary protective status [JURIST report] to Haitians that were in the US prior to the earthquake in order to provide "a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti." She noted however, that "attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation."

The DHS announced on Monday that the US will allow Haitian orphans into the country [JURIST report] to receive needed care in the aftermath of last week's 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] that caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50 percent of buildings [statement, PDF] have been destroyed or damaged, including the presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the main prison, allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape [JURIST report]. Thousand of US military troops have been deployed to assist the Haitian police and international peacekeepers as they confront rising lawlessness [JURIST report] in the country. UN officials say the death toll may never be known [Washington Post report], but Haitian officials have estimated that between 100,000 to 200,000 have died as a result of the earthquake.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Nigeria court orders cabinet to pass resolution on president's ability to govern
Sarah Paulsworth on January 22, 2010 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Nigeria’s cabinet must pass a resolution within 14 days on whether ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile] is capable of running the country, according to an order issued on Friday by Judge Dan Abutu of Federal High Court in Abuja. Yar'Adua has been absent from the country for two months receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Last week, a judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court ordered [JURIST report] Vice President Goodluck Jonathan [Online Nigeria profile] to assume executive powers due to the prolonged absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua. Nigeria's cabinet will hear testimony from five doctors to make its decision. If the cabinet finds Yar'Adua to be unfit, Jonathan will take over [BBC report], in accordance with Nigeria's Constitution [text].

In 2008, the Nigerian Supreme Court upheld the results of disputed 2007 election that brought Yar'Adua to power, despite opposition groups' allegations of fraud [JURIST reports]. Yar'Adua had promised to step down if the court invalidated the election. A tribunal [JURIST report] formed before the 2007 election to deal with allegations of fraud ruled that the opposition groups lacked enough evidence of fraud to have the results overturned.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China defends Internet freedom policies in response to Clinton speech
Patrice Collins on January 22, 2010 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu on Friday accused the US [press release] of harming bilateral relations with China after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website], gave a speech [text] promoting Internet freedom and criticizing censorship. Though she did not overtly attack China, Clinton did critique countries that restrict free access of information, declaring that they "risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century." Clinton also referenced a recent threat by Google [corporate website] to pull out of China [JURIST report], calling on Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of alleged cyber intrusions and make its findings transparent. Zhaoxu reponded:

The US attacks China's internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-US relations.

China's internet is open. China is a country with the most vibrant internet development. By the end of last year, China had 384 million internet users, 3.68 million websites and 180 million blogs. China's Constitution guarantees people's freedom of speech. It is China's consistent policy to promote the development of internet. China has its own national conditions and cultural traditions. It supervises internet according to law, which is in parallel with the international practice.

Hacking in whatever form and offence of others' privacy is prohibited by law in China. As a major victim of hacking in the world, China believes that the international community should intensify the cooperaion in jointly combating internet hacking so as to safeguard internet security and protect the privacy of citizens in accordance with law.

We urge the US to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet. We hope that the US side can work with China to earnestly implement the consensus between leaders of both countries on developing bilateral relationship in the new era by strengthening dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, respecting each other's core interest and major concerns and properly handling differences and sensitive issues so as to ensure the healthy and stable development of China-US relationship.
Google announced its new policy towards China last week in response to a cyber attack on its Gmail service in December. That attack allegedly targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China, and drew the ire of rights groups around the world. China responded [JURIST report] by reiterating its commitment to open Internet, but stressed that international Internet companies must follow Chinese law. China's stance on Internet freedom, a source of contention in its relationship with Google, has long been controversial. In June, the Chinese government confirmed that filtering software [JURIST report] that is to be sold with every computer in China did not necessarily have to be activated. That confirmation came only after the policy of pre-packaging the software with new computers was challenged [JURIST report] by human rights lawyer Li Fangping.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Two Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Algeria
Patrice Collins on January 22, 2010 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Friday that two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to Algeria [press release]. Hassan Zumiri had spent more than seven years in the Guantanamo detention center, while Adil Hadi al-Jazairi bin Hamlili [NYT profiles] had been held for five. Both men are Algerian nationals, bringing the total number of Algerians released from Guantanamo [KUNA report] to 19. The transfer comes amid criticisms from Republican Congress members after a Department of Defense [official website] official stated [JURIST report] recently that about one in five detainees have returned to terrorist activities, according to a classified Pentagon report.

Earlier this week, Slovakia's foreign ministry [official website, in Slovak] confirmed [JURIST report] that Slovakia will be accepting three detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. Closure of the detention facility was initially due by January 22, 2010, but that deadline was not met. The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including opposition from members of Congress and the recent suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. In November, the Center for American Progress [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] blaming missteps by the Obama administration for the delay.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

California Supreme Court rejects medical marijuana limits
Daniel Makosky on January 22, 2010 9:46 AM ET

[JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday unanimously overturned [opinion, PDF; case materials] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials]. The court ruled that Health and Safety Code § 11362.77 [text], allowing patients to possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana, represented an unconstitutional effort by the legislature to alter Proposition 215 [text], a voter-approved initiative, without voters' consent. Because the amendment was not approved through the initiative process, the court found:


[T]he Legislature is powerless to act on its own to amend an initiative statute. Any change in this authority must come in the form of a constitutional revision or amendment to article II, section 10, subdivision (c). Therefore, we are compelled to conclude that section 11362.77 impermissibly amends the [Compassionate Use Act].

As adopted, the legislation did not establish specific quantity limits, stating only that patients may possess an amount reasonable for their medical condition.

Earlier this month, New Jersey became the fourteenth US state [JURIST report] to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. California's Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in 2008 that the MMP is not in conflict with the Supremacy Clause [JURIST report], and does not violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal prosecutors announce 7 new indictments in hedge fund probe
David Manes on January 22, 2010 9:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the indictment [text] of seven more individuals [press release, PDF] in connection with the probe surrounding Galleon Group [partnership website] hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam [Financial Times profile, JURIST news archive] and former hedge fund consultant Danielle Chiesi. The seven defendants were originally arrested in November on insider trading charges, and the 10-count indictment includes additional charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Thursday's indictment brings the total number of indicted individuals to nine in the probe that currently involves 21 people and is being called the largest hedge fund insider trading probe ever. Seven of those have already entered guilty pleas and the government said last week that an eighth plea agreement is close.

Rajaratnam and Chiesi were arrested in October and charged [complaint, PDF] along with four other individuals and two business entities with insider trading. The complaint alleged that the individuals, including a managing director at Intel Corp., a director at McKinsey & Co., and a senior executive at IBM [corporate websites], 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. Rajaratnam and Chiesi pleaded not guilty in December after being indicted for insider trading [JURIST reports]. Separately, the government of Sri Lanka has 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama proposes new banking regulations to impede risky investments
Matt Glenn on January 22, 2010 9:01 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama proposed new banking rules [statement; press release] Thursday that he claims would stabilize the banking system and reduce the risk of future bank failures. The legislation [Washington Post report] would prohibit banks from owning, investing or sponsoring hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading funds for profit where the funds do not benefit the banks' customers. Obama termed this rule the "Volcker Rule" after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker [official profile], who stood behind Obama during Thursday's announcement. The second part of Obama's proposed legislation would prohibit future consolidation between banks to prevent any one bank or small group of banks from having a disproportionate, and potentially negative, impact on the economy. Obama emphasized his commitment to banking reform, stating:

I welcome constructive input from folks in the financial sector. But what we've seen so far, in recent weeks, is an army of industry lobbyists from Wall Street descending on Capitol Hill to try and block basic and common-sense rules of the road that would protect our economy and the American people. So if these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have.
In December, the US House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that would create a consumer protection agency, strengthen financial oversight and prohibit certain types of predatory and abusive lending. The US House Financial Services Committee [official website] had approved a bill [JURIST report] to create a consumer financial protection agency in October, 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 achieving Obama's stated goal of tightening financial industry regulations. In June, the administration proposed a broad series of regulatory reforms [press release; JURIST report] aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Kenya forming special tribunal to hear HIV-related legal issues
David Manes on January 22, 2010 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Kenyan officials on Thursday announced the creation of a special tribunal to hear legal claims dealing with HIV [JURIST news archive], including discrimination and medical confidentiality cases. The tribunal will have the legal standing and powers of a subordinate court, and will be under the office of the Attorney General [official website]. Earlier this month, Kenya's National Aids Control Council [official website] unveiled Part III of the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan [text, PDF], which outlines the government's plans to fight the HIV epidemic in Kenya [NEPHAK backgrounder]. Ambrose Rachier, the tribunal chairperson, commented [PlusNews report] on the situation and the need for a specialized legal authority:


Nobody can pretend that there haven't been cases of violations and abuse of people living with HIV. When an HIV-positive woman is chased from home, either by in-laws or the husband, you have a serious case of human rights abuse.

Kenya's Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) decided Wednesday not to grant women equal marriage rights in the country's new constitution, which was unveiled in draft form in November [JURIST reports]. The PSC, which is composed of members of parliament, will make important decisions in the next week as it continues to draft constitutional language, including whether the country will have a presidential or parliamentary system. In October, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] called for constitutional reform in Kenya before the next electoral cycle begins in 15 months. In 2007, tens of thousands of protesters took to Kenya's streets accusing President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] of election fraud after early opinion polls suggested rival Raila Odinga [campaign website] was in the lead.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Zimbabwe constitution project suspended indefinitely
Daniel Makosky on January 22, 2010 8:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean state-run media on Thursday announced [AFP report] the suspension of governmental efforts to collect public opinions on a new constitution for the country. Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, co-chairman of the committee charged with drafting the document, cited financial and logistical concerns, as well as disagreements over who would be responsible for gathering the public’s views. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website; JURIST news archive] leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] accused President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] of utilizing stall tactics [BBC report] to delay the process, as new elections are to be held once the constitution is completed. No indication was given as to when the project might resume, though the committee will meet next week to discuss funding options.

The Zimbabwean parliament announced the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution in April as part of the power sharing agreement [JURIST reports] signed in September 2008 by Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It was hoped that a draft of the new constitution would be completed by this February [Mail and Guardian report] so that it could be decided upon via referendum in July and adopted by the end of the year. Zimbabwe last attempted a constitutional referendum in 2000, though it was rejected due to concerns about the extent of power that would be given to Mugabe.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

EU countries refuse US request for airport body scanners without further study
Matt Glenn on January 22, 2010 7:55 AM ET

[JURIST] EU officials told US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] Thursday that European airports will not install body scanning technology until the countries have studied the effectiveness, safety, and threat to privacy of such devices. The US already has placed body scanners in some airports, and encouraged their use in Europe following the failed airline bombing attempt on Christmas Day. Napolitano met with security officials [NYT report] from several EU nations at an informal meeting of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs in Spain to discuss terror concerns [AFP report]. Although the the two sides could not come to an agreement on the use of body scanners [El Pais [report, in Spanish], the ministers and Napolitano released a joint statement [press release] affirming their commitment to share information and work together to eliminate terrorism. The ministers also requested [EU press release] that the European Commission [official website] accelerate a study on using new technologies, including body scanners, to prevent terrorism.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced [JURIST report] Wednesday that the UK would improve security using several methods, including the use of body scanners. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama called for stricter airline security measures [JURIST report] in response to the failed Christmas Day attack. Obama pledged to improve airline passenger security, stating that there had been "a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence," because the US government had sufficient information to uncover the plot, but "our intelligence community failed to connect those dots." Abdulmutallab has been charged [JURIST report] with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. A plea of not guilty [JURIST report] has been entered on his behalf.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Bosnian Serb detention camp guards arrested for war crimes
Sarah Miley on January 21, 2010 3:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) arrested [press release] two former Bosnian Serb detention camp guards on Thursday who were allegedly responsible for the death of around 50 civilians and Bosnian soldiers during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. Ratko Dronjak was commander of a detention camp in the village of Kamenica, which held prisoners between 1992 and 1995. Dragan Rodic was a guard at the same camp. Both men are suspected of several crimes under the BiH criminal code [text, PDF] including:


killing about 50 civilians and prisoners of war, members of the Army of [Bosnia and Herzegovina]; of inflicting serious bodily injuries to a large number of detainees who went through the "Kamenica" camp in the period from 1992 to 1995; for holding them incarcerated under cruel and degrading conditions, creating an atmosphere of terror, depriving them of basic necessities, submitting them through everyday questionings, beatings, torture, harassment, humiliation, psychological abuse; of failing to provide medical care and keeping the detainees in constant fear for their lives.

Dronjak and Rodic are charged with violating international humanitarian law including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The men will be handed over to the BiH Prosecutor's Office [official website] for questioning over the next few days.

The BiH war crimes court was set up in the 2005 to relieve the caseload of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. The court delivered its first sentences [JURIST report] against war crimes suspects from Yugoslavia's violent ethnic conflicts of the 1990s in July 2008, convicting seven of genocide for their involvement in killings committed at the Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] prison camp. While the 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 can try lower level suspects.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Angola approves new constitution ending popular election of president
Jonathan Cohen on January 21, 2010 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The Parliament of the Republic of Angola [BBC backgrounder] approved a new constitution on Thursday that would end the popular election of the president, despite the refusal of opposition party UNITA [party website] to take part in the vote. The new constitution [Reuters report] replaces an interim constitution [text, PDF] that had been in place since 1975. It provides for the appointment of the country's president by parliament's majority party, ending the direct election of the country's president. It also replaces the position of prime minister with a vice president, who will be appointed by the president. It limits a president to two five-year terms, but that clause will first take effect after parliamentary elections in 2012. Opponents of the constitution argue that it is merely a way to further expand the power of current President Jose Eduardo dos Santos [BBC profile], but members of the ruling MPLA party say that it will allow him to more effectively rule [ANGOP report] the country.

Dos Santos has been in power since 1979. He faced one round of elections in 1992 before a second round was called off due to violence [AFP report]. A presidential election that was scheduled for 2009 was delayed while the new constitution was being considered. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has expressed doubts as to whether past parliamentary elections were fair and free and has identified problems [HRW reports] with the electoral system.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia court rejects appeal to recognize same-sex marriage
Haley Wojdowski on January 21, 2010 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A Moscow court on Thursday rejected an appeal of a lower court ruling that denied recognition of a marriage between two women. The couple, Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shepitko, applied for a marriage license in March, but were refused by the registry. The women appealed to the Tverskoi District Court in Moscow, arguing that nothing in the Russian Constitution [text] prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. That court rejected their appeal [JURIST report] in October, and the appeals court affirmed that ruling Thursday, stating that Russia only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman [Reuters report]. Counsel for the two women stated that they plan to appeal the case [RIA Novosti report] to the European Court of Human Rights [official website] for a violation of Article 14 [Itar-Tass report] of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF].

In Europe, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, and Sweden [JURIST reports] all allow same-sex marriages, while several other European countries allow partnerships with limited rights. Earlier this month, the Portuguese Parliament approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage after Portugal's high court ruled [JURIST reports] in August 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].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France police arrest Rwandan genocide suspect
Daniel Makosky on January 21, 2010 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] French police on Wednesday arrested alleged war criminal Sosthene Munyemana in Bordeaux, acting on a Rwandan extradition warrant. Munyemana, a Rwandan doctor who has worked in a French hospital for eight years, is accused of war crimes [AFP report] related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He was later released on bail [BBC report] while awaiting a court date. France denied Munyemana's request for asylum in 2008, citing concerns about his role in the genocide.

Earlier this month, French officials announced [JURIST report] plans to create a special judicial service to investigate and charge individuals accused of crimes against humanity and genocide in France or in other countries. The new unit would streamline the prosecutions of Rwandans living in France who are accused of war crimes during the 1994 genocide. Diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda were restored [AFP report] in November. The countries had cut ties in 2006 after French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC backgrounder] issued arrest warrants for several top Rwandan officials believed to have participated in the attack on former president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

'Toronto 18' member released after pleading guilty to terrorism charges
Brian Jackson on January 21, 2010 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Amin Mohamed Durrani, a member of the "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder; JURIST news archive], was released Thursday after pleading guilty in a Canadian court Wednesday to participating in and assisting a terrorist group. Durrani's plea [Toronto Sun report], which came as a surprise to many, included an apology and a denunciation of terrorism. As part of the plea agreement, Durrani was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, but was credited with time served since 2006 and was to be released after one additional day. Durrani also received a three-year probationary period, a lifetime ban from owning firearms, and his DNA will be entered into a national registry.

Also this week, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice sentenced two members of the group [JURIST report], Zakaria Amara and Saad Gaya, to life and 12 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in the plot to blow up key buildings in Toronto. Earlier in January, another member, Shareef Abdelhaleem, pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion. The first member of the group, an unidentified minor, was convicted in September 2008 [JURIST report], and like Durrani, was sentenced to time already served.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

North Korea holding 200,000 political prisoners: report
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 21, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The North Korean government is holding approximately 200,000 dissidents [press release, in Korean] in six prison camps spread throughout the country, according to a report released Wednesday by the South Korean government's National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) [official website, in Korean]. According to the report, punishments for dissidents have increased significantly [VOA report] for common offenses such as attempting to escape. The report also said that five of these six prisons are death camps and that prisoners sent to them are never [Chosun llbo report] released. This is the first time a state agency has conducted a review of human rights in North Korea.

In October, UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn criticized [JURIST report] North Korea for human rights violations. Muntarbhorn said North Korea was responsible for a broad range of egregious human rights violations [UN press release] including torture, public executions, and widespread hunger. North Korea's deputy UN ambassador Pak Tok-Hun has condemned [NYT report] the report and defended [JURIST report] the country's rights record before the council.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court eases corporate restrictions on political campaign spending
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 21, 2010 10:01 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday decided [opinion, PDF] 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder] to ease restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. The Court was asked to consider Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF], which prohibits corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) [official website] argued that Section 203 allowed them to regulate the release of and advertising for a 90-minute documentary questioning then-senator Hillary Clinton's qualifications to serve as US president. Petitioner Citizens United [advocacy website], a non-profit conservative advocacy corporation that produced the film, appealed on broad First Amendment grounds a decision [opinion, PDF] by the US District Court for the District of Columbia, which held that the movie was "electioneering communication" within the meaning of BCRA. In its ruling Thursday, the Court overturned its 1989 decision in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld the facial validity of Section 203, and partially overturned McConnell v. Federal Election Commission [Oyez backgrounders], to the extent that it relied on Austin. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority:


In this case we are asked to reconsider Austin and, in effect, McConnell. It has been noted that "Austin was a significant departure from ancient First Amendment principles." We agree with that conclusion and hold that stare decisis does not compel the continued acceptance of Austin. The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.

Joining in the majority opinion were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas joined as to all but Part IV, which upheld disclaimer and disclosure requirements. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor joined the majority as to Part IV only. Roberts filed a concurring opinion, joined by Alito. Scalia filed a concurring opinion, joined by Alito and joined in part by Thomas. Stevens filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

The Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in the case in September during a special sitting. The Court originally heard oral arguments in March, but ordered a rehearing [JURIST reports] at the end of the 2008 term to determine whether Austin and McConnell should be overturned.

2:00 PM ET - The White House has sharply criticized [press release] the Court's decision, pledging to work with Congress "to develop a forceful response."





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal employee sues for same-sex spouse health benefits
Zach Zagger on January 21, 2010 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal employee filed suit [complaint, PDF] on Wednesday against the federal government seeking to add her same-sex spouse to her family health insurance plan. Lambda Legal [advocacy website] brought the suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on behalf of Karen Golinski, a federal court employee who was married in California during the six-month period when same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] licenses were granted under state law. Golinski is seeking an injunction against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) [official website], which refuses to enroll her same-sex spouse, citing the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text]. OPM refuses despite multiple orders [JURIST report] to do so, issued after an employment dispute resolution (EDR) hearing by the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], Alex Kozinski. Golinski's complaint argues that Kozinski's orders should be binding because, "as to judicial employees, the separation of powers doctrine requires that an EDR tribunal's reasonable interpretation of the law take precedence over that of any office or agency of the executive." OPM did not appeal the judge's order but issued a press release [text, PDF] stating that it is not obligated to follow them because the chief judge, "was acting as an administrative official in this matter, reacting to the concerns of an employee of the judiciary. He was not acting as a federal judge in a court case."

In November, the Obama administration filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the DOMA. The suit was brought [JURIST report] in July by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] and challenges the DOMA on constitutional grounds. In September, the government filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a similar lawsuit brought by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website] on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who are or have been married under Massachusetts state's same-sex marriage law. Also in September, 90 members of Congress introduced [JURIST report] a bill [HR 3567 text] to repeal the DOMA, which was signed by former president Bill Clinton in 1996. DOMA refuses federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples, including social security, tax laws, and immigration rights, and defines marriage as between a man and a woman.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Italy senate approves trial time limit bill that could dismiss Berlusconi charges
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 21, 2010 9:11 AM ET

[JURIST] The Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] approved a bill [S 1880 materials, in Italian] Wednesday that aims to shorten the trial and appeals process by putting strict time limits on its duration. The legislation would limit the three stages of a case - trial, initial appeal, and final appeal - to between 6.5 and 10 years depending on the crime, and cases that exceed the time limit would end in an automatic acquittal of the defendant. Because of the bill's retroactive effect, two pending corruption cases against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] would be automatically dismissed. Members of Berlusconi's center-right coalition defended the bill as a way to speed up [Times report] the slow Italian justice system while his critics called it an "ad personam" bill, passed by his allies to help Berlusconi with his legal troubles [Financial Times report]. The bill would become law if it is approved by the Chamber of Deputies and signed by President Giorgio Napolitano [official websites, in Italian].

In October, the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] struck down a 2008 law granting immunity [JURIST report] to Berlusconi and four others, finding it unconstitutional. Last week, Italian judges postponed [JURIST report] Berlusconi's corruption trial at his lawyers' request. He is charged with paying his British lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] to provide false testimony in two trials involving Berlusconi's broadcast company, Mediaset [official website, in Italian]. Berlusconi's tax fraud trial has also been postponed [JURIST report]. Berlusconi has been previously acquitted of false accounting and bribery [JURIST reports], and has had some other charges against him dropped [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia journalist dies after being tortured in prison
Andrea Bottorff on January 21, 2010 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] A Russian journalist died [RUJ press release, in Russian] in a Siberian hospital on Wednesday from injuries he received during a police beating nearly two weeks ago, according to local investigators. Konstantin Popov, an economics writer for a Russian newspaper, was arrested for drunkenness on January 4 and taken to prison [Moscow Times report], where police officer Alexei Mitayev allegedly tortured and sexually assaulted him. Popov suffered severe internal injuries and spent nearly two weeks in a coma before his death. Mitayev, who will undergo a psychiatric evaluation next month, was charged [official press release, in Russian] with abuse of power and intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm, and he faces up to 10 years in prison. Popov's editor-in-chief expressed concern over police brutality in the country, but said that Popov's murder was probably not related to his journalism [LAT report].

The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] has criticized Russia [JURIST report] for unsolved killings of journalists and human rights activists and violence against citizens. In November, the chairwoman of Russia's Council for Promoting Civil and Human Rights [official website] said that Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky had been murdered in prison [JURIST report]. Earlier that month, a suspect was arrested for the double murder [JURIST reports] of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Markelov had represented famed journalist Anna Politskovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] who was killed [JURIST report] in 2006. At least 11 journalists have been murdered [CPJ backgrounder] in Russia since 2005, according to the US Committee to Protect Journalists [official website].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal courts effective in prosecuting terror suspects: report
Matt Glenn on January 21, 2010 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Federal courts provide an effective venue for prosecuting terror suspects, securing convictions in 89 percent of cases since 2001, according to a report [text, PDF; report highlights, PDF] released Wednesday by New York University's Center on Law and Security [official website]. The report found that in recent years, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has prosecuted fewer high-profile terror defendants, choosing instead to indict those it is more likely to convict. Although the DOJ has used a number of controversial techniques, including relying on statutes that may be unconstitutionally broad, actions that some say amount to entrapment, reliance on confidential information that is not made public, and prolonged detention, the report found that most of these or similar practices do not differ greatly from tactics used in drug dealing and organized crime cases. The report concluded:


The trend lines demonstrate convincingly that federal courts are capable of trying alleged terrorists and securing high rates of conviction. While we can only assess the cases that have been brought, federal prosecution has demonstrably become a powerful tool in many hundreds of cases, not only for incapacitating terrorists but also for intelligence gathering. Much of the government’s knowledge of terrorist groups has come from testimony and evidence produced in grand jury investigations, including information provided by cooperators, and in the resulting trials.

According to the report, "the overwhelming evidence suggests that the structures and procedures, as well as the substantive precedents, provide a strong and effective system of justice for alleged crimes of terrorism."

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration is considering trying [JURIST report] Riduan Isamuddin, the suspected planner of the 2002 Bali Nightclub Bombing [BBC backgrounder], in a federal court in Washington, DC. Earlier this month, the DOJ decided [JURIST report] that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Obaidullah [DOD backgrounder] would be tried in a military prosecution, becoming the sixth detainee ordered prosecuted in this way since President Barack Obama ordered a review of the process last year. In November, Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] appeared before Congress to defend the Obama administration's decision [JURIST reports] to five alleged 9/11 conspirators in federal courts in New York and Virginia.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US government overturns previous order denying entry to 2 Muslim scholars
Matt Glenn on January 21, 2010 7:38 AM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] signed an order Wednesday authorizing two previously excluded Muslim scholars who strongly criticized US foreign policy to enter the country. During the Bush administration, the US government barred professors Tariq Ramadan [academic profile; JURIST news archive] of Oxford University and Adam Habib [academic profile] of the University of Johannesburg from entering the country, claiming both had ties to terrorism. Clinton said Wednesday that neither posed a security threat [AFP report]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which represented both professors in separate lawsuits seeking to have the men admitted into the US, released a statement [press release] approving the decision. ACLU Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer applauded the decision as "a welcome sign that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders." Ramadan stated [press release], "I am very happy and hopeful that I will be able to visit the United States very soon and to once again engage in an open, critical and constructive dialogue with American scholars and intellectuals." Habib called the decision [press release] "a victory for democracy around the world." A status conference for Ramadan's case was held Wednesday afternoon in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to determine how the case should proceed in light of Clinton's order. Both professors must still go through the standard visa application process before they can enter the US.

In July, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the district court had improperly granted summary judgment to the government in its decision to deny Ramadan's visa application. The government alleged that Ramadan, who had been invited to teach at Notre Dame, provided material support to a terrorist organization by donating to a charity with some financial ties to Hamas [JURIST news archive]. The ACLU filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2006 on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center [organization websites]. The ACLU challenged the exclusion on First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] grounds. In 2008, the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled [JURIST report] that the court could review the US Consulate in South Africa's decision to deny Habib's visa application.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Obama orders department heads to review tax status of those seeking federal contracts
Brian Jackson on January 20, 2010 3:46 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a memorandum [text] directing the heads of government agencies to conduct a review of the tax delinquency status of all companies that compete for federal contracts. Citing a need to protect taxpayer money and a total unpaid tax figure in excess of $5 billion, Obama authorized department heads to review the delinquency status of those companies seeking federal contracts and:


to evaluate practices of contracting officers and debarring officials in response to contractors' certifications of serious tax delinquencies and to provide me, within 90 days, recommendations on process improvements to ensure these contractors are not awarded new contracts, including a plan to make contractor certifications available in a Government-wide database, as is already being done with other information on contractors.

In remarks [transcript] made before the signing, Obama indicated that he expected swift implementation of the practice.

The subject of tax delinquent companies receiving federal contracts has been much debated, including numerous Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] reports and attempts to pass legislation. In April 2008, the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2008 [HR 4881 materials] was passed by a voice vote in the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate, where no action was taken. The GAO has released several reports detailing abuses of the tax system by both civilian and defense [reports, PDF] contractors, with the total delinquency reaching an estimated $6 billion.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court hears arguments on racial composition of jury pools, ERISA
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 20, 2010 3:41 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 Berghuis v. Smith [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether there is a constitutional violation when the African-American representation on a jury is disproportionate to the community population. There is a circuit split on whether the so-called the comparative-disparity test, which calculates the percentage of otherwise eligible jurors from a given group who are excluded from jury service, should be used to make such a determination. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit applied the comparative-disparity test and held [opinion, PDF] that the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community had been violated. Counsel for the government argued that, "[t]he Michigan Supreme Court did not act unreasonably in concluding that there was no unconstitutional underrepresentation and that there was no systematic exclusion." Counsel for the respondent defended application of the comparative-disparity test, dismissing justices' concerns that it wouldn't apply in areas with a relatively small minority population.

In Conkright v. Frommert [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a district court has an obligation to defer to an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) [text] plan administrator's reasonable interpretation of the terms of the plan if the plan administrator arrived at the interpretation outside the context of an administrative claim for benefits. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that a district court is under no obligation to defer to an ERISA plan administrator's interpretation and that a district court has "allowable discretion" to adopt any "reasonable" interpretation of the terms of the plan. Counsel for the petitioners argued:

Under either a deferential standard of review or a de novo standard, the plan administrator's interpretation should prevail. That interpretation, unlike the district court's interpretation, is grounded in the language of the plan. It recognizes the fundamental actuarial principle of the time value of money, and it avoids conferring windfalls.
Counsel for the respondents argued that the court does not have to defer to the plan administrator's interpretation.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Vietnam court convicts four pro-democracy advocates of subversion
Haley Wojdowski on January 20, 2010 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] A Vietnamese court on Wednesday convicted four democracy activists of subversion. After a one-day trial, prominent human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to five years [BBC report] in prison. Le Thang Long also received a five-year sentence, Nguyen Tien Trung was sentenced to seven years, and Internet entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc received a 16-year sentence. The defendants were accused [Reuters report] of activities aimed at ending Vietnam's communist rule. Dinh, the best known of the defendants, admitted [NYT report] to advocating multi-party democracy in Vietnam and joining the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam.

Last month, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion. Dinh was charged [JURIST report] in June with "colluding with foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese State," in violation of Article 88 [text] of the Vietnamese penal code, for the alleged distribution of anti-government documents. He was also disbarred [JURIST report] following his arrest. Earlier this year, two Vietnamese newspaper editors were dismissed from their jobs for protesting the arrests of two journalists [JURIST reports] who reported on government corruption. The arrested reporters, who were accused of "abusing freedom and democracy," were sentenced to two years of prison and "re-education" for reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Pakistan high court releases detailed judgment on presidential amnesty order
David Manes on January 20, 2010 1:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] released its detailed judgment [judgment, PDF] regarding the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) [text] on Wednesday. The ordinance granted President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] and 8,000 other government officials immunity from charges including corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between January 1986, and October 1999. A special 17-member panel of court unanimously ruled the NRO unconstitutional [JURIST report] in December, paving the way for corruption charges to be brought against Zardari. Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office, but challenges to his eligibility as a presidential candidate are expected. Many other government officials could face immediate prosecution.

Last month, a Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Interior Minister Rehman Malik [official profile] on corruption charges. Malik is among 19 officials whose corruption cases the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) [official website] has petitioned to reopen [PTI report] in an anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi. The NAB has also petitioned a Lahore court to reopen the cases of 32 individuals, including that of Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar [official profile]. The NRO was signed [JURIST report] by former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in 2007 as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges [JURIST report] she had faced.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Europe rights court dismisses complaint against Italy by Palestinian immigrants
Brian Jackson on January 20, 2010 1:28 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [judgment, DOC; in French] a suit against Italy by Palestinian immigrants alleging illegal expulsion from the country. In a statement [press release] explaining its decision, the court questioned the existence of at least 34 of the 84 immigrants, and was unable to locate 57 of the individuals. Regarding the 14 individuals who were known to have been expelled to Libya, the court said, "the expulsion order against each one of them had been individually endorsed by a district court following a hearing held in the presence of a lawyer and an interpreter." Reaction to the news was mixed [ANSA report], with some hailing the result as a showing that the original immigration by the individuals was illegal, and others expressing concern over a culture of insensitivity towards the suffering of others.

Illegal immigration is a growing problem in Italy, where about 36,000 illegal immigrants arrived by boat in 2008. Earlier this month, a group of African immigrants was evacuated [JURIST report] from the town of Rosarno after violence was directed towards migrant farm workers there. In August, rights groups criticized Italy [JURIST report] for returning a suspected terrorist to Tunisia, disregarding obligations imposed by the ECHR. In July, the Italian Senate approved a law [JURIST report] that would criminalize illegal immigration with a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros and up to 6 months detention before deportation.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Karadzic appeals imposition of court-appointed lawyer
Haley Wojdowski on January 20, 2010 1:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday filed an appeal [text, PDF] with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] challenging the imposition of a court-appointed lawyer [JURIST report]. Karadzic argued that the trial court erred by not allowing him to choose standby counsel in violation of his right to "legal assistance of his own choosing" under Article 21(4)(d) of the Statute of the ICTY and the Appeals Chamber ruling [text, PDF] in Prosecutor v. Seselj. Karadzic alleged that by not removing the court-appointed counsel, the trial chamber sanctioned the "unreasonable and arbitrary selection procedure which resulted in the exclusion of all lawyers from the Balkans" and the "imposition of a lawyer on the accused that the accused did not want and cannot trust."

Last month the Trial Chamber rejected Karadzic's motion [JURIST reports] challenging the legitimacy of the court. In November, the ICTY denied a motion filed by Karadzic requesting appellate review of the court's decision to assign standby counsel [JURIST reports]. The ICTY began Karadzic's trial in absentia in October after Karadzic failed to appear [JURIST reports] in court. Karadzic had announced that he planned to boycott [JURIST report] his trial because he had not been given adequate time to prepare a defense. The ICTY has also repeatedly rejected [JURIST report] Karadzic's argument that he should be immune from trial based on an alleged agreement with former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Karadzic faces 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, for war crimes allegedly 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK PM announces increased airport security measures
Carrie Schimizzi on January 20, 2010 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official profile] announced [statement] the country's plans for enhanced airport security measures and anti-terrorism efforts to the House of Commons [official website] on Wednesday. The new security provisions include increasing intelligence information-sharing with foreign agencies and extending the Home Office Watchlist to include both a no-fly list and a list of individuals subject to enhanced security screenings in airports. The enhanced screenings will include explosive trace testing, use of dogs and new body scanners. Brown said:


The action we are taking to counter terrorism at its source in the Afghanistan Pakistan region and elsewhere is a central part of our wider counter-terrorist strategy, and all our actions which we will update regularly are founded on what is and must be the first and most important duty of government: the protection and security of the British people.

In addition, Brown announced UK flights to and from Yemen will be suspended until further security measures can be enforced.

The proposed UK security measures are in response to the failed US bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama called for [JURIST report] stricter airline security measures in response to the failed attack. Obama pledged to improve airline passenger security, calling the attempted bombing "a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence." Obama said that the US government had sufficient information to uncover the plot, but that "our intelligence community failed to connect those dots." Abdulmutallab has been charged [JURIST report] with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence. A plea of not guilty [JURIST report] has been entered on his behalf.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rules federal courts can review motions to reopen immigration cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 20, 2010 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Kucana v. Holder [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a federal statute [8 USC § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) text] gives federal courts jurisdiction to review rulings on motions to reopen decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [DOJ backgrounder]. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) states that no court shall have jurisdiction to review any action of the attorney general "the authority for which is specified under this subchapter to be in the discretion of the Attorney General." The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that it lacked jurisdiction to review the petitioner's claim. In reversing that decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote:


We granted certiorari to decide whether the proscription of judicial review stated in §1252(a)(2)(B) applies not only to Attorney General determinations made discretionary by statute, but also to determinations declared discretionary by the Attorney General himself through regulation. We hold that the key words "specified under this subchapter" refer to statutory, but not to regulatory, specifications. We so rule based on the longstanding exercise of judicial review of administrative rulings on reopening motions, the text and context of §1252(a)(2)(B), and the history of therelevant statutory provisions. We take account, as well, of the "presumption favoring interpretations of statutes [to] allow judicial review of administrative action." Separation-of-powers concerns, more-over, caution us against reading legislation, absent clear statement, to place in executive hands authority to remove cases from the Judiciary's domain.

The respondent, the US government also argued in support of the petitioner that the federal court had jurisdiction to review the claim. Justice Samuel Alito filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

The petitioner, Albanian citizen Agron Kucana, entered the US in 1995 on a work visa, remaining after it expired. He applied for asylum in 1996, alleging that he would be persecuted for his political beliefs if returned to Albania. When he failed to attend his asylum hearing, the immigration judge immediately ordered his removal. Kucana filed two motions to reopen his removal proceedings, but those motions were rejected by the immigration judge and the BIA.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Botswana tribe to bring land dispute with government to ICJ
David Manes on January 20, 2010 12:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Spokesperson for the First People of Kalahari (FPK) [Right Livelihood backgrounder] Roy Sesana announced [AllAfrica report] Tuesday that his organization plans to take its land dispute case against the Botswana government to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website, JURIST news archive]. The FPK is an advocacy group representing San, or Bushmen [SI backgrounder] people who were relocated by the government from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in 1997. Sesana said that peace talks with President Ian Khama [BBC profile] had broken down and that the FPK would initiate proceedings in the ICJ because previous court orders granting land rights to the Bushmen have been ignored.

In 2006, the High Court of Botswana ruled [JURIST report] that the government's eviction of Bushmen inhabiting the Kalahari desert was "unlawful and unconstitutional." The suit was brought by 239 members of the San tribe aided by FPK and Survival International [advocacy website]. The Bushmen, whose ancestors have lived in the Kalahari desert for 20,000 years, claim that 12 percent of their fellow plaintiffs died in settlement camps since the government evicted them from the beginning in 1997. The Bushmen claimed that the eviction was motivated by the government's interest in increasing diamond mining operations, but the government cited concerns over the Bushmen's opposition to conservation efforts as the primary reason.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Malaysia court postpones sodomy trial of opposition leader
Carrie Schimizzi on January 20, 2010 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] The Malaysian Federal Court on Wednesday postponed the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official profile; JURIST news archive] until February 2 pending their decision on his access to prosecution evidence. Anwar's lawyers appealed to the Federal Court to enforce an earlier High Court order [Bernama report] granting access to evidence including recorded witness statements and medical reports. Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria and two Federal Court judges failed to reach a decision [Bernama report] on the appeal and have deferred their decision until January 29. Anwar's lawyers contend the evidence is crucial [Sun Daily report] to preparing a proper defense. The delay comes a day after a Malaysian appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that the country's ban on sodomy is constitutional.

The trial, which was originally set to begin last year, has been postponed several times by Anwar's defense team. He has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of sodomizing his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, in 2008 and alleges that the prosecution is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his political agenda. Anwar's counsel sought unsuccessfully [JURIST report] to have the case thrown out last month. Anwar was Malaysia's deputy prime minister until he was fired in 1998 following sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rules third parties may intervene in Carolina water dispute
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 20, 2010 11:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in South Carolina v. North Carolina [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Catawba River Water Supply Project (CRWSP), and Duke Energy Carolinas may intervene in the water dispute between the two states, but that the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, may not. A special master recommended [report, PDF] that all three parties be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit brought by South Carolina over water flows from the Catawba River. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the Court:


Two of the three proposed intervenors have satisfied the standard for intervention in original actions that we articulated nearly 60 years ago in New Jersey v. New York. Accordingly, we overrule South Carolina's exceptions with respect to the CRWSP and Duke Energy, but we sustain South Carolina's exception with respect to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chief Justice John Roberts filed a separate opinion, concurring in the judgment and dissenting in part, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The dispute concerns equitable apportionment of the Catawba River. The Court has original jurisdiction over the case under 28 USC § 1251 [text] because it is a dispute between two states. South Carolina and the US government argued that third parties should not be allowed to intervene because the states should speak for the interests of all their citizens.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rejects ineffective assistance of counsel claim in capital case
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 20, 2010 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Wood v. Allen [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a state court reasonably concluded that, during the sentencing phase of a capital case, the defense attorney's failure to present the defendant's impaired mental functioning did not constitute ineffective counsel. The Court affirmed the decision [opinion, PDF] of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, finding it had correctly applied the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text, PDF] to the review the state court decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded:


We hold simply that, even under petitioner's reading of § 2254(d)(2) [of the AEDPA], the state court's conclusion that Wood's counsel made a strategic decision not to pursue or present evidence of his mental deficiencies was not an unreasonable determination of the facts.

The Court did not reach the question of how AEDPA § 2254(e)(1), which provides that the petitioner has the burden of challenging a state court's findings of facts by clear and convincing evidence, applies in challenges to a state court's factual determinations under § 2254(d)(2). Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The defendant, Holly Wood, broke into his ex-girlfriend's home in 1993, shooting and killing her. Wood was convicted on capital murder charges and sentenced to death. After his conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, Wood petitioned for federal habeas relief. Wood argued that his counsel's failure to investigate and present mitigation evidence of his mental deficiencies during the penalty phase constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court granted habeas relief, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Kenya lawmakers refuse to include equal marriage rights for women in constitution
Amelia Mathias on January 20, 2010 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) decided Tuesday not to grant women equal marriage rights to men in the new constitution. References to civil society, religious groups, and rights of gays were also omitted [Daily Nation report] as the PSC reviewed recommendations from the Committee of Experts and decided which to include. The PSC, which is composed of members of parliament, will decide between a presidential or a parliamentary system [KBC report] for Kenya, a highly political question. The PSC is expected to spend the rest of the week debating the issues [Capital FM report] and next week drafting the new constitution.

The first draft of the constitution was unveiled [JURIST report] in November. The changes are intended to reduce the widespread injustice throughout the country, and specifically address issues that led to violence following the 2007 presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. In October, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] called for constitutional reform in Kenya before the next electoral cycle begins in 15 months. In 2007, tens of thousands of protesters took to Kenya's streets accusing President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] of election fraud after early opinion polls suggested rival Raila Odinga [campaign website] was in the lead.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US trial begins for Pakistani woman alleged to be al Qaeda agent
Amelia Mathias on January 20, 2010 9:01 AM ET

[JURIST] The federal trial of Aafia Siddiqui [JURIST news archive], a Pakistani woman with alleged ties to al Qaeda, began Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. Siddiqui is charged [complaint, PDF] with assault and the attempted murder of a US officer after allegedly opening fire on agents at the Afghan detention facility where she was being held in July 2008. As soon as her trial began, Siddiqui became agitated and started screaming that she was innocent, causing her to be removed from the courtroom [Washington Post report]. Originally detained in Afghanistan because she was allegedly in possession of explosive chemicals and lists of New York City targets, Siddiqui has denied [BBC report] that she is part of any al Qaeda terrorist plot.

Siddiqui underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was judged fit to stand trial [JURIST report] in July. Siddiqui, who was extradited to the US in August of 2008, was shot in the abdomen during the July skirmish leading to her charges. She has since refused proper medical care as well as communication with her legal counsel. Siddiqui's family has insisted that she is not an al Qaeda agent and that the FBI has publicized misleading information about her. They say that Siddiqui, a former student at Brandeis University and MIT in Boston, may have been a victim of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] after she vanished from Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. Defense lawyers have alleged that Siddiqui may have been wrongly detained and tortured [Washington Post report] at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was taken into custody in July 2008 after she was found loitering outside a provincial governor's compound with suspicious items in her handbag.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK rights group urges further investigation into 2006 Guantanamo suicides
Jay Carmella on January 20, 2010 8:37 AM ET

[JURIST] UK-based human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website] issued a statement [text] Tuesday suggesting that the Obama administration has suppressed information relating to the investigation of three 2006 Guantanamo Bay suicides [JURIST report] and urging further inquiries. The statement comes in response to an article [text] for an upcoming issue of Harper's Magazine [media website], in which former guards at the prison indicate that the three prisoners experienced intense interrogations in a remote area of the base just hours before the apparent suicide. According to the article, military personnel were instructed by a commanding officer that the media would be told that the deaths were suicides. The Obama administration issued a statement [Reuters report] indicating that it took the matter seriously and found no evidence of wrongdoing during its investigation. A 2008 investigation conducted by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website] concluded [JURIST report] that the cause of death was suicide.

In June, another Yemeni Guantanamo detainee was pronounced dead [JURIST report] after apparently committing suicide. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called for a "full and transparent investigation" into the death. Military officials said that the three 2006 detainees, who hanged themselves using nooses made from sheets and clothes, had participated in hunger strikes and were among those who had been force-fed [JURIST report]. Amnesty International [advocacy website] said the deaths "are the tragic results of years of arbitrary and indefinite detention" and should serve as "an indictment on [Guantanamo's] deteriorating human rights record." In 2006, the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] rejected a demand by Amnesty International for an independent investigation into the suicides.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DOJ announces indictments against 22 in federal bribery scheme
Jay Carmella on January 20, 2010 7:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] on Tuesday that 22 individuals were indicted [materials] for violating federal bribery laws in an effort to obtain foreign business contracts. An undercover operation conducted by the FBI found violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) [text], which prohibits the bribing of foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining business. The defendants believed they were dealing with an agent representing an African minister of defense, and they agreed to offer a commission in order to secure part of a $15 million military contract. The indictment also includes [Reuters report] conspiracy to commit money laundering charges through the sale of goods such as guns and armor. Several corporate executives are among those indicted, including the current and former CEOs of Protective Products of America and the VP of Sales for Smith & Wesson [corporate websites]. Smith & Wesson issued a statement [press release] following the indictment denying any knowledge of their employee's involvement and promising to cooperate with the government as the investigation proceeds.

The indictment was the largest ever under the FCPA. In August, former congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) [official profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted [JURIST report] of 11 counts of public corruption under the FCPA. In November 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] reached [JURIST report] a $30 million settlement with Chevron [corporate website] over FCPA charges in connection with the company's involvement in a scheme to exchange illegal payments to Iraqi officials under the now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. Also in 2007, the DOJ charged [JURIST report] three drilling companies under the FCPA for paying Nigerian officials in order to obtain expedited clearance through customs.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court hears arguments in oil franchise, collective bargaining cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 19, 2010 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in two cases. In the combined cases of Mac's Shell Service, Inc. v. Shell Oil Products Co. [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] and Shell Oil Products Co. v. Mac's Shell Service, Inc., the Court heard arguments on whether a service station operator can bring a constructive termination action under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act [15 USC § 2801-2806 text] when the operator continues to run the franchise with the same trademark, fuel, and premises. Additionally, the Court will decide on the requirements for constructive non-renewal of a franchise-franchisee agreement under the act. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court ruling that a franchise may recover for constructive termination even if it continues to use the same trademark, fuel, and premises. The First Circuit additionally reversed the district ruling on constructive non-renewal of an agreement, holding that a franchisee faced with an unlawful lease has to either sign the lease and forgo any potential actions under the act or refuse to sign and bring a challenge to it after receiving a notice of non-renewal. Counsel for Shell Oil argued:

Because the term "terminate," at the very least, requires an end, we and the United States agree that the First Circuit erred in upholding the so-called constructive termination, where the dealers continued to receive each element of the statutory franchise - that is the premises, the trademark, and fuel -
Counsel for Mac's argued:
In this case the jury determined that Shell and Motiva engaged in conduct designed - prohibited by the PMPA when they raised rent to force dealers out of business and convert their stations to direct operations. Nevertheless, Shell and Motiva argue that conduct designed to force the dealers out of business is insufficient to invoke statutory protection because the dealers were not deprived of any of the statutory elements of the franchise and they remained in business for some period following the rental increase.

If accepted, the practical effect of Shell and Motiva's position will allow franchisors to circumvent the PMPA and terminate franchises at any time, at any reason, by simply increasing the burden on their operations.
In Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a federal court has jurisdiction to determine whether a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was formed when it is disputed whether any binding contract exists, but no party makes an independent challenge to the arbitration clause apart from claiming it is inoperative before the contract is established. The court also heard arguments on whether Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) [text], which generally preempts otherwise available state law causes of action, provides a cause of action against a third-party international union that is not a direct signatory to the collective bargaining agreement. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] the district court's dismissal of a claim against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) for tortious interference with a collective bargaining agreement between Granite Rock and Local Union 287. Counsel for the petitioner argued, "the concept that we are advancing is the plain language of the statute. Violation of a contract is right at the heart of this suit. You have for 150 years jurisprudence where in enforcing contracts, which is the central mission of the statute." Counsel for the IBT argued:
that allowing the tort action as, Granite Rock is urging, would work a big change in the structure that Congress has established by which it has decided that major issues of labor law, such as the weapons - economic weapons that parties can use, should be decided by Congress through statute and by the National Labor Relations Board through the application of the statute.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

FBI illegally collected phone records by claiming terrorism emergencies: report
Hillary Stemple on January 19, 2010 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 telephone records between 2002 and 2006 by claiming the phone calls being made related to possible terrorism emergencies, according to a Washington Post report [text] Tuesday. According to the article, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] will soon release a report that is expected to build on an OIG report issued in 2007, which showed the FBI had improperly obtained phone records. The FBI released a statement [text] responding to the article saying the practice was discontinued in 2006, and:


the Bureau did not have in place adequate internal controls to ensure that the appropriate process was used and that appropriate records were kept to document the basis of any request to the phone companies that did not require legal process. Steps were taken as early as 2006 to ensure similar situations do not occur in the future.

The FBI began the practice of allowing supervisors to authorize collection of phone records on the basis of emergency situations shortly after the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] was passed in October 2001. The collection of telephone records on the basis of non-existent emergencies is a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) [text].

The discussion surrounding the expansion of government powers following enactment of the Patriot Act has been ongoing. The US Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize three of the Patriot Act in October, which was supported [JURIST reports] by the DOJ. In July, former DOJ Office of Legal Counsel lawyer John Yoo [JURIST news archive] defended [JURIST report] the Bush administration's use of warrantless wiretapping [JURIST news archive] following the release [JURIST report] of a a multi-agency report questioning its effectiveness.

1/20/10 - The OIG report [text, PDF] has been released to the public.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Slovakia to accept 3 Guantanamo Bay detainees
Sarah Miley on January 19, 2010 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Slovakia's Foreign Ministry [official website, in Slovak] announced Tuesday that the government will accept three inmates from the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility. The ministry stated that this was a "gesture of solidarity" in support of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. The US Embassy in Slovakia [official website] released a statement stating:


The United States welcomes the announcement today by Slovak officials that the Government of Slovakia will accept 3 Guantanamo detainees for resettlement. The United States appreciates this act as a productive step in realizing President Obama's vision of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center once and for all. We have had fruitful cooperation with Slovak authorities on this issue and will continue to collaborate as called for by our Slovak allies.

The Slovak government gave no details on the nationality, date of arrival, or location of the inmates, citing security reasons.

Earlier this week, a Spanish foreign ministry official confirmed that Spain will be accepting two detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. Closure of the detention facility was initially due by January 22, 2010, but Obama recently confirmed [NYT report] that this deadline would not be met. The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including opposition from members of Congress and the recent suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. In November, the Center for American Progress [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] blaming missteps by the Obama administration for the delay.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Malaysia court rules sodomy ban constitutional
Sarah Paulsworth on January 19, 2010 1:47 PM ET

[JURIST] An appeals court in Malaysia ruled on Tuesday that the country's ban on sodomy is constitutional. The court made the ruling [AFP report] while considering the appeal of Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahaman, who was convicted of sodomizing a 14-year-old boy and sentenced to 60 years imprisonment. Abdul Rahim claimed the intercourse with the boy was consensual, but the court said that was irrelevant, rejecting arguments that the ban violates the Malaysian Constitution [text, PDF], which prohibits discrimination.

This ruling could have implications for the trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [official website; JURIST news archives], who is accused of sodomizing his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari, in 2008. Anwar has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] and contends that the charge is part of a government conspiracy to undermine his political agenda. Anwar's counsel sought unsuccessfully [JURIST report] to have the case thrown out last month. This is the second sodomy charge against Anwar in the past 11 years. Anwar was Malaysia's deputy prime minister until he was fired in 1998 following sodomy charges of which he was initially convicted but later acquitted. He only recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a ten-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges. The trial date [Bernama report] for this second charge of sodomy against Anwar has been set for January 25. If convicted, Anwar faces up to 20 years in prison.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Former UK AG warned Cabinet Iraq invasion may have been illegal
Sarah Miley on January 19, 2010 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK Iraq Inquiry [official website] released a 2002 letter [text, PDF] on Tuesday from former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [professional profile] to former secretary of defense Geoffrey Hoon [personal profile] in which Goldsmith warned the Cabinet that the Iraq invasion was not supported by international law. The letter stated that Goldsmith was having "considerable difficulty" supporting a legal foundation for the Iraq invasion:


As you are aware, the Law Officers' opinion has not been sought on the legality of possible action and I have not therefore offered any views on the legal position. The clarity of your statement and the apparently authoritative way it was produced puts me however in a difficult position. I see considerable difficulties in being satisfied that military action would be justified on the basis of self defence. In particular I am not aware of the existence of material indicating the existence of an imminent threat from Iraq of the sort which would justify military action without support of a Security Council ... authorisation.

In response, Hoon wrote in a letter [text, PDF] to Goldsmith that Hoon's statements were being misconstrued, and clarified by stating that military action would be warranted "in principle" if weapons of mass destruction were found in Saddam Hussein's possession. Hoon stated in the letter, "I do not think that my statements curtail your ability to offer an opinion on the legal position in due course. As you say, we will need to satisfy ourselves that this threat exists should we want to justify legal action on the basis of self-defence." Hoon will be questioned by the Iraq Inquiry on Tuesday concerning his role in the invasion. He will be the first former minister to appear before the inquiry, following a string of military leaders, advisers and officials.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism after the Inquiry released a letter from Goldsmith written to Blair in July 2002, warning [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. The existence of this letter will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion. Blair is scheduled to testify before the Inquiry next week.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China high court ex-vice president sentenced to life on corruption conviction
Sarah Paulsworth on January 19, 2010 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Former vice president of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) [official website, in Chinese] Huang Songyou was convicted on bribery and embezzlement charges on Tuesday and sentenced to life imprisonment [Xinhua report]. Huang is the highest-ranking judge to be charged with corruption [China Daily report] since the founding of the People's Republic of China. Between 2005 and 2008, Huang allegedly embezzled 3.9 million yuan (about $574,000 USD) while serving as vice president of the SPC, and he allegedly embezzled 1.2 million yuan (about $175,000 USD) while serving as president of the Intermediate People's Court of Zhanjiang in 1997.

In August, the Communist Party of China (CPC) revoked [JURIST report] Huang's membership, following the corruption investigation. Huang was removed [JURIST report] from his position as vice president of the SPC in October 2008 by a vote of the legislators. In March, the SPC pledged to take steps to eliminate judicial corruption [JURIST report] with improved ethics education.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

New Jersey governor signs bill legalizing medical marijuana
Hillary Stemple on January 19, 2010 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine signed the "Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana" bill [text, PDF] on his last full day in office Monday, legalizing the use of medical marijuana [JURIST news archive] in the state. The bill allows doctors to prescribe marijuana [NYT report] to patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis, which will be distributed through state-monitored dispensaries. Backers of the legislation have described [UPI report] the bill as the toughest medical marijuana law passed in the US. The measure limits use of medical marijuana to specific types of chronic illness and forbids users to grown their own marijuana or use it in public. The New Jersey legislature passed the bill [JURIST report] last week, and Corzine signed the bill as one of his last acts as governor. Republican Chris Christie [official website] was sworn in as New Jersey's governor on Tuesday.

This legislation makes New Jersey the fourteenth US state to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion [proposed legislation, PDF] of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine became the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. In October, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. Ending such raids was one of President Barack Obama's campaign promises [Boston Globe report], a view that differed sharply from the policy of the Bush administration.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK introduces compensation scheme for victims of overseas terrorist attacks
Ann Riley on January 19, 2010 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The British Government announced [press release] Monday plans for a new scheme to compensate victims of terrorist attacks abroad. Home Secretary Alan Johnson [official profile] introduced the Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme [text, PDF] as part of the Crime and Security Bill [materials] that is currently before Parliament. The scheme will be limited to British nationals who sustain any injury from an act of terrorism occurring outside the United Kingdom after January 1, 2002. Justice Secretary Jack Straw [official profile] said:


Terrorism is intended as a political statement and an attack on society as a whole. Therefore it is right that, as a tangible expression of sympathy, society should compensate the victims of terrorist attacks abroad in recognition of the injuries suffered… Although we will never be able to compensate fully the trauma victims of terrorism experience, we hope the new scheme will provide some much needed relief and recognition that victims and their loved ones go through.

Complete details of the plan have not yet been released.

The Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme broadly mirrors the country’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) [official website] scheme [text, PDF], which provides compensation for injuries, loss of earnings, death of a loved one, and expenses to Britons who are blameless victims of violent crimes occuring within the UK. The UK compensated victims [JURIST report] of the London bombings [BBC report] in 2005 via the CICA compensation scheme. Victims were awarded [JURIST report] between of £11,000 ($19,543 USD) with a maximum payout total of £500,000 ($888,542 USD). Following the US 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive], the US Justice Department [official website] established a Victim Compensation Fund [official website], which made more than 5,000 payments [JURIST report] to survivors and families of victims ranging from $250,000 to over $8 million.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court remands Mumia case to reconsider death sentence
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 19, 2010 10:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday issued two per curiam opinions [order list, PDF], remanded the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal [JURIST news archive], and denied a preliminary injunction to Michigan in a dispute over Asian carp. The Court granted certiorari in Beard v. Abu-Jamal [docket] and granted the respondent's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for further consideration in light of the Court's decision in Smith v. Spisak [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The only issue is whether the Third Circuit erred in allowing a new sentencing hearing [JURIST report] solely on the issue of life imprisonment or a death sentence. The Court declined to review [JURIST report] Abu-Jamal's conviction in April. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner [advocacy website] after Faulkner pulled over Abu-Jamal's brother for a traffic violation. The case has become a focal point for death penalty opponents, attracting the attention of artists, civil rights activists, and politicians.

In Presley v. Georgia [opinion, PDF], the Court ruled that a defendant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment [texts] right to a public trial was violated when the trial court excluded the public from the voir dire of prospective jurors. The Court granted the petition for certiorari and petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia.

In the capital case of Wellons v. Hall [opinion, PDF], the Court granted the petition for certiorari and petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, vacated the decision below, and remanded the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for further consideration in light of the Court's decision in Cone v. Bell [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The Court ruled in Cone that a federal habeas court has the power to recognize that a state court erred in holding that state law precludes reviewing a claim and that a federal habeas claim is not "procedurally defaulted" because it has been presented twice to the state court. Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito filed a separate dissent, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.

In Michigan v. Illinois [JURIST report], the Court denied an injunction sought by Michigan to compel Illinois to close two waterways that allow invasive Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. The Court issued the order without comment. The Court must still determine whether to reopen a longstanding controversy over the diversion canal, created in the 1890s to keep Chicago's sewage from flowing into Lake Michigan.

Finally, the Supreme Court declined to review an order requiring the state of California to release more than 40,000 inmates from its state prisons to ease overcrowding. The Court dismissed the appeals in Schwarzenegger v. Plata and California State Republican Legislator Intervenors v. Plata [dockets] for lack of jurisdiction but noted "that a further order has been entered in this case, but that order is not the subject of these appeals. It is also noted that the district court has stayed its further order pending review by this Court." Last week, a panel of federal judges approved [JURIST report] a new prison reduction plan, but stayed the order pending Supreme Court action.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US grants humanitarian parole to Haiti orphans
Andrea Bottorff on January 19, 2010 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] announced on Monday that the US will allow Haitian orphans into the country [press release] to receive needed care in the aftermath of last week's earthquake [JURIST news archive]. The humanitarian parole policy [USCIS backgrounder], which grants individuals temporary admission to the US in emergency cases, will apply to certain groups of Haitian orphans [fact sheet], including those in the process of being adopted by Americans. US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] described the policy:


We are committed to doing everything we can to help reunite families in Haiti during this very difficult time. While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorizing the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here.

DHS is working with the State Department [official website] to issue immigrant visas and other documents on an individual basis to children who qualify. Groups of Haitian children are expected to arrive in the US [Miami Herald report] as early as Tuesday.

Last week, DHS also granted Temporary Protected Status [JURIST report] to Haitian nationals already present in the US when the earthquake hit and allowed them to continue living and working in the US for the next 18 months regardless of their immigration status. On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50 percent of buildings [statement, PDF] have been destroyed or damaged, including the presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the main prison, allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape [JURIST report]. Thousand of US military troops have been deployed to assist the Haitian police and international peacekeepers as they confront rising lawlessness [JURIST report] in the country. Haitian government officials estimate [Al Jazeera report] the death toll to be as high as 100,000 to 200,000.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Spain court orders pilot extradited to Argentina for alleged role in 'Dirty War'
Megan McKee on January 19, 2010 8:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The Spanish High Court [official website, in Spanish] on Monday ordered the extradition of pilot Julio Alberto Poch so that he may be tried in Argentina for his alleged role in the nation's 1976-83 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Poch was a navy officer at Argentina's Naval Mechanics School [backgrounder, in Spanish], one of the most notorious detention centers of the military dictatorship, and is believed to have piloted flights, known as "death flights," which were used to dump the military junta's political opponents into the Plata river and the Atlantic Ocean. Poch holds dual Dutch and Argentine citizenship, which had protected him from earlier attempts at extradition [ABC report, Spanish], but he was arrested and imprisoned last September when he landed in Valencia while en route to the Netherlands. The Spanish court found that there are adequate measures in place to guarantee that Poch will receive a fair trial [BBC report] in Argentina. Poch continues to deny the charges against him but has accepted extradition.

Last month, an Argentine court sentenced [JURIST report] former judge Victor Brusa to 21 years in prison for crimes against humanity during the country's Dirty War. The Federal Court of Santa Fe found Brusa guilty of eight counts of crimes against humanity in his capacity as a judicial officer during the dictatorship. The court also sentenced five former police officers to between 19 and 23 years in prison for their roles in kidnapping and torture. Brusa was arrested in 2005 after Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws [JURIST report] adopted in the 1980s to deter military insurrection against the democratic government, prompting the government to reopen hundreds of human rights cases. During the Dirty War, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people were forcibly kidnapped or "disappeared" in a government-sponsored campaign against suspected dissidents.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Canada court sentences 'Toronto 18' terrorism conspirators
Steve Dotterer on January 18, 2010 2:15 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice [court website] Monday sentenced two men previously convicted in connection with the failed "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder] terrorist plot. Alleged plot leader Zakaria Amara was sentenced to life in prison, while Saad Gaya [JURIST commentary] was sentenced to a 12-year prison term. Amara and Gaya were two of 18 men arrested in 2006 in connection with a plan to destroy the Toronto Stock Exchange, an Ontario military base and offices of the Canadian spy agency.

Alleged co-conspirator Shareef Abdelhaleem [JURIST report] meanwhile pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges Monday. Abdelhaleem was the first adult to be tried among the "Toronto 18" originally arrested and charged under Section 83 [Canadian DOJ backgrounder] of the Anti-Terrorism Act [text], Canada's post-9/11 legislation. Five more members of the group face trial in March.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Spain to take two Guantanamo Bay detainees
Dwyer Arce on January 18, 2010 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] A Spanish foreign ministry official confirmed Monday that Spain will be accepting two detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. One of the detainees is said to be [AP report] of Yemeni origin, while the nationality of the other was not released. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos [official profile] said [AP report] last week that an agreement between Spain and the US was close to completion in anticipation of the transfer. The detainees are expected to be transferred to Spain over the next few weeks. Spain is the most recent in a string of countries worldwide that have agreed to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay, as the US administration attempts to empty the facility. Last month, Switzerland agreed [JURIST report] to take one Uzbek detainee, and has expressed willingness [JURIST report] to take two more. Also last month, 12 more detainees were transferred to their home governments, and detainees were transferred to Palau, Kuwait, and several European countries [JURIST reports].

The transfer to Spain comes at the request of the Obama administration, which initially requested [France 24 report] that Spain take as many as four detainees last June as part of the administration's plan to close the facility. Closure was initially due by January 22, 2010, but President Obama recently confirmed [NYT report] that this deadline would not be met. The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including opposition from members of Congress and the suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. In November, the Center for American Progress [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] blaming missteps by the Obama administration for the delay.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Myanmar top court hears latest Suu Kyi appeal
Steve Dotterer on January 18, 2010 12:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Arguments began Monday before Myanmar's Supreme Court in the latest appeal by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Suu Kyi's appeal contests an 18-month extension to her house arrest [JURIST report] that was imposed by a lower court in August. Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win, has stated that the extension to Suu Kyi's arrest is based on provisions of the now-defunct 1974 constitution. Suu Kyi's detention to her compound in Yangon will prohibit her from competing in this year's elections [BBC report] as a member of her National League for Democracy (NLD) [official website] party. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in Suu Kyi's case soon.

The timing of Suu Kyi's trial coincides with government action against US citizen Nyi Nyi Aung [Freedom Now profile], who was charged [JURIST report] in early January with forgery and violating Myanmar's foreign currency act. Suu Kyi's hearing date was scheduled the same day Aung was charged. The Myanmar Supreme Court agreed to hear Suu Kyi's case in December after an unsuccessful October appeal [JURIST report] to the Divisional Court in Rangoon. In addition to rejecting the appeal, the lower court ruled that Suu Kyi herself would be barred [JURIST report] from attending the proceedings. Suu Kyi, who has been in prison or under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years, was found to have violated the military junta's state security laws after John Yettaw [JURIST report], an uninvited American, swam across a lake to her home in May 2009.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Haiti confronts rising lawlessness after earthquake
Dwyer Arce on January 18, 2010 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Local police struggled to maintain law and order in Haiti while awaiting the deployment of more US troops on Monday, as looting and vigilantism rose among increasingly desperate and frustrated survivors of the earthquake that struck the country last week. The troops arriving Monday are part of a 5,700-strong US contingent expected to arrive [Telegraph report] by the end of the week to assist the 3,000 police and international peacekeepers deployed to secure the airport, port, and main buildings. Incidents of looting and violence have been on the rise [NYT report], and the reported lynching of one suspected looter along with shootings Sunday have led to an increase in the number of UN peacekeepers patrolling the streets. The country's legal system and government are largely non-operational [France 24 report] in the wake of the disaster. More than 100 US troops landed [New York Post report] in Haiti on Friday, distributing supplies to survivors. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50% of buildings [statement, PDF] have been destroyed or damaged, including the presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the main prison, allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape [JURIST report].

On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. Haitian government officials estimate [Al Jazeera report] the death toll to be as high as 100,000 to 200,000. More than 70,000 bodies have been buried since the earthquake hit. Haitian nationals already present in the US on January 12 have been granted Temporary Protected Status [JURIST report] and will be allowed to continue living and working in the US for the next 18 months regardless of their immigration status.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Imprisoned Saddam-era Iraqi foreign minister suffers stroke
Amelia Mathias on January 17, 2010 3:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz [BBC news profile; JURIST news archive] has suffered a severe stroke while in detention, his son Ziad Aziz said Sunday. Aziz, who also suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, was taken to an American hospital for treatment and is now said to be in stable condition, though he is paralyzed and unable to speak. His health has been poor since his arrest by American forces in 2003, and his family, who are Catholic, have lobbied the pope for his release [AP report]. Aziz still faces charges from the current Iraq government, which has refused to delay proceedings against him [NYT report] to wait for his recovery.

Aziz was convicted [JURIST report] in August of displacing Kurds during the 1980s. The sentence extended Aziz's prison term to a total of 22 years following a March conviction [JURIST report] for his involvement in the 1992 murders of 42 merchants accused of price-gouging during UN-imposed sanctions. Prior to his March conviction, Aziz was acquitted of charges [JURIST report] in connection with the 1999 killing of protesters who rioted in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Spain lawmaker considering legal action over lifted US Bin Laden image
Steve Czajkowski on January 17, 2010 3:24 PM ET

[JURIST] A Spanish lawmaker Saturday expressed anger over the use of his image as a basis for an FBI mock-up [Rewardsforjustice.net reward poster] of Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive], saying he would like a formal explanation and may file a lawsuit. The FBI admitted to using an image [CNN report] of Spanish MP Gaspar Llamazares [official profile, in Spanish], the former leader of the United Left Coalition [party website in Spanish], as the basis for an age-progressed picture of Bin Laden for its Rewards for Justice [official website] program. The FBI explained [AP report] that a forensic analyst working on the updated picture resorted to using Llamazares' image after he could not find suitable features in the file photographs of the al Qaeda [JURIST news archives] leader. The FBI said there was no ill motive. Llamazares said [Canadian Press report] he was disappointed at the intelligence agency's actions and that he now feared traveling to the United States.

Osama bin Laden is currently believed [Times report] to be hiding out in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The most recent contact with Bin Laden is believed to be a audio tape [transcript; JURIST report] from 2006. In the recording, a man claiming to be bin Laden said that convicted September 11 [JURIST news archive] conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive] was not intended to be one of September 11 hijackers as he had not finished his flying training, and that "his confession that he was assigned to participate in those raids is a false confession which no intelligent person doubts is a result of the pressure put upon him for the past four and a half years." The man on the tape also indicated those held in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] did not play any role in the September 11 attacks either. Bin Laden's whereabouts were last confirmed in 2001 when he avoided airstrikes while hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iraq court hands down fourth death sentence for 'Chemical Ali'
Amelia Mathias on January 17, 2010 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Iraq Criminal Tribunal [governing statute, PDF] sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to death by hanging on Sunday, finding him guilty of having ordered the Kurdish village of Halabja gassed in 1988. The gassing of Halabja [BBC report], which killed 5,000 Kurds, was part of the wider Anfal campaign [JURIST news archive] against Kurds in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein regime, and is considered one of the worst attacks on the ethnic minority. Though al-Majid, who is better known by his sobriquet "Chemical Ali," has the right to appeal, Iraq deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim said that his hanging was expected within days [The Guardian report]. Al-Majid, who has already been sentenced to death three other times, has still more alleged crimes to his name, but those will not go to trial.

In March 2009, al-Majid received his third death sentence for his role in a 1999 killing of protesters [JURIST report] who rioted in Baghdad and Amarah following the alleged assassination of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr. In December 2008, the Tribunal sentenced al-Majid to death [JURIST report] for his involvement in the repression of Shiites in southern Iraq during the Saddam regime. Al-Majid has also been sentenced to death for the another killing of Kurdish Iraqis using chemical weapons during the 1988 Anfal campaign. His death sentence in the first Anfal case was upheld on appeal in September 2007, but Iraq's Presidency Council did not approve the execution [JURIST reports] until late February. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government said in early March that al-Majid would not be executed [JURIST report] until the Presidency Council approved the death sentences of al-Majid's two co-defendants in that case.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US removal of illegal Haitians put on hold after earthquake
Ximena Marinero on January 16, 2010 4:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Haitian nationals already present in the US on January 12 have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and will be allowed to continue living and working in the US for the next 18 months regardless of their immigration status, Department of Homeland Security [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] announced [statement; update] Friday. Speaking days after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean nation Tuesday, Napolitano said that "[p]roviding a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery." Groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the NAACP [advocacy websites] had called on the administration to grant Haitians TPS and halt any deportation or removal proceedings against some of them. The conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform [advocacy website] criticized [press release] the TPS as likely to "touch off a mass exodus" of Haitians and chastised the administration for having "no interdiction plan in place [nor any] off-shore holding facility to detain and repatriate large numbers of people heading for the U.S." TPS may be granted [USCIS factsheet] to foreign nationals when conditions in their country of origin temporarily prevent them from returning safely, such as during a civil war or natural disaster.

On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused at least 50,000 deaths and massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The most devastated city is the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50% of buildings [statement] have been destroyed or damaged, including the country's presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the country's main prison [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Afghan parliament backs Karzai justice nominee but again rejects most others
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 16, 2010 11:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The Wolesi Jirga [official website], Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament, Saturday narrowly approved [Sabawoon report; partly in Arabic] Habibullah Galib as the country's new Minister of Justice but overall rejected [CNN report] 10 of President Hamid Karzai's 17 nominees for cabinet positions, Karzai's second such setback in two weeks. A McClatchy Newspapers report quoted Sima Samar, director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] as saying that Ghalib's appointment was "a backwards step." Earlier this month, the Jirga rejected [JURIST report] 17 out of 24 initial Karzai cabinet nominees, including incumbent Justice Minister Sarwar Danish [official profile] after he was criticized for his inability to control Afghan jails and the mistreatment of detainees in Afghan Custody.

Karzai's new list had omitted [Reuters report] the names of all those rejected two weeks ago. Karzai was also forced to withdraw [Reuters report] the name of one nominee after he could not return from Canada in time for nominations. Karzai's administration has been alleged to be rife with corruption. In November, Afghan authorities announced that they had questioned two cabinet ministers [JURIST report] on corruption charges. Karzai had previously vowed [JURIST report] to fight corruption in his second term inaugural address amid pressure from the international community. Late last year Afghanistan was ranked [JURIST report] the second most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International [advocacy website], behind only Somalia.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US releases names of Bagram detainees
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 16, 2010 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Defense officials Friday released [BBC report] the names of prisoners held at Bagram Air Base [JURIST archive] in Afghanistan, in response to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request filed [materials; JURIST report] by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] last year. The list [text, PDF], containing the names of 645 prisoners, several of whose last names were listed as unknown, was heavily redacted, omitting some requested information [ACLU press release] about the prisoners, such as citizenship, date of capture, and circumstances of capture. 5 U.S.C 552(b)(1)-(2) [text] allows withholding of information in compliance with an executive order or because requested information details the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Last week, Afghan officials signed [JURIST report] a memorandum of understanding to delineate the process under which they will eventually take over the Bagram detention facility. The transfer of responsibility is expected within six months. Meanwhile, Afghan courts have already been prosecuting [JURIST report] some of the prisoners held at Bagram. A McClathy newspapers [JURIST report] investigative report [McClatchy report; JURIST report] alleged that many of the prisoners held at Bagram were civilians who were arrested based on false information. Prisoners at Bagram have launched habeas corpus challenges [JURIST report] in US courts but thusfar have been less successful than those held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UN rights chief criticizes proposed Uganda legislation against homosexuality
Steve Czajkowski on January 15, 2010 3:30 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday strongly criticized [press release; UN News Centre report] proposed legislation [text, PDF] in Uganda which would implement harsh punishments for homosexual behavior, including the death penalty in some circumstances. The bill includes provisions which would allow sentences of life imprisonment for people who are be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, and also allows the death penalty [AFP report] in situations of "aggravated homosexuality," which includes the rape of a minor or where an individual carries the AIDS virus. The bill also imposes punishments of up to three years in prison for those who fail to report the identity of a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered within 24 hours, including family members. Pillay emphasized what she characterized as "blatantly discriminatory" nature of the bill, and also discussed the international human rights implications of the legislation:

It is extraordinary to find legislation like this being proposed more than 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – as well as many subsequent international laws and standards – made it clear this type of discrimination is unacceptable.

I would like to remind the Ugandan Government of the country’s obligations under international human rights law. Uganda is a party to the core human rights treaties and has generally had a good track record of cooperation with the various international human rights mechanisms. This bill threatens to seriously damage the country's reputation in the international arena.
Pillay said she was somewhat reassured by indications that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni [official profile] would not support [BBC report] the bill.

The bill was originally introduced [BBC report] in October by David Bahati, an MP from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM)[party website]. Bahati has described [AP report] the bill as an attempt to prevent the recognition of homosexuality and to protect children from sexual abuse. Earlier this month, Bahati refused [AP report] calls from the government to withdraw the bill amid fears that it reduce foreign investment. Uganda currently criminalizes [BBC report] homosexual behavior with up to 14 years in prison. The Ugandan parliament is expected to debate the bill in late February or early March.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court to consider release of names on same-sex marriage petition
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 15, 2010 3:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday granted certiorari [order list, DOC] in five cases. In Doe v. Reed [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the First Amendment allows a state to compel the release of identity information about petition signers. The case arose over an order to publish the names of those who signed a Washington state petition to overturn a state law [JURIST report] giving same-sex partners the same rights as married partners. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the names should be released, but the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay [JURIST report] in October. The legislation was approved [JURIST report] by Washington voters in November.

In Krupski v. Costa Crociere [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider the appropriate construction of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C) [text], which permits an amended complaint to "relate back" for statute of limitation purposes when the amendment corrects a mistake concerning the proper party's identity. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the rule does not apply to substitution of the correct defendant for a related corporation with a similar name where the plaintiff has imputed knowledge of the identity of the added defendant prior to filing suit. The Court has been asked to resolve a circuit split on the issue.

In Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co. [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether § 502(g)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) [materials] provides a district court discretion to award reasonable attorney's fees only to a prevailing party, and whether a party is entitled to attorney's fees when she persuades a district court that a violation of ERISA has occurred, successfully secures a judicially-ordered remand requiring a redetermination of entitlement to benefits, and subsequently receives the benefits sought on remand. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that § 502(g)(1) provides a district court discretion to award reasonable attorney's fees only to a prevailing party.

In Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider three issues: (1) whether the Ninth Circuit erred in holding [opinion, PDF] that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [EPA materials] plaintiffs are specially exempt from the requirement of showing a likelihood of irreparable harm to obtain an injunction; (2) whether the Ninth Circuit erred in holding that a district court may enter an injunction sought to remedy a NEPA violation without conducting an evidentiary hearing sought by a party to resolve genuinely disputed facts directly relevant to the appropriate scope of the requested injunction; and (3) whether the Ninth Circuit erred when it affirmed a nationwide injunction entered prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Winter v. National Resources Defense Council [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which sought to remedy a NEPA violation based on only a remote possibility of reparable harm. The case arose over an injunction against the planting of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready alfalfa," pending an environmental impact statement.

In Rent-A-Center, West v. Jackson [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the district court is required in all cases to determine claims that an arbitration agreement subject to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [materials] is unconscionable, even when the parties to the contract have clearly and unmistakably assigned this "gateway" issue to the arbitrator for decision. The Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that that the district court was required to determine whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Italy court again postpones Berlusconi corruption trial
Zach Zagger on January 15, 2010 2:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The corruption trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official website, in Italian; BBC profile] resumed Friday but was immediately postponed to February 27. Judges for the tenth section of the Milan Tribunal [official website, in Italian] postponed the trial [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] as requested by Berlusconi's lawyers but refused their request to have earlier proceedings thrown out. Berlusconi is accused of paying his former lawyer David Mills [JURIST news archive] as much as $600,000 to Mills to provide false testimony at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi's broadcasting company, Mediaset [corporate website, in Italian]. Berlusconi's trial was postponed so that Mills's final appeal of his conviction and sentence will be concluded. Berlusconi's lawyers argued [CP report] that the the Mills case might affect his, and the statute of limitations has been frozen until a new date.

This is the second time the corruption case against Berlusconi has been reopened and then delayed since a law granting him immunity from prosecution was thrown out [JURIST reports] by the Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] in October. He is also facing a separate trial for tax fraud which was postponed [JURIST report] in November until this month. 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, Berlusconi's April 2007 acquittal on bribery charges was upheld [JURIST reports]. In 2005, Berlusconi was acquitted of corruption charges despite testimony accusing him of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China activists demand search for missing detained rights advocate
Steve Dotterer on January 15, 2010 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese lawyers and US-based rights group ChinaAid [advocacy website] on Friday called on [press release] Beijing police to conduct a search for missing Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng [JURIST news archive]. Police reported Thursday that Gao, who has been in police custody since February, went missing in September. Gao's brother, Gao Zhiyi, stated Thursday that police believe his brother "got lost and went missing while out on a walk." Suspicions abound among rights groups, however, that Gao has been tortured or killed.

Gao drew international attention in September 2007 when he wrote a letter [JURIST report] to the US Congress requesting assistance in improving human rights in China. Gao, who has also defended Christians and coal miners in China, claimed [AP report] that he was tortured after his arrest in 2007. Gao was originally part of the Chinese Communist Party and handled prominent cases involving the outlawed Falun Gong movement [Falun Dafa website], but fell into disfavor with the government in 2006 when he was convicted of subversion [JURIST report] and placed under house arrest. China has long received criticism [JURIST news archive] from watchdog groups for its treatment of rights activists such as Gao.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US considering DC trial for Guantanamo detainee accused of Bali bombing: report
Dwyer Arce on January 15, 2010 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Obama administration is considering bringing charges in a Washington, DC, federal court against Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Riduan Isamuddin [BBC profile], the suspected planner of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [BBC backgrounder], the Associated Press reported [text] Friday. According to the AP, administration officials have begun a security review to determine what measures would need to be taken to pursue the case in federal court, and the move is part of a larger plan to bring other Guantanamo detainees to trial in federal courts in Washington and New York City. Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, is the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and was allegedly the main link between JI and al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] before his catpure in 2003. Former president George W. Bush cited the capture of Isamuddin as a major success in his policies in the war on terror, after the enhanced interrogation of Khaled Shaikh Mohammed [JURIST news archives] uncovered information on Isamuddin's whereabouts. The bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali killed 202 people. In 2008, three men were executed [JURIST report] in Indonesia in connection with the bombings.

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] decided [JURIST report] that Afghan Guantanamo detainee Obaidullah will be prosecuted by a military proceeding, becoming the sixth such recommendation made by the DOJ under the Obama administration. Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] in November that the government will pursue charges against the five suspected 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. These decisions come as part of a larger effort to close the detention facility. Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama [official profile] ordered Guantanamo closed [JURIST report] by January 22, 2010, but he has recently stated that this deadline will not be met, echoing earlier statements [JURIST report] by administration officials.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia lower house ratifies Europe rights court reform protocol
Sarah Paulsworth on January 15, 2010 12:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian State Duma [official website, Russian] on Thursday passed a resolution to ratify [ECHR press release] Protocol 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF], making the Russian Federation the last Council of Europe (COE) [official website] member-state to ratify the provision. The ratification passed with 392 votes [results, Russian] out of 450. COE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland called the move [statement] "a significant decision by the State Duma, [that] will be of importance for the whole of Europe. ... By joining the other 46 member states, Russia is sending a strong signal of its commitment to Europe." Protocol 14 envisages reforms to increase efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], such as filtering out inadmissible and repetitive cases. Admissibility will be determined by a single judge, but most cases will still be ruled on by three-judge panel. Russia was initially opposed to ratifying the protocol, which it claimed was politically motivated.

In June, the COE harshly criticized Russia's judicial system and called for reform [JURIST report]. In recent years, Russia has had the largest number of cases pending in the ECHR out of any COE member-state. In 2009 [statistics, PDF], Russia had 32,600 cases pending, followed next by Turkey, which had 12,800 cases pending, and in 2008 [statistics, PDF] Russia had 27,250 cases pending, followed next by Turkey, which had 11,100 cases pending. In 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] proposed that Russian courts become more transparent [JURIST report] in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the ECHR.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Holder calls financial fraud a top DOJ priority
Jonathan Cohen on January 15, 2010 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] on Thursday testified [hearing materials] before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) that combating financial fraud is a priority for the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites]. When asked whether the reallocation of DOJ staff from financial fraud to terrorism investigations over the past decade had thwarted efforts to fight white collar crime, Holder responded that terrorism investigations were not preventing the DOJ from making financial fraud a "real priority." In prepared remarks [text], Holder said:


[T]he Justice Department is using every tool at our disposal - including new resources, advanced technologies and communications capabilities, and the very best talent we have - to prevent, prosecute and punish these crimes. And by taking dramatic action, our goal is not just to hold accountable those whose conduct may have contributed to the last meltdown, but to deter such future conduct as well.

The FCIC was established late last year by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 [text, PDF] to "examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States."

US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] in November that created a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to be headed by the DOJ. The task force, which continues the work of and replaces the federal government's Corporate Fraud Task Force, is charged with building on "efforts already underway to combat mortgage, securities and corporate fraud by increasing coordination and fully utilizing the resources and expertise of the government's law enforcement and regulatory apparatus." This effort to battle corporate fraud [JURIST news archive] is part of a wide-ranging plan for financial reform that includes new legislation and executive proposals [JURIST reports] intended to strengthen legislation and limit loopholes. Members of the Obama administration have proposed strengthening regulations and increasing restrictions on financial institutions [JURIST report] in response to the current financial crisis.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Honduras court charges military officials with abuse of power for Zelaya ouster
Patrice Collins on January 15, 2010 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] A Honduran Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] judge on Thursday charged top military personnel with abuse of power for removing former president Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from the country after he was ousted from power last June. Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera [official profile, in Spanish] issued charges against six military commanders, including armed forces commander Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, air force commander Venancio Cervantes, and naval commander Luis Javier Prince, and ordered them to remain in the country to testify before the court. Prosecutors asked the court to issue charges [JURIST report] last week, arguing that individual military commanders violated the Honduran Constitution [text, in Spanish] when they seized Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica because the constitution prohibits the forcible removal of a citizen. The charges to do not question the presidential ouster itself. Zelaya has dismissed the charges as a political move [AFP report], claiming the prosecutors share as much responsibility as the military. The abuse of power charges carry a sentence of three to six years in prison.

Zelaya remains in Honduras at the Brazilian embassy. Last month, the Honduran National Congress [official website, in Spanish] voted 111-14 not to reinstate [JURIST report] him. This followed a non-binding advisory opinion from the Supreme Court that Zelaya could not legally return to office [JURIST report]. Zelaya's return to power appears unlikely, as elections were held in November, and Porfirio Lobo is due to be sworn in as president later this month. Zelaya was ousted [JURIST report] in June, 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 Supreme Court ruling. Zelaya, along with the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union, maintain that his removal was a coup, while the interim government of Roberto Micheletti asserts that it was a lawful transition of power.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DOJ indicts 4 for 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Denmark plot
Daniel Makosky on January 15, 2010 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] on Thursday that four men have been charged in connection with the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and an attempted attack on a Danish newspaper. The superseding indictment [text, PDF] reiterates the 12 charges against Chicago resident and US citizen David Coleman Headley filed last month [JURIST report] and adds three defendants. Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago resident with Canadian citizenship, is charged with three counts of providing material support to terrorism, one each for his alleged roles in the Denmark plan and Mumbai attacks, and a third for alleged involvement with terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder]. Retired Pakistani military officer Abdur Rehman and Ilyas Kashmiri, an alleged terrorist leader believed to have ties to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], are also named in the indictment. Both face one count of conspiracy and one count of providing material support to terrorism for their alleged participation in the Danish newspaper plot. Headley and Rana are in federal custody, though no date has been set for Rana's arraignment before the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website]. Rehman and Kashmiri remain at-large.

The lone surviving suspected gunman from the Mumbai attacks, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab [NDTV profile], is currently on trial in India after withdrawing his confession [JURIST report] last month. Kasab claims to have met Headley, but only after the attacks when Headley allegedly came to question Kasab in the company of three FBI agents. The judge hearing the trial has removed lawyers representing Kasab on two separate occasions for ethical violations, once in April and again in November [JURIST reports]. A verdict is expected early next year, and, if convicted, Kasab could face the death penalty. The Anti-Terrorism Court of Pakistan has indicted [JURIST report] seven men accused of planning the attacks, charging them under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act [text]. The men, who allegedly belong to LeT, have pleaded not guilty. Pakistan has postponed the trial [JURIST report] of five others allegedly connected with the 2008 attack, which claimed at least 170 lives at 10 locations across the city.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Canada high court declines to hear anti-abortion activist's tax appeal
David Manes on January 15, 2010 8:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] on Thursday declined [order] to hear an appeal brought by an anti-abortion advocate who refused to pay taxes on the basis that the money could be used to fund abortion [JURIST news archive]. David Little was convicted in 2007 of tax evasion for failing to file tax returns for 2000, 2001, and 2002. The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick [official website] affirmed the conviction [judgment, PDF] in August. Little's legal argument relied on Section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], which establishes and guarantees everyone in Canada the fundamental freedom of "conscience and religion," as well as Section 15(1) which prohibits discrimination. The appeals court rejected Little's arguments:


The non-filing of annual returns, like the non-payment of taxes, does not qualify as a religious practice nor has it become the tenet of any religious faith. The refusals are simply acts of civil disobedience intended to bring about change in government policy, the law, or both. Admittedly, the refusals may be the product of an informed conscience, but the Charter was not intended to insulate such acts from the rule of law. Otherwise, everyone who disagrees with government policies and the expenditure of public monies in furtherance of those policies would be entitled to abandon their obligation to bear their proportionate share of the national debt while continuing to receive no-cost public benefits such as Medicare.

With the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case, Little's conviction will stand [National Post report]. He has until April 25 to file his back taxes and pay the court-ordered fine of $1,000 or serve 22 days in jail for each of the three years in the conviction, but Little refuses to do either. After the Supreme Court's decision, Little challenged the government, asking: "Are they going to put me in jail for the rest of my life?"

While abortion rights remain a controversial issue, so too do the rights of anti-abortion activists. In the US, anti-abortion protesters have recently challenged several laws limiting their ability to protest. In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down [JURIST report] a City of Pittsburgh ordinance that created a layered zone structure to prevent protesters from gathering outside abortion facilities, finding that the law was not sufficiently narrowly tailored. In July, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a Massachusetts law prohibiting people from protesting directly outside of abortion clinics. The court ruled that the law, which created a 35-foot buffer zone around entrances and exits of reproductive health clinics, was a reasonable response to a significant threat to public safety. In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the First Amendment protected an anti-abortion group's right to display graphic pictures of early-term aborted fetuses outside of a California middle school.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

DC court rejects bid to put same-sex marriage recognition law to public vote
Matt Glenn on January 15, 2010 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that a law allowing Washington DC to recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] performed elsewhere is not subject to a public referendum. Reverend Harry Jackson, along with 39 Republican congressmen [Wasington Post report], urged the court to force the DC Council to allow the public to vote on DC's Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009 (JAMA) [text, PDF; JURIST report]. The judge refused, affirming a November decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics [official website], which held that putting the act to a public vote would violate DC's Human Rights Act [text]. It is unknown whether Jackson will appeal.

Last month, the DC Council gave both its preliminary and final approval [JURIST reports] to the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 [text, PDF], which would allow same-sex marriages to be performed in DC. Mayor Adrian Fenty must still sign the law, and Congress must not act to block it before it goes into effect. If the marriage bill becomes law, DC will become the sixth US jurisdiction to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in five US states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China increasing corruption oversight within Communist Party: report
Matt Glenn on January 15, 2010 7:08 AM ET

[JURIST] The Communist Party of China (CPC) [Global Security backgrounder] will increase its oversight [China Daily report] of the families of government officials to control corruption, the state-controlled China Daily [media website] reported Wednesday. A communique released Wednesday by the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection [official website, in Chinese], which is in charge of detecting and preventing corruption in the CPC, ordered other CPC organs to carefully monitor officials to make sure they are not accepting bribes or receiving improper gifts, according to the report. The communique also reportedly ordered increased compliance [China Daily report] with a 2006 family reporting regulation requiring senior officials to divulge an array of information about immediate family members, including where they are employed, their investments, and their holdings.

Chinese officials have faced a number of corruption scandals over the last year. Former vice president of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) [official website, in Chinese] Huang Songyou stood trial [China Daily report] this week on corruption charges [JURIST report], making him the highest ranking judge to face corruption charges since the founding of the People's Republic of China. A verdict has not yet been reached. In November, former judge Wu Xiaoqing, who was awaiting trial on charges that he took bribes, was found dead [JURIST report] in his prison cell, reportedly a result of suicide. In March, SPC Chief Justice Wang Shengjun pledged to eliminate corruption [JURIST report] in the judiciary.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Ukraine court finds Soviet leaders responsible for 1930s Holodomor famine
Daniel Makosky on January 15, 2010 6:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) [official website] announced [press release] on Thursday the conviction of seven former Soviet officials, including Joseph Stalin [BBC profile], on genocide charges stemming from the 1932-1933 Holodomor famine [InfoUkes backgrounder]. The court of appeals in Kiev reviewed evidence for two days before determining the officials' guilt, but chose not to pursue [Kyiv Post report] further criminal proceedings because all of the defendants are deceased. The decision follows the conclusion of an SBU investigation that began in May 2009 [press release] and relied heavily on declassified Soviet documents. Speaker of the Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] Boris Gryzlov [official website, in Russian] responded to the announcement [Interfax report, in Russian], labeling it a politically motivated effort to incite tension between the countries.

Known as Holodomor, which translates to ‘murder by hunger,’ the famine is responsible for an estimated seven to 10 million deaths [BBC report]. Russians contend that the event was a byproduct of unfavorable conditions, though others believe Soviet policies that disrupted the production and distribution of crops are to blame. Ukraine has long sought widespread international recognition of the famine as an act of genocide, though only several nations have done so.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iraq court sentences 11 to death for Baghad bombings
Sarah Miley on January 14, 2010 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] An Iraqi court on Thursday sentenced 11 men to death for the August 19 bombing of the foreign and finance ministries [BBC report] in Baghdad that left close to 100 dead. The 11 men were found guilty [AP report] of financing, planning, and participating in the attacks. Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim, a member of Suddam Hussein's ousted Ba'ath party, confessed [NYT report] to leading the attacks shortly after the bombings took place. He also stated the the attack was ordered by the Ba'ath party operating out of Syria as an attempt to destabilize the government. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; JURIST news archive], publicly denounced the Syrian government for not taking enough action to prevent the Ba'ath party from financing and planning attacks against Iraq within its borders. The defendants will have a month to appeal the death sentence. No date has been set for their execution.

Iraq is also seeking an investigation into the twin suicide bombings [JURIST report] in Baghdad in October which killed at least 132 people. 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 to permit changes to the country's election law [JURIST report]. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari [official profile] renewed calls [JURIST report] in October for a formal UN inquiry to investigate those responsible for bombings. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK prison population should be cut by a third: parliamentary report
Sarah Miley on January 14, 2010 2:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK Parliament Justice Committee [official website] released a reinvestment report [text] on Thursday urging the prison populations in England and Wales to be reduced by a third. The committee found that incarceration is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime except for serious offenders, and the amount of repeat offenders could be more efficiently reduced through rehabilitation programs such as housing, employment, education, and drug and alcohol services. The Ministry of Justice, which is currently spending £4.2 billion on a new prison, claims that its current strategy of longer prison sentences, which incorporate rehabilitation services, is working and the number of repeat offenders has declined. According to the report, the new prison is a "costly mistake" and funds would be better allocated to local public services outside of the prisons.


We believe that that if reform, rehabilitation and reparation to victims were given higher priority, then sentencing and penal policy overall could make a much more significant contribution to reducing re-offending and making communities safer. We see risks that the direction of current policy will increase pressure on the prison estate, negating the valuable work on offender reform that does take place in prison, particularly for those in custody for over two years. It seems equally clear that, as matters stand, the probation service will also be overwhelmed by demand for resettlement services in relation to those coming out of prison, let alone the effective management of offenders in the community.

The committee admits that the implementation of their proposed strategy would be complex and challenging, but that it is necessary to reduce the UK's heavy burden of prison overcrowding and the reduction of repeat offenders.

In 2007, the UK justice minister gave authority to prison governors to release prisoners [JURIST report] coming to the end of their sentences as a way to relieve prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive] across England and Wales. Other countries are also facing a similar problem. In the US, a panel of three federal judges approved [JURIST report] a revised plan this week for reducing California's prison population. Earlier this week, a Russian law [JURIST report] allowing minor offenders to serve their sentences under house arrest rather than in prison entered into force. The bill is aimed at reducing the number of inmates in Russia's overcrowded prison system.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

International maritime piracy hits worst level since 2003: report
Zach Zagger on January 14, 2010 1:56 PM ET

[JURIST] 2009 marked the worst year for maritime piracy [JURIST news archive] in six years, according to a report [press release] issued Thursday by the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website]. The total reported incidents of piracy reached 406, surpassing 400 for the first time since 2003. It is the third consecutive year that reports have increased rising from 239 reported incidents in 2006. According to the report, in 2009, there were 153 vessels boarded, 1052 crew members taken hostage, 49 vessels hijacked, 84 attempted attacks, and 120 vessels fired upon. Violence against crew has also increased with 68 injured and eight killed. The report showed that Somali pirates were responsible for more than half the reported incidents with 217 total. Piracy off the coast of Somalia continued early in 2010 when two ships were captured [AP report] on January 2 off the cost of Somalia: the British-flagged Asian Glory roughly 600 miles east of Somalia and the Singaporean-flagged chemical tanker the Pramoni, in the Gulf of Aden north of Somalia.

Earlier this week, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a superseding indictment [JURIST report] against alleged Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, claiming that he led the takeover of two additional ships. Muse plead not guilty to the charges. In November, Somali judge Mohamed Abdi Aware, known for jailing suspected pirates, human traffickers, and Islamist insurgents, was shot dead [JURIST report] while leaving a mosque in the Puntland city of Bossaso. In July, the IMB reported [JURIST report] that pirate attacks around the globe doubled in the first half of 2009.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Pentagon lawyers advise waiting to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': report
Jonathan Cohen on January 14, 2010 1:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The legal advisers for the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen [official profile], have advised him to delay an internal effort to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" [10 USC § 654 text; JURIST news archive] policy, according to a Thursday Associated Press report [text]. Mullen has reportedly received mixed input on whether lifting the ban is a good idea, with other Pentagon advisers suggesting that repealing the policy would not cause problems, but in-house legal counsel has advised him to wait until 2011. The delay would most likely make the policy a key issue in the 2012 presidential election.

US President Barack Obama recently pledged [JURIST report] to end the controversial policy, which subjects openly gay individuals to military discharge. After the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] to review the policy in June, the US Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would hold hearings to review it. Last year, more than 100 retired admirals and generals of the US military called for a repeal [JURIST report] of the policy.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Dutch court refuses to dismisses charges against politician for anti-Islamic statements
Haley Wojdowski on January 14, 2010 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] to be tried for his video and printed statements against the Quran and Islam, dismissing a motion to drop or reduce the criminal charges. The trial court denied [NRC report] Wilder's counsel's argument that he could not be prosecuted according to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, which held that insulting a religion, as opposed to its followers, was not punishishable under hate-speech laws [NYT report]. Wilders has been charged by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) [official website, in Dutch] with five counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement.

In September, the OM announced that they would prosecute Wilders [press release, in Dutch] following a January 2009 court order [press release, in Dutch] by the Amsterdam Court of Appeals. This decision came after the OM announced in June 2008 that it would not prosecute Wilders [JURIST report]. Much of the controversy stems from Wilders' 15-minute film, Fitna, which shows images of the Quran alongside images of violence and says democratic values are threatened by the increasing number of Muslims in Europe. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the film "offensively anti-Islamic" [JURIST report] after its release. In February 2008, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube's website because it had posted a movie trailer for Wilders' film, but access was restored [JURIST reports] several days later. Indonesia followed suit [JURIST report] in April 2008. The same month, a district court in the Netherlands rejected [JURIST report] a bid by the Dutch Islamic Federation to block Wilders' anti-Quran statements, saying that his comments are protected by the right of free expression and do not constitute speech that incites hate or violence.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Canada Inuit sue EU over seal trade ban
Daniel Makosky on January 14, 2010 12:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Representatives of Canada's Inuit population on Wednesday announced [press release] a lawsuit against the European Union (EU) [official website] challenging its impending ban on the sale of seal products. The suit, filed in the General Court of the Court of Justice of the EU [official website], seeks to overturn Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 [text, PDF], which is expected to take effect [BBC report] prior to the 2010 seal hunting season. President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) [organization website] Mary Simon [profile] said:


Inuit have been hunting seals and sustaining themselves for food, clothing, and trade for many generations. ... It is bitterly ironic that the EU, which seems entirely at home with promoting massive levels of agri-business and the raising and slaughtering of animals in highly industrialized conditions, seeks to preach some kind of selective elevated morality to Inuit.

The legislation suggests a partial exemption for seals hunted by Inuit, though its terms are not defined.

The Canadian government took action [press release] against the ban in November, initiating the World Trade Organization (WTO) [official website] dispute resolution process by requesting consultations. The ban follows extensive public pressure [CBC report] to end seal hunting by groups citing humanitarian considerations. More narrow European restrictions imposed in 1983 caused the industry to suffer a sharp decline. Commercial seal hunting is an economic and cultural staple [DFO materials] for the Inuit, who contend that their methods are necessary and humane.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Rwanda lawmakers considering legislation against genocide denial
Jonathan Cohen on January 14, 2010 11:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Rwandan lawmakers may introduce a bill to criminalize denial of the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], according to Thursday reports. A senior researcher at the Rwanda National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) [official website] said that they are preparing a bill [New Times report] for presentation to the Ministry of Culture. The proposed legislation would then have to go before the cabinet and eventually be approved by parliament. The CNLG has planned an international conference for early February to discuss the conservation of human remains from the genocide, in which more than 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, were killed.

Rwanda would not be the first country to enact a law criminalizing denial of a genocide. Israel passed the Denial of Holocaust Prohibition Law [text] in 1986, and Switzerland has a law [text, in German] that makes genocide denial an imprisonable offense. In 2007, the European Union approved [JURIST report] a framework decision that would criminalize denial of the Holocaust.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China says international Internet companies must follow law
Brian Jackson on January 14, 2010 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese government reiterated its commitment to open Internet [press briefing, in Chinese] on Thursday, saying that international companies are welcome as long as they abide by Chinese law. Responding to a threat [JURIST report] by Google [corporate website] that it may remove its Internet services from the country, Foreign Ministry [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson Jiang Yu said that, "China has tried creating a favorable environment for the Internet." Jiang also stated that hacker attacks, such as those that allegedly occurred against Google and several other companies [Wired report] in December, are against Chinese law. The Chinese government is seeking clarification [Xinhua report] of Google's intentions, including the statement by Google that it will stop filtering search results. As Xinhua noted, as of Wednesday, Google was still filtering search results, consistent with Chinese government policy.

Google announced a new policy towards China on Tuesday in response to a cyber attack on its Gmail service in December. That attack targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China, and drew the ire of rights groups around the world. China's stance on Internet freedom, a source of contention in its relationship with Google, has long been controversial. In June, the Chinese government confirmed that filtering software [JURIST report] which is to be sold with every computer in China did not necessarily have to be activated. That confirmation came only after the policy of pre-packaging the software with new computers was challenged [JURIST report] by human rights lawyer Li Fangping.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Mongolia president suspends death penalty
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 14, 2010 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia [official profile] announced Thursday that he would suspend [speech text] the death penalty [JURIST news archive] and commute the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to 30 years in prison. In a lengthy speech to the Mongolian Parliament, Tsakhia called for a permanent ban on the death penalty, saying that many mistakes are made in its administration, and that the system has been abused by those with power. He cited statistics from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], showing that one in three death sentences were overturned by a court of appeals, as proof that oftentimes the sentence was wrongfully imposed. Tsakhia said:


It is not the fault of the people of Mongolia that Mongolia maintains the death penalty. And it is not the fault of our judiciary to practice this punishment. Our judges have endeavored to render just judgments and have been working to repair those decisions deemed unjust. Yet, I cannot firmly say, no mistakes have been made here. Similarly, I cannot say, no mistakes will be made. The price we pay for mistakes in delivering the truth is measured in human lives. Humans work in courts, judiciaries. After all, no human being is alien to mistakes.

AI had previously criticized [press release] for a lack of transparency in its administration of the death penalty. AI welcomed [press release] Thursday's announcement.

In November, the Russian Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] extended [JURIST report] a moratorium on the death penalty until the country's parliament ratifies an international treaty abolishing capital punishment. In July, Hands Off Cain [advocacy website], an anti-death penalty advocacy group, reported [JURIST report] that the number of countries with capital punishment, as well as the total number of executions was down in 2008 from the previous year. According to Amnesty International, 95 countries have abolished [AI report] the death penalty for all crimes. In March, New Mexico became the latest US state to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report].





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal judge rules New York City discriminated against firefighter applicants
Brian Jackson on January 14, 2010 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday ruled [order, PDF] that New York City intentionally discriminated against minority fire department applicants by continuing to use an exam that it knew placed those applicants at a disadvantage. Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] called the practice a "stain" on the fire department. While Garaufis did find that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was shielded from the suit by qualified immunity, he noted that the mayor was, "deliberately indifferent to the exams' impact on blacks." In summarizing his reasons for granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs, Garaufis wrote:


What the Intervenors have demonstrated - and what the City has failed to rebut - is that the City's use of written exams with discriminatory impacts and little relation to the job of firefighter was not a one-time mistake or the product of benign neglect. It was part of a pattern, practice, and policy of intentional discrimination against black applicants that has deep historical antecedents and uniquely disabling effects. The consequences that this illegal policy had for blacks who wished to serve their city as firefighters have already been levied; the consequences that this illegal policy will have for the City will be addressed at the remedial stage.

Garaufis' ruling was the second on the issue. In July, he granted summary judgment [order, PDF] to the plaintiffs, ruling that the application exam employed by the city was discriminatory. The city is expected to appeal the ruling [NYT report].

In June 2009, the US Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] the dismissal of a suit by firefighters in New Haven, CT, finding reverse discrimination in violation of Title VII. In that suit, white firefighters alleged that an exam was incorrectly excluded from consideration for promotions because minority applicants performed more poorly than white applicants. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in another firefighter suit [JURIST report] during the current term, this time concerning when the statute of limitations begins to run for filing a disparate impact charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Spain court convicts 5 for aiding Madrid train bombing suspects
Andrea Bottorff on January 14, 2010 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] Spain's National Court [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday convicted five people for their involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] on charges of supporting terrorist groups that planned attacks. The men were indicted [JURIST report] in November, along with two other suspects, and were accused of providing money, housing, food, and forged documentation to the suspected perpetrators of the Madrid bombings. The suspects, Moroccan, Algerian, and Turkish nationals, were sentenced [El Pais report, in Spanish] to jail terms ranging from five to nine years. Among those sentenced was the group's alleged leader, Omar Nakhcha, who received the strictest sentence [AFP report, in Spanish].

In all, 28 co-defendants [BBC profiles] were charged in Spain with 192 counts of murder and upwards of 1,800 counts of attempted murder related to the March 11, 2004 bombings, which killed 191 people and injured almost 2,000 more. Three defendants were convicted of murder [JURIST report] and 18 others were found guilty of lesser charges. Last year, Spain's highest court of appeal said that 25 appeals had been filed [JURIST report] against verdicts handed down against convicted participants for the bombings, both from defendants and from victims. The defendants have all protested their innocence and condemned the attacks.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Haiti inmates escape collapsed central prison in earthquake aftermath
Bhargav Katikaneni on January 14, 2010 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] A UN spokesperson acknowledged Wednesday that Haiti's main prison in the capital Port-au-Prince collapsed [AP report] in Tuesday's earthquake, and many of the inmates have escaped. As US President Barack Obama sent thousands of troops to help with the rescue efforts, General Douglas Frazier [official profile], head of the US Southern Command [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] which includes Haiti, indicated that the Naval medical facilities at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] may be used [press briefing] to help with the relief efforts. Many of the refugees may be temporarily housed [Fox News report] at Camp Justice, an area of the base where visitors such as reporters have generally stayed. The US State Department [official website] reported Wednesday that some injured Americans have already been transported [press briefing] to Guantanamo.

The massive earthquake, measured at a 7.0 magnitude [USGS backgrounder], left many in the country homeless. Tens of thousands are feared dead, and rescue efforts are ongoing. Countries around the world have pledged millions of dollars in aid for rescue and recovery efforts.

1/15/10 - A spokesperson for the International Red Cross said that almost all of the prison's 4,000 inmates have escaped.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Second Circuit revives antitrust case against music industry
Andrea Bottorff on January 14, 2010 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Wednesday reinstated [opinion, PDF] an antitrust lawsuit that accuses major record labels of price-fixing nearly 80 percent of US digital music sales. In overturning a lower court decision to dismiss the case, the appeals court found that the defendants, music industry giants including Sony, Time Warner, EMI, Universal, and Virgin Records, may have been in violation of the Sherman Act [text], which established the country's antitrust laws. The court held, "that Plaintiffs-Appellants' Second Consolidated Amended Complaint ("SCAC") contains 'enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made,' and therefore states a claim." The court did not rule on the merits of the case, which was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

The case combined lawsuits filed in 2005 and 2006 by people who had downloaded music from the Internet. Wednesday's ruling is the latest in an ongoing conflict between the music industry and consumers who download music online. In July, a federal judge ruled that Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum [defense website] was liable [JURIST report] for illegally downloading music, fining him $675,000. In the only other file-sharing case to go to trial, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found liable and fined $1.92 million [JURIST report] in June. These suits may be the last to be brought to trial, as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [organization website] decided in 2008 to discontinue pursuing [JURIST report] court cases against those accused of illegal file-sharing.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Nigeria court rules VP may take executive powers in president's absence
Matt Glenn on January 14, 2010 7:04 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for Nigeria's Federal High Court on Wednesday ordered Vice President Goodluck Jonathan [Online Nigeria profile] to assume executive powers due to the prolonged absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile], who has been in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for a heart condition since November. The court ruled that Nigeria's 1999 Constitution [text], which allows the president's executive power to be carried out through the vice president, made it proper [AFP report] for Jonathan to assume executive powers. The court refused [Next report] to order Jonathan sworn in as acting president, finding that the constitution would not allow Jonathan to assume the role unless Yar'Adua formally transferred presidential powers to him. On Tuesday, Yar'Adua conducted an interview [BBC report] with the BBC [media website], promising to return to power and putting to rest rumors that he was critically ill or dead. Yar-Adua's absence has sparked protests and calls for him to step down.

In 2008, the Nigerian Supreme Court upheld the results of disputed 2007 election that brought Yar'Adua to power, despite opposition groups' allegations of fraud [JURIST reports]. Yar'Adua had promised to step down if the court invalidated the election. A tribunal [JURIST report] formed before the 2007 election to deal with allegations of fraud ruled that the opposition groups lacked enough evidence of fraud to have the results overturned.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court blocks YouTube broadcast of Proposition 8 trial
Matt Glenn on January 14, 2010 6:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that the trial on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive] same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] ban may not be broadcast because the court did not follow proper procedure when enacting a rule permitting the broadcast. Last week, Judge Vaughn Walker of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the trial could be broadcast live to five federal courthouses and posted to the court's YouTube [website] channel. In staying the broadcast, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a significant likelihood that the district court had not allowed enough time for the public to comment between proposing and enacting the rule, which ended a ban on recording court proceedings in certain cases. The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed. In an unsigned opinion, the Court stated:


The District Court attempted to change its rules at the eleventh hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district. Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue. If courts are to require that others follow regular procedures, courts must do so as well.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. The Court's order will be in effect until it hears an appeal relating to televised court proceedings.

Wednesday's order continues a temporary stay ordered by the Supreme Court Monday, the same day the trial began [JURIST reports]. Supporters of Proposition 8 have objected to the controversial decision to broadcast the trial proceedings, claiming it would result in witness intimidation. The YouTube broadcast of the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger [case materials], was to be allowed under an experimental program approved by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] last month that allows cameras in civil, non-jury cases. Proposition 8 was approved [JURIST report] by California voters in November 2008.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court hears arguments in NFL antitrust case
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 13, 2010 3:48 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 American Needle Inc. v. NFL [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether the National Football League (NFL) [league website] and its member teams are a single entity that is exempt from rule of reason claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act [text]. The NFL teams reached an agreement with Reebok to license and sell consumer headwear and clothing with the respective teams' logos and not to grant licenses to Reebok's competitors for 10 years. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the NFL and its member teams are a single entity under the Sherman Act. Counsel for the petitioner, American Needle, cited the Court's 1984 decision in NCAA v. Board of Regents [opinion text], arguing that:

The 32 teams of the National Football League are separately owned and controlled profit-making enterprises. Under this Court's decision in NCAA, as well as the Court's more general joint venture jurisprudence, those clubs are entities whose distinct agreements are, indeed, subject to Section 1 scrutiny.

The fact of the matter is there is a longstanding consensus, judicial and legislative, that agreements among sports teams about whether and how they will participate in the marketplace is subject to scrutiny under the Sherman Act, Section 1.
Counsel for the NFL argued that:
There is no dispute that the NFL, including its licensing arm, NFL Properties, is a lawful venture. If venture formation is not an issue, then decisions by the venture about the venture's product are unilateral venture decisions, unilateral venture actions. They are not concerted actions of the -- of the venture's members.
The Court appeared skeptical of the NFL's position, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggesting, "you are seeking through this ruling what you haven't gotten from Congress: An absolute bar to an antitrust claim."

In Jerman v. Carlisle [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether a debt collector's legal error qualifies for the bona fide error defense under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) [15 USC § 1692 text, PDF]. Petitioner Karen Jerman filed an action challenging the debt collection practices of the Carlisle law firm, claiming that they violated the FDCPA when they used allegedly deceptive forms to notify her of a foreclosure on her home. Specifically, Jerman claims that defendants violated the FDCPA by representing to Jerman that her debt would be assumed valid unless she disputed the debt "in writing" even though the FDCPA does not require a written dispute. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that although the defendants violated the FDCPA by instructing Jerman that she must dispute the debt in writing, defendants qualified for the FDCPA bona fide error defense. Counsel for Jerman argued:
Congress rarely makes ignorance of the law a defense to civil liability, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is no exception to that rule. While it may seem unfair to hold defendants in some sense strictly liable for legal mistakes in the civil context, the accumulated wisdoms of generations of legal practice has been that attempting to fix that unfairness through a mistake of law defense causes more harm than it prevents.

And as a consequence, in light of that subtle understanding, courts should not read a Federal statute to establish a mistake of law defense, unless Congress quite plainly makes that intent to do so clear. And in this case, nothing in the text, structure, or the history of the bona fide error provision of the FDCPA indicates such an intent.
Counsel for the US argued as amicus curiae on behalf of the petitioner. Counsel for the respondents argued that "in a review of the text of this statute, all of the components may be read plainly to include the bona fide error defense, to include legal error."





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Padilla lawyers urge appeals court to overturn terrorism conviction
Brian Jackson on January 13, 2010 3:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for convicted terrorism conspirator Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] argued Tuesday before the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] that their client's conviction [JURIST report] should be overturned. Padilla's appeal centers on a number of purported judicial errors [Miami Herald report], most prominently the lack of an evidentiary hearing to determine if Padilla was being tortured while in custody, as well as the decision by trial judge Marcia Cooke to allow the government to show a videotape of an interview with Osama bin Laden as evidence of a link between Padilla and his two co-defendants. Prosecutors countered that Padilla's 17-year sentence [JURIST report] for a crime that is punishable by life imprisonment is too lenient [Philadelphia Inquirer report. It is not known how soon the appellate judges will reach a decision.

Padilla was sent to a Colorado "supermax" prison [JURIST report] in April 2008 to serve his sentence. He was convicted, along with Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi, of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Initially alleged to have planned the explosion of a "dirty bomb" in the US, Padilla went from enemy combatant to criminal defendant when he was finally charged with other offenses in November 2005.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

China hacking of activists' e-mail prompts Google exit threat
Brian Jackson on January 13, 2010 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] One month after hackers attempted to access Chinese human rights activists' e-mail accounts through the Google [corporate website] Gmail service, the company announced [press release] on Tuesday that it would rethink its involvement in the Internet market in China, possibly pulling out of the country. Among the possible changes in policy being considered are a cessation of search result censoring. Google indicated that it would work with the Chinese government to find a way to allow an, "unfiltered search engine within the law as well," but also noted that if an agreement cannot be reached, it may close its offices there and shut down its Google.cn website. Human rights groups applauded Google's announcement, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] calling the move [press release] "unprecedented."

The attack on activists' accounts is the latest in a long string of purported human rights abuses in China. Last month, China was criticized for executing a British national [JURIST report] for drug smuggling, after refusing to conduct an investigation into the man's mental health. Also in December, human rights activist Liu Xiabo was sentenced to 11 years in prison on subversion charges, following a two-hour trial [JURIST reports] that was closed to outsiders. In November, HRW released a report [JURIST report] that accused China of holding citizens in "black jails," where they were subject to numerous human rights abuses.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal judges approve California plan to reduce prison overcrowding
Haley Wojdowski on January 13, 2010 1:43 PM ET

[JURIST] A panel of three federal judges on Tuesday approved [order, PDF] a revised plan [text, PDF] filed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] for reducing prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive] in the state. The new plan includes revisions made possible because of legislative enactments, including summary parole for lower-level offenses to reduce the amount of inmates re-entering the prison system for parole violations and credit earning enhancements to reduce time served. Action on the order will be delayed because the Schwarzennger administration [official website] has appealed the prison population reduction order to the US Supreme Court, which is expected to decide whether to take the case later this month [San Francisco Chronicle report].

The CDCR filed the plan in November after the panel rejected the first plan because it did not comply with a federal court order to reduce the prison population [JURIST reports]. The original plan did not include the legislative enactments but provided various ways of reducing overcrowding, including transferring more prisoners to out-of-state prisons, GPS monitoring of inmates who violate parole, commuting sentences of inmates who are eligible for deportation, and building new facilities or converting unused space. In September, the US Supreme Court [official website] refused to grant a request [JURIST report] by the state of California to temporarily stay the court order to reduce the prison population, pending appeal.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Judge allows Virginia Tech wrongful death lawsuits to proceed
Carrie Schimizzi on January 13, 2010 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] A Virginia judge ruled Tuesday that lawsuits filed by two families whose children were killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech school shooting [Washington Post backgrounder; JURIST news archive] may proceed. Judge William Alexander of the Franklin County Circuit Court [official website] ruled [Roanoke Times Report] that the defendants, university President Charles Steger [university profile], Executive Vice President James Hyatt, and employees of the university's Cook Counseling Center [center website], are not immune from suit. Claims against the other defendants named in the lawsuit, including the New River Community Services Board [website], top university administrators, and the university itself, were dismissed. Alexander's ruling permits the suits to move forward with pre-trial discovery and possibly a trial.

The suit was filed [JURIST report] in April by the parents of Julie Pryde and Erin Peterson [Virginia Tech profiles], who were shot and killed by fellow student Seung-Hoi Cho [BBC profile]. In June 2008, a Virginia judge approved [JURIST report] an $11 million settlement with the families of 24 people who had been killed in the shooting. The settlement awarded each family $100,000 plus medical expenses and provides for meetings with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and university and police officials. The Pryde and Peterson families did not participate in the settlement agreement. The Virginia Tech shooting left 33 people dead and wounded 25 in the deadliest school shooting in US history.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Federal judge denies new trial for ex-Qwest CEO Nacchio
David Manes on January 13, 2010 12:47 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Tuesday denied the request by former Qwest Communications [corporate website] CEO Joseph Nacchio [JURIST news archive] for a new trial on insider trading charges. Nacchio had requested a new trial on the basis that the company's CFO, a key witness in the trial, had changed her testimony, but Judge Marcia Krieger of the US District Court for the District of Colorado [official website] found [Reuters report] that the change in testimony was not substantial enough to alter the conviction. Nacchio was convicted [JURIST report] in 2007 on 19 counts of insider trading for selling $52 million worth of stock in 2001 with knowledge that Qwest could miss its sales targets.

In October, the US Supreme Court [official website] declined to review [JURIST report] Nacchio's conviction without comment, ending his lengthy appeals process, which stretched over two years. In August, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that Nacchio was incorrectly sentenced and remanded the case for resentencing. In April, Nacchio reported to the minimum security prison camp [JURIST report] at FCI Schuylkill [official website]. Nacchio was initially indicted on 42 counts [JURIST report] in 2005. 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US military refers charges against captain accused of ordering Iraqi civilians killed
Carrie Schimizzi on January 13, 2010 12:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The US military referred charges Monday against Army Capt. Carl Bjork, accused by several Iraqi detainees of ordering the killings of two Iraqi civilians in 2006. The charges against Bjork include one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of premeditated murder. The accusers are three Iraqi police officers and a former Iraqi Intel officer currently being detained in Iraq. Bjork's attorney Victor Kelly, who practices with the National Military Justice Group [organization website], has said that the case against his client is weak [9News report]. Bjork's case is set to go before a court-martial in Baghdad before March 1.

Detainee and civilian abuse has been a major issue during the occupation of Iraq. Earlier this week, a US military judge ruled [JURIST report] that the trials for two Navy SEALs [official website] accused in the alleged assault of an Iraqi prisoner will be held on a US military base in Iraq in order for the alleged victim to be questioned in court. Last week, US security firm Blackwater [JURIST news archive] reached a settlement agreement in seven federal lawsuits filed by Iraqi citizens. The suits claimed that Blackwater, now known as Xe, created a reckless culture that resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in September 2007 and the 2006 killing of an Iraqi guard. The settlement was reached after a US judge dismissed charges [JURIST report] against five guards indicted for their involvement in the 2007 killings. Last year, the US Army [official website] court-martialed soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th infantry [unit website] for their alleged roles in the 2007 killings of four Iraqi citizens [JURIST report]. The crime was an alleged retributive act for casualties suffered by the unit.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

ICTY resumes Seselj trial after delay over witness intimidation concerns
Haley Wojdowski on January 13, 2010 11:22 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday resumed [press briefing] the trial of Serbian nationalist Volislav Seselj [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] after it had been delayed [JURIST report] for nearly a year over fears that witnesses were being intimidated. In order to protect their identities, the chamber will examine [press release, PDF] the remaining witnesses behind closed doors. Seselj, leader of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS), is on trial in the ICTY, charged [indictment, PDF] with three counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes. He is accused of establishing rogue paramilitary units affiliated with the SRS, which are believed to have massacred and otherwise persecuted Croats and other non-Serbs during the Balkan conflict.

In July, the ICTY convicted [JURIST report] Seselj of contempt and sentenced him to 15 months in prison for authoring a book revealing pertinent information about several key witnesses. Seselj was charged with contempt [JURIST report] last January. The ICTY had previously stripped Seselj of his right to defend himself after he failed to appear in court, despite an earlier appeals court ruling that he could represent himself [JURIST reports] provided he did not engage in courtroom behavior that "substantially obstruct[ed] the proper and expeditious proceedings in his case."






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

SEC files new charges against Bank of America for failing to disclose losses
David Manes on January 13, 2010 11:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed new charges [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against Bank of America (BOA) [corporate website], alleging that the company failure to disclose [press release] to its shareholders "extraordinary losses" at Merrill Lynch [corporate website] prior to the merger of the two companies. The SEC's complaint charges BOA with violating Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 14a-9 [texts], which require disclosure "necessary or appropriate ... for the protection of investors." BOA shareholders voted to approve the proposed merger with Merrill Lynch at a meeting in December 2008. The SEC alleges that BOA learned that Merrill Lynch had incurred billions of dollars in losses for October and November before the vote, but failed to disclose the losses to shareholders. Merrill Lynch's full fourth quarter 2008 losses, totaling more than $15 billion, were announced more than a month later, in January 2009. BOA stock dropped nearly 30 percent the next day, according to the SEC.

The SEC originally sought to add this charge to its previous case against BOA, which charged it with misleading investors [JURIST report] regarding billions of dollars paid to Merrill Lynch executives during the acquisition of the firm. A federal judge twice rejected a proposed settlement [JURIST report] between the SEC and BOA for $33 million, which did not admit any fault or directly penalize any corporate executives, calling the settlement unfair to the shareholders. The original complaint, filed in August, alleges that during the merger of the companies, BOA allowed Merrill Lynch to pay more than $3.6 billion in bonuses to its executives, despite record losses at that time, and withheld such information from its shareholders.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rules on standard for challenges to electricity contracts
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 13, 2010 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-1 in NRG Power Marketing v. Maine Public Utilities [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Mobile-Sierra doctrine applies when an entity not party to an interstate electricity contract contests the contract as not being "just and reasonable" as required by Section 206 of the Federal Power Act [text]. Under the Mobile-Sierra doctrine, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) [official website] must presume a wholesale rate contract is "just and reasonable," and that presumption can be overcome only by showing that the contract "seriously harms the public interest." The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the Mobile-Sierra doctrine does not apply when challenged by an entity not party to the contract. In reversing the appeals court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg relied on the Court's 2008 decision in Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County [opinion text; JURIST report]:


We reverse the D. C. Circuit's judgment to the extent that it rejects the application of Mobile-Sierra to noncontracting parties. Our decision in Morgan Stanley, announced three months after the D. C. Circuit's disposition, made clear that the Mobile-Sierra public interest standard is not an exception to the statutory just-and-reasonable standard; it is an application of that standard in the context of rates set by contract. The "venerable Mobile-Sierra doctrine" rests on "the stabilizing force of contracts." To retain vitality, the doctrine must control FERC itself, and, we hold, challenges to contract rates brought by noncontracting as well as contracting parties.

Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, rejecting the Court's holding in Morgan Stanley, from which he dissented, and its extension to this case.

The dispute arose over problems with New England's energy grid. In 2006, FERC approved a settlement agreement, which established rate-setting mechanisms. A number of parties that were not involved in the contract but opposed the settlement agreement petitioned for review in the DC Circuit.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

France conservative leader introduces bill to ban burqas in public
Amelia Mathias on January 13, 2010 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] The leader of France's conservative party introduced legislation [press release, in French] Tuesday to the National Assembly [official website, in French] that would ban wearing of the burqa [JURIST news archive] in public and make it punishable by 750 euros. Jean-Francois Cope [official profile, in French], leader of the Union for Popular Movement (UMP) [party website, in French] in the National Assembly, is leading the movement in the legislature [Le Monde report, in French], spurred on by French President Nicholas Sarkozy's announcement in June that those who wore the burqa were not welcome in France. The bill also has the support of some French socialists [Le Monde report, in French] from the other side of the political spectrum, as well as that of French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. The official commission into the issue is expected to report by the end of January [Reuters report].

Cope has been pursuing legislation since December, in direct opposition to the National Assembly's November decision not to push for specific legislation [JURIST reports] banning the burqa. The commission began its hearings in July after being established [JURIST report] a month earlier to address the issue. The controversy between the Muslim community and the secular French government has gone on for several years. 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 Muslim students for refusing to remove their headscarves. In July of that year, a Muslim woman's citizenship application was denied [JURIST report] because she failed to assimilate to French culture and practiced a type of Islam found incompatible with French values.

4:30 PM ET - French President Nicolas Sarkozy told lawmakers Wednesday that he favors a ban on the burqa but that he would await conclusions from the parliamentary commission.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Spain judge finds ETA attempted to kill former prime minister
Amelia Mathias on January 13, 2010 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Spanish Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska ruled on Tuesday that Basque separatist group ETA [JURIST news archive] had tried three times to assassinate former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001 but had failed. Grande-Marlaska detailed the three assassination attempts [El Pais report, in Spanish] as part of a description of the alleged crimes of ETA leader Pedro Maria Olano Zabala, who was arrested in the Basque region last Thursday. The group had allegedly tried three times to use a rocket launcher to fire a missile at Aznar's plane in retribution for Aznar's refusal to accept a compromise with the group [ABC report, in Spanish], but the launcher failed three times and was finally sent to ETA operatives in France for repair [Barcelona Reporter report]. Rocket launchers belonging to ETA have been seized in France.

In September, accused ETA leader Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina refused to make any statement [JURIST report] during hearings before the Spanish National Court. In June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] upheld [JURIST report] Spain's ban of Basque political groups Batasuna [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and Herri Batasuna for their alleged ties to ETA. In April, alleged ETA leader Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish] was arrested in France, and a Spanish judge charged [JURIST reports] him with murder for a May 2008 car bombing that killed a Spanish policeman. In February, Spain's Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] unanimously banned [JURIST report] the Basque separatist political groups Democracy 3 Million (D3M) and Askatasuna [orders, PDF; in Spanish] from participation in the coming March elections.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US prosecutors charge suspected Somali pirate with hijacking additional ships
Jay Carmella on January 13, 2010 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a superseding indictment [press release, PDF] Tuesday against alleged Somali pirate Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, claiming that he led the takeover of two additional ships. Muse pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website]. The 10-count indictment does not provide the identity of the ships involved in the alleged hijackings or details about the events, but prosecutors stated [NYT report] that hostages from one of the ships remain in captivity. Muse, who was captured by US forces following an attempted attack on the container ship Maersk Alabama [corporate backgrounder], was charged [JURIST report] with five counts in April, including committing an act of piracy as defined by the law of nations, conspiracy to seize a ship by force, conspiracy to take hostages, and two counts relating to the use of a firearm during commission of a crime. The government believes that Muse coordinated the attack in the original indictment and presented himself as the leader of the gang. Despite difficulty in determining Muse's exact age, the SDNY has decided to try Muse as an adult.

In July, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that pirate attacks around the globe doubled in the first half of 2009. The bulk of the upsurge came from increased activity in the Gulf of Aden and Somali coastal waters, where 130 incidents occurred since January. In May, five suspected Somali pirates went on trial [JURIST report] in Holland, accused of attempting to hijack a Dutch Antilles freighter in the Gulf of Aden. Earlier in 2009, a US Coast Guard chief called for [JURIST report] the enforcement of international piracy laws, citing the importance of entering Somali waters to combat the problem. In October 2008, 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."






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Europe rights court rules UK suspicionless searches illegal
Jay Carmella on January 13, 2010 7:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text; press release] Tuesday that searches performed by police without legitimate suspicion are illegal. The ECHR found that British police had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] when they stopped and searched two individuals in 2003 under the Terrorism Act 2000 [text]. Under Article 8, everyone is entitled to the right of respect for private and family life. The court found:


[T]he use of the coercive powers conferred by the legislation to require an individual to submit to a detailed search of his person, his clothing and his personal belongings amounts to a clear interference with the right to respect for private life. Although the search is undertaken in a public place, this does not mean that Article 8 is inapplicable. Indeed, in the Court's view, the public nature of the search may, in certain cases, compound the seriousness of the interference because of an element of humiliation and embarrassment. Items such as bags, wallets, notebooks and diaries may, moreover, contain personal information which the owner may feel uncomfortable about having exposed to the view of his companions or the wider public.

UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson [official profile] plans to appeal the decision. As a result, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) [official website] issued a statement [press release] saying that they will continue to use the tactics to protect the public.

The ruling is a blow to the UK's effort to enhance their counter-terrorism efforts, which have recently come under criticism. Last month, the British House of Commons Home Affairs Committee [official website] reported [JURIST report] that the UK's 1.2 billion-pound e-Borders [official website] program would likely be found illegal under EU law. The program was intended to provide the UK Border Agency (UKBA) [official website] with a more effective and efficient security system by collecting and analyzing information on all passengers entering or leaving the UK. In September, the UK government released [JURIST report] a second terrorism suspect from a control order [JURIST news archive] that subjected him to virtual house arrest because it did not want to reveal secret evidence. The UK Law Lords ruled [JURIST report] in a series of decisions in 2008 that the government could continue to impose control orders on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders violate human rights.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court hears sex offender civil commitment, child custody appeals
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 12, 2010 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in two cases. In United States v. Comstock [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether Congress had the authority to enact certain provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act [18 USC § 4248 text], which allow a person deemed "sexually dangerous" to be civilly committed after the expiration of a federal criminal sentence. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the law was beyond Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. US Solicitor General Elena Kagan [official profile] defended the law, arguing:

What Congress said here was something pretty simple and very reasonable. It said if we, the Federal Government, have somebody in our custody, and we know that that person has the kind of mental illness that is going to cause grave danger to the community; and we know that there is no one else who is in a good position to prevent it; and we know that we were in part responsible for that vacuum, then we should be able to do something about it. That's what section 4248 says, and section 4248 is constitutional for that reason.
Some of the justices seemed skeptical of Kagan's position, with Justice Antonin Scalia calling the law "a recipe for the federal government taking over everything." Counsel for the respondents distinguished sex offenders from people found not guilty by reason of insanity. Last week, a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the law, finding that civil commitments were within the power granted to Congress under the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause as an extension of the government's custodial responsibility for federal inmates.

In Abbott v. Abbott [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a ne exeat clause, which prohibits one parent from removing a child from the country without the other parent's consent, confers a "right of custody" within the meaning of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction [text]. The Hague Convention requires a country to return a child who has been "wrongfully removed" from his country of habitual residence. Under Art. 12, a "wrongful removal" is one that occurs "in breach of rights of custody." The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that ne exeat rights do not constitute "rights of custody" within the meaning of the Hague Convention. Counsel for the petitioner argued:
The Hague Convention exists to ensure that custody disputes are resolved by the courts of the country of habitual residence rather than through abduction. It thus generally requires the return of a child who is abducted in violation of a right of custody. So too, a ne exeat right permits a parent to require that the child reside in the country of habitual residence, thereby rendering international abduction illegal.

Ne exeat rights are not only rights of custody under the text of the convention, but they also track the convention's vital purpose of ensuring that children are not subject to international abduction.
Counsel for the respondent distinguished rights of custody from rights of access.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Netherlands inquiry finds Iraq invasion lacked legal mandate
Sarah Miley on January 12, 2010 1:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The 2003 US-British invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law and was not supported by UN resolutions, according to a report [text, PDF, in Dutch; press release, PDF] released Tuesday by a Dutch parliamentary inquiry. The Dutch Parliament began an investigation into the Iraq War in March by establishing the Committee of Inquiry on Iraq [official website], chaired by former president of the Supreme Court of Netherlands WJM Davids [official profile]. According to the report, during the build-up to the war, newly-elected Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, being more concerned with domestic issues, played little or no role in the debates over the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion and left most of these decisions to then-minister of foreign affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer [official profiles]. The committee found that the wording of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 [text], offering Iraq a final opportunity for disarmament, "cannot reasonably be interpreted as authorizing individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council's resolutions," and therefore did not constitute a mandate for the invasion. According to the committee, the government was too concerned with its alliance with the US and Britain and gave insufficient importance to information provided by intelligence agencies and weapons inspection reports, which gave little or no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Balkenende has rejected [RNW report] the report's criticism.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism over the legality of the Iraq War. According to a letter leaked to the British Iraq Inquiry [official website; BBC backgrounder], confirmed by the Daily Mail in November, former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [BBC profile] warned [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The July 2002 letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. The existence of this letter will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion. He and Goldsmith are likely to be witnesses for the inquiry in the near future.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

UK court begins first non-jury criminal trial
Sarah Paulsworth on January 12, 2010 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A UK court on Tuesday began the first non-jury criminal trial in England or Wales in more than 400 years. Defendants John Twomey, Peter Blake, Barry Hibberd, and Glen Cameron appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice, accused of armed robbery of £1.75m from the Menzies World Cargo Warehouse at Heathrow Airport in 2004. The decision [JURIST report] to conduct the trial without a jury was made in June by Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge. The ruling was the first application of a Criminal Justice Act 2003 [text] provision, which allows a court to hold a judge-only trial if there is "evidence of a real and present danger" that jury tampering may take place and it is determined that other measures to prevent tampering would be ineffective. Explaining his decision, Judge cited concerns about the expense of maintaining security for jurors and noted there have already been three aborted attempts to conduct this trial.

Some civil liberties groups have expressed concern [BBC report] that conducting a trial without a jury undermines a fundamental principle of justice. Analysts question if one judge can be as objective as 12 jurors, and also wonder if this move casts doubt on the court system's ability to provide security for jurors in general. The law allowing for judge-only trials in both cases of jury tampering and fraud was passed [Guardian backgrounder] in 2003 and came into effect in 2007. It had earlier been rejected [JURIST report] by the House of Lords before undergoing revisions.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Lawyers for ex-Guantanamo detainee argue for dismissal of charges due to trial delay
Ann Riley on January 12, 2010 11:39 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] argued Monday that the charges against their client should be dismissed. Ghailani's lawyers argued before Judge Louis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] that he was denied the right to a speedy trial while being detained for nearly five years in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] secret prisons and later at Guantanamo Bay. The prosecution countered that the delay was reasonable, as Ghailani was held as an intelligence asset, and his interrogation did not violate his constitutional right to a speedy trial. According to the defense's November motion [text, PDF; JURIST report], national security concerns should never "trump a defendant's Constitutional right to a Speedy Trial." The prosecution argued in its December response [text] that, "[t]he Government had unusual but highly compelling reasons for its treatment of the defendant, which had the effect of delaying his case. ... It is a case where the Government reasonably sought to defend the country from a profound and novel threat."

Ghailani faces charges for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 people. In November, a federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF] that Ghailani does not have a right to be represented by his military defense lawyers [JURIST report] in a civilian court. In July, Ghailani's military lawyers requested access [JURIST report] to the CIA "black sites" at which their client was held prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay and was allegedly subjected to cruel interrogation methods. Ghailani was the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the SDNY in June to face 286 separate counts, including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Taiwan ex-president Chen to be tried in closed-door proceedings Friday
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 12, 2010 11:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A Taiwanese court said Monday that former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will be tried Friday in closed-door proceedings. The High Court said that proceedings, set for 9:30 AM Friday, would be closed to the media [Xinhua report] under secrecy regulations. Chen was indicted [JURIST report] in September on corruption charges relating to funds he received while traveling abroad as president. He is accused of embezzling USD $330,000. Chen has maintained his innocence, claiming that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website; JURIST news archive] is using Chen's trial to distance himself from Chen's anti-China views.

Chen, who served as president of Taiwan from 2000-2008, and his wife have been serving life sentences [JURIST report] since September, when they were found guilty of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery, and money laundering. Taiwan's Constitutional Court [official website, in Chinese] dismissed an appeal [JURIST report] in October, in which Chen claimed that his constitutional rights were violated when judges were replaced during the proceedings against him. Last month, Chen, along with his wife and 20 other family members and prominent business leaders, was indicted [JURIST report] on additional charges of corruption and money laundering in relation to Chen's financial reform program. Chen and his wife are accused of taking bribes from banks and financial institutions that sought to protect themselves during the reform.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court reverses Sixth Circuit in federal habeas case
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 12, 2010 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Smith v. Spisak [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that 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. In reversing the decision below, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:


The Court of Appeals held the sentencing instructions unconstitutional because, in its view, the instructions, taken together with the forms, "require[d]" juror "unanimity as to the presence of a mitigating factor" - contrary to this Court's holding in Mills v. Maryland. Since the parties do not dispute that the Ohio courts "adjudicated" this claim, i.e., they considered and rejected it "on the merits," the law permits a federal court to reach a contrary decision only if the state-court decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Unlike the Court of Appeals, we conclude that Spisak's claim does not satisfy this standard.

Justice John Paul Stevens joined part of the opinion and filed a separate concurrence. Stevens would have found that the Appeals Court "correctly concluded that two errors that occurred during Spisak's trial violated clearly established federal law," but agreed with the Court that the errors did not prejudice the defendant.

In 1983, Spisak was convicted of three murders and two attempted murders, and he was sentenced to death. When the Ohio courts denied his appeals, he filed a petition for federal habeas relief. He argued both improper jury instructions and ineffective assistance of counsel claims.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

'Toronto 18' member pleads not guilty to terrorism charges
Andrea Bottorff on January 12, 2010 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A member of the "Toronto 18" [Toronto Star backgrounder; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty in a Canadian court on Monday for his alleged role in a failed 2006 terrorist plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange and government buildings. Shareef Abdelhaleem, the first adult of the group to be tried, allegedly planned to profit from the attacks [Toronto Star report] by investing in and selling particular stock before the bombings. A key witness in the case, Shaher Elsoheny, left a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) [official website] witness protection program to testify against his old classmate, Abdelhaleem. Elsoheny worked as a police informant and provided intelligence [National Post report] against Abdelhaleem and others that eventually led to the arrests. Abdelhaleem's lawyer argued that his client was entrapped by Elsoheny, who was allegedly paid millions of dollars [Globe and Mail report] by the RCMP for his assistance in the investigation.

The accused leader of the terrorist group, Zakaria Amara, pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in October to charges of planning to bomb three targets in Ontario. The same month, another 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. In September, 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 for time already served. The first of the suspects to be convicted under Canada's post-9/11 terrorism law was sentenced and released [JURIST reports] in May, with the court citing time 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.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

New Jersey legislature approves medical marijuana bill
Megan McKee on January 12, 2010 8:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The New Jersey Legislature [official website] on Monday approved a bill [text, PDF] that would legalize medical marijuana [JURIST news archive]. The legislation would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana [NYT report] to patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis, which would be distributed through state-monitored dispensaries. Nonetheless, the measure is among the nation's stricter [NPR report] medical marijuana laws, as it limits use to patients with specific types of severe chronic illnesses and forbids patients to grown their own marijuana or to use it in public. Despite some controversy, the bill passed easily in both houses, with a vote of 48-14 in the General Assembly and 25-13 in the State Senate. Democratic Governor Jon Corzine [official website] is set to sign the bill before leaving office next Tuesday, and it is expected to take effect within nine months.

This legislation would make New Jersey the fourteenth US state to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion [proposed legislation, PDF] of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine became the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. In October, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. Ending such raids was one of President Barack Obama's campaign promises [Boston Globe report], a view that differed sharply from the policy of the Bush administration.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Navy SEALs accused of assaulting prisoner to be tried on US military base in Iraq
Hillary Stemple on January 12, 2010 8:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military judge ruled Monday that the trials for two Navy SEALs [official website] accused in the alleged assault of an Iraqi prisoner will be held on a US military base in Iraq in order for the alleged victim to be questioned in court. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas are accused of assisting in a cover-up of the alleged assault of Ahmed Hashim Abed after his capture in September. A third SEAL, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, is accused of assaulting Abed after his capture as well as assisting in the cover-up of the assault. Abed is suspected of organizing the 2004 ambush and killing of four US contractors in Fallujah [BBC report]. A hearing has tentatively been scheduled [CP report] for Wednesday to determine if McCabe's trial should also be moved to Iraq. Keene and Huertas will face trial in April, while a trial date has not yet been set for McCabe. All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Detainee abuse has been a major issue during the occupation of Iraq. In September 2008, the UK Defense Ministry admitted that soldiers unlawfully abused [JURIST report] detainees. In August of that year, six US sailors were charged [JURIST report] with allegedly abusing detainees at the Camp Bucca [backgrounder] prison facility in Southern Iraq. Abuse of detainees during the Iraq War [JURIST news archive] first garnered international attention after the 2004 release of pictures depicting prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Iraq.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

India chief justice proposes constitutional court
Jay Carmella on January 12, 2010 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan [official profile] proposed on Saturday the creation of a new constitutional court to review matters relating to the Indian Constitution [text] and other federal issues. Balakrishnan also suggested [The Hindu report] the creation of a television channel that would exclusively cover the Supreme Court of India [official website; JURIST news archive], similar to the channel that currently covers the Indian Parliament. The channel would provide the people with a better understanding of what judges do and at the same time make judges more accountable for their decisions. The proposed constitutional court would be similar to the system in South Africa, and would help ease the Supreme Court's load as more appeals are filed.

The suggestions of the television channel and an increase in transparency in the court come as the Supreme Court faces criticism for judicial accountability. In November, judges of the Supreme Court voluntarily made public disclosures [JURIST report] of their financial assets [list]. Despite the release, Transparency International [advocacy website] questioned the benefit of disclosure when there is no way to confirm that it is entirely accurate, given the announcement that the judges will not entertain any queries or scrutiny [CJAR press release, PDF] of assets listed. In August, the judges made the decision [JURIST report] to go public with their assets, despite not being required to do so by Indian law.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Second Circuit hears appeal to dismiss apartheid lawsuits against US companies
Jay Carmella on January 12, 2010 7:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] heard arguments on Monday in an appeal by multi-national corporations accused of assisting the South African government during the apartheid-era [JURIST new archive]. The corporations, which include IBM, Ford Motor Co., Daimler and General Motors Corp. [corporate websites], are accused of aiding the human rights abuses committed by the South African government by continuing to do business with the country, despite knowledge that their products were being used to support apartheid. The court will first determine [AFP report] whether it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The corporations argue the case should be dismissed because they cannot be held responsible for crimes committed by the South African government. The lawsuit was brought by South African plaintiffs under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [text].

In April, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] denied [JURIST report] the corporations' motion to dismiss the case. Despite initial opposition to the complaint over potential harm to relations with the US and foreign investment in the country, the South African government now supports the action. In 2008, the US Supreme Court [official website] affirmed a Second Circuit judgment on the rare grounds that it lacked quorum [JURIST report], thus sending the case back to the SDNY. The Second Circuit's decision allowed the ATCA action to go forward to trial [JURIST report], but had dismissed additional claims filed under the Torture Victims Protection Act [text].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court hears arguments in interstate radioactive waste disposal suit
Jaclyn Belczyk on January 11, 2010 3:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Monday in two cases. In Alabama v. North Carolina [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on an interstate dispute over the disposal of radioactive waste. The dispute centers on an agreement, entered into by eight southern states in 1986, for the disposal of the region's low-level radioactive waste. Under the agreement, North Carolina was selected to construct a facility for waste disposal and received financial assistance to that end. However, North Carolina did not obtain a license for the facility and subsequently withdrew from the compact. The four remaining states that are still parties to the agreement brought suit against North Carolina in the Supreme Court seeking enforcement of monetary sanctions. The Court has original jurisdiction over the dispute and agreed to hear the suit in 2003. Both parties were arguing Monday for exceptions to the reports of the special master [preliminary report, PDF; second report, PDF]. Counsel for the plaintiffs argued that, contrary to the special master's reports, they should be entitled to summary judgment:

North Carolina breached the Southeast Compact in this case. Whether you examine it from the perspective of the sanctions that were imposed by the commission or whether you evaluate it from the perspective of the repeated statements by the executives of the commission that there had been a material breach and a repudiation, or whether you examine it from the perspective of the undisputed record that was collected by the special master, the conclusion it seems to me is inescapable that what North Carolina did here by taking no action between December 1997 and July of 1996 simply does not fulfill the responsibilities that they had, that North Carolina had assumed, and therefore the only issue should be what is the appropriate remedy for this extraordinary breach?
Counsel for North Carolina argued that the compact is "based on a consensual model, where it - each - each state can withdraw and therefore the compact has to be in the rough financial interest of each of the States at any point in time."

In Briscoe v. Virginia [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether a state violates the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment [text] by allowing a prosecutor to introduce a certificate of a forensic laboratory analysis without presenting the testimony of the analyst who prepared the certificate. The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that there was no Confrontation Clause violation because the accused has a right to call the analyst as his own witness. Just last term, the Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] 5-4 in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a forensic analyst's laboratory report is testimonial evidence under the Confrontation Clause, giving criminal defendants a right to cross-examine the analysts. Counsel for the petitioners urged the Court not to reverse that decision:
We ask the Court in this case to take no new ground beyond that established just last term in the Melendez-Diaz case, but the stakes of this case are high. If the Court were to reverse Melendez-Diaz and hold that a State may impose on the defendant the burden of calling a prosecution witness to the stand, it would severely impair the confrontation right and threaten a fundamental transformation in the way Anglo-American trials have been conducted for hundreds of years.
Counsel for the state of Virginia argued that the defendants' rights are adequately protected if the defendant is able to call the witness.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Russia law allowing house arrest to reduce prison population takes effect
Patrice Collins on January 11, 2010 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A Russian law allowing minor offenders to serve their sentences under house arrest rather than in prison entered into force on Sunday. The bill, approved [Moscow Times report] by the Russian State Duma [official website; in Russian] last month and signed [RIA Novosti report] by President Dmitri Medvedev [official profile], is aimed at reducing the number of inmates in Russia's overcrowded prison system. Individuals charged with minor offenses will be able to serve between two months and four years confined in their homes, while courts will be allowed to utilize house arrest as part of a defendant's probationary period. Individuals sentenced to house arrest will be monitored by electronic bracelets with GPS tracking devices. Among other restrictions, those convicted will have to notify authorities before changing their place of residency or job.

Russia has the second largest prison population [list, PDF] per capita in the world, superseded only by the US, where prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive] continues to be a problem. Last month, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections [official website] said that the state will begin transferring prisoners out of state to reduce the prison population. In 2006, California also began transferring [JURIST report] prisoners out of state. California is currently under a federal court order [JURIST report] to reduce its prison population from 190 percent to 137.5 percent by 2011. In November, the California government submitted a revised plan [JURIST report] for reducing its prison population that includes revisions made possible because of legislative enactments, such as summary parole for lower-level offenses to reduce the amount of inmates re-entering the prison system for parole violations and credit-earning enhancements to reduce time served.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

California federal court begins Proposition 8 trial
Steve Dotterer on January 11, 2010 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A trial on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 [text] same-sex marriage [JURIST archive] ban commenced Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. Proceedings included opening statements from lead attorneys and testimony [San Jose Mercury News report] from plaintiffs seeking the right to marry their same-sex partners. Judge Vaughn Walker, who is presiding over the Proposition 8 trial, ruled [JURIST report] in October that the case could be heard in federal court. Walker has said the trial is necessary to ascertain the level of constitutional protection granted to same-sex couples. Testimony is expected to continue for several weeks.

Because of the explosive impact the trial could have on same-sex marriage rights in the US, the start of the trial has engendered controversy over the broadcast of the proceedings. Earlier Monday, the US Supreme Court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the broadcast of the trial on the video-sharing site YouTube. The Court's decision overruled Judge Walker's earlier deicision [JURIST report] to allow the trial to be recorded and posted on the District Court's YouTube channel. Proposition 8's supporters have argued that the trial's broadcast could lead to witness intimidation. Proposition 8 was approved [JURIST report] by California voters in November 2008.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court temporarily blocks YouTube broadcast of Proposition 8 trial
Carrie Schimizzi on January 11, 2010 12:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday temporarily blocked [order, PDF] an order allowing delayed video coverage of the Proposition 8 trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] ban to be posted on YouTube. The court's decision to grant the stay overrules an order by Judge Vaughn Walker of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], who last week ruled [JURIST report] the trial could be recorded and posted on the court's YouTube channel. The block on posting coverage of the trial, which begins Monday in federal court in San Francisco, will remain in place until Wednesday, giving the justices additional time to weigh the issue. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, writing that he "would undertake that consideration without a temporary
stay in place."

Supporters of Proposition 8 have objected to the controversial decision to broadcast the trial proceedings, claiming it would result in witness intimidation. The YouTube broadcast of the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger [case materials], is allowed under an experimental program approved by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] last month that allows cameras in civil, non-jury cases. Also last month, the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex marriage proponents cannot access Proposition 8 supporters' internal campaign communications. The court denied disclosure of the documents on First Amendment [text] grounds, reversing a decision by Walker. Proposition 8 was approved [JURIST report] by California voters in November 2008.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Denmark prosecutors add terrorism charge in Muhammad cartoonist attempted killing
Megan McKee on January 11, 2010 11:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Danish prosecutors on Monday brought an additional charge of terrorism against the Somali man already charged with the attempted murders of Kurt Westergaard, illustrator of the controversial 2005 cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] as a suicide bomber, and a police officer. The man, who remains unnamed, is said to have broken into Westergaard's home with an axe and a knife, in what is believed to be an assassination attempt [Reuters report]. Police on the scene shot and wounded the man and arrested him after he threw the axe, narrowly missing an officer. Westergaard remained unharmed. Denmark's police intelligence suggest the attempted murder was terror-related and claim the man has ties [Times report] to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] and the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder]. Danish law permits certain crimes carried out with the intent of terrorism to carry a penalty of life in prison. The terrorism charge is yet to be heard by a court. The man has denied the charges of attempted murder.

Westergaard's 2005 picture of the Muhammad was one of a series of caricatures published by a Danish newspaper that infuriated Muslims around the world. Many Muslims consider depictions of Muhammad offensive, and when other newspapers reprinted the caricatures in 2006 it triggered violence in several countries, leading to multiple deaths, the burning of Danish embassy buildings [JURIST reports], and boycotts of Danish goods. In 2006, a Danish court dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by Muslim organizations against the two editors of the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of Muhammad. The plaintiffs sued Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose for defamation and sought more than $16,000 in damages. The City Court in Aerhus held that while some Muslims may have been offended by the cartoons, there was no reason to believe the editors intended to "belittle Muslims."






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Rwanda report finds Hutus responsible for 1994 killing that sparked genocide
Ann Riley on January 11, 2010 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The Rwandan government [official website] released a report [text, PDF] Monday concluding that the 1994 assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana [Britannica profile] was the work of Hutu extremists. An independent committee of experts found that Hutu extremists, including members of the president's own family, were opposed to the 1993 Arusha Accords [text, PDF], a power-sharing agreement supported by Habyarimana, designed to end his 20-year monopoly on power. The report asserts that Hutus used the assassination as a pretext for the 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in which more than 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, were killed in the span on 100 days. The report states that:


Members of the president's inner circle ... viewed the Accords as an existential threat to a Hutu-dominated Rwanda as well has their own political and economic standing. These men were not simply opposed to a reconciliation process; they were committed to the wholesale extermination of Tutsis. By the spring of 1994, they had the means, motive and opportunity to act ... and they did.

The committee's findings are consistent with conclusions of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) [official website] that the parties responsible for bringing down the plane were Hutus.

The committee of experts was established [JURIST report] by Rwanda's Tutsi President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] in April 2007 to investigate the downing of the plane carrying the Hutu leader. In 2006, the Rwandan government also began a probe [JURIST report] into accusations that France assisted a Hutu massacre of Tutsis. In 2006, a French anti-terrorism judge recommended [JURIST report] that Kagame stand trial for the death of Habyarimana. Kagame denied any involvement. As of May 2009, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive], established for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law during the Rwandan genocide, has rendered judgments or has trials underway [completion strategy report, PDF] for 68 suspects, with six suspects awaiting trials, one retrial, and 13 fugitives.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Supreme Court rules habeas reviews cannot consider non-record evidence
Andrew Morgan on January 11, 2010 11:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] in McDaniel v. Brown [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a federal district court may not consider non-record evidence when conducting a sufficiency review of evidence during federal habeas corpus proceedings. In a per curiam opinion, the Court found that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred when it allowed consideration [opinion, PDF] of a report detailing statistical errors [NYT backgrounder] in DNA evidence against the defendant submitted 11 years after the trial as part of a habeas petition under the sufficiency-of-the-evidence standard announced in Jackson v. Virginia [opinion text].


We have stated before that "DNA testing can provide powerful new evidence unlike anything known before." ... Given the persuasiveness of such evidence in the eyes of the jury, it is important that it be presented in a fair and reliable manner. The State acknowledges that [the prosecution witness] committed the prosecutor's fallacy ... and the Mueller Report suggests that [the witness's] testimony may have been inaccurate regarding the likelihood of a match with one of respondent's brothers. Regardless, ample DNA and non-DNA evidence in the record adduced at trial supported the jury's guilty verdict under Jackson[.]

The Court noted that even if the Court of Appeals were permitted to consider the post-conviction report, it committed an "egregious" error by excluding all DNA evidence from sufficiency consideration.

Addressing the issue of post-conviction use of DNA evidence last June, the Court ruled [JURIST report] in District Attorney's Office v. Osborne [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a defendant does not have the right to obtain access to the state’s biological evidence in order to do DNA testing.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Iran chief prosecutor urges sedition trials for election protest leaders
Andrew Morgan on January 11, 2010 10:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran's Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei [GlobalSecurity profile] on Monday called for sedition trials against leaders of protests following last June's contested presidential election [JURIST news archive]. In a statement to Tehran prosecutors [Reuters report], Ejei said that he supported calls by religious and civil authorities to try those who led anti-government protests for "mohareb,"or warring against God, which is punishable by execution. In a letter [text, in Persian] addressed to the Iranian people, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi [NYT profile] said that he would not be deterred [AFP report] from continuing to push for reform by threats of prosecution. On Sunday, an Iranian parliamentary committee released [Mehr report] the results of an investigation into claims by Karroubi that those arrested during the protests were subject to sexual abuse while in custody. Although the committee found no convincing evidence of sexual abuse, it did fault former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi for sending detainees to Kahrizak prison, where they were subject to beatings, cramped conditions, and ill treatment that resulted in the deaths of at least three detainees.

The Iranian government has faced significant international scrutiny for its handling of the post-election protests and treatment of thousands arrested as a result. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] labeled [JURIST report] human rights violations committed by the Iranian government following the election among the worst of the past 20 years. In September, human rights groups called for [JURIST report] the UN General Assembly [official website] to appoint a special envoy to investigate allegations of rights violations. Alleged human rights abuses of detainees include sexual assault, beatings, and forced confessions [JURIST reports].






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Italy authorities evacuate African immigrants following violence
Hillary Stemple on January 11, 2010 9:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Police in the southern Italian town of Rosarno began evacuating hundreds of African immigrants Saturday, following three days of violence that began Thursday when a group of immigrants was attacked while returning from the farms where they worked. The attack sparked rioting [NYT report] among the immigrant population and resulted in property damage as well as injuries to more than 50 immigrants and police officers. The evacuated immigrants were sent to detention centers around Italy and face deportation if they lack regular residence permits [Reuters report]. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [official profile, in Italian] praised the police response in returning order to the area. A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration in Italy [advocacy website] indicated that the events had pulled the issue of illegal immigration into the forefront.

Illegal immigration is a growing problem [BBC report] in Italy, where about 36,000 illegal immigrants arrived by boat in 2008. In July, Italy's Senate passed a law [JURIST report] making illegal immigration a crime. Italy's Chamber of Deputies approved the bill [JURIST report] in May. The law has been opposed by both the Catholic Church and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. In November 2008, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] about Italy's treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Israel to build barrier along Egypt border to combat terrorism, illegal immigration
Dwyer Arce on January 11, 2010 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website; BBC profile] on Sunday announced [press release] the construction of 70 miles of fence along Israel's border with Egypt in order to combat terrorism and illegal immigration. In explaining the purpose for the barrier, which has an estimated cost of more than $400 million USD, Netanyahu explained:


I decided to close Israel's southern border to infiltrators and terrorists after prolonged discussions with Government ministries and professional elements. This is a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. Israel will remain open to war refugees but we cannot allow thousands of illegal workers to infiltrate into Israel via the southern border and flood our country.

Israeli police estimate [Guardian report] that 100 to 200 African migrants enter the country illegally every week from Egypt, mainly in search of employment. The fence is expected to run 30 miles southeast from the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], and 30 miles northwest from the southern port city of Eilat. The gap between the two, around 100 miles in length, will be monitored [Haaretz report] by advanced surveillance equipment and radar. The influx of non-Jewish migrants into Israel has caused unease [NYT report] among Jewish Israelis, a group which comprises three-fourths of the Israeli population and wants to maintain the country as the world's only Jewish-majority state.

Netanyahu's announcement comes in the wake of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Egyptian authorities last week over the delay of an aid convoy from Al-Arish, Egypt and an attempt to close off the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Under pressure from the US and Israel, Egypt has begun construction of an underground barrier to prevent tunneling by smugglers. As much as 60 percent of Israel's borders are closed by physical barriers [Al Jazeera report], including its borders with neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, the Gaza Strip, and most of the West Bank. The construction of a barrier between Israel proper and the West Bank commenced in 2002, and has continued despite an advisory opinion issued [JURIST report] by the International Court of Justice [official website] in 2004 declaring the wall illegal under international law, and numerous domestic legal challenges [JURIST report]. In 2008, The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] ruled that the government must change the proposed route [JURIST report] for its West Bank security barrier, finding that the current plan encroaches too much on Palestinian territory.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

US officials concealed details of immigrant deaths in detention: NYT
Jay Carmella on January 10, 2010 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The details surrounding the deaths of several individuals inside US immigration detention centers were intentionally concealed, the New York Times (NYT) reported [text] Saturday. The NYT, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], gathered information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] pertaining to more than 100 deaths that have occurred in the detention facilities since 2003. The NYT discovered that government officials had made deliberate attempts to conceal information from the media and the public, despite the Obama administration's promises to increase the transparency of such organizations. As a result, investigations have been conducted by the US Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official websites]. According to the NYT, such internal investigations provide further support that the culture of secrecy has continued in the current administration.

In the face of criticism, the Obama administration has taken steps in recent months to improve conditions for immigrant detainees. Last month, reports [JURIST report] from the Constitution Project and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] indicated that the US immigration detention and transfer policies unnecessarily interfere with detainees' rights to counsel and procedural fairness. In November, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that the Obama administration will push for immigration reform legislation early next year. In August, the ICE acknowledged [JURIST report] that 11 deaths in immigration detention centers had gone unreported. The admission came just a week after the ICE announced [JURIST report] that large-scale changes to the immigration detention system would take place.






Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

ACLU files suit against Library of Congress on behalf of ex-Guantanamo prosecutor
Jay Carmella on January 10, 2010 1:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] on Friday against the Library of Congress [official website] on behalf Col. Morris Davis [official profile, PDF], the former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions [JURIST news archive]. Davis, who was employed at Library's Congressional Research Service (CRS) [official website], resigned as the military commissions' chief prosecutor in October 2007. Following his recognition, Davis became an outspoken critic of the commissions, including writing articles, giving speeches, and testifying before Congress that the system is fundamentally flawed. In the lawsuit, the ACLU alleges that Davis was terminated due to opinion pieces about the commissions. The ACLU believes that the discharge violates Davis's rights of free speech and due process. The complaint says:


Col. Davis now brings this Complaint for violation of his First and Fifth Amendment rights, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, including reinstatement to his Assistant Director position, and damages.

The ACLU sent a letter to the Library of Congress in December seeking the reinstatement of Davis. The Library denied the request.

In October 2007, Davis said [JURIST report] that he was pressured to use classified evidence against defendants. He claimed that the push to use classified evidence stemmed from certain military officials' desire to keep the trials closed. This issue played a role in his resignation [JURIST report] earlier in October 2007. Davis complained that the officer who served as legal adviser should not have been supervising his work.





Link | | subscribe | RSS feeds | latest newscast | archive | Facebook page

Afghanistan authorities commit to taking over former Bagram detention facility
Ximena Marinero on January 10, 2010 12:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Afghan officials on Saturday signed [press release] a memorandum of understanding to delineate the process through which Af