April 2010 Archives


Former Pennsylvania judge pleads guilty in juvenile sentencing scandal
Michael Kraemer on April 30, 2010 4:36 PM ET

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[JURIST] Former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan pleaded guilty Thursday on charges of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which he had a financial interest. The former president judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] pleaded guilty [Philadelphia Inquirer report] to one count of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Conahan also faces a fine of no more than $250,000 and disbarment. He will be sentenced by Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website], who previously rejected [NYT report] joint plea agreements [text, PDF] from Conahan and former judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., finding that plea bargaining to honest services fraud and tax evasion charges demonstrated that the men did not accept responsibility and that the disbarment and 87-month prison sentences were too lenient [JURIST op-ed]. An attorney for Ciavarella said that he plans to go to trial.

As part of an ongoing public corruption investigation, US Attorney Dennis Pfannenschmidt announced earlier this month that a twenty-eighth person has been charged [press release] with soliciting and receiving bribes and gratuities in connection with the scandal. Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll [official website] agreed in January to drop efforts to retry 46 juveniles whose original convictions were overturned [JURIST reports] because they had been issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. This decision ended 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. In October, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned about 6,500 convictions handed down by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, but gave prosecutors permission to seek retrial of more than 100 youths who were still under court supervision. Conahan and Ciavarella were indicted in September, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas [JURIST reports] they entered in February 2009.




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DOJ opens criminal investigation into Goldman Sachs: report
Jonathan Cohen on April 30, 2010 4:25 PM ET

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[JURIST] Law enforcement officials on Thursday told the Wall Street Journal [media website] that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is opening a criminal investigation [WSJ report] of Goldman, Sachs & Co. [corporate website] for possible securities fraud in mortgage trading. Two weeks ago, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website; JURIST news archive] filed civil charges [JURIST report; WSJ backgrounder] against Goldman Sachs. While the SEC referred the case to the DOJ, the criminal case will focus on different evidence. It is not certain yet whether criminal charges will be filed against Goldman Sachs.

The German government announced [JURIST report] that it was considering legal action against Goldman Sachs just two days after the SEC filed a civil suit [complaint, PDF] against the bank. The SEC complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], alleges that Goldman made misleading statements and omissions to investors in early 2007 in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 [text, PDF] and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. Goldman's alleged conduct in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) [Investopedia backgrounder] to investors lies at the core of the controversy. Goldman responded [press release] to the allegations by denying all wrongdoing. The SEC is seeking "injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, civil penalties and other appropriate and necessary equitable relief from both defendants," remedies considered appropriate in securities fraud cases.




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Khadr boycotts preliminary hearing over mistreatment allegations
Hillary Stemple on April 30, 2010 4:24 PM ET

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[JURIST] Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] on Friday refused for the second straight day to attend preliminary hearings relating to his pending murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report], claiming he is being mistreated by military guards. On Thursday, Khadr refused to attend the proceedings, stating [WP report] that the blackout goggles required by military protocol were aggravating an eye conditions which needed medical attention. Khadr did appear for hearings on Thursday afternoon after Judge Patrick Parrish indicated he would be brought by force if he did not present himself willingly. Khadr did not attend Friday's hearings after refusing to submit to a search prior to being transported. He contends that the search was meant to intimidate and humiliate him. Parrish indicated that he would not question security protocols and ruled that Friday's proceedings would continue without Khadr because he had voluntarily chosen not to attend. This week's hearings are being held in order to determine if statements made by Khadr during his interrogation should be suppressed [JURIST report]. They are to be the last preliminary hearings before his US military commission [JURIST news archive] trial in July.

Khadr's lawyers filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] in February in the Federal Court of Canada [official website] challenging the decision of the Canadian government not to seek his repatriation from the United States [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] in January that the government was not obligated to seek Khadr's return to Canada despite having violated his rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade [JURIST report] that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan.




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DOJ opens criminal investigation into Goldman Sachs: report
Jonathan Cohen on April 30, 2010 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Law enforcement officials on Thursday told the Wall Street Journal [media website] that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is opening a criminal investigation [WSJ report] of Goldman, Sachs & Co. [corporate website] for possible securities fraud in mortgage trading. Two weeks ago, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website; JURIST news archive] filed civil charges [JURIST report; WSJ backgrounder] against Goldman Sachs. While the SEC referred the case to the DOJ, the criminal case will focus on different evidence. It is not certain yet whether criminal charges will be filed against Goldman Sachs.

The German government announced [JURIST report] that it was considering legal action against Goldman Sachs just two days after the SEC filed a civil suit [complaint, PDF] against the bank. The SEC complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], alleges that Goldman made misleading statements and omissions to investors in early 2007 in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 [text, PDF] and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. Goldman's alleged conduct in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) [Investopedia backgrounder] to investors lies at the core of the controversy. Goldman responded [press release] to the allegations by denying all wrongdoing. The SEC is seeking "injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, civil penalties and other appropriate and necessary equitable relief from both defendants," remedies considered appropriate in securities fraud cases.






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Khadr boycotts preliminary hearing over mistreatment allegations
Hillary Stemple on April 30, 2010 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] on Friday refused for the second straight day to attend preliminary hearings relating to his pending murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report], claiming he is being mistreated by military guards. On Thursday, Khadr refused to attend the proceedings, stating [WP report] that the blackout goggles required by military protocol were aggravating an eye conditions which needed medical attention. Khadr did appear for hearings on Thursday afternoon after Judge Patrick Parrish indicated he would be brought by force if he did not present himself willingly. Khadr did not attend Friday's hearings after refusing to submit to a search prior to being transported. He contends that the search was meant to intimidate and humiliate him. Parrish indicated that he would not question security protocols and ruled that Friday's proceedings would continue without Khadr because he had voluntarily chosen not to attend. This week's hearings are being held in order to determine if statements made by Khadr during his interrogation should be suppressed [JURIST report]. They are to be the last preliminary hearings before his US military commission [JURIST news archive] trial in July.

Khadr's lawyers filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] in February in the Federal Court of Canada [official website] challenging the decision of the Canadian government not to seek his repatriation from the United States [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] in January that the government was not obligated to seek Khadr's return to Canada despite having violated his rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade [JURIST report] that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan.






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Germany high court rules Google images do not violate copyright laws
Hillary Stemple on April 30, 2010 3:09 PM ET

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[JURIST] Germany's Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] ruled Thursday that the use of thumbnail preview images pulled from websites by Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] is not a violation of copyright law. The original lawsuit was brought against Google by an artist who had images of her work pulled from her website and displayed on Google's image search index without her express permission. The court stated [press release, in German] that because the plaintiff had not used adequate protections on her website to block Google from pulling the data in question, she was implicitly agreeing to the use of her images by other websites. The court also indicated that in light of last month's ruling [JURIST report] at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] that, even if they had found that Google's use of the images constituted a violation of copyright law, Google would only have been liable for damages if someone posted the artist's images without her consent. Managing counsel for Google Germany, Arnd Haller, said [blog post] that with the court's ruling "News websites on the Internet, online providers of pictures and posters, artists, photographers, designers and many more who depend on the web for their livelihoods can go on using the service as a significant distribution platform."

The German copyright case was one of several pending against Google. Earlier this month, several visual artist organizations in the US filed a class action suit [JURIST report] alleging copyright infringement resulting from the company's book scanning project [Google books]. Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged a federal court to reject [JURIST report] the proposed class action settlements [Authors Guild backgrounder] in a separate copyright suit [case materials] between text authors and Google due to copyright and antitrust concerns. In February, a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] on the proposed settlement but did not indicate when a ruling can be expected.




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US prosecutors charge 2 New York residents with providing material support to al Qaeda
Jonathan Cohen on April 30, 2010 2:33 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US government on Friday charged [indictment, PDF] two Brooklyn men with conspiracy to provide material support [18 USC § 2339B materials] to al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The two men allegedly received at least $50,000 for providing al Qaeda with "computer advice and assistance, services, and currency," among other acts, between November 2007 and March 2010. The charges were filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has been advocating using the criminal justice system as a counter-terrorism tool [DOJ backgrounder].

In March, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] urged [JURIST report] the Obama administration to hold civilian trials for accused 9/11 conspirators, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archives]. The week before that, lawmakers introduced [JURIST report] a bill [text, PDF] that would require the military interrogation and trial of those taken into US custody who are suspected of links to terrorism. While the Obama administration is keeping the option of military commissions [JURIST news archives] open, JURIST contributing editor Jordan Paust [academic profile] has discussed the option of courts-martial as another option [JURIST op-ed] for prosecuting members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.




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US prosecutors charge 2 New York residents with providing material support to al Qaeda
Jonathan Cohen on April 30, 2010 2:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The US government on Friday charged [indictment, PDF] two Brooklyn men with conspiracy to provide material support [18 USC § 2339B materials] to al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The two men allegedly received at least $50,000 for providing al Qaeda with "computer advice and assistance, services, and currency," among other acts, between November 2007 and March 2010. The charges were filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has been advocating using the criminal justice system as a counter-terrorism tool [DOJ backgrounder].

In March, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Martin Scheinin [official website] urged [JURIST report] the Obama administration to hold civilian trials for accused 9/11 conspirators, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [JURIST news archives]. The week before that, lawmakers introduced [JURIST report] a bill [text, PDF] that would require the military interrogation and trial of those taken into US custody who are suspected of links to terrorism. While the Obama administration is keeping the option of military commissions [JURIST news archives] open, JURIST contributing editor Jordan Paust [academic profile] has discussed the option of courts-martial as another option [JURIST op-ed] for prosecuting members of al Qaeda and the Taliban.






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US House approves Puerto Rico status referendum bill
Dwyer Arce on April 30, 2010 2:28 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 223-169 [roll call] Thursday to approve legislation calling for a referendum on the status of Puerto Rico [BBC backgrounder]. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act [HR 2499 text, PDF] was introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D) [official website], Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to the House, and had 181 co-sponsors, including nearly 60 Republicans. The bill would establish a two-step referendum. The first step would ask voters in Puerto Rico, and those born on the island now living in the mainland US, whether they wanted to change the status of the island. If the option to change the island's status won, a second referendum would be held, giving voters the option of statehood, independence, "sovereignty in association with the United States," or maintaining the present status. Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno (R) [official website, in Spanish], along with the leaders of the territorial legislature, have expressed their support [CNS report] for the bill and eventual statehood. Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) [official website] described the bill [press release] as "disgraceful," and "designed to push the statehood agenda, regardless of whether that agenda is ... popular among the people." The vote would be non-binding, and any change to Puerto Rico's status would still require Congressional approval [AP report]. The bill still requires approval of the US Senate.

In 2008, the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico [campaign website, in Spanish], a pro-statehood party whose members primarily affiliate with the US Republican Party, won local elections by a wide margin, winning the offices of governor and resident commissioner and an absolute majority in the territorial legislature. In 2007, The UN Special Committee on Decolonization [official website] called on the US [press release] to quickly resolve the island's political status and release political prisoners. Puerto Ricans last voted on the status of the island in 1998 [results], with the "None of the Above" option winning 50.3 percent, statehood garnering 46.5 percent of the vote, and independence only 2.5 percent. Referendums were also held in 1993 and 1967 [results], in which maintaining the current political status won over statehood, and independence placed at a distant third. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, and its current political status was adopted in 1952, after Congress approved the Puerto Rican Constitution [text]. The constitution established the island as a US commonwealth, causing the UN General Assembly to remove [Resolution 748 text, PDF] the island's categorization as a "non-self governing territory." Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, and the island has been under US control since 1898.




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Germany high court rules Google images do not violate copyright laws
Hillary Stemple on April 30, 2010 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] ruled Thursday that the use of thumbnail preview images pulled from websites by Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] is not a violation of copyright law. The original lawsuit was brought against Google by an artist who had images of her work pulled from her website and displayed on Google's image search index without her express permission. The court stated [press release, in German] that because the plaintiff had not used adequate protections on her website to block Google from pulling the data in question, she was implicitly agreeing to the use of her images by other websites. The court also indicated that in light of last month's ruling [JURIST report] at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] that, even if they had found that Google's use of the images constituted a violation of copyright law, Google would only have been liable for damages if someone posted the artist's images without her consent. Managing counsel for Google Germany, Arnd Haller, said [blog post] that with the court's ruling "News websites on the Internet, online providers of pictures and posters, artists, photographers, designers and many more who depend on the web for their livelihoods can go on using the service as a significant distribution platform."

The German copyright case was one of several pending against Google. Earlier this month, several visual artist organizations in the US filed a class action suit [JURIST report] alleging copyright infringement resulting from the company's book scanning project [Google books]. Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged a federal court to reject [JURIST report] the proposed class action settlements [Authors Guild backgrounder] in a separate copyright suit [case materials] between text authors and Google due to copyright and antitrust concerns. In February, a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] on the proposed settlement but did not indicate when a ruling can be expected.






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Cambodia genocide court denies bail for 3 former Khmer Rouge officials
Zach Zagger on April 30, 2010 1:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Pre-Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Friday dismissed appeals [press release] by three former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] officials to block the extension of their provisional detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary, and Khieu Samphan [judgments, PDF], were arrested in November 2007 and originally held in one-year provisional detention, which has been extended twice for all three of them. They face charges [Bangkok Post report] of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture, and religious persecution, but the cases are still under investigation. The Pre-Trial chamber found in each case that "there is sufficient additional evidence in the case file to demonstrate that the case has progressed expeditiously" and that further detention while the investigation continues is reasonable given the "gravity and nature of the crimes" charged.

Ieng Sary [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was foreign minister during the Khmer Rouge regime, while his wife Ieng Thirith [Trial Watch profile; case materials] served as social affairs minister. Khieu Samphan [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was the head of state. Others have been charged in connection to Khmer Rouge, including former deputy leader and chief ideologist Nuon Chea [JURIST report]. In December, the ECCC heard final arguments [JURIST report] in its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Kaing was the first of eight [JURIST report] ex-Khmer Rouge officials to be tried before the ECCC. The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979.




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US House approves Puerto Rico status referendum bill
Dwyer Arce on April 30, 2010 12:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] voted 223-169 [roll call] Thursday to approve legislation calling for a referendum on the status of Puerto Rico [BBC backgrounder]. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act [HR 2499 text, PDF] was introduced by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D) [official website], Puerto Rico's nonvoting delegate to the House, and had 181 co-sponsors, including nearly 60 Republicans. The bill would establish a two-step referendum, the first of which would ask voters in Puerto Rico, and those born on the island now living in the mainland US, whether they wanted to change the status of the island. If the option to change the island's status won, a second referendum would be held, giving voters the option of statehood, independence, "sovereignty in association with the United States," or maintaining the present status. Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno (R) [official website, in Spanish], along with the leaders of the territorial legislature, have expressed their support [CNS report] for the bill and eventual statehood. Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) [official website] described the bill [press release] as "disgraceful," and "designed to push the statehood agenda, regardless of whether that agenda is ... popular among the people." The vote would be non-binding, and any change to Puerto Rico's status would still require Congressional approval [AP report]. The bill still requires approval of the US Senate.

In 2008, the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico [campaign website, in Spanish], a pro-statehood party whose members primarily affiliate with the US Republican Party, won local elections by a wide margin, winning the offices of governor and resident commissioner and an absolute majority in the territorial legislature. In 2007, The UN Special Committee on Decolonization [official website] called on the US [press release] to quickly resolve the island's political status and release political prisoners. Puerto Ricans last voted on the status of the island in 1998 [results], with the "None of the Above" option winning 50.3 percent, statehood garnering 46.5 percent of the vote, and independence only 2.5 percent. Referendums were also held in 1993 and 1967 [results], in which maintaining the current political status won over statehood, and independence placed at a distant third. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated US territory, and its current political status was adopted in 1952, after Congress approved the Puerto Rican Constitution [text]. The constitution established the island as a US commonwealth, causing the UN General Assembly to remove [Resolution 748 text, PDF] the island's categorization as a "non-self governing territory." Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, and the island has been under US control since 1898.






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France justice ministry rejects Noriega request to be treated as POW
Zach Zagger on April 30, 2010 11:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] The French Justice Ministry on Thursday denied a request from former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to be treated as a prisoner of war (POW). Noriega currently awaits trial in France on money laundering charges. Justice Ministry spokesperson Guillaume Didier said that Noriega will not be treated as a POW [AFP report] because the charges are based on breaches of common law not related to military service. Being treated as a POW would entitle Noriega to special treatment under the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder], but Guillaume says conditions of French prisons are consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions regardless. Noriega was already sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but under French law is entitled to a new trial.

Earlier this week, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said that his government will seek the Noriega's extradition [JURIST report] to face charges of human rights violations in Panama. Also this week, a French judge ruled that Noriega must remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. He had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. The US State Department had indicated that it was satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega was extradited to that country.




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Cambodia genocide court denies bail for 3 former Khmer Rouge officials
Zach Zagger on April 30, 2010 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The Pre-Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Friday dismissed appeals [press release] by three former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] officials to block the extension of their provisional detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary, and Khieu Samphan [judgments, PDF], were arrested in November 2007 and originally held in one-year provisional detention, which has been extended twice for all three of them. They face charges [Bangkok Post report] of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture, and religious persecution, but the cases are still under investigation. The Pre-Trial chamber found in each case that "there is sufficient additional evidence in the case file to demonstrate that the case has progressed expeditiously" and that further detention while the investigation continues is reasonable given the "gravity and nature of the crimes" charged.

Ieng Sary [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was foreign minister during the Khmer Rouge regime, while his wife Ieng Thirith [Trial Watch profile; case materials] served as social affairs minister. Khieu Samphan [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive] was the head of state. Others have been charged in connection to Khmer Rouge, including former deputy leader and chief ideologist Nuon Chea [JURIST report]. In December, the ECCC heard final arguments [JURIST report] in its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Kaing was the first of eight [JURIST report] ex-Khmer Rouge officials to be tried before the ECCC. The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979.






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Federal judge dismisses suit over order to remove headscarf in court
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 30, 2010 11:22 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion and order, PDF] a lawsuit against a Michigan judge who ordered a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf [JURIST news archive] in court. The suit [complaint, PDF] was filed in August by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] on behalf of Raneen Albaghdady against Judge William Callahan of the Wayne County Circuit Court. Callahan has a policy against hats in his courtroom, and when he asked Albaghdady to remove her headscarf, or hijab, she did so without objection. Judge Marianne Battani ruled:
This is not a situation where a government actor required removal of a hijab after the wearer asserted her First Amendment rights. There simply is no evidence that Callahan would have required the removal of a head covering if he had known of its religious significance. Although an individual present in the courtroom stated it was a scarf, no one mentioned it was a hijab. No one mentioned that removal would violate Albaghdady's religious beliefs. Plaintiffs lacks standing given the facts and circumstances upon which Albaghdady bases her claims. Because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Court dismisses this action in its entirety.
CAIR is considering filing an appeal [Detroit News report].

In August, the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] permitting lower courts to use "reasonable control" over the appearance of those who arrive in court, effectively allowing judges to ban certain religious clothing [JURIST report]. The court amended the Michigan Rules of Evidence [text, PDF], motivated by the 2006 case of Ginnah Muhammad. Muhammad had filed a suit in a Michigan small claims court where she was asked by Judge Paul Paruk to remove her niqab [JURIST news archive], a form of veil, so he could gauge her veracity. Muhammad refused, saying she would not take off her veil in front of a male judge, and her case was dismissed. Muhammad filed a federal lawsuit over the incident that was eventually dismissed [JURIST reports] in 2008. Also in 2008, a Muslim woman in Georgia was arrested and ordered to serve 10 days in jail [JURIST report] for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom.




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France justice ministry rejects Noriega request to be treated as POW
Zach Zagger on April 30, 2010 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] The French Justice Ministry on Thursday denied a request from former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to be treated as a prisoner of war (POW). Noriega currently awaits trial in France on money laundering charges. Justice Ministry spokesperson Guillaume Didier said that Noriega will not be treated as a POW [AFP report] because the charges are based on breaches of common law not related to military service. Being treated as a POW would entitle Noriega to special treatment under the Geneva Convention [ICRC backgrounder], but Guillaume says conditions of French prisons are consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions regardless. Noriega was already sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but under French law is entitled to a new trial.

Earlier this week, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said that his government will seek the Noriega's extradition [JURIST report] to face charges of human rights violations in Panama. Also this week, a French judge ruled that Noriega must remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. He had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. The US State Department had indicated that it was satisfied that France will treat Noriega as a POW [JURIST report] if Noriega was extradited to that country.






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Former Pennsylvania judge pleads guilty in juvenile sentencing scandal
Michael Kraemer on April 30, 2010 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan pleaded guilty Thursday on charges of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities in which he had a financial interest. The former president judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website] pleaded guilty [Philadelphia Inquirer report] to one count of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Conahan also faces a fine of no more than $250,000 and disbarment. He will be sentenced by Judge Edwin Kosik of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website], who previously rejected [NYT report] joint plea agreements [text, PDF] from Conahan and former judge Mark Ciavarella Jr., finding that plea bargaining to honest services fraud and tax evasion charges demonstrated that the men did not accept responsibility and that the disbarment and 87-month prison sentences were too lenient [JURIST op-ed]. An attorney for Ciavarella said that he plans to go to trial.

As part of an ongoing public corruption investigation, US Attorney Dennis Pfannenschmidt announced earlier this month that a twenty-eighth person has been charged [press release] with soliciting and receiving bribes and gratuities in connection with the scandal. Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll [official website] agreed in January to drop efforts to retry 46 juveniles whose original convictions were overturned [JURIST reports] because they had been issued by a judge indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged kickback scheme. This decision ended 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. In October, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania [official website] overturned about 6,500 convictions handed down by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, but gave prosecutors permission to seek retrial of more than 100 youths who were still under court supervision. Conahan and Ciavarella were indicted in September, following a withdrawal of the guilty pleas [JURIST reports] they entered in February 2009.






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Hawaii House approves same-sex civil unions
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 30, 2010 10:12 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Hawaii House of Representatives [official website] voted 31-20 Thursday to approve legislation [HB 444 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. The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the Senate [official website] in January, but the House vote was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report]. The bill will now go before Governor Linda Lingle (R) [official website], who has not yet indicated [Honolulu Advertiser report] whether she will sign it into law. She has until July 6 to reach a decision.

The state of Hawaii has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement since the 1990s [timeline]. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] ruled [case backgrounder] that the state must show a compelling reason to deny same-sex marriage, but, 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 Washington DC [JURIST reports]. Same-sex civil unions are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and Nevada [JURIST reports].




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Federal judge dismisses suit over order to remove headscarf in court
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 30, 2010 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion and order, PDF] a lawsuit against a Michigan judge who ordered a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf [JURIST news archive] in court. The suit [complaint, PDF] was filed in August by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] on behalf of Raneen Albaghdady against Judge William Callahan of the Wayne County Circuit Court. Callahan has a policy against hats in his courtroom, and when he asked Albaghdady to remove her headscarf, or hijab, she did so without objection. Judge Marianne Battani ruled:


This is not a situation where a government actor required removal of a hijab after the wearer asserted her First Amendment rights. There simply is no evidence that Callahan would have required the removal of a head covering if he had known of its religious significance. Although an individual present in the courtroom stated it was a scarf, no one mentioned it was a hijab. No one mentioned that removal would violate Albaghdady's religious beliefs. Plaintiffs lacks standing given the facts and circumstances upon which Albaghdady bases her claims. Because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Court dismisses this action in its entirety.

CAIR is considering filing an appeal [Detroit News report].

In August, the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] permitting lower courts to use "reasonable control" over the appearance of those who arrive in court, effectively allowing judges to ban certain religious clothing [JURIST report]. The court amended the Michigan Rules of Evidence [text, PDF], motivated by the 2006 case of Ginnah Muhammad. Muhammad had filed a suit in a Michigan small claims court where she was asked by Judge Paul Paruk to remove her niqab [JURIST news archive], a form of veil, so he could gauge her veracity. Muhammad refused, saying she would not take off her veil in front of a male judge, and her case was dismissed. Muhammad filed a federal lawsuit over the incident that was eventually dismissed [JURIST reports] in 2008. Also in 2008, a Muslim woman in Georgia was arrested and ordered to serve 10 days in jail [JURIST report] for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom.





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Hawaii House approves same-sex civil unions
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 30, 2010 8:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The Hawaii House of Representatives [official website] voted 31-20 Thursday to approve legislation [HB 444 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. The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the Senate [official website] in January, but the House vote was postponed indefinitely [JURIST report]. The bill will now go before Governor Linda Lingle (R) [official website], who has not yet indicated [Honolulu Advertiser report] whether she will sign it into law. She has until July 6 to reach a decision.

The state of Hawaii has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement since the 1990s [timeline]. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] ruled [case backgrounder] that the state must show a compelling reason to deny same-sex marriage, but, 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 Washington DC [JURIST reports], pending Congressional inaction. Same-sex civil unions are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and Nevada [JURIST reports].






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Lawsuits challenge Arizona immigration law
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 5:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] Two lawsuits were filed Tuesday challenging Arizona's new immigration law, which makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to question anyone whose immigration status appears suspect. Arizona police officer Martin Escobar filed suit [complaint text] in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website], alleging that SB 1070 [materials] is unconstitutional and could hamper police investigations. A second suit was filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) [advocacy website], which argues that the legislation is preempted by federal law. Also Thursday, several advocacy groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites] formally announced their intention to challenge [press release] the bill.

The bill, signed into law [JURIST report] last week by Governor Jan Brewer, has caused intense controversy. Earlier this week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, Spanish] strongly criticized [JURIST report] Arizona's new immigration law, claiming that the measure opens the door to intolerance and hatred. US President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report], calling for federal immigration reform. Under the law, it is designated a crime [AP report] to be in the country illegally, and immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500.




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Lawsuits challenge Arizona immigration law
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Two lawsuits were filed Tuesday challenging Arizona's new immigration law, which makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to question anyone whose immigration status appears suspect. Arizona police officer Martin Escobar filed suit [complaint text] in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website], alleging that SB 1070 [materials] is unconstitutional and could hamper police investigations. A second suit was filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) [advocacy website], which argues that the legislation is preempted by federal law. Also Thursday, several advocacy groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites] formally announced their intention to challenge [press release] the bill.

The bill, signed into law [JURIST report] last week by Governor Jan Brewer, has caused intense controversy. Earlier this week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, Spanish] strongly criticized [JURIST report] Arizona's new immigration law, claiming that the measure opens the door to intolerance and hatred. US President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report], calling for federal immigration reform. Under the law, it is designated a crime [AP report] to be in the country illegally, and immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500.






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Suu Kyi files suit in Myanmar to stop dissolution of opposition party
Jonathan Cohen on April 29, 2010 4:06 PM ET

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[JURIST] Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], filed suit Thursday in Myanmar's Supreme Court to stop the dissolution of her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) [party website] under a controversial election law [JURIST report]. Suu Kyi is asking the court to annul the part of the election law that bars political prisoners [JURIST report] from participating in elections, and also to establish a parliament of lawmakers who won in the 1990 elections. The NLD also filed a similar suit. If the NLD does not re-register by May 6, it may face dissolution.

Last month, the NLD announced that it would not take part in the nation's first elections in 20 years after the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected [JURIST reports] a lawsuit brought by the NLD to repeal the election laws preventing Suu Kyi from participating. Myanmar also faced a bevy of criticism during the month of March, with the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopting a resolution [A/HRC/13/L.15 materials] condemning the country for rights violations and urging [JURIST report] the ruling junta to conduct fair and free elections. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said that Myanmar's election laws do not meet international standards [JURIST report], and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has said [press release] "[the new law] continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance of civilian rule with a military spine."




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Senate Democrats introduce bill to limit corporate campaign spending
Jonathan Cohen on April 29, 2010 4:04 PM ET

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[JURIST] A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation [text, PDF] aimed at curbing foreign and corporate influence in elections after a recent Supreme Court [official website] decision eased restrictions on campaign spending [JURIST report]. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder], the Supreme Court struck down 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. According to a press release [text], the legislation, entitled the DISCLOSE Act, seeks to:
partly restore those limits - by barring foreign-controlled corporations, government contractors and companies that have received government assistance from making political expenditures - and also require corporations, unions, and other organizations that make political expenditures to disclose their donors and stand by their ads.
The lawmakers hope to pass the DISCLOSE Act by July 4 so that it will take effect for the 2010 elections.

US President Barack Obama has sharply criticized the Supreme Court's holding in Citizens United, most notably [JURIST reports] in this year's State of the Union speech. 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. Earlier this month, the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on the effects of the Citizens United decision.




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Belgium lower house approves burqa ban
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 3:54 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Belgian House of Representatives [official website, in French] on Thursday voted 136-0 to approve a bill that would ban the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full face veils in public. The proposed legislation [materials, in French] applies to areas "accessible to the public" or areas meant for "public use or to provide public services." Violators could face a penalty of up to seven days in jail or a fine of 15 to 25 euros. Proponents argue that the legislation is necessary both as a security measure and to prevent women from being forced to wear the garments. Opponents have said that the bill restricts freedom of expression. The measure must now go before the Senate [official website, in French]. If approved, Belgium would become the first European nation to impose a nationwide restriction on traditional face-covering veils.

France, which has Europe's largest Muslim population, has also been pressing for a ban on the burqa. Last week, a spokesperson for French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; BBC profile] said that the president is in favor of a complete public ban on the burqa and other full face veils and will be submitting a bill to parliament in May. Last month, the French Council of State advised the French government against a complete ban [JURIST report] on full Islamic veils because it risks violating the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. France already has a partial ban that prevents public officials from wearing veils while operating in their official capacity and also prohibits veils in public schools. Also last month, lawmakers in Quebec introduced a bill [Star report] that would ban women from wearing full face veils from public services, which garnered support from members of the Muslim Canadian Congress who argue that the law would not violate human rights [JURIST comment] and would promote the ideals of a free and democratic society.




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Ukraine MPs could face charges for disrupting vote on Russia treaty
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 3:09 PM ET

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[JURIST] Ukrainian prosecutors said Thursday that they may file criminal charges in connection with Tuesday's Parliament [official website, in Ukrainian] session in which lawmakers hurled eggs and smoke bombs [AP report] and engaged in physical violence. Chaos broke out Tuesday as lawmakers approved a treaty [press release, in Ukrainian] that will extend Russia's lease on a naval base in the Ukrainian Sevastopol port on the Black Sea until 2042 in exchange for discounted Russian gas. The agreement was strongly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers who threw eggs and smoke bombs at the speaker in an attempt to stop the vote. Despite the pandemonium, the measure passed with 236 votes in the 450-member parliament, and the treaty was signed into law Thursday. Prosecutors said that those responsible for the mayhem could face charges of hooliganism [CBC report], which carries a penalty of four years imprisonment.

The treaty comes soon after the election [JURIST report] of President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian], who took office in February. Yanukovych replaced Viktor Yushchenko [JURIST news archive], who had sought to cut ties with Russia and strengthen relationships with Western Europe. Yushchenko opposed the extension of Russia's Black Sea lease.




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China amends state secrets law to require companies to inform on customers
Brian Jackson on April 29, 2010 3:06 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Chinese government on Thursday revised its often-criticized state secrets [JURIST news archive] law to require Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who share state secrets. This new provision may provide a disincentive [FT report] to many service providers from entering China, particularly when considered along with China's Internet filtering laws [BBC backgrounder]. The new law also narrows the definition [Xinhua report] of state secrets. As approved by parliament, the phrase state secrets now means, "information concerning state security and interests and, if leaked, would damage state security and interests in the areas of politics, economy and national defense." The amended state secrets law will take effect in October.

China's state secrets law has frequently been criticized for the breadth of action which falls under the doctrine. In November 2009, rights activist Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for violating the state secrets law, when he discussed how some schools collapsed after the Sichuan province earthquake [BBC backgrounder] in 2008 because of shoddy construction. China began a review of its state secrets law last June, after concerns were raised regarding Internet filtering software [JURIST reports] on computers sold in that country.




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Suu Kyi files suit in Myanmar to stop dissolution of opposition party
Jonathan Cohen on April 29, 2010 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], filed suit Thursday in Myanmar's Supreme Court to stop the dissolution of her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) [party website] under a controversial election law [JURIST report]. Suu Kyi is asking the court to annul the part of the election law that bars political prisoners [JURIST report] from participating in elections, and also to establish a parliament of lawmakers who won in the 1990 elections. The NLD also filed a similar suit. If the NLD does not re-register by May 6, it may face dissolution.

Last month, the NLD announced that it would not take part in the nation's first elections in 20 years after the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected [JURIST reports] a lawsuit brought by the NLD to repeal the election laws preventing Suu Kyi from participating. Myanmar also faced a bevy of criticism during the month of March, with the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopting a resolution [A/HRC/13/L.15 materials] condemning the country for rights violations and urging [JURIST report] the ruling junta to conduct fair and free elections. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said that Myanmar's election laws do not meet international standards [JURIST report], and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has said [press release] "[the new law] continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance of civilian rule with a military spine."






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Senate Democrats introduce bill to limit corporate campaign spending
Jonathan Cohen on April 29, 2010 1:00 PM ET

[JURIST] A group of Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation [text, PDF] aimed at curbing foreign and corporate influence in elections after a recent Supreme Court [official website] decision eased restrictions on campaign spending [JURIST report]. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder], the Supreme Court struck down 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. According to a press release [text], the legislation, entitled the DISCLOSE Act, seeks to:


partly restore those limits - by barring foreign-controlled corporations, government contractors and companies that have received government assistance from making political expenditures - and also require corporations, unions, and other organizations that make political expenditures to disclose their donors and stand by their ads.

The lawmakers hope to pass the DISCLOSE Act by July 4 so that it will take effect for the 2010 elections.

US President Barack Obama has sharply criticized the Supreme Court's holding in Citizens United, most notably [JURIST reports] in this year's State of the Union speech. 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. Earlier this month, the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on the effects of the Citizens United decision.





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Ukraine MPs could face charges for disrupting vote on Russia treaty
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 12:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Ukrainian prosecutors said Thursday that they may file criminal charges in connection with Tuesday's Parliament [official website, in Ukrainian] session in which lawmakers hurled eggs and smoke bombs [AP report] and engaged in physical violence. Chaos broke out Tuesday as lawmakers approved a treaty [press release, in Ukrainian] that will extend Russia's lease on a naval base in the Ukrainian Sevastopol port on the Black Sea until 2042 in exchange for discounted Russian gas. The agreement was strongly opposed by pro-Western lawmakers who threw eggs and smoke bombs at the speaker in an attempt to stop the vote. Despite the pandemonium, the measure passed with 236 votes in the 450-member parliament, and the treaty was signed into law Thursday. Prosecutors said that those responsible for the mayhem could face charges of hooliganism [CBC report], which carries a penalty of four years imprisonment.

The treaty comes soon after the election [JURIST report] of President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian], who took office in February. Yanukovych replaced Viktor Yushchenko [JURIST news archive], who had sought to cut ties with Russia and strengthen relationships with Western Europe. Yushchenko opposed the extension of Russia's Black Sea lease.






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China amends state secrets law to require companies to inform on customers
Brian Jackson on April 29, 2010 11:34 AM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese government on Thursday revised its often-criticized state secrets [JURIST news archive] law to require Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who share state secrets. This new provision may provide a disincentive [FT report] to many service providers from entering China, particularly when considered along with China's Internet filtering laws [BBC backgrounder]. The new law also narrows the definition [Xinhua report] of state secrets. As approved by parliament, the phrase state secrets now means, "information concerning state security and interests and, if leaked, would damage state security and interests in the areas of politics, economy and national defense." The amended state secrets law will take effect in October.

China's state secrets law has frequently been criticized for the breadth of action which falls under the doctrine. In November 2009, rights activist Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for violating the state secrets law, when he discussed how some schools collapsed after the Sichuan province earthquake [BBC backgrounder] in 2008 because of shoddy construction. China began a review of its state secrets law last June, after concerns were raised regarding Internet filtering software [JURIST reports] on computers sold in that country.






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US extradites Serbian war crimes suspect to Bosnia
Brian Jackson on April 29, 2010 11:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] on Tuesday removed [press release] accused Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] criminal Marko Boskic to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Boskic will stand trial in Sarajevo for his role in the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive] in 1995, where 1,200 unarmed prisoners of war were killed. Boskic was first arrested [Boston Globe report] in the US in 2004, when immigration officials charged him with fraud and misuse of a visa for not reporting his foreign military service. During his imprisonment on those immigration-related charges, ICE worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to investigate Boskic's alleged role at Srebrenica. Depending on the severity of Boskic's role, he will be tried either in the ICTY or the BiH war crimes court [official website].

Last week, the BiH war crimes court convicted two individuals [JURIST report], Radomir Vukovic and Zoran Tomic, for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre, sentencing each to 31 years in prison. In March, the court indicted a former Serbian police commander, Nedjo Ikonic, for his alleged role at Srebrenica. The BiH war crimes court was originally formed in 2005 to relieve the caseload of the ICTY, and retains jurisdiction over crimes considered to be of a lower level, while the ICTY hears high-level cases, such as those involving Radovan Karadzic [JURIST news archive]. The BiH war crimes court handed down its first decision in 2008.




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Europe court rules UK may not suspend benefits to wives of terror suspects
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 10:39 AM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [materials; press release, PDF] Thursday that the UK may not restrict government benefits to the spouses and families of suspected terrorists. The challenge was brought by three women whose husbands' names appear on the UN list of terror suspects [materials] that have been linked to al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden, resulting in their assets being frozen pursuant to an EU regulation. Under a regime established by the UK Treasury [official website] in 2006, terror suspects' spouses could only receive government benefits under certain conditions [Guardian report], including withdrawing only 10 pounds in cash for each family member, sending a detailed monthly expense list and receipts to the Treasury, and accepting that giving cash to their husbands would be a criminal offense. The ECJ struck down the Treasury's interpretation of the EU rules, finding that it does not fulfill the purpose of combating international terrorism. The case will now return [BBC report] to the UK Supreme Court [official website] for a final ruling.

In January, the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that executive orders allowing the government to freeze the assets of five suspected terrorists are illegal. The men involved in the court's inaugural case [JURIST report] argued that the government exceeded its power when the Treasury froze their assets without the approval of Parliament. The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed a 2008 High Court ruling [JURIST report], which found that the Treasury 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 the UN list of suspected terrorists. The High Court rejected the orders because they were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they came into force.




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US extradites Serbian war crimes suspect to Bosnia
Brian Jackson on April 29, 2010 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] on Tuesday removed [press release] accused Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] criminal Marko Boskic to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Boskic will stand trial in Sarajevo for his role in the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive] in 1995, where 1,200 unarmed prisoners of war were killed. Boskic was first arrested [Boston Globe report] in the US in 2004, when immigration officials charged him with fraud and misuse of a visa for not reporting his foreign military service. During his imprisonment on those immigration-related charges, ICE worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] to investigate Boskic's alleged role at Srebrenica. Depending on the severity of Boskic's role, he will be tried either in the ICTY or the BiH war crimes court [official website].

Last week, the BiH war crimes court convicted two individuals [JURIST report], Radomir Vukovic and Zoran Tomic, for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre, sentencing each to 31 years in prison. In March, the court indicted a former Serbian police commander, Nedjo Ikonic, for his alleged role at Srebrenica. The BiH war crimes court was originally formed in 2005 to relieve the caseload of the ICTY, and retains jurisdiction over crimes considered to be of a lower level, while the ICTY hears high-level cases, such as those involving Radovan Karadzic [JURIST news archive]. The BiH war crimes court handed down its first decision in 2008.






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Europe court rules UK may not suspend benefits to wives of terror suspects
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [materials; press release, PDF] Thursday that the UK may not restrict government benefits to the spouses and families of suspected terrorists. The challenge was brought by three women whose husbands' names appear on the UN list of terror suspects [materials] that have been linked to al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden, resulting in their assets being frozen pursuant to an EU regulation. Under a regime established by the UK Treasury [official website] in 2006, terror suspects' spouses could only receive government benefits under certain conditions [Guardian report], including withdrawing only 10 pounds in cash for each family member, sending a detailed monthly expense list and receipts to the Treasury, and accepting that giving cash to their husbands would be a criminal offense. The ECJ struck down the Treasury's interpretation of the EU rules, finding that it does not fulfill the purpose of combating international terrorism. The case will now return [BBC report] to the UK Supreme Court [official website] for a final ruling.

In January, the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that executive orders allowing the government to freeze the assets of five suspected terrorists are illegal. The men involved in the court's inaugural case [JURIST report] argued that the government exceeded its power when the Treasury froze their assets without the approval of Parliament. The Supreme Court's ruling affirmed a 2008 High Court ruling [JURIST report], which found that the Treasury 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 the UN list of suspected terrorists. The High Court rejected the orders because they were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny before they came into force.






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Panama to seek Noriega extradition from France
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 9:47 AM ET

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[JURIST] Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his government will seek the extradition of former military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], currently being held in France on money laundering charges. Noriega faces charges of human rights violations in Panama for crimes allegedly committed during his 1981-1989 rule. He was convicted on three counts of human rights violations in absentia, and each count carries a 20-year prison sentence. Panama's Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Juan Carlos Varela [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his office will write to the judicial branch [AFP report], which must make the extradition request.

Earlier this week, a French judge ruled that Noriega must remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. He had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.




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Panama to seek Noriega extradition from France
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 29, 2010 8:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his government will seek the extradition of former military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], currently being held in France on money laundering charges. Noriega faces charges of human rights violations in Panama for crimes allegedly committed during his 1981-1989 rule. He was convicted on three counts of human rights violations in absentia, and each count carries a 20-year prison sentence. Panama's Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Juan Carlos Varela [official profile, in Spanish] said Wednesday that his office will write to the judicial branch [AFP report], which must make the extradition request.

Earlier this week, a French judge ruled that Noriega must remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. He had fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.






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Oklahoma governor vetoes firearm legislation
Tara Tighe on April 28, 2010 4:51 PM ET

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[JURIST] Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry [official profile] on Tuesday vetoed [press release] legislation [SB 1685 text, RTF] that would have exempted buyers of Oklahoma-made guns from several regulatory precautions including federal criminal background checks. Henry believes that the proposed legislation would "endanger citizens and law enforcement officers" by abolishing "common sense regulations" like background checks and giving criminals easy access to a wide array of weapons. Henry also cited constitutional concerns. Because there is no way to ensure that Oklahoma-manufactured weapons will remain in the state, Henry said that the proposed legislation would likely be seen as violating the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] and would therefore be declared unconstitutional if it were challenged in court. State Senator Randy Brogdon, an advocate for the bill, said that he was disappointed [press release] to learn that Henry had vetoed the legislation. Brogdon challenged Henry's assertions that the law would give criminals easy access to firearms and went on to claim that the legislation would actually have "stopped further federal attempts to erode our Constitutional right to protect ourselves and our families." It remains to be seen whether supporters of the bill in the state senate will garner the necessary support to override the veto.

The rights of states and municipalities to regulate firearms under the Second Amendment [text] of the US Constitution have become controversial. Last month, a federal judge ruled that firearms regulations [text] in Washington, DC, including a ban on assault weapons and a prohibition on large capacity ammunition feeding devices [ATF backgrounder], do not violate the Second Amendment [JURIST report]. In upholding the regulations, the judge cited the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller [JURIST report], which struck down an outright ban on handgun ownership in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments [JURIST report] in McDonald v. City of Chicago [oral arguments transcript, PDF] to determine whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to the states, and not just the District of Columbia.




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Russia court bans neo-Nazi group for extremist ideology
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 4:45 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Moscow City Court ruled Tuesday that the Slavic Union (SS) violates Russia's extremism laws, banning the organization. The SS, whose initials are the same as the Nazi paramilitary, was one of Russia's largest neo-Nazi [JURIST news archive] organizations. City prosecutors initiated the action [Moscow Times report], accusing the group of promoting nationalistic supremacy similar to the ideology of Nazi Germany. SS leader Dmitry Dyomushkin says he plans to appeal the ban [ITAR-TASS report]. He warned that the ban will anger radical ultranationalists into retaliation [AP report].

Earlier this month, a Moscow City Court judge known for presiding over cases involving neo-Nazi groups was killed [JURIST report] while leaving his apartment. Russia is currently struggling to limit hate crimes, which decreased in 2009 [JURIST report] according to the SOVA Center [advocacy website]. Last month, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] banned Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf [Britannica backgrounder], finding it in violation of laws against extremism. In December, the Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] upheld [JURIST report] a lower court decision to shut down the Taganrog Jehovah's Witness congregation and ban the distribution of 34 Jehovah's Witness publications, finding both the Jehovah's Witness congregation and the publications to be extremist. In 2007, the Russian parliament approved legislative amendments to change the prevailing definition of extremist crime [JURIST report] in Russian law to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred."




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Russia makes public 1940 Katyn massacre documents
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 4:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian government on Wednesday made public [press release] documents [materials, in Russian] relating to the 1940 Katyn Massacre [Britannica backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in which 20,000 Poles were killed by the USSR. While the documents were previously available to historians, political officials, and victims' families, this is the first time that copies of the original documents have been made available to the general public. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] chose to make the documents public as relations between Russian and Poland have apparently improved following the April 10 plane crash [JURIST report] that killed Poland's president. Among the documents is a 1940 note signed by Joseph Stalin ordering the execution of Polish "nationalists and counter-revolutionaries."

The 1940 killings have long been a point of tension between the two governments, with Russia originally blaming the Nazis and only acknowledging responsibility in 1990. In February, the Polish government joined a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] against Russia filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] by 13 Polish citizens who are relatives of the victims. In January 2009, victims' relatives were denied an appeal [JURIST report] to the Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] to reopen investigations into the killings. The court reasoned that the Soviet-era criminal code to be applied to the killings places a 10-year statute of limitations on the proceedings.






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House subcommittee examines legality of unmanned drone strikes
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 3:55 PM ET

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[JURIST] A US subcommittee heard testimony Wednesday on the use of unmanned predator drone strikes [JURIST news archive]. The National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official websites] held a hearing [materials] on the legality of unmanned targeting. In his opening remarks [text, PDF], subcommittee chair John Tierney (D-MA) [official website] said:
The use of unmanned weapons to target individuals - and, for that matter, the targeting of individuals in general - raises many complex legal questions. We must examine who can be a legitimate target, where that person can be legally targeted, and when the risk of collateral damage is too high. We must ask whether it makes a difference if the military carries out an attack, or whether other government entities such as the Central Intelligence Agency may legally conduct such attacks. We must ensure that the Administration's understanding of the authorities granted to it by Congress do not exceed what Congress intended.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which has consistently opposed the use of unmanned targeting, sent a letter [text, PDF] to President Barack Obama Wednesday, urging an end to the program.

Last month, State Department Legal Adviser [official website] Harold Koh [academic profile] defended the legality [JURIST report] of the use of unmanned drones. Earlier in March, the ACLU filed suit [JURIST report] seeking information related to the US government's use of unmanned drones. The ACLU alleges that the drones have been used by the military and CIA for unlawful killings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The ACLU also cites troubling reports indicating that US citizens may be targeted and killed by unmanned drones. In October, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] noted that the use of unmanned drones by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal [JURIST report]. Alston said, "[t]he onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons." Alston criticized the US policy in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee that was presented as part of a larger demand that no state be free from accountability.




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House subcommittee examines legality of unmanned drone strikes
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A US subcommittee heard testimony Wednesday on the use of unmanned predator drone strikes [JURIST news archive]. The National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official websites] held a hearing [materials] on the legality of unmanned targeting. In his opening remarks [text, PDF], subcommittee chair John Tierney (D-MA) [official website] said:


The use of unmanned weapons to target individuals - and, for that matter, the targeting of individuals in general - raises many complex legal questions. We must examine who can be a legitimate target, where that person can be legally targeted, and when the risk of collateral damage is too high. We must ask whether it makes a difference if the military carries out an attack, or whether other government entities such as the Central Intelligence Agency may legally conduct such attacks. We must ensure that the Administration's understanding of the authorities granted to it by Congress do not exceed what Congress intended.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which has consistently opposed the use of unmanned targeting, sent a letter [text, PDF] to President Barack Obama Wednesday, urging an end to the program.

Last month, State Department Legal Adviser [official website] Harold Koh [academic profile] defended the legality [JURIST report] of the use of unmanned drones. Earlier in March, the ACLU filed suit [JURIST report] seeking information related to the US government's use of unmanned drones. The ACLU alleges that the drones have been used by the military and CIA for unlawful killings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The ACLU also cites troubling reports indicating that US citizens may be targeted and killed by unmanned drones. In October, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] noted that the use of unmanned drones by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal [JURIST report]. Alston said, "[t]he onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions, are not in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons." Alston criticized the US policy in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee that was presented as part of a larger demand that no state be free from accountability.





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Supreme Court considers release of names on same-sex marriage petition
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 3:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in Doe #1 v. Reed [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on 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. Counsel for the petitioners argued that, "[n]o person should suffer harassment for participating in our political system, and the First Amendment protects citizens from intimidation resulting from compelled disclosure of their identity and beliefs and their private associations." Counsel for the state of Washington argued that the names can be made public. The court appeared skeptical of petitioners' arguments, with Justice Antonin Scalia saying "[d]emocracy requires a certain amount of civic courage."



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Oklahoma governor vetoes firearm legislation
Tara Tighe on April 28, 2010 2:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry [official profile] on Tuesday vetoed [press release] legislation [SB 1685 text, RTF] that would have exempted buyers of Oklahoma-made guns from several regulatory precautions including federal criminal background checks. Henry believes that the proposed legislation would "endanger citizens and law enforcement officers" by abolishing "common sense regulations" like background checks and giving criminals easy access to a wide array of weapons. Henry also cited constitutional concerns. Because there is no way to ensure that Oklahoma-manufactured weapons will remain in the state, Henry said that the proposed legislation would likely be seen as violating the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] and would therefore be declared unconstitutional if it were challenged in court. State Senator Randy Brogdon, an advocate for the bill, said that he was disappointed [press release] to learn that Henry had vetoed the legislation. Brogdon challenged Henry's assertions that the law would give criminals easy access to firearms and went on to claim that the legislation would actually have "stopped further federal attempts to erode our Constitutional right to protect ourselves and our families." It remains to be seen whether supporters of the bill in the state senate will garner the necessary support to override the veto.

The rights of states and municipalities to regulate firearms under the Second Amendment [text] of the US Constitution have become controversial. Last month, a federal judge ruled that firearms regulations [text] in Washington, DC, including a ban on assault weapons and a prohibition on large capacity ammunition feeding devices [ATF backgrounder], do not violate the Second Amendment [JURIST report]. In upholding the regulations, the judge cited the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller [JURIST report], which struck down an outright ban on handgun ownership in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments [JURIST report] in McDonald v. City of Chicago [oral arguments transcript, PDF] to determine whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to the states, and not just the District of Columbia.






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Russia makes public 1940 Katyn massacre documents
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 2:42 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Russian government on Wednesday made public [press release] documents [materials, in Russian] relating to the 1940 Katyn Massacre [Britannica backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in which 20,000 Poles were killed by the USSR. While the documents were previously available to historians, political officials, and victims' families, this is the first time that copies of the original documents have been made available to the general public. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] chose to make the documents public as relations between Russian and Poland have apparently improved following the April 10 plane crash [JURIST report] that killed Poland's president. Among the documents is a 1940 note signed by Joseph Stalin ordering the execution of Polish "nationalists and counter-revolutionaries."

The 1940 killings have long been a point of tension between the two governments, with Russia originally blaming the Nazis and only acknowledging responsibility in 1990. In February, the Polish government joined a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] against Russia filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] by 13 Polish citizens who are relatives of the victims. In January 2009, victims' relatives were denied an appeal [JURIST report] to the Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] to reopen investigations into the killings. The court reasoned that the Soviet-era criminal code to be applied to the killings places a 10-year statute of limitations on the proceedings.




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Supreme Court considers release of names on same-sex marriage petition
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 2:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in Doe #1 v. Reed [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on 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. Counsel for the petitioners argued that, "[n]o person should suffer harassment for participating in our political system, and the First Amendment protects citizens from intimidation resulting from compelled disclosure of their identity and beliefs and their private associations." Counsel for the state of Washington argued that the names can be made public. The court appeared skeptical of petitioners' arguments, with Justice Antonin Scalia saying "[d]emocracy requires a certain amount of civic courage."






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China lifts HIV/AIDS entry ban
Brian Jackson on April 28, 2010 1:33 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Chinese government announced Tuesday that it has lifted a ban on entry [Xinhua report] into that country for individuals with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. The ban was originally implemented under the Frontier Health and Quarantine Law and the Law on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens [texts], both passed in 1987. The ban had temporarily been lifted for international events, such as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, but the inconvenience that resulted, as well as the increased knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is spread, were reasons cited by the government as factors for changing the law. China's action drew praise [press release] from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS [official website], which urged the 51 countries and areas that still bar entry to individuals with HIV/AIDS to follow China's lead in overturning their bans. The lifting of the ban does not enjoy widespread support from Chinese civilians, however, with 84 percent supporting keeping the ban in place [China Daily report].

Until recently, the US was one of the nations with an entry ban for individuals with HIV/AIDS. That ban was lifted in January [JURIST report] when the Centers for Disease Control [official website] removed HIV/AIDS from its list of communicable diseases of public significance. It was first reported in late November that China was considering lifting the entry ban [JURIST report], ahead of the Shanghai Expo scheduled for May of this year. China had previously relaxed its restrictions on entry [JURIST report] in 2007, ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.




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Russia court bans neo-Nazi group for extremist ideology
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Moscow City Court ruled Tuesday that the Slavic Union (SS) violates Russia's extremism laws, banning the organization. The SS, whose initials are the same as the Nazi paramilitary, was one of Russia's largest neo-Nazi [JURIST news archive] organizations. City prosecutors initiated the action [Moscow Times report], accusing the group of promoting nationalistic supremacy similar to the ideology of Nazi Germany. SS leader Dmitry Dyomushkin says he plans to appeal the ban [ITAR-TASS report]. He warned that the ban will anger radical ultranationalists into retaliation [AP report].

Earlier this month, a Moscow City Court judge known for presiding over cases involving neo-Nazi groups was killed [JURIST report] while leaving his apartment. Russia is currently struggling to limit hate crimes, which decreased in 2009 [JURIST report] according to the SOVA Center [advocacy website]. Last month, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] banned Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf [Britannica backgrounder], finding it in violation of laws against extremism. In December, the Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] upheld [JURIST report] a lower court decision to shut down the Taganrog Jehovah's Witness congregation and ban the distribution of 34 Jehovah's Witness publications, finding both the Jehovah's Witness congregation and the publications to be extremist. In 2007, the Russian parliament approved legislative amendments to change the prevailing definition of extremist crime [JURIST report] in Russian law to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred."






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Japan abolishes statute of limitations for murder
Zach Zagger on April 28, 2010 12:50 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Japanese Diet on Tuesday approved a bill abolishing the statute of limitations for murder. The new law abolishes the statute of limitations for serious capital crimes, which was previously 25 years, and extends [Daily Yomiuri report] the limitation period for sexual assault and other crimes resulting in death from 15 to 30 years. The law also doubles prison terms for other crimes resulting in death. Japanese Justice Minister Keiko Chiba utilized the new law [Kyodo News report] Tuesday to keep open an unsolved case from 1995 that was set to expire at midnight. While criminal procedure laws are normally not enacted for at least a week while they are reviewed by the emperor prior to publication, this law was enforced immediately to keep unsolved cases open.

Japan has recently taken steps to reform its criminal procedure system. Last year, Japan held its first jury trial [JURIST report] since the end of World War II, with the Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese] convicting Katsuyoshi Fujii of murder. In 2004, the National Diet enacted the Lay Assessor Act [materials, PDF; Ministry of Justice backgrounder], which impanels professional and lay judges to decide and sentence capital cases and cases involving an intentional death. Panels can be made up of three professional judges and six lay judges or one professional judge and four lay judges. For their verdicts to stand, lay judges need the concurrence [BBC report] of at least one professional judge.




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Iraq detainees tortured in secret prison: HRW
Zach Zagger on April 28, 2010 12:31 PM ET

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[JURIST] Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [press release] in a secret prison in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday. HRW says that detainees held at the Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days. HRW interviewed 42 men who were among 300 transferred out after the Iraq Ministry of Human Rights gained access to the facility, which falls under the authority of the military office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile]. The fact that many Sunnis were detained in the facility may reveal growing sectarian tensions within Iraq between the Maliki's Shiite government and Sunni Muslims. Maliki denied [CNN report] the reports of a secret prison, claiming the facility was publicly known and that the reports of abuse are exaggerated.

Earlier this month, it was revealed in a Los Angeles Times report [text] that hundreds of Sunni men were detained without warrant and subjected to torture [JURIST report] in the Muthanna facility. More than 400 men were initially detained in October during sweeps of Nineveh province, an area in which al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was active, and transferred to a Baghdad prison due to concerns over corruption in the provincial capitol of Mosul. Maliki created a special committee [JURIST report] in June to investigate alleged abuse and torture in the country's prisons. Comprised of eight members, the committee includes representatives from human rights and judicial government agencies and security ministries. The decision to create the panel came shortly after charges were brought [JURIST report] against 43 Iraqi police officers for human rights abuses, warrantless arrests, and bribery allegations. The violations were discovered by an investigatory committee formed by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [JURIST news archive].




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UN Security Council urges international maritime piracy tribunal
Brian Jackson on April 28, 2010 12:26 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Resolution 1918 [press release], calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. In the resolution, the Security Council noted its previous resolutions regarding piracy, particularly piracy off the coast of Somalia [JURIST news archive], as well as the continuing security issues posed by piracy. The ineffectual nature of past resolutions, combined with the lack of action by the Somali government and the difficulties faced by Kenya, one of the few African nations to attempt to prosecute piracy, may have led to the inclusion of the request that the secretary-general investigate options for UN prosecution of piracy. Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, had previously proposed [APA report] that the UN establish a special court for Somali pirates. The resolution asks that the Secretary General's report on prosecutorial options be completed within three months.

The Security Council resolution comes the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia. The same day, unsealed indicments revealed that the US had filed charges against 11 Somali pirates [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Earlier this month, Kenya announced that it would no longer accept referred piracy cases [JURIST report], which have overburdened its judicial system, an announcement that may have spurred the Security Council to act. In January, the International Chamber of Commerce released a report indicating that maritime piracy had reached its highest levels since 2003 [JURIST report].




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China lifts HIV/AIDS entry ban
Brian Jackson on April 28, 2010 12:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The Chinese government announced Tuesday that it has lifted a ban on entry [Xinhua report] into that country for individuals with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. The ban was originally implemented under the Frontier Health and Quarantine Law and the Law on Control of the Entry and Exit of Aliens [texts], both passed in 1987. The ban had temporarily been lifted for international events, such as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, but the inconvenience that resulted, as well as the increased knowledge of how HIV/AIDS is spread, were reasons cited by the government as factors for changing the law. China's action drew praise [press release] from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS [official website], which urged the 51 countries and areas that still bar entry to individuals with HIV/AIDS to follow China's lead in overturning their bans. The lifting of the ban does not enjoy widespread support from Chinese civilians, however, with 84 percent supporting keeping the ban in place [China Daily report].

Until recently, the US was one of the nations with an entry ban for individuals with HIV/AIDS. That ban was lifted in January [JURIST report] when the Centers for Disease Control [official website] removed HIV/AIDS from its list of communicable diseases of public significance. It was first reported in late November that China was considering lifting the entry ban [JURIST report], ahead of the Shanghai Expo scheduled for May of this year. China had previously relaxed its restrictions on entry [JURIST report] in 2007, ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.






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Japan abolishes statute of limitations for murder
Zach Zagger on April 28, 2010 12:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Japanese Diet on Tuesday approved a bill abolishing the statute of limitations for murder. The new law abolishes the statute of limitations for serious capital crimes, which was previously 25 years, and extends [Daily Yomiuri report] the limitation period for sexual assault and other crimes resulting in death from 15 to 30 years. The law also doubles prison terms for other crimes resulting in death. Japanese Justice Minister Keiko Chiba utilized the new law [Kyodo News report] Tuesday to keep open an unsolved case from 1995 that was set to expire at midnight. While criminal procedure laws are normally not enacted for at least a week while they are reviewed by the emperor prior to publication, this law was enforced immediately to keep unsolved cases open.

Japan has recently taken steps to reform its criminal procedure system. Last year, Japan held its first jury trial [JURIST report] since the end of World War II, with the Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese] convicting Katsuyoshi Fujii of murder. In 2004, the National Diet enacted the Lay Assessor Act [materials, PDF; Ministry of Justice backgrounder], which impanels professional and lay judges to decide and sentence capital cases and cases involving an intentional death. Panels can be made up of three professional judges and six lay judges or one professional judge and four lay judges. For their verdicts to stand, lay judges need the concurrence [BBC report] of at least one professional judge.






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Pentagon releases military commissions manual
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 11:56 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Tuesday released a manual [text, PDF] for military commission [JURIST news archive] procedures under the Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF]. The manual establishes the rules of evidence and procedure for the commissions, allowing for the admission of certain hearsay evidence and defining "material support" for terrorism. The manual's release came one day before a hearing [JURIST report] in the case of Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] on whether his alleged confessions may be used as evidence. The hearing was postponed briefly Wednesday morning to allow Khadr's lawyers time to review the new manual and was set to resume Wednesday afternoon.

Khadr's military commission trial, set to begin in July, will be the first under the Obama administration, which suspended military commissions shortly after the January 2009 inauguration. In February, Khadr's lawyers filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] in the Federal Court of Canada [official website] challenging the decision of the Canadian government not to seek his repatriation from the US [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] in January that the government was not obligated to seek Khadr's return to Canada despite having violated his rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.




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Pentagon releases military commissions manual
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 11:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Tuesday released a manual [text, PDF] for military commission [JURIST news archive] procedures under the Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF]. The manual establishes the rules of evidence and procedure for the commissions, allowing for the admission of certain hearsay evidence and defining "material support" for terrorism. The manual's release came one day before a hearing [JURIST report] in the case of Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] on whether his alleged confessions may be used as evidence. The hearing was postponed briefly Wednesday morning to allow Khadr's lawyers time to review the new manual and was set to resume Wednesday afternoon.

Khadr's military commission trial, set to begin in July, will be the first under the Obama administration, which suspended military commissions shortly after the January 2009 inauguration. In February, Khadr's lawyers filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] in the Federal Court of Canada [official website] challenging the decision of the Canadian government not to seek his repatriation from the US [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] in January that the government was not obligated to seek Khadr's return to Canada despite having violated his rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.






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Supreme Court rules on religious display on public land
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 10:43 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Salazar v. Buono [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the lower courts were wrong to ban government from transferring public land containing a religious symbol to a private entity. The court also held that an individual has Article III [text] standing to bring a suit under the Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the First Amendment challenging the display of a religious symbol on government land. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the transfer of the public land to a private entity is not a permissible accommodation. Authoring the plurality opinion for a deeply divided court, Justice Anthony Kennedy reversed the decision below:
Respect for a coordinate branch of Government forbids striking down an Act of Congress except upon a clear showing of unconstitutionality. The same respect requires that a congressional command be given effect unless no legal alternative exists. Even if, contrary to the congressional judgment, the land transfer were thought an insufficient accommodation in light of the earlier finding of religious endorsement, it was incumbent upon the District Court to consider less drastic relief than complete invalidation of the land-transfer statute.
Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion. He would not have remanded the case to the district court. Justice Antonin Scalia also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia believes that the plaintiff lacks standing. Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a separate dissent.

The dispute concerns a Latin cross on a rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve [official website]. The display of the cross on public property had already been found in violation of the Establishment Clause, so the government sought to transfer the portion of land on which the cross was located to a private entity.




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Canada parliament can demand uncensored detainee documents from government
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 10:36 AM ET

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[JURIST] Canadian House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Tuesday that members of Parliament have the right to seek uncensored Afghan detainee documents from the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official websites]. The historic ruling is a significant victory for opposition parties over Harper's minority Conservative government. In his ruling, Milliken said:
The Chair must conclude that it is within the powers of the House of Commons to ask for the documents sought in the December 10 order it adopted. Now, it seems to me, that the issue before us is this: is it possible to put into place a mechanism by which these documents could be made available to the House without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain? In other words, is it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interest of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met? Surely that is not too much to hope for.
Milliken gave both sides two weeks to reach a compromise. If no agreement can be reached, members of Harper's cabinet, including the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, and justice, could be held in contempt of Parliament. Although the Harper government has indicated its general willingness to comply with the Speaker's ruling, it might yet pass the general issue [Toronto Star report] of executive versus legislative authority on to the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] as a constitutional reference question for its formal determination.

The release of the detainee documents has been highly controversial. Last month, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson [official profile] announced that former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci [U. Toronto backgrounder] would review documents [JURIST report] detailing Canadian forces' handing of Afghan detainees and the terms of their transfer to Afghan authorities before the documents would be released to Parliament. Nicholson indicated that Iacobucci would report back to Nicholson, who would determine the conditions of disclosure. In December, Parliament passed an order to compel Harper to release the unredacted documents after the Canadian government released [JURIST reports] more than 40 redacted e-mails [text, PDF] sent by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin to then-foreign minister Peter MacKay [official profile] raising concerns about the torture of transferred detainees. The release of the e-mails came after Colvin testified [JURIST report] before a Commons committee in November that all enemy combatants captured in 2006 and 2007 by Canadian forces were likely tortured upon their transfer to Afghan authorities.




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Iraq detainees tortured in secret prison: HRW
Zach Zagger on April 28, 2010 10:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [press release] in a secret prison in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday. HRW says that detainees held at the Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days. HRW interviewed 42 men who were among 300 transferred out after the Iraq Ministry of Human Rights gained access to the facility, which falls under the authority of the military office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile]. The fact that many Sunnis were detained in the facility may reveal growing sectarian tensions within Iraq between the Maliki's Shiite government and Sunni Muslims. Maliki denied [CNN report] the reports of a secret prison, claiming the facility was publicly known and that the reports of abuse are exaggerated.

Earlier this month, it was revealed in a Los Angeles Times report [text] that hundreds of Sunni men were detained without warrant and subjected to torture [JURIST report] in the Muthanna facility. More than 400 men were initially detained in October during sweeps of Nineveh province, an area in which al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was active, and transferred to a Baghdad prison due to concerns over corruption in the provincial capitol of Mosul. Maliki created a special committee [JURIST report] in June to investigate alleged abuse and torture in the country's prisons. Comprised of eight members, the committee includes representatives from human rights and judicial government agencies and security ministries. The decision to create the panel came shortly after charges were brought [JURIST report] against 43 Iraqi police officers for human rights abuses, warrantless arrests, and bribery allegations. The violations were discovered by an investigatory committee formed by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [JURIST news archive].






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Supreme Court rules on religious display on public land
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Salazar v. Buono [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the lower courts were wrong to ban government from transferring public land containing a religious symbol to a private entity. The court also held that an individual has Article III [text] standing to bring a suit under the Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the First Amendment challenging the display of a religious symbol on government land. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the transfer of the public land to a private entity is not a permissible accommodation. Authoring the plurality opinion for a deeply divided court, Justice Anthony Kennedy reversed the decision below:


Respect for a coordinate branch of Government forbids striking down an Act of Congress except upon a clear showing of unconstitutionality. The same respect requires that a congressional command be given effect unless no legal alternative exists. Even if, contrary to the congressional judgment, the land transfer were thought an insufficient accommodation in light of the earlier finding of religious endorsement, it was incumbent upon the District Court to consider less drastic relief than complete invalidation of the land-transfer statute.

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion. He would not have remanded the case to the district court. Justice Antonin Scalia also filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia believes that the plaintiff lacks standing. Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a separate dissent.

The dispute concerns a Latin cross on a rock outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve [official website]. The display of the cross on public property had already been found in violation of the Establishment Clause, so the government sought to transfer the portion of land on which the cross was located to a private entity.





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UN Security Council urges international maritime piracy tribunal
Brian Jackson on April 28, 2010 9:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved Resolution 1918 [press release], calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] to consider an international tribunal for prosecuting piracy. In the resolution, the Security Council noted its previous resolutions regarding piracy, particularly piracy off the coast of Somalia [JURIST news archive], as well as the continuing security issues posed by piracy. The ineffectual nature of past resolutions, combined with the lack of action by the Somali government and the difficulties faced by Kenya, one of the few African nations to attempt to prosecute piracy, may have led to the inclusion of the request that the secretary-general investigate options for UN prosecution of piracy. Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, had previously proposed [APA report] that the UN establish a special court for Somali pirates. The resolution asks that the Secretary General's report on prosecutorial options be completed within three months.

The Security Council resolution comes the same week the UN announced that a trust fund established to combat piracy will be funding five projects [UN News Centre report] aimed at piracy committed in the waters around Somalia. The same day, unsealed indicments revealed that the US had filed charges against 11 Somali pirates [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Earlier this month, Kenya announced that it would no longer accept referred piracy cases [JURIST report], which have overburdened its judicial system, an announcement that may have spurred the Security Council to act. In January, the International Chamber of Commerce released a report indicating that maritime piracy had reached its highest levels since 2003 [JURIST report].






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Canada parliament can demand uncensored detainee documents from government
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 28, 2010 8:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Canadian House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Tuesday that members of Parliament have the right to seek uncensored Afghan detainee documents from the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official websites]. The historic ruling is a significant victory for opposition parties over Harper's minority Conservative government. In his ruling, Milliken said:


The Chair must conclude that it is within the powers of the House of Commons to ask for the documents sought in the December 10 order it adopted. Now, it seems to me, that the issue before us is this: is it possible to put into place a mechanism by which these documents could be made available to the House without compromising the security and confidentiality of the information they contain? In other words, is it possible for the two sides, working together in the best interest of the Canadians they serve, to devise a means where both their concerns are met? Surely that is not too much to hope for.

Milliken gave both sides two weeks to reach a compromise. If no agreement can be reached, members of Harper's cabinet, including the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, and justice, could be held in contempt of Parliament. Although the Harper government has indicated its general willingness to comply with the Speaker's ruling, it might yet pass the general issue [Toronto Star report] of executive versus legislative authority on to the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] as a constitutional reference question for its formal determination.

The release of the detainee documents has been highly controversial. Last month, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson [official profile] announced that former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci [U. Toronto backgrounder] would review documents [JURIST report] detailing Canadian forces' handing of Afghan detainees and the terms of their transfer to Afghan authorities before the documents would be released to Parliament. Nicholson indicated that Iacobucci would report back to Nicholson, who would determine the conditions of disclosure. In December, Parliament passed an order to compel Harper to release the unredacted documents after the Canadian government released [JURIST reports] more than 40 redacted e-mails [text, PDF] sent by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin to then-foreign minister Peter MacKay [official profile] raising concerns about the torture of transferred detainees. The release of the e-mails came after Colvin testified [JURIST report] before a Commons committee in November that all enemy combatants captured in 2006 and 2007 by Canadian forces were likely tortured upon their transfer to Afghan authorities.





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France judge orders Noriega to remain in custody pending trial
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 4:29 PM ET

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[JURIST] A French judge ruled Tuesday that former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] must remain in custody until his trial on money laundering charges. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. Noriega appeared Tuesday before French prosecutors to hear the charges against him, which stem from allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. He then appeared before a judge to request that he be sent back to Panama immediately. His lawyers argued that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state and that the statute of limitations has expired. The judge rejected those arguments [Le Monde report, in French], remanding Noriega into custody.

Noriega fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.




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France judge orders Noriega to remain in custody pending trial
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 4:25 PM ET

[JURIST] A French judge ruled Tuesday that former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] must remain in custody until his trial on money laundering charges. Noriega arrived in France Tuesday morning after being extradited [JURIST report] from the US, where he had served a 17-year sentence on drug charges. Noriega appeared Tuesday before French prosecutors to hear the charges against him, which stem from allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. He then appeared before a judge to request that he be sent back to Panama immediately. His lawyers argued that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state and that the statute of limitations has expired. The judge rejected those arguments [Le Monde report, in French], remanding Noriega into custody.

Noriega fought extradition [JURIST report] from the US since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.






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Supreme Court hears arguments on genetically modified crop injunction
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 4:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on what conditions must be met to obtain a nationwide injunction prohibiting the planting of genetically engineered crops. The case arose over an injunction against the planting of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready alfalfa," pending an environmental impact statement. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [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, affirming the nationwide injunction. Counsel for the petitioners argued that the district court, "short-circuited the requisite inquiry into the likelihood of reparable - irreparable harm, because they reasoned that the agency was going to get into this anyway in the course of preparing its environmental impact statement." Counsel for respondents argued:
In our view Petitioners lack standing to bring this case to this Court. By failing to challenge the lawfulness of the deregulation vacatur either in the Ninth Circuit or in this Court, Petitioners have an insurmountable redressability problem. They cannot get the practical relief they seek even in the event that this Court vacates or narrows the injunction.
The case is being closely followed by environmental and industry groups.



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Lawyers for Congo rebel leader Bemba argue legality of charges
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 3:41 PM ET

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[JURIST] Defense lawyers for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba [case materials, JURIST news archive] argued before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Tuesday that charges against their client should be dropped. His lawyers argued that he has been denied due process [Reuters report] and that the charges are illegal. Bemba was originally set to go on trial on war crimes charges on Tuesday, but the trial was postponed [JURIST report] until July 5 to allow the court more time to consider the defense's motion on the admissibility of the case, filed in February.

In December, the ICC ordered [text, PDF] Bemba to remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. The ruling reversed a decision [JURIST report] issued in August ordering Bemba's conditional release. The order for release was opposed by ICC prosecutors who appealed [JURIST report] the original decision. The ICC has ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] from October 2002 to May 2003. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium in May 2008 after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008.




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Supreme Court hears arguments on genetically modified crop injunction
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on what conditions must be met to obtain a nationwide injunction prohibiting the planting of genetically engineered crops. The case arose over an injunction against the planting of Monsanto's "Roundup Ready alfalfa," pending an environmental impact statement. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [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, affirming the nationwide injunction. Counsel for the petitioners argued that the district court, "short-circuited the requisite inquiry into the likelihood of reparable - irreparable harm, because they reasoned that the agency was going to get into this anyway in the course of preparing its environmental impact statement." Counsel for respondents argued:

In our view Petitioners lack standing to bring this case to this Court. By failing to challenge the lawfulness of the deregulation vacatur either in the Ninth Circuit or in this Court, Petitioners have an insurmountable redressability problem. They cannot get the practical relief they seek even in the event that this Court vacates or narrows the injunction.
The case is being closely followed by environmental and industry groups.





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Lawyers for Congo rebel leader Bemba argue legality of charges
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 2:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Defense lawyers for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba [case materials, JURIST news archive] argued before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Tuesday that charges against their client should be dropped. His lawyers argued that he has been denied due process [Reuters report] and that the charges are illegal. Bemba was originally set to go on trial on war crimes charges on Tuesday, but the trial was postponed [JURIST report] until July 5 to allow the court more time to consider the defense's motion on the admissibility of the case, filed in February.

In December, the ICC ordered [text, PDF] Bemba to remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. The ruling reversed a decision [JURIST report] issued in August ordering Bemba's conditional release. The order for release was opposed by ICC prosecutors who appealed [JURIST report] the original decision. The ICC has ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] from October 2002 to May 2003. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium in May 2008 after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008.






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Oklahoma legislature overrides veto of anti-abortion bills
Megan McKee on April 27, 2010 2:16 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Oklahoma State Senate [official website] on Tuesday voted 36-12 to override Governor Brad Henry's veto of two anti-abortion bills that will now immediately become law. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] would prevent "wrongful life" lawsuits in which parents seek damages for a child born with a birth defect because the mother was unable to obtain an abortion. The second bill [HB 2780 text, RTF] would require doctors to conduct a vaginal ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion while displaying and explaining the images. The 48-member senate just met the minimum of three-quarters majority required to override an executive veto. The senate's vote comes one day after the House of Representatives [official website] voted 84-12 to override the veto [press release].

The Oklahoma Senate voted to approve [JURIST report] five anti-abortion bills last week, sending three to Henry for his approval and returning two to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives [official website]. Pending House approval, two additional bills would require a woman to answer 38 questions [HB 3284 text, RTF], including why she is seeking an abortion, and prohibit state health plans from covering elective abortions [HB 3290 text, RTF]. The Oklahoma laws join another restrictive abortion law passed recently in Nebraska, which bans abortions after 20 weeks [JURIST report].




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Mexico president criticizes Arizona immigration law
Megan McKee on April 27, 2010 2:15 PM ET

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[JURIST] Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, Spanish] on Monday strongly criticized [press release, in Spanish] Arizona's new immigration law, claiming that the measure opens the door to intolerance and hatred. The Arizona bill [SB 1070 materials], signed into law [JURIST report] last week by Governor Jan Brewer, makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to question anyone whose immigration status appears suspect. Calling the law a violation of human rights [WP report], Calderon promised that it will be a pressing item on his agenda during his upcoming visit to Washington in May. Calderon has also called on Mexico's foreign ministry and consulates in the US to begin defending the rights of Mexicans and suggested that trade and political ties between Arizona and Mexico will be seriously affected.

Two Latino advocacy groups have said they plan to challenge [JURIST report] the constitutionality of Arizona's new immigration law, alleging it permits racial profiling. Officials from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website; press release] and the National Coalition of Latino Christian Clergy [advocacy website] contend the law will let police single out minorities for immigration inspections. US President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report], calling for federal immigration reform. Under the law, it is designated a crime [AP report] to be in the country illegally, and immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500.




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Oklahoma legislature overrides veto of anti-abortion bills
Megan McKee on April 27, 2010 1:40 PM ET

[JURIST] The Oklahoma State Senate [official website] on Tuesday voted 36-12 to override Governor Brad Henry's veto of two anti-abortion bills that will now immediately become law. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] would prevent "wrongful life" lawsuits in which parents seek damages for a child born with a birth defect because the mother was unable to obtain an abortion. The second bill [HB 2780 text, RTF] would require doctors to conduct a vaginal ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion while displaying and explaining the images. The 48-member senate just met the minimum of three-quarters majority required to override an executive veto. The senate's vote comes one day after the House of Representatives [official website] voted 84-12 to override the veto [press release].

The Oklahoma Senate voted to approve [JURIST report] five anti-abortion bills last week, sending three to Henry for his approval and returning two to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives [official website]. Pending House approval, two additional bills would require a woman to answer 38 questions [HB 3284 text, RTF], including why she is seeking an abortion, and prohibit state health plans from covering elective abortions [HB 3290 text, RTF]. The Oklahoma laws join another restrictive abortion law passed recently in Nebraska, which bans abortions after 20 weeks [JURIST report].






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Mexico president criticizes Arizona immigration law
Megan McKee on April 27, 2010 12:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Mexican President Felipe Calderon [official website, Spanish] on Monday strongly criticized [press release, in Spanish] Arizona's new immigration law, claiming that the measure opens the door to intolerance and hatred. The Arizona bill [SB 1070 materials], signed into law [JURIST report] last week by Governor Jan Brewer, makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant and requires police to question anyone whose immigration status appears suspect. Calling the law a violation of human rights [WP report], Calderon promised that it will be a pressing item on his agenda during his upcoming visit to Washington in May. Calderon has also called on Mexico's foreign ministry and consulates in the US to begin defending the rights of Mexicans and suggested that trade and political ties between Arizona and Mexico will be seriously affected.

Two Latino advocacy groups have said they plan to challenge [JURIST report] the constitutionality of Arizona's new immigration law, alleging it permits racial profiling. Officials from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website; press release] and the National Coalition of Latino Christian Clergy [advocacy website] contend the law will let police single out minorities for immigration inspections. US President Barack Obama has also criticized the law [JURIST report], calling for federal immigration reform. Under the law, it is designated a crime [AP report] to be in the country illegally, and immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500.






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Supreme Court rules Vioxx fraud suit may proceed
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 12:18 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday allowed a suit to proceed against drug maker Merck & Co. [corporate website] over the safety record of its painkiller Vioxx [JURIST news archive]. The court ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Merck & Co. v. Reynolds [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the statute of limitations in a securities fraud lawsuit begins to run once the plaintiff actually discovered or a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered the violation - whichever comes first. Investors brought the class action suit against Merck in 2003, alleging that it had deliberately concealed information about Vioxx. The case was dismissed [JURIST report] by a federal judge in April 2007 after he determined that investors were on "inquiry notice" of the alleged fraud in September 2001 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] released a warning letter [text, PDF] about the painkiller. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated the case [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in September 2008, finding that the district judge had "acted prematurely in finding as a matter of law that [the investors] were on inquiry notice of the alleged fraud." In affirming the decision below, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:
Construing this limitations statute for the first time, we hold that a cause of action accrues (1) when the plaintiff did in fact discover, or (2) when a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered, "the facts constituting the violation" - whichever comes first. We also hold that the "facts constituting the violation" include the fact of scienter, "a mental state embracing intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud,"
Justice John Paul Stevens filed a concurring opinion. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Under 28 USC § 1658(b) [text], a plaintiff has two years to file a claim alleging violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. The first fraud complaint against the company was filed in November of 2003. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for more than 18 months.




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Kyrgyzstan interim government charges ousted president with murder
Daniel Richey on April 27, 2010 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials in Kyrgyzstan's interim government said Tuesday that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been charged with mass murder, for which he will be tried in absentia. The charges stem from an April 7 incident [JURIST report] in which police fired on a crowd of anti-government demonstrators, killing more than 85 people. The crowd eventually overwhelmed security forces, ultimately overtaking the Kyrgyz government and forcing Bakiyev into exile. Bakiyev maintains that police only shot at the protesters after the crowd began firing on Kyrgyz government headquarters. Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] has pledged [JURIST report] to bring Bakiyev and other members of the former government to justice, but the government has so far succeeded in securing only the arrest of former defense minister Baktybek Kaliyev [AFP report] and the extradition Bakiyev's interior minister from Russia. Officials in Belarus, where Bakiyev currently resides, have not said whether they plan to return him to Kyrgyz custody. Interim government officials maintain that Belarus is obligated by treaties between former Soviet states to extradite Bakiyev.

Otunbayeva launched the new government [JURIST report] after Bakiyev fled the capital earlier this month. Interim officials have had difficulty securing the nation in the wake of Bakiyev's ouster, facing pro-Bakiyev protests and questions about the new administration's legitimacy. Last week, Kyrgyzstan interim deputy leader Omurbek Tekebayev announced [JURIST report] that the country will hold a referendum on a new constitution this summer. That same week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the interim government to conduct an investigation into the violence that resulted in Bakiyev's overthrow. UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) [advocacy website] Executive Director Jan Kubis [official profile] said [press release] earlier this month that Kyrgyzstan needs international support in order to continue democratic reforms. The new government has received support from both the US and Russia.






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Kyrgyzstan interim government charges ousted president with murder
Daniel Richey on April 27, 2010 12:02 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Officials in Kyrgyzstan's interim government said Tuesday that ousted former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has been charged with mass murder, for which he will be tried in absentia. The charges stem from an April 7 incident [JURIST report] in which police fired on a crowd of anti-government demonstrators, killing more than 85 people. The crowd eventually overwhelmed security forces, ultimately overtaking the Kyrgyz government and forcing Bakiyev into exile. Bakiyev maintains that police only shot at the protesters after the crowd began firing on Kyrgyz government headquarters. Interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] has pledged [JURIST report] to bring Bakiyev and other members of the former government to justice, but the government has so far succeeded in securing only the arrest of former defense minister Baktybek Kaliyev [AFP report] and the extradition Bakiyev's interior minister from Russia. Officials in Belarus, where Bakiyev currently resides, have not said whether they plan to return him to Kyrgyz custody. Interim government officials maintain that Belarus is obligated by treaties between former Soviet states to extradite Bakiyev.

Otunbayeva launched the new government [JURIST report] after Bakiyev fled the capital earlier this month. Interim officials have had difficulty securing the nation in the wake of Bakiyev's ouster, facing pro-Bakiyev protests and questions about the new administration's legitimacy. Last week, Kyrgyzstan interim deputy leader Omurbek Tekebayev announced [JURIST report] that the country will hold a referendum on a new constitution this summer. That same week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the interim government to conduct an investigation into the violence that resulted in Bakiyev's overthrow. UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) [advocacy website] Executive Director Jan Kubis [official profile] said [press release] earlier this month that Kyrgyzstan needs international support in order to continue democratic reforms. The new government has received support from both the US and Russia.




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US to transfer non-Afghan Bagram detainees to home countries: report
Steve Dotterer on April 27, 2010 11:54 AM ET

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[JURIST] A US military official has said that the US is in negotiations to transfer non-Afghan detainees at Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive] back to their home countries, Al Jazeera reported [text] Tuesday. The military intends to return the detainees to their countries of origin in anticipation of a transfer of the facility [JURIST report] to Afghan authorities at the end of the year. Although the military has refused to confirm the number of foreign nationals being held at the base, it is believed that approximately 30 to 60 are being detained. Rights of foreign nationals in US overseas prisons continue to present pressing legal questions as the Obama administration contemplates handing additional authority over to the Afghan government. Compounding the issue is the fact that detainees at the facility have recently alleged torture [JURIST report] at a secret prison housed within the air base, bringing the facility into sharper focus for the US government.

Alleged prisoner abuse linked to the war on terror in Afghanistan has received international attention. This month a retired Canadian military officer who served in Afghanistan said that Canadian soldiers believed that prisoners may have been abused [Globe and Mail report] after being transferred to prison facilities in Afghanistan. Human rights groups have also criticized military procedures in the country. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed habeas corpus petitions [JURIST report] on behalf of four detainees held at Bagram Air Base, claiming that none of the men has engaged in hostile behavior directed at the US, nor are they members of groups that purport to do so. In January, the US Department of Defense released a list of names of 645 prisoners detained at Bagram in response to a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by the ACLU last September. Prisoners at Bagram have launched previous habeas corpus challenges [JURIST report] in US courts but thus far have been less successful than those held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive].




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US to transfer non-Afghan Bagram detainees to home countries: report
Steve Dotterer on April 27, 2010 11:34 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military official has said that the US is in negotiations to transfer non-Afghan detainees at Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive] back to their home countries, Al Jazeera reported [text] Tuesday. The military intends to return the detainees to their countries of origin in anticipation of a transfer of the facility [JURIST report] to Afghan authorities at the end of the year. Although the military has refused to confirm the number of foreign nationals being held at the base, it is believed that approximately 30 to 60 are being detained. Rights of foreign nationals in US overseas prisons continue to present pressing legal questions as the Obama administration contemplates handing additional authority over to the Afghan government. Compounding the issue is the fact that detainees at the facility have recently alleged torture [JURIST report] at a secret prison housed within the air base, bringing the facility into sharper focus for the US government.

Alleged prisoner abuse linked to the war on terror in Afghanistan has received international attention. This month a retired Canadian military officer who served in Afghanistan said that Canadian soldiers believed that prisoners may have been abused [Globe and Mail report] after being transferred to prison facilities in Afghanistan. Human rights groups have also criticized military procedures in the country. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed habeas corpus petitions [JURIST report] on behalf of four detainees held at Bagram Air Base, claiming that none of the men has engaged in hostile behavior directed at the US, nor are they members of groups that purport to do so. In January, the US Department of Defense released a list of names of 645 prisoners detained at Bagram in response to a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by the ACLU last September. Prisoners at Bagram have launched previous habeas corpus challenges [JURIST report] in US courts but thus far have been less successful than those held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive].






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Supreme Court rules Vioxx fraud suit may proceed
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 11:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday allowed a suit to proceed against drug maker Merck & Co. [corporate website] over the safety record of its painkiller Vioxx [JURIST news archive]. The court ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Merck & Co. v. Reynolds [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the statute of limitations in a securities fraud lawsuit begins to run once the plaintiff actually discovered or a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered the violation - whichever comes first. Investors brought the class action suit against Merck in 2003, alleging that it had deliberately concealed information about Vioxx. The case was dismissed [JURIST report] by a federal judge in April 2007 after he determined that investors were on "inquiry notice" of the alleged fraud in September 2001 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] released a warning letter [text, PDF] about the painkiller. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated the case [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in September 2008, finding that the district judge had "acted prematurely in finding as a matter of law that [the investors] were on inquiry notice of the alleged fraud." In affirming the decision below, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:


Construing this limitations statute for the first time, we hold that a cause of action accrues (1) when the plaintiff did in fact discover, or (2) when a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered, "the facts constituting the violation" - whichever comes first. We also hold that the "facts constituting the violation" include the fact of scienter, "a mental state embracing intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud,"

Justice John Paul Stevens filed a concurring opinion. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Under 28 USC § 1658(b) [text], a plaintiff has two years to file a claim alleging violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. The first fraud complaint against the company was filed in November of 2003. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a study showed that it could double the risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for more than 18 months.





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Supreme Court rules class arbitration may not be imposed on parties absent agreement
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 11:02 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-3 in Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds International [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that imposing class arbitration on parties when that issue is silent in the parties' arbitration clauses is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [9 USC §§ 1-14 text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled [opinion, PDF] that construing the arbitration clause to permit class arbitration "did not manifestly disregard the law" because the parties specifically agreed that the arbitration panel would decide on the scope of the clause and, therefore, the panel did not exceed its authority. In reversing the decision below, Justice Samuel Alito wrote:
Contrary to the dissent, but consistent with our precedents emphasizing the consensual basis of arbitration, we see the question as being whether the parties agreed to authorize class arbitration. Here, where the parties stipulated that there was "no agreement" on this question, it follows that the parties cannot be compelled to submit their dispute to class arbitration.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer. Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the consideration of the case.

The case arose when AnimalFeeds filed a class action lawsuit against four major shipping companies, including Stolt-Nielsen [corporate websites], alleging antitrust violations. The parties had a written contract, under which their case was referred to an arbitration panel. The contract was silent as to whether class arbitrations are permissible.




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Indonesia opens first prison for corruption crimes
Steve Dotterer on April 27, 2010 11:00 AM ET

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[JURIST] Indonesia's justice minister announced Tuesday the opening of a prison wing intended to confine individuals convicted of corruption. The new wing, part of Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta, is designed to hold up to 256 inmates, although only 10 people are currently incarcerated there. The country's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) [official website, in Bahasa] is responsible for sentencing inmates to prison terms in the new facility. The wing was added to alleviate overcrowding [JURIST news archive] in the Indonesian prison system and was also in response to criticism that wealthy prisoners are permitted to live in luxury. Anti-corruption reform has been one of the primary concerns of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [NYT profile], and the opening of the prison wing highlights corruption concerns in the civilian and military branches of the government.

Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] wrote [letter text] to the Indonesian parliament urging the passage of a bill that would allow civilian officials to prosecute soldiers who commit crimes against civilians. Also last week, the independent, non-governmental organization International Crisis Group (ICG) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] stating that "corruption continues to be a major lubricant for terrorist activities in Indonesia." In February, the prosecution of Antasari Azhar [CNN report], former chief of the KPK, again raised corruption concerns in the country. In January, Indonesian protesters took to the streets [BBC report] in response to corruption scandals in Yudhoyono's administration. Last year, two senior law enforcement officials resigned [JURIST report] after being linked to an alleged plot to weaken the KPK.




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Indonesia opens first prison for corruption crimes
Steve Dotterer on April 27, 2010 10:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Indonesia's justice minister announced Tuesday the opening of a prison wing intended to confine individuals convicted of corruption. The new wing, part of Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta, is designed to hold up to 256 inmates, although only 10 people are currently incarcerated there. The country's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) [official website, in Bahasa] is responsible for sentencing inmates to prison terms in the new facility. The wing was added to alleviate overcrowding [JURIST news archive] in the Indonesian prison system and was also in response to criticism that wealthy prisoners are permitted to live in luxury. Anti-corruption reform has been one of the primary concerns of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [NYT profile], and the opening of the prison wing highlights corruption concerns in the civilian and military branches of the government.

Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] wrote [letter text] to the Indonesian parliament urging the passage of a bill that would allow civilian officials to prosecute soldiers who commit crimes against civilians. Also last week, the independent, non-governmental organization International Crisis Group (ICG) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] stating that "corruption continues to be a major lubricant for terrorist activities in Indonesia." In February, the prosecution of Antasari Azhar [CNN report], former chief of the KPK, again raised corruption concerns in the country. In January, Indonesian protesters took to the streets [BBC report] in response to corruption scandals in Yudhoyono's administration. Last year, two senior law enforcement officials resigned [JURIST report] after being linked to an alleged plot to weaken the KPK.






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Supreme Court rules class arbitration may not be imposed absent agreement
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-3 in Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds International [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that imposing class arbitration on parties when that issue is silent in the parties' arbitration clauses is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [9 USC §§ 1-14 text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled [opinion, PDF] that construing the arbitration clause to permit class arbitration "did not manifestly disregard the law" because the parties specifically agreed that the arbitration panel would decide on the scope of the clause and, therefore, the panel did not exceed its authority. In reversing the decision below, Justice Samuel Alito wrote:


Contrary to the dissent, but consistent with our precedents emphasizing the consensual basis of arbitration, we see the question as being whether the parties agreed to authorize class arbitration. Here, where the parties stipulated that there was "no agreement" on this question, it follows that the parties cannot be compelled to submit their dispute to class arbitration.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer. Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the consideration of the case.

The case arose when AnimalFeeds filed a class action lawsuit against four major shipping companies, including Stolt-Nielsen [corporate websites], alleging antitrust violations. The parties had a written contract, under which their case was referred to an arbitration panel. The contract was silent as to whether class arbitrations are permissible.





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US extradites Noriega to France on money laundering charges
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 9:59 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] arrived in France Tuesday to face money laundering charges after being extradited from the US. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] signed a surrender warrant Monday after a federal judge lifted the stay [JURIST report] blocking his extradition last month. Noriega will appear Tuesday before French prosecutors to hear the charges against him, which stem from allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. Noriega's lawyers have said they will seek his immediate release [AP report], arguing that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state.

Noriega has been fighting extradition [JURIST report] since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.




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US extradites Noriega to France on money laundering charges
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 27, 2010 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] arrived in France Tuesday to face money laundering charges after being extradited from the US. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] signed a surrender warrant Monday after a federal judge lifted the stay [JURIST report] blocking his extradition last month. Noriega will appear Tuesday before French prosecutors to hear the charges against him, which stem from allegedly laundering $3 million in drug profits by purchasing property in Paris. Noriega's lawyers have said they will seek his immediate release [AP report], arguing that he is immune from prosecution as a former head of state.

Noriega has been fighting extradition [JURIST report] since 2007. Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to reconsider [JURIST report] Noriega's petition to stop the extradition process. His lawyers filed the petition in February after the Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST reports] on the case in January. 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. Noriega and his wife were sentenced in absentia [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail by a French court in 1999, but France agreed to hold a new trial if he was extradited.






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Haiti judge orders trial for US missionary on irregular travel charges
Ximena Marinero on April 27, 2010 8:13 AM ET

[JURIST] A Haitian judge on Monday dismissed charges of kidnapping and criminal association against all 10 members of a US missionary group arrested [JURIST report] in January but ordered one to stand trial for making "irregular travel" arrangements involving 30 Haitian children. Laura Silsby, the only missionary who has not been released by Haitian authorities, will remain in custody [CNN report] until her trial. According to a 1980 decree in the Haitian Criminal Code [text, in French], irregular travel is the term for traveling or organizing travel originating in Haiti with a foreign destination in a manner that does not comply with established laws. If convicted, Silsby could face six months to three years of incarceration.

Last month, a Haitian judge ordered [JURIST report] the release of one of the last two US missionaries out of a group of 10 who were arrested following the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive] in connection with their attempt to take 33 children across the Haitian border into the Dominican Republic. The judge had announced [JURIST report] in February that the two remaining missionaries would also be released after the other eight members of the missionary group affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [church website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile] were released [JURIST report] earlier that month. Haitian authorities originally charged [JURIST report] each of the 10 missionaries in February with one count of kidnapping and one count of criminal association, asserting that many of the children were not orphans.






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Haiti judge orders trial for US missionary on irregular travel charges
Ximena Marinero on April 26, 2010 8:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Haitian judge on Monday dismissed charges of kidnapping and criminal association against all 10 members of a US missionary group arrested [JURIST report] in January but ordered one to stand trial for making "irregular travel" arrangements involving 30 Haitian children. Laura Silsby, the only missionary who has not been released by Haitian authorities, will remain in custody [CNN report] until her trial. According to a 1980 decree in the Haitian Criminal Code [text, in French], irregular travel is the term for traveling or organizing travel originating in Haiti with a foreign destination in a manner that does not comply with established laws. If convicted, Silsby could face six months to three years of incarceration.

Last month, a Haitian judge ordered [JURIST report] the release of one of the last two US missionaries out of a group of 10 who were arrested following the January 12 earthquake [JURIST news archive] in connection with their attempt to take 33 children across the Haitian border into the Dominican Republic. The judge had announced [JURIST report] in February that the two remaining missionaries would also be released after the other eight members of the missionary group affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church [church website] of Idaho and the New Life Children's Refuge Charity [BBC profile] were released [JURIST report] earlier that month. Haitian authorities originally charged [JURIST report] each of the 10 missionaries in February with one count of kidnapping and one count of criminal association, asserting that many of the children were not orphans.




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Supreme Court hears ERISA, arbitration cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 26, 2010 4:53 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Monday in two cases. In Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co. [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether whether s. 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 s. 502(g)(1) provides a district court discretion to award reasonable attorney's fees only to a prevailing party. Counsel for petitioner argued that she "is eligible for a fee award under section 502(g)(1) of ERISA by proper application of this Court's established fee standards under any test this Court has previously established." Counsel for the US government argued as amicus curiae on behalf of petitioner. Counsel for the respondent argued that "the Petitioner must demonstrate some success on the merits, and under Rule 54 she must specify the judgment entitling her to an award."

In Rent-A-Center v. Jackson [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the court heard arguments on whether a 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. Counsel for the petitioner argued:

The agreement between Antonio Jackson and Rent-A-Center should be enforced as written. There is no statutory impediment to the enforcement of the clear and unmistakable agreement that gives the arbitrator exclusive authority to decide Jackson's challenge to enforceability, nor is there any language in the Federal Arbitration Act that would prohibit the court from making the determination - prohibit the arbitrator from making the determination of Jackson's challenge to unconscionability.
Counsel for the respondent argued that "Petitioner would have the Court adopt a rule whereby agreements to arbitrate are presumed enforceable before their validity has been determined by a court under section 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act."




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HOLD Nigerian PDP chairman Ogbulafor faces curious fraud charges
Michael Kraemer on April 26, 2010 3:52 PM ET


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[JURIST] Nigerian Federal Capital Territory High Court [official website] on Monday charged Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) [official website] chairman Vincent Ogbulafor [PDP leaders; website] with a series of corruption and fraud allegations the day before an executive meeting to consider the 2011 PDP candidate. The formalization of charges creates a criminal case against the person with heavy influence over the next presidency. BBC correspondents note [BBC] "the case is being seen against the background of a struggle for control of the leadership" which suggests that criminal charges may be a proxy for the power struggle occurring within the ranks of the PDP. Ailing President elect Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile; BBC report] has been entirely secluded since November while Acting President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile] assumed leadership [JURIST report] in what observers termed a "meteoric rise to power." Umaru Yar'Adua is unlikely to run again leaving Ogbulafor to organize a committee to find a candidate to run in 2011, which will block the reelection of Goodluck Jonathan. On Wednesday, 36 PDP politicians gathered [allAfrica report] at the Wadata Plaza to protest the allegations against Ogbulafor. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission [official website] previously brought the charges to the attention of the Nigerian courts. A court in January ruled that Yar'Adua is not required [JURIST report] to formally transfer his powers to Jonathan or any other interim leader. In 2006, Patience Jonathan faced an investigation over a $13 million money laundering scheme which was eventually was dropped.



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Ninth Circuit affirms class certification in Walmart gender discrimination case
Carrie Schimizzi on April 26, 2010 3:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [opinion, PDF] certification of the largest class action lawsuit in US history against Wal-Mart [corporate website] for allegedly discriminating against female employees. The 6-5 en banc ruling upholds a previous decision [JURIST report] by the Ninth Circuit that the lawsuit could go to trial despite the large size of the class. The case was filed in 2001 by female Wal-Mart employees [class website] who contend that Wal-Mart's nationwide policies violate Title VII [text] of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that women employed by Wal-Mart are paid less than men in comparable positions and wait longer for management promotions than men, despite their higher performance ratings and seniority. In a statement [text], Wal-Mart said that they are going to proceed by reviewing their options:
We disagree with the decision of the sharply divided 6-5 court to uphold portions of the certification order, and are considering our options, including seeking review from the Supreme Court. It is important to remember the court did not address the merits of this case. The court reiterated, "our findings relate only to class action procedural questions; we neither analyze nor reach the merits of Plaintiffs' allegations of gender discrimination." The court further noted that the trial court "has the discretion to modify or decertify the class."
The certified class, which in 2001 was estimated to encompass more than 1.5 million women, includes all women employed by Wal-Mart nationwide at any time after December 26, 1998.

The Ninth Circuit granted an en banc rehearing [JURIST report] to Wal-Mart last year. According to the order, a majority of the Ninth Circuit judges, excluding the three judges who heard an earlier appeal [JURIST report] in which class certification was upheld, voted in favor of an en banc hearing. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit originally ruled against Wal-Mart's appeal of the class certification in February 2007, then issued a new opinion [text, PDF] in conjunction with its decision in December 2007. Wal-Mart appealed [JURIST report] to the Ninth Circuit in 2005, arguing that the six lead plaintiffs were not typical or common of the class. Wal-Mart also objected to the size of the class certified, which it says would violate its due process rights. Wal-Mart argued that its stores operate independently and should be sued individually, while plaintiffs' lawyers countered that individual lawsuits would be impractical. The district court also rejected Wal-Mart's claim that the class size was "impractical on its face" and approved a statistical formula for paying damages if discrimination is proven.




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Supreme Court hears ERISA, arbitration cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 26, 2010 3:12 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 Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co. [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether 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. Counsel for petitioner argued that she "is eligible for a fee award under section 502(g)(1) of ERISA by proper application of this Court's established fee standards under any test this Court has previously established." Counsel for the US government argued as amicus curiae on behalf of petitioner. Counsel for the respondent argued that "the Petitioner must demonstrate some success on the merits, and under Rule 54 she must specify the judgment entitling her to an award."

In Rent-A-Center v. Jackson [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the court heard arguments on whether a 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. Counsel for the petitioner argued:


The agreement between Antonio Jackson and Rent-A-Center should be enforced as written. There is no statutory impediment to the enforcement of the clear and unmistakable agreement that gives the arbitrator exclusive authority to decide Jackson's challenge to enforceability, nor is there any language in the Federal Arbitration Act that would prohibit the court from making the determination - prohibit the arbitrator from making the determination of Jackson's challenge to unconscionability.

Counsel for the respondent argued that "Petitioner would have the Court adopt a rule whereby agreements to arbitrate are presumed enforceable before their validity has been determined by a court under section 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act."





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Ninth Circuit affirms class certification in Walmart gender discrimination case
Carrie Schimizzi on April 26, 2010 2:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [opinion, PDF] certification of the largest class action lawsuit in US history against Wal-Mart [corporate website] for allegedly discriminating against female employees. The 6-5 en banc ruling upholds a previous decision [JURIST report] by the Ninth Circuit that the lawsuit could go to trial despite the large size of the class. The case was filed in 2001 by female Wal-Mart employees [class website] who contend that Wal-Mart's nationwide policies violate Title VII [text] of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that women employed by Wal-Mart are paid less than men in comparable positions and wait longer for management promotions than men, despite their higher performance ratings and seniority. In a statement [text], Wal-Mart said that they are going to proceed by reviewing their options:


We disagree with the decision of the sharply divided 6-5 court to uphold portions of the certification order, and are considering our options, including seeking review from the Supreme Court. It is important to remember the court did not address the merits of this case. The court reiterated, "our findings relate only to class action procedural questions; we neither analyze nor reach the merits of Plaintiffs' allegations of gender discrimination." The court further noted that the trial court "has the discretion to modify or decertify the class."

The certified class, which in 2001 was estimated to encompass more than 1.5 million women, includes all women employed by Wal-Mart nationwide at any time after December 26, 1998.

The Ninth Circuit granted an en banc rehearing [JURIST report] to Wal-Mart last year. According to the order, a majority of the Ninth Circuit judges, excluding the three judges who heard an earlier appeal [JURIST report] in which class certification was upheld, voted in favor of an en banc hearing. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit originally ruled against Wal-Mart's appeal of the class certification in February 2007, then issued a new opinion [text, PDF] in conjunction with its decision in December 2007. Wal-Mart appealed [JURIST report] to the Ninth Circuit in 2005, arguing that the six lead plaintiffs were not typical or common of the class. Wal-Mart also objected to the size of the class certified, which it says would violate its due process rights. Wal-Mart argued that its stores operate independently and should be sued individually, while plaintiffs' lawyers countered that individual lawsuits would be impractical. The district court also rejected Wal-Mart's claim that the class size was "impractical on its face" and approved a statistical formula for paying damages if discrimination is proven.





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China arrests Tibet writer after earthquake relief criticism
Patrice Collins on April 26, 2010 1:32 PM ET

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[JURIST] Chinese authorities have arrested a prominent Tibetan writer after he signed a letter critical of the Chinese government's relief efforts following the recent earthquake in the western Qinghai [Xinhua backgrounder] province, a family friend said Monday. Tra Gyal, who writes under the pseudonym Zhogs Dung, was reportedly arrested [AP report] while working at the Nationalities Publishing House in the provincial capital Xining. Tra Gyal helped organize private donations [Times report] for those left homeless in the remote Yushu county, a Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, by asking Tibetans not to send donations through official channels but rather to travel to the county themselves to guarantee their donations reached those in need. It is unclear whether Tra Gyal's detention is related to his criticism of the earthquake relief efforts.

In February, a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] human rights activist Tan Zuoren to five years in prison on subversion charges after he documented the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province's 2008 earthquake [BBC backgrounder], which left some 90,000 dead. A Chinese court sentenced another earthquake activist [JURIST report], Huang Qi, to three years in prison in November on the charge of illegally holding state secrets. Huang was a critic of the Chinese government's handling of the 2008 disaster. After the quake, he posted articles online criticizing the government's response and talked to foreign media outlets about how some children's deaths were the result of poorly-built schools. Amnesty International issued a statement [text] in July urging China to drop the charges against Huang and release him from custody.




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UK court hears London transit bombing lawsuit
Steve Dotterer on April 26, 2010 1:18 PM ET

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[JURIST] Lawyers for victims of the July 7, 2005 London transit bombings [JURIST news archive] argued on Monday in the Royal Courts of Justice that UK authorities possessed information that could have helped them prevent the attacks. The theory for the case is built on intelligence that British security service MI5 [official website] and the London police had uncovered about the four suicide bombers prior to the attacks. Counsel for bereaved families argued that the UK government breached obligations to its citizens under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which provides for the right to life. MI5 and the Home Secretary [official website] argued in response to the prosecution's arguments that the matter has already been investigated in the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) [official website] and that the intelligence could undermine law enforcement efforts if made public. The hearing is scheduled to last for three days.

In January, the UK government introduced a scheme [JURIST report] for compensating victims of overseas terrorism, using a plan that closely mirrors that used to compensate families of the July 2005 bombings [BBC backgrounder]. In November, London police reached a settlement [JURIST report] with the family of a man mistaken for one of the terrorist suspects involved in the bomb plot. In April 2008, the UK Court of Appeal rejected the appeal [JURIST report] of four men found guilty of plotting the London attacks. The 2005 bombings targeted three trains and one bus, killing 52 people and injuring at least 770.




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ICC rejects prosecution's application for appeal in Sudan rebel leader case
Megan McKee on April 26, 2010 12:47 PM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] has rejected [judgment, PDF; press release] the prosecutor's petition to appeal the court's February decision [judgment, PDF] declining to confirm the charges against Darfur rebel chief Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials; JURIST news archive]. In a decision released Friday, the chamber recalled its earlier determination that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not of the appropriate severity to continue the proceedings against Abu Garda and found that the prosecution's petition did not meet the requirements for an appeal. The prosecutor argued in the appeal that the court had applied a stricter evidentiary standard [Rules of Evidence, PDF] in the Pre-Trial Chamber than it should have employed. In denying the appeal, the ICC said:
[N]either the Statute nor the Rules, contrary to the Prosecution's assertion, draws a distinction as to the way evidence shall be assessed before a Trial Chamber and a Pre-Trial Chamber. The free assessment of the evidence presented by a party is, pursuant to the Statute, a core component of the judicial activity both at the pre-trial stage of a case and at trial. ... In light of the above, the proposition put forward by the Prosecution, namely that the Chamber should have applied a different standard to the assessment of the evidence at the confirmation of the charges stage, is without any legal basis.
In the event that the prosecution provides additional evidence, it may still seek the confirmation of the charges or petition the chamber to appeal the decision.

The ICC declined to confirm charges against Abu Garda in February, a ruling that came after a preliminary hearing [JURIST reports] in October, during which the prosecution alleged that Abu Garda controlled the Justice and Equality Movement [official website, in Arabic]. The charges against Abu Garda stem from a series of attacks in 2007 that resulted in the death of 12 African Union Mission in Sudan soldiers. Abu Garda first appeared [JURIST report] before the ICC on the charges in May 2009, and is the first individual involved in the situation in Darfur to appear before the court.




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China arrests Tibet writer after earthquake relief criticism
Patrice Collins on April 26, 2010 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Chinese authorities have arrested a prominent Tibetan writer after he signed a letter critical of the Chinese government's relief efforts following the recent earthquake in the western Qinghai [Xinhua backgrounder] province, a family friend said Monday. Tra Gyal, who writes under the pseudonym Zhogs Dung, was reportedly arrested [AP report] while working at the Nationalities Publishing House in the provincial capital Xining. Tra Gyal helped organize private donations [Times report] for those left homeless in the remote Yushu county, a Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, by asking Tibetans not to send donations through official channels but rather to travel to the county themselves to guarantee their donations reached those in need. It is unclear whether Tra Gyal's detention is related to his criticism of the earthquake relief efforts.

In February, a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] human rights activist Tan Zuoren to five years in prison on subversion charges after he documented the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province's 2008 earthquake [BBC backgrounder], which left some 90,000 dead. A Chinese court sentenced another earthquake activist [JURIST report], Huang Qi, to three years in prison in November on the charge of illegally holding state secrets. Huang was a critic of the Chinese government's handling of the 2008 disaster. After the quake, he posted articles online criticizing the government's response and talked to foreign media outlets about how some children's deaths were the result of poorly-built schools. Amnesty International issued a statement [text] in July urging China to drop the charges against Huang and release him from custody.






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UK court hears London transit bombing lawsuit
Steve Dotterer on April 26, 2010 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for victims of the July 7, 2005 London transit bombings [JURIST news archive] argued on Monday in the Royal Courts of Justice that UK authorities possessed information that could have helped them prevent the attacks. The theory for the case is built on intelligence that British security service MI5 [official website] and the London police had uncovered about the four suicide bombers prior to the attacks. Counsel for bereaved families argued that the UK government breached obligations to its citizens under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which provides for the right to life. MI5 and the Home Secretary [official website] argued in response to the prosecution's arguments that the matter has already been investigated in the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) [official website] and that the intelligence could undermine law enforcement efforts if made public. The hearing is scheduled to last for three days.

In January, the UK government introduced a scheme [JURIST report] for compensating victims of overseas terrorism, using a plan that closely mirrors that used to compensate families of the July 2005 bombings [BBC backgrounder]. In November, London police reached a settlement [JURIST report] with the family of a man mistaken for one of the terrorist suspects involved in the bomb plot. In April 2008, the UK Court of Appeal rejected the appeal [JURIST report] of four men found guilty of plotting the London attacks. The 2005 bombings targeted three trains and one bus, killing 52 people and injuring at least 770.






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ICC rejects prosecution's application for appeal in Sudan rebel leader case
Megan McKee on April 26, 2010 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] has rejected [judgment, PDF; press release] the prosecutor's petition to appeal the court's February decision [judgment, PDF] declining to confirm the charges against Darfur rebel chief Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials; JURIST news archive]. In a decision released Friday, the chamber recalled its earlier determination that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not of the appropriate severity to continue the proceedings against Abu Garda and found that the prosecution's petition did not meet the requirements for an appeal. The prosecutor argued in the appeal that the court had applied a stricter evidentiary standard [Rules of Evidence, PDF] in the Pre-Trial Chamber than it should have employed. In denying the appeal, the ICC said:


[N]either the Statute nor the Rules, contrary to the Prosecution's assertion, draws a distinction as to the way evidence shall be assessed before a Trial Chamber and a Pre-Trial Chamber. The free assessment of the evidence presented by a party is, pursuant to the Statute, a core component of the judicial activity both at the pre-trial stage of a case and at trial. ... In light of the above, the proposition put forward by the Prosecution, namely that the Chamber should have applied a different standard to the assessment of the evidence at the confirmation of the charges stage, is without any legal basis.

In the event that the prosecution provides additional evidence, it may still seek the confirmation of the charges or petition the chamber to appeal the decision.

The ICC declined to confirm charges against Abu Garda in February, a ruling that came after a preliminary hearing [JURIST reports] in October, during which the prosecution alleged that Abu Garda controlled the Justice and Equality Movement [official website, in Arabic]. The charges against Abu Garda stem from a series of attacks in 2007 that resulted in the death of 12 African Union Mission in Sudan soldiers. Abu Garda first appeared [JURIST report] before the ICC on the charges in May 2009, and is the first individual involved in the situation in Darfur to appear before the court.





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France to send legal experts to help reform Jordan courts
Ann Riley on April 26, 2010 11:48 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie [official profile, in French] and Jordan's King Abdullah II [official profile] met Sunday to discuss increasing cooperation [press release] between France and Jordan's judicial and legislative branches and strengthening the ties between the two countries. Alliot-Marie told reporters that France would send legal experts [AFP report] to Jordan to help strengthen its court system. Sunday's talks follow the protocol [Petra report] signed by France and Jordan last April to enhance the countries' legal cooperation. The protocol provides for the exchange of current legal and judicial releases and research highlighting the countries' judiciary, and underscores revisions of Jordan's current civil and criminal laws.

Jordan has employed a series of legal reforms to address the concerns of many human rights groups. Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Jordan to restore its rule of law [JURIST report] by ending extrajudicial detentions of crime victims, personal enemies, and persons freed by the courts. Per the 1954 Crime Prevention Law [DOS backgrounder], which is currently in effect, government officials have the power to order administrative detentions on mere suspicions of improper behavior rather than on the showing of evidence that a crime has been committed. HRW asserted that the formulation and application of Jordan's Crime Prevention Law violates international standards as well as Articles 7 and 8 of the Jordan Constitution [text], which states that "Personal freedom shall be guaranteed," and that "No person may be detained or imprisoned except in accordance with the provisions of the law." The HRW report alleges that Jordan officials frequently circumvent the judicial system under which potential defendants are afforded due process and also that the subjects of such extrajudicial detentions are often the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators themselves.




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Supreme Court to rule on banning violent video game sales to minors
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 26, 2010 10:58 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases. In Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the First Amendment [text] permits any limits on offensive content in violent video games sold to minors, and whether a state regulation for displaying offensive, harmful images to children is invalid if it fails to satisfy the exacting "strict scrutiny" standard of review. California Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5 [text] prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors under 18 where a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors, is patently offensive to prevailing community standards as to what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the district court's judgment permanently enjoining enforcement of the prohibition.

In Ortiz v. Jordan [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether a party may appeal an order denying summary judgment after a full trial on the merits if the party chose not to appeal the order before trial. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that, "although courts normally do not review the denial of a summary judgment motion after a trial on the merits, denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is an exception to this rule." There is a circuit split on this issue.

Also Monday, the court decided not to allow Michigan to reopen a longstanding controversy [backgrounder, PDF; JURIST report] with the state of Illinois seeking to close two waterways that allow invasive Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. The court also refused to allow Michigan to open a new case on the issue.




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Iraq recount to be delayed a week as votes of 52 candidates nullified
Dwyer Arce on April 26, 2010 10:36 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The recount of votes cast in Baghdad province during the March 7 parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will be delayed a week, according to an official on Monday. The Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] will not begin the recount [Reuters report] until the review panel ordering the recount defines more precisely what a recount entails. Iyad Allawi [personal website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile], whose Iraqiya coalition garnered a slim two-seat lead over the State of Law [official website] coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic], threatened to reject the recount [NPR report] if it only includes Baghdad. Also on Monday, an IHEC review panel nullified [AP report] the votes of 52 candidates for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder], including two candidates that had won seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website], at least one of which coming from Iraqiya. The uncertainty over the election results has jeopardized the US plan for withdrawal of combat troops by August, and has prompted the Obama administration to propose a coalition government [Independent report] between Maliki and Allawi, where each would hold the premiership for two years.

The IHEC ordered a manual recount [JURIST report] of the ballots in Baghdad last week, following fraud allegations. The election commissioner for the IHEC informed the public that the Baghdad recount would begin immediately [Al Jazeera report], citing manipulation in voting stations. The State of Law coalition alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition held a slight lead. In February, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to the Baath Party could stand in the election. The initial ban was characterized by the Iraqi government as illegal and was reversed [JURIST reports] when the panel acknowledged that it did not have to rule on all 500 candidates at once. This came as a reversal of a previous decision, where it held [WSJ report] that the candidates could stand in the coming elections, but would have to be cleared of the allegations against them before taking office.




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France to send legal experts to help reform Jordan courts
Ann Riley on April 26, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie [official profile, in French] and Jordan's King Abdullah II [official profile] met Sunday to discuss increasing cooperation [press release] between France and Jordan's judicial and legislative branches and strengthening the ties between the two countries. Alliot-Marie told reporters that France would send legal experts [AFP report] to Jordan to help strengthen its court system. Sunday's talks follow the protocol [Petra report] signed by France and Jordan last April to enhance the countries' legal cooperation. The protocol provides for the exchange of current legal and judicial releases and research highlighting the countries' judiciary, and underscores revisions of Jordan's current civil and criminal laws.

Jordan has employed a series of legal reforms to address the concerns of many human rights groups. Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Jordan to restore its rule of law [JURIST report] by ending extrajudicial detentions of crime victims, personal enemies, and persons freed by the courts. Per the 1954 Crime Prevention Law [DOS backgrounder], which is currently in effect, government officials have the power to order administrative detentions on mere suspicions of improper behavior rather than on the showing of evidence that a crime has been committed. HRW asserted that the formulation and application of Jordan's Crime Prevention Law violates international standards as well as Articles 7 and 8 of the Jordan Constitution [text], which states that "Personal freedom shall be guaranteed," and that "No person may be detained or imprisoned except in accordance with the provisions of the law." The HRW report alleges that Jordan officials frequently circumvent the judicial system under which potential defendants are afforded due process and also that the subjects of such extrajudicial detentions are often the victims of crimes rather than the perpetrators themselves.






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Supreme Court to rule on banning violent video game sales to minors
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 26, 2010 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases. In Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the First Amendment [text] permits any limits on offensive content in violent video games sold to minors, and whether a state regulation for displaying offensive, harmful images to children is invalid if it fails to satisfy the exacting "strict scrutiny" standard of review. California Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5 [text] prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors under 18 where a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors, is patently offensive to prevailing community standards as to what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the district court's judgment permanently enjoining enforcement of the prohibition.

In Ortiz v. Jordan [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether a party may appeal an order denying summary judgment after a full trial on the merits if the party chose not to appeal the order before trial. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that, "although courts normally do not review the denial of a summary judgment motion after a trial on the merits, denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity is an exception to this rule." There is a circuit split on this issue.

Also Monday, the court decided not to allow Michigan to reopen a longstanding controversy [backgrounder, PDF; JURIST report] with the state of Illinois seeking to close two waterways that allow invasive Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes. The court also refused to allow Michigan to open a new case on the issue.






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Iraq recount to be delayed a week as votes of 52 candidates nullified
Dwyer Arce on April 26, 2010 9:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The recount of votes cast in Baghdad province during the March 7 parliamentary elections [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive] will be delayed a week, according to an official on Monday. The Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] will not begin the recount [Reuters report] until the review panel ordering the recount defines more precisely what a recount entails. Iyad Allawi [personal website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile], whose Iraqiya coalition garnered a slim two-seat lead over the State of Law [official website] coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic], threatened to reject the recount [NPR report] if it only includes Baghdad. Also on Monday, an IHEC review panel nullified [AP report] the votes of 52 candidates for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder], including two candidates that had won seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives [official website], at least one of which coming from Iraqiya. The uncertainty over the election results has jeopardized the US plan for withdrawal of combat troops by August, and has prompted the Obama administration to propose a coalition government [Independent report] between Maliki and Allawi, where each would hold the premiership for two years.

The IHEC ordered a manual recount [JURIST report] of the ballots in Baghdad last week, following fraud allegations. The election commissioner for the IHEC informed the public that the Baghdad recount would begin immediately [Al Jazeera report], citing manipulation in voting stations. The State of Law coalition alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition held a slight lead. In February, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to the Baath Party could stand in the election. The initial ban was characterized by the Iraqi government as illegal and was reversed [JURIST reports] when the panel acknowledged that it did not have to rule on all 500 candidates at once. This came as a reversal of a previous decision, where it held [WSJ report] that the candidates could stand in the coming elections, but would have to be cleared of the allegations against them before taking office.






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Liberia considering war crimes trials for civil war violations
Hillary Stemple on April 26, 2010 9:49 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Liberian Justice Minister Christiana Tah has said that a report [materials] issued by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] will be reviewed by Liberian officials in order to determine if prosecutions for possible war crimes should proceed. The TRC report, issued last December, detailed crimes committed during Liberia's civil war [UNMIL backgrounder; BBC backgrounder], including the recruitment of child soldiers, the rape of women, as well as the death of more than 250,000 citizens. According to Tah, the committee reviewing the TRC report will be trying to determine who committed the most serious atrocities [Reuters report] so that prosecutions can proceed as quickly as possible. Some in Liberia are skeptical that the government will proceed with prosecutions based on the TRC report. One of the report's most controversial recommendations is a proposed 30-year ban [JURIST report] from holding office for those who supported the civil conflict, which could affect prominent leaders such as current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile]. Skeptics contend it is unlikely that Sirleaf would support some of the recommendations while ignoring those that would have a direct impact on her political future. Supporters of the TRC report contend that prosecutions are necessary to achieving justice but warn that the process would be drawn out and that it could take up to 10 years before the trials could be held.

The TRC report also contained a list of "Most Notorious Predators" and a list of perpetrators of economic crimes, which includes the head of the legal association for the defense of former president Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive]. Taylor is currently on trial [case materials] before the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] sitting at The Hague. Taylor faces 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive].




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Thailand pro-government 'yellow shirts' call for martial law to end protests
Daniel Richey on April 26, 2010 9:46 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Thailand's pro-government People's Alliance for Democracy Network [party website, in Thai; BBC backgrounder], known as "yellow shirts," called Monday for a declaration of martial law to quell the anti-government movement spearheaded by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai], or "red shirts." The statement comes after over a month of conflict in Bangkok [JURIST news archive] that has left more than 25 dead and nearly 1,000 injured in connection with increasingly violent anti-government protests. After an attack Sunday on a former premier's home left 11 people injured, the reds dug into their fortified bunker in Bangkok in anticipation of government retaliation. Yellow shirt representatives have said that if the government will not crack down on the reds, the group is prepared to take action itself.

Last week, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website; BBC profile] announced that he is prepared to negotiate with red shirt protesters once they cease their illegal conduct. Thai courts have recently issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for several high-profile protesters, including high-ranking officials of the red shirt opposition, in connection with violent protests and an alleged break-in at Parliament [Bangkok Post report]. Internal divisions have been mounting steadily in Thailand since the 2006 ouster [JURIST report] of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], whose progressive policies engendered the support of the poor rural class that largely constitutes the reds today. The yellows, primarily consisting of the urban middle-class, considered Shinawatra, and as well as the reds, disloyal to the monarchy. Because of the mounting violence, Abhisit has imposed a state of emergency [JURIST report] in Bangkok and neighboring provinces.




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Thailand pro-government 'yellow shirts' call for martial law to end protests
Daniel Richey on April 26, 2010 8:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Thailand's pro-government People's Alliance for Democracy Network [party website, in Thai; BBC backgrounder], known as "yellow shirts," called Monday for a declaration of martial law to quell the anti-government movement spearheaded by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship [party website, in Thai], or "red shirts." The statement comes after over a month of conflict in Bangkok [JURIST news archive] that has left more than 25 dead and nearly 1,000 injured in connection with increasingly violent anti-government protests. After an attack Sunday on a former premier's home left 11 people injured, the reds dug into their fortified bunker in Bangkok in anticipation of government retaliation. Yellow shirt representatives have said that if the government will not crack down on the reds, the group is prepared to take action itself.

Last week, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official website; BBC profile] announced that he is prepared to negotiate with red shirt protesters once they cease their illegal conduct. Thai courts have recently issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for several high-profile protesters, including high-ranking officials of the red shirt opposition, in connection with violent protests and an alleged break-in at Parliament [Bangkok Post report]. Internal divisions have been mounting steadily in Thailand since the 2006 ouster [JURIST report] of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], whose progressive policies engendered the support of the poor rural class that largely constitutes the reds today. The yellows, primarily consisting of the urban middle-class, considered Shinawatra, and as well as the reds, disloyal to the monarchy. Because of the mounting violence, Abhisit has imposed a state of emergency [JURIST report] in Bangkok and neighboring provinces.






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Liberia considering war crimes trials for civil war violations
Hillary Stemple on April 26, 2010 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Liberian Justice Minister Christiana Tah has said that a report [materials] issued by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) [official website] will be reviewed by Liberian officials in order to determine if prosecutions for possible war crimes should proceed. The TRC report, issued last December, detailed crimes committed during Liberia's civil war [UNMIL backgrounder; BBC backgrounder], including the recruitment of child soldiers, the rape of women, as well as the death of more than 250,000 citizens. According to Tah, the committee reviewing the TRC report will be trying to determine who committed the most serious atrocities [Reuters report] so that prosecutions can proceed as quickly as possible. Some in Liberia are skeptical that the government will proceed with prosecutions based on the TRC report. One of the report's most controversial recommendations is a proposed 30-year ban [JURIST report] from holding office for those who supported the civil conflict, which could affect prominent leaders such as current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [BBC profile]. Skeptics contend it is unlikely that Sirleaf would support some of the recommendations while ignoring those that would have a direct impact on her political future. Supporters of the TRC report contend that prosecutions are necessary to achieving justice but warn that the process would be drawn out and that it could take up to 10 years before the trials could be held.

The TRC report also contained a list of "Most Notorious Predators" and a list of perpetrators of economic crimes, which includes the head of the legal association for the defense of former president Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive]. Taylor is currently on trial [case materials] before the Special Court for Sierra Leone [official website] sitting at The Hague. Taylor faces 11 counts [indictment, PDF] of crimes against humanity, violations of the Geneva Conventions [materials], and other violations of international humanitarian law stemming from a "campaign to terrorize the civilian population" of Sierra Leone [JURIST news archive].






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Khadr seeking suppression of interrogation statements at military commission trial
Dwyer Arce on April 25, 2010 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers representing Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], a Canadian currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], say they will seek to suppress statements he made during interrogation at a preliminary hearing to begin Wednesday. The hearing is to be the last before his US military commission [JURIST news archive] trial in July, the first to commence under the Obama administration, which suspended the military commissions [WP report] after his inauguration in January 2009. Khadr's defense team plans to bring forward [Reuters report] as many as thirty guards, interrogators, and witnesses to testify that incriminating statements made by Khadr were the product of torture. Khadr's defense lawyers claim that Khadr was subject to 142 interrogations at both Bagram Air Base [JURIST news archive] and Guantanamo Bay. Prosecutors have described these claims as baseless, and have countered [G&M report] that Khadr's treatment at the hands of interrogators was humane. The Obama administration has also been seeking the extradition of Khadr's brother Abdullah Khadr, currently detained by Canadian authorities in Toronto, for trial in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website]. Abdullah is suspected of supplying weapons to al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder].

Khadr's lawyers filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] in February in the Federal Court of Canada [official website] challenging the decision of the Canadian government not to seek his repatriation from the United States [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] in January that the government was not obligated to seek Khadr's return to Canada despite having violated his rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Khadr has allegedly admitted to throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan, and was charged [JURIST reports] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.






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Senate climate change bill delayed as key lawmaker withdraws support
Dwyer Arce on April 25, 2010 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) [official website] withdrew support for a comprehensive climate change bill on Saturday, delaying the unveiling of the legislation and casting its prospects for passage into doubt. The bill represents a major part of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda and had been under negotiation [AP report] between Graham and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) [official websites] for six months. The proposed legislation was to be unveiled Monday, but was postponed by Kerry after learning of Graham's decision. In a letter [text], Graham, the only Republican Senator that has agreed to work with the Obama administration on the bill, criticized the Democratic leadership for the reported plan to move forward with immigration reform [JURIST news archive] legislation before the climate bill. Graham described the move as motivated by partisan politics, saying:

I was greatly looking forward to the opportunity to address [energy independence] on the floor of the U.S. Senate as we pushed [this] legislation forward into law. But it appears President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership have other more partisan, political objectives in mind. Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy. I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress. In 2007, we spent hundreds of hours over many months ... searching for a way to address our nation’s immigration problems. Expecting these major issues to be addressed in three weeks — which appears to be their current plan based upon media reports — is ridiculous. It also demonstrates the raw political calculations at work here.
In responding to Graham's announcement, Kerry said that he would be willing to return [NYT report] to negotiations whenever Graham was, but was unsure of when that would be. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] stated his commitment to passage of both the climate bill and immigration reform legislation before the November midterm elections and the end of the current session of Congress.

The US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] their version of the climate bill [HR 2454 materials] in June on a narrow 219-212 vote. The bill calls for a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 by establishing a cap-and-trade system. The bill establishes first-time limits on greenhouse gases that will become progressively stricter. Immigration reform constitutes another plank of Obama's legislative agenda. Graham and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] unveiled [JURIST report] their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform in March. The plan entails improving border security, creating a system through which temporary workers would be admitted, introducing biometric identification cards, and instituting a process to legalize illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] currently residing within the US. The proposed bill is also the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. At that time, detractors called the bill too lenient on illegal immigrants and said that by granting legal status to illegal aliens, the US was granting "amnesty."





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Iran leader derides possible UN nuclear sanctions as 'illegal'
Steve Czajkowski on April 25, 2010 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Saturday strongly criticized new attempts to impose UN sanctions on his country's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad was in Uganda meeting with President Yoweri Museveni when he made the comments. The Iranian leader said that actions being taken by the United States and its allies in the UN Security Council [official website] are illegal and that his country will not accept any pressure. He also said [AP report] that any evidence submitted by the United States and Britain for new UN sanctions amounted to "lies" similar to the claims made over nuclear weapons in Iraq which served as an impetus to the 2003 war. The UN Security Council has resumed [Telegraph report] meetings over a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, but the United States has indicated [Reuters report] it will impose unilateral sanctions if UN sanctions are not finalized by May.

In September, Ahmadinejad denied [JURIST report] that Iran had broken nuclear development regulations in respect to a newly-disclosed nuclear facility. The statement followed a press conference [WP report] where US, British, French, and German leaders gathered for the G-20 summit said in a joint statement [press release] that Iran had violated the terms of agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)[official website] by failing to disclose in a timely manner the existence of a nuclear facility. Under the terms [IAEA board report, PDF] of a 2003 protocol [text, PDF] to Iran's original IAEA Safeguards Agreement [text, PDF], Iran was obligated to disclose the existence of the plant prior to construction. In December 2006 the UN Security Council imposed sanctions [JURIST report] on Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and broadened them [JURIST report] three months later. The UN had previously ordered Iran to stop expanding [JURIST report] its nuclear program by August 31, 2006. Iran has said it will completely withdraw [JURIST report] from the IAEA if its "nuclear rights" are taken away.






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Thousands protest trial of Spain judge Garzon
Steve Czajkowski on April 25, 2010 9:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Thousands gathered in cities across Spain Saturday to protest the impending trial of crusading National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on charges [JURIST report] he exceeded his jurisdictional authority with his investigation [JURIST report] into alleged war crimes committed during and after the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder] under the hardline regime of General Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder]. Protesters rallied [AFP report] in Madrid and many other cities, chanting in support of Garzon and holding up flags of the pre-war Republican government ousted by Franco. Late last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a statement [press release] that sanctions against Garzon "risk undermining the EU’s collective credibility and effectiveness in seeking justice for current human rights crimes." Garzon is also facing charges of bribery over money he received for seminars conducted in the United States.

In March, the Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] charged [order, PDF; in Spanish] Garzon with abuse of power based on Garzon's 2008 ordered exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain. The purpose of the order was to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite a 1977 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed under Franco. Earlier this month, Garzon appealed [JURIST report] the charges, alleging that the indictment issued by Spanish Supreme Court judge Luciano Varela was politically motivated [AFP report], compromised judicial independence and sought to impose a specific interpretation of the 1977 law. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction extensively in the past to bring several high-profile rights cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archives].






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Second Navy SEAL acquitted in Iraqi prisoner assault case
Ximena Marinero on April 24, 2010 4:50 PM ET

[JURIST] A Navy judge in Iraq acquitted US Navy SEAL [official website] Jonathan Keefe Friday of a charge of dereliction of duty in relation to the alleged assault of a high-profile Iraqi detainee implicated in the killing of four American contractors in Fallujah [JURIST new archive] in 2004, citing insufficient evidence [AP report]. Testimony at the hearing included that of recently acquitted fellow Navy SEAL Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, which directly conflicted with testimony from Iraqi prisoner Ahmed Hashim Abed. Petty Officer 2nd Class Keefe and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe had been charged with dereliction for allegedly failing to take action while Huertas beat Abed. McCabe is awaiting his military trial, scheduled for May 3 in Norfolk, Virginia.

A US military panel in Iraq on Thursday acquitted Huertas [JURIST report] of any wrongdoing in connection with the alleged assault of Abed, an Iraqi detainee suspected of organizing an incident that resulted in the deaths of four military contractors in Fallujah. A US military judge ruled [JURIST report] in January that Huertas's court-martial would be held at Camp Victory [GlobalSecurity Backgrounder] in Baghdad, Iraq, so that Abed could testify against him. Detainee abuse has been a major issue during the Iraq war, and the case against the three Navy SEALS has been seen as an attempt to compensate for other abuses like those at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive].






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Oregon jury orders Boy Scouts to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages for abuse
Ximena Marinero on April 24, 2010 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] An Oregon jury Friday found the Boy Scouts of America [organization website] negligent for failing to take actions that would have prevented further sexual abuse by an assistant scoutmaster during the 1980s and ordered the organization to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages to plaintiff Kerry Lewis. Multnomah County Circuit Court [official website] jurors concluded that awarding punitive damages was appropriate considering that the Boy Scouts acted in a recklessly indifferent manner in failing to protect child scouts from suspected pedophiles, particularly when the alleged molester had already confessed to molesting 17 children. Jurors were allowed access to highly restricted files known as "perversion files" that the Boy Scouts keep on suspected pedophiles after a judge ordered [AP report] their release in March. The Lewis case is only the second instance in which a court has ordered the release of the files. The Boy Scouts say they will appeal [OPB report] the verdict.

Last week, the Oregon jury awarded $1.4 million [WSJ report] to Lewis in damages for pain and suffering, finding that Boy Scouts of America National Council was 60 percent responsible for the abuse and allocating 15 percent of the liability to the local Cascade Pacific Council [organization website] and 25 percent to the local sponsoring congregation Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Mormon congregation reached a settlement with Lewis prior to the verdict. Most sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America are settled out of court.






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Advocacy groups to challenge Arizona immigration law as unconstitutional
Bhargav Katikaneni on April 24, 2010 11:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Latino advocacy groups say they plan to challenge the constitutionality of Arizona's new immigration law, alleging it permits racial profiling. SB 1070 [text, PDF], signed into law [JURIST report] Friday by Governor Jan Brewer, permits police to question the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants. Officials from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website; press release] and the National Coalition of Latino Christian Clergy [advocacy website] contend the law will let police single out minorities for immigration inspections. Under the law, it is designated a crime [AP report; JURIST report] to be in the country illegally, and immigrants unable to verify their legal status could be arrested and jailed for six months and fined $2,500. MALDEF said the law creates a separate state scheme to enforce immigration violations:


One significant measure of SB 1070's patent illegality is that it seeks to implement Arizona’s own scheme of immigration regulation – separate and in conflict with federal government policy – when our Constitution envisions a unified nation under one federal set of immigration regulations to be adopted by Congress and implemented by the President. By rejecting that constitutional plan, Arizona’s enactment of SB 1070 is tantamount to a declaration of secession. In response, the federal government must act to preserve our united nation by clearly stating that it will not cooperate in any way with the implementation of SB 1070 – that it will not adjust or alter its immigration enforcement priorities to the detriment of other states simply to accommodate Arizona's most recent exercise in racial demagoguery.

Brewer says she will instruct [text of speech] the state's police departments to implement the law without violating civil rights.

The Arizona law is one of the strictest [JURIST report] illegal immigration laws in the nation. Proponents of the bill claim [Reuters report] the new law will decrease illegal immigration from Mexico. After the Arizona House approved the bill, US senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) [official profiles] announced their support for the measure and outlined [press release] a proposal for additional federal controls on illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border. In 2008, Arizona voters narrowly defeated [JURIST report] a ballot measure that would have revoked the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.





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New York man pleads guilty to subway bomb plot
Bhargav Katikaneni on April 24, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A New York man pleaded guilty [US DOJ press release] Friday for plotting to bomb the New York City subway system in 2009. Zarein Ahmedzay appeared before US magistrate judge Steven Gold [official profile] on charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass of destruction (explosive bombs) against persons or property in the US, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The plot was never carried out after Ahmedzay and co-conspirator Najibullah Zazi [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] realized that law enforcement was investigating their activities. He faces up to life in prison.

In February, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [JURIST report] a five-count superseding indictment against Ahmedzay and another man, Adis Medunjanin. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped two charges against Ahmedzay. Zazi also pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to terrorism charges, and faces up to life in prison in connection with those. Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. All three men are alleged to have traveled to Afghanistan [Reuters report] and received training from al Qaeda.






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Arizona governor signs controversial illegal immigration bill
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 23, 2010 4:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] on Friday signed into law [press release, PDF] a controversial bill [SB1070 materials] that would require any individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant to present valid identification to law enforcement officials. The bill gives police officers permission to determine the immigration status of any individual who arouses reasonable suspicion, criminalizes the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor, and allows citizens to sue the local government if they believe the policy is not being used properly. Brewer signed the bill despite criticism [JURIST report] from US President Barack Obama earlier in the day that the measure, "threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness." The bill will take effect in 90 days.

The bill was approved earlier this month by the Arizona Senate and the House of Representatives [JURIST reports]. Earlier this week, Brewer announced a new Arizona border security plan [press release; AP report], and declared her support for a 10-point plan [press release] supported by US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) [official profiles]. In 2008, Arizona voters defeated a ballot measure [JURIST report] dealing with illegal immigrants. The initiative would have revoked the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Arizona is the most active border crossing point in the US.






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UK government to compensate pilot wrongly detained after 9/11
Daniel Richey on April 23, 2010 3:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials from the UK Ministry of Justice [official website] announced Friday that the government will award compensation to Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian-born UK man wrongfully detained in the wake of the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive]. Raissi was jailed in September 2001 on a US extradition warrant after being indicted by a federal grand jury on accusations that he provided pilot training to 9/11 hijackers. In February 2008, the UK Appeals Court ordered [judgment text] the Ministry to consider Raissi's appeal for compensation, reversing a 2007 High Court ruling [JURIST report] that he was ineligible for compensation because his detention stemmed from an extradition order. The Appeals Court held that the issue of extradition is not relevant to the question of compensation so long as it still results in a miscarriage of justice by UK courts. Last month, the Appeals Court gave Justice Secretary Jack Straw [official profile] 28 days [judgment text] to decide whether to compensate Raissi. An independent assessor will now determine the amount of the award, which some expect to be several thousand pounds.

Raissi was arrested naked in his home with his wife and brother on September 21, 2001. He was granted conditional bail [BBC report] five months later because the US government was unable to adduce any evidence to support its allegations. He sought compensation under a government scheme allowing payment to any "person whose convictions are quashed on appeal or who, following charge, have not been proceeded against or have been acquitted of crime at trial."






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US prosecutors indict 11 suspected Somali pirates
Jonathan Cohen on April 23, 2010 2:47 PM ET

[JURIST] US federal prosecutors have charged [press release] a group of 11 suspected Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website], according to indictments unsealed Friday. The US District Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] filed separate charges against two different groups of suspected pirates. Charges [indictment, PDF] were filed against a group of six alleged pirates who were captured by the USS Nicholas [Navy press release] in late March, and separate charges [indictment, PDF] were filed against the other five who were captured by the USS Ashland [Thaindian News report] earlier this month. The US government is prosecuting the suspects for conspiring to commit and committing various offenses [AP report], including piracy and attack with the intent to plunder a vessel, noting that "the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to make money by means of piracy on the high seas."

Earlier this week, a US government official said that at least five accused Somali pirates would face charges in the US [JURIST report]. In the beginning of April, Kenyan Foreign Minister Minister Moses Wetangula said that Kenya will no longer accept Somalian pirate cases [JURIST report] to be tried in its courts. In January, the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported that 2009 marked the worst year for maritime piracy [JURIST report] in six years. The information indicated that the total reported incidents of piracy reached 406, surpassing 400 for the first time since 2003. 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.






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Proposal to legalize limited commercial whaling unveiled
Zach Zagger on April 23, 2010 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Whaling Commission (IWC) [official website] unveiled a draft proposal [text, PDF; press release, PDF] Thursday that would make limited commercial whaling legal for the first time in 25 years. The proposal reflects a compromise for the countries that engage in whaling despite international law against it. Japan, Norway, and Iceland would be allowed to continue under strict quotas meant to reduce whaling to sustainable levels over time. Japan, which defends its illegal whaling by claiming an exemption for scientific purposes, will have its self-imposed quota for minke whales reduced [AP report] from 935 to 400 for the 2010 season and down to 200 by 2015. The hunting of humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere is still prohibited, but the proposal allows for a limited number in the North Atlantic. The proposal addresses the fact that the overall ban on whaling has been ineffective:


The status quo is not an option for an effective multilateral organisation. To overcome the present impasse, the IWC has in recent years recognised the need to create a non-confrontational environment within which issues of fundamental difference amongst members can be discussed with a view to their resolution. Reconciliation of differences in views about whales and whaling will strengthen actions related to the common goal of maintaining healthy whale populations and maximizing the likelihood of the recovery of depleted populations.

Despite this goal, the IWC has received criticism [press release] from the anti-whaling group Greenpeace [official website]. The IWC will discuss the proposal during its June meeting in Morocco.

Whaling [Greenpeace backgrounder] is regulated by the 1946 Whaling Convention [text, PDF], and commercial whaling was outright banned in 1986 by the IWC. The Japanese whalers defend [TIME report] their whaling as scientific research because they collect data on the whale's age, diet, and birthing rate, before packaging and selling the meat. The Japanese mostly hunt for minke and finback whales, but have begun to hunt humpback whales, which have reached sustainable levels since being placed on the endangered species list in 1963. Earlier this month, Japanese authorities indicted [JURIST report] New Zealand anti-whaling activist, Pete Bethune, with five criminal charges in connection with boarding a Japanese whaling vessel as part of an anti-whaling protest in the antarctic seas.





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Obama criticizes proposed Arizona illegal immigrant law
Steve Dotterer on April 23, 2010 12:58 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Thursday expressed opposition to a pending Arizona bill [SB 1070 materials] that would require any individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant to present valid identification to law enforcement officials. In remarks [text] delivered at a naturalization ceremony, Obama stated that failure to enact federal immigration reform has given rise to laws such as the one under consideration in Arizona:


Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.

Obama's stance on the Arizona law reflects his administration's policy [official website] that aims "to bring people out of the shadows." The remarks underscored Democratic opposition [press release] to the bill in Arizona. Proponents argue, however, that the law will discourage illegal immigration.

The Arizona Senate approved SB 1070 [JURIST report] earlier this month. Prior to the Senate approval, the Arizona House of Representatives also approved [JURIST report] the legislation. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official profile] must decide whether to sign the bill within five days after the Senate passage. On Thursday, Brewer announced a new Arizona border security plan [press release; AP report], and declared her support for a 10-point plan [press release] supported by US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) [official profiles]. In 2008, Arizona voters defeated a ballot measure [JURIST report] dealing with illegal immigrants. The initiative would have revoked the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Arizona is the most active border crossing point in the US.





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Europe rights court orders immediate release of Azeri journalist
Sarah Paulsworth on April 23, 2010 11:58 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ordered [judgment text; press release] Azerbaijan's government to "secure the immediate release" of imprisoned Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatuallyev and pay him over 25,000 euros in compensation. Fatuallyev has been imprisoned since April 2007 and was convicted in Azerbaijan of committing defamation and tax evasion and inciting terror and religious and ethnic hatred. International organizations, including Amnesty International (AI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders [statements], have insisted that the charges against Fatullayev are spurious. The ECHR ruled that Fatullayev's conviction and 8.5 year prison sentence contravene Article 10, Freedom of Speech and Information, and Article 6, Right to a Fair Trial, of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Azerbaijan's Representative to the European Rights Court Chingiz Asgarov said, however, that the court's directive to release Fatuallyev is outside the purview [Trend interview, in Azeri] of both the European Convention on Human Rights and Azerbaijan's legislation. Azerbaijan is planning to request that the Grand Chamber review the decision [APA interview, in Azeri], according to Azerbaijan Presidential Administration Law Enforcement Department Chief Fuad Alesgarov. At the end of last year, heroin was allegedly found [RFE/RL report] in Fatuallyev's prison cell, and he is currently on trial for possession of drugs - charges that many feel are intended to prolong [CPJ statement] the journalist's detention despite the ECHR decision in his favor.

In 2009, Fatuallyev received, in absentia, one of CPJ's prestigious International Press Freedom Awards [press release; video]. In the same year, he also received AI's Award for Journalism Under Threat [BBC report]. Fatuallyev, who was editor-in-chief of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundalik Azerbaijan newspapers until his imprisonment, formerly worked with well-known Azeri journalist Elmar Huseynov [BBC backgrounder] on the Monitor magazine until Huseynov was murdered [BBC report] in 2005. CPJ reported recently that Fatuallyev's imprisonment could be related to his attempts to solve [report] his colleague's murder. Azerbaijan's incumbent president Ilham Aliyev has been accused by members of the press of heavy-handed repression of the media [JURIST report]. The ECHR's ruling on Fatullayev's case is one of several decisions that the court has issued against Azerbaijan this month. The court also recently found that the country violated [JURIST report] a parliamentary candidate's right to free and fair elections during the 2005 elections.






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China senior official stresses importance of impartial judiciary
Patrice Collins on April 23, 2010 10:51 AM ET

[JURIST] A top Chinese official on Thursday appealed [Xinhua report] to the nation's judges, urging them to be impartial when issuing rulings. Speaking in front of a national meeting of high court presidents in the Shaanxi Province [official website,], Central Committee of the Communist Party of China [official website] official Zhou Yongkang [Xinhua profile] stressed the importance of fair and honest justice in order to build a country ruled by law. President of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) [official website] Wang Shengjun [Sina profile, in Chinese] agreed with Zhou's sentiments, contending that reform of the judiciary will contribute to social justice.

The Chinese government has recently focused attention on ridding corruption [JURIST news archive] in official channels. Last week, a Chinese Intermediate People's Court in Chongqing sentenced [JURIST report] a former deputy police chief and high-ranking judicial official to death for accepting bribes, protecting criminal gangs, rape, and being unable to justify his large amount of personal assets. In March, the Hebei Province People's High Court upheld a life sentence for former SPC vice president Huang Songyou, who had been convicted [JURIST reports] of bribery and embezzlement. Earlier that month, Wang called for increased efforts to fight corruption [JURIST report] in the country's court system. In January, the SPC announced new anti-corruption rules [JURIST report] in an effort to increase public confidence in the rule of law. In October, two Chongqing courts sentenced [JURIST report] six individuals to death for their connections with organized crime gangs.






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US military appeals court overturns Marine's conviction for Iraqi civilian killing
Daniel Makosky on April 23, 2010 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] A military appeals court on Thursday reversed [opinion, PDF] the conviction of US Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for the 2006 killing of an Iraqi civilian, citing lack of a fair trial. In an 8-1 decision, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] ruled that the departure of one of Hutchins's primary attorneys shortly before the court-martial [JURIST news archive] began resulted in an unfair trial. The ruling makes it possible that Hutchins may be restored [AP report] to his prior rank, which was reduced to private following his conviction. The Navy JAG Corps [official website] may appeal the decision within 30 days.

Hutchins was serving an 11-year sentence, reduced from 15 years [JURIST report], for his role in the April 2006 kidnapping and murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania [USMC materials; JURIST news archive]. He was convicted [JURIST report] in 2007 of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, making a false official statement, and larceny. Six Marines pled guilty [JURIST report] to charges related to their roles in the incident, which involved Awad being removed from his residence and killed, then arranged with a shovel and firearm to appear as if he were planting an improvised explosive device.






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Obama urges strong financial regulation reforms to protect economy
David Manes on April 23, 2010 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Thursday called for new financial regulations [text], outlining the major components of his proposal. Answering critics who claim that the reforms will increase bailouts, Obama compared the concept behind the proposed financial reforms to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)[official website], a government program he says protects confidence in the banking system and protects consumers while eliminating the need for ad hoc bailouts when banks become insolvent. According to Obama, the reform will contain four central elements: the Volcker Rule to limit the size of banks and the risks allowable, transparency to expose the underlying risk in complex financial instruments, consumer protections to combat predatory lending, and increases in shareholder power to give investors input on executive salaries and bonuses. Obama argued that new financial reforms are vital to the future of the US economy:


In the end, our system only works - our markets are only free - when there are basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excesses, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system. And that is what the reforms we've been proposing are designed to achieve - no more, no less.

Republican lawmakers, including House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) have voiced opposition [IBD op-ed] to Obama's plan.

Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee [official website] on Monday introduced the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 [text, PDF], aimed at increasing financial regulation in the wake of the recent financial crisis. This bill is the second financial reform bill to be proposed by the Senate Banking Committee following the 2008 financial crisis. The 2009 bill [text, PDF; JURIST report] was met with resistance and resulted in the committee's development of the new bill. In December, the US House of Representatives approved a similar bill [JURIST report]. 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 the Obama administration'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.





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China court awards Microsoft record damages in software piracy suit
Matt Glenn on April 23, 2010 8:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A Shangai court ruled Thursday that a Chinese insurance company is liable to software company Microsoft [corporate website; JURIST news archive] for using illegal copies of its products, ordering the insurance company to pay Microsoft USD $318,000 in damages. The $318,000 awarded against Dazhong Insurance is the largest amount of damages [People's Daily report] ever ordered by a Chinese court in a software piracy suit. This was Microsoft's first major anti-piracy lawsuit in China, where last November a court ruled that Microsoft had infringed on intellectual property [JURIST report] of a Chinese company.

Microsoft has been a party to many legal proceedings outside the US in recent years. In December, the European Commission (EC) [official website] reached a settlement [JURIST report] with Microsoft over claims that it violated European anti-trust laws by packing its Internet Explorer web browser with new copies of Windows. Last September, the Seoul Central District Court found Microsoft in violation [JURIST report] of South Korea's antitrust laws for bundling software programs with its Windows operating system. The court found the company's bundling practice to be in violation of fair competition rules and disruptive to the market. This was the second suit within a few months in which Microsoft was found liable for breach of South Korean antitrust laws. This was the second suit within a few months in which Microsoft was found liable for breach of South Korean antitrust laws. Last June, the same court ruled that Microsoft violated antitrust laws [JURIST report] by packaging software with its Windows operating system, also dismissing requests for damages from two Korean software firms on the grounds that the damages were not sufficiently linked to Microsoft's conduct.






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DOJ to appeal ruling finding National Day of Prayer unconstitutional
Matt Glenn on April 23, 2010 7:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Thursday that it will appeal last week's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the National Day of Prayer [official website] is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. The DOJ filed a notice of appeal [WSJ report] Thursday with the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website], where last week Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the day of prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment [text] because it is more than "acknowledgment" of religion, but rather government-backed encouragement that Americans engage in non-secular activity. Crabb granted summary judgment for the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) [advocacy website], but the White House has said that President Barack Obama still intends to recognize the day of prayer on May 6.

Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that a teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance [JURIST report] in public schools does not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The court also upheld the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on currency. In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled that a school district's policy prohibiting the performance of religious holiday songs [JURIST report] does not violate the Establishment Clause. Also that month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] ruled that license plates [JURIST report] produced by the state bearing a picture of a cross in front of a stained glass window and the words "I Believe" violate the Constitution.






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ICC prosecutor requests non-cooperation ruling against Sudan
Sarah Miley on April 23, 2010 7:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno Ocampo [official profile] has asked judges to report Sudan to the UN Security Council [official website] for failing to comply with arrest warrants for two government officials. Ocampo filed the request [text, PDF] Monday for a finding of non-cooperation pursuant to Article 87 of the Rome Statute [text] for the government's refusal to arrest Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb [arrest warrants, PDF]. The request stated that Sudan has a binding legal obligation to fully cooperate with the court, as mandated by UN Security Counsel Resolution 1593 [text, PDF], and has repeatedly refused to do so since the warrants were issued in 2007. The request went on to say "[t]o the contrary, the [government of Sudan] continues to commit crimes, promotes and protects the persons sought by the Court; and harasses all persons who are considered to be in favor of justice." Sudan, which is not a permanent member of the ICC, refuses to recognize the court's jurisdiction, stating that "the International Criminal Court has no place in this crisis at all." Harun and Kushayb are wanted for 51 counts [case materials] of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has also eluded a warrant issued last year for his arrest. Last month, the president of the ICC said that Bashir will eventually face justice [JURIST report] in The Hague. Speaking in London before the UK House of Commons [official website], Judge Sang-Hyun Song [official profile] addressed controversy [JURIST news archive] surrounding the ICC arrest warrant [JURIST report] issued one year ago stating that "judges cannot and will not take political considerations into account."Responding to questions, Song went on to compare the al-Bashir warrant with the successful surrender of Slobodan Milosevic [Guardian obituary; JURIST news archive] and Charles Taylor [case materials; JURIST news archive] to the international criminal tribunals.






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Kyrgyzstan to hold constitutional referendum in July
Zach Zagger on April 22, 2010 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Kyrgyzstan interim deputy leader Omurbek Tekebayev announced Thursday that the country would hold a referendum on a new constitution on July 27. Tekebayev, part of the interim government that took power two weeks ago amid an anti-government uprising [JURIST report], said the new constitution would guarantee [AFP report] a parliamentary republic and reduce the powers of the president in order to prevent authoritarianism. He said the new constitution will also try to prevent powerful parliamentary majorities by limiting any political party to only 50 seats out of a 90-seat parliament. The country's last parliament was controlled by the ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev's [BBC profile] Ak-Zhol party. Tekebayev also announced that elections in the country will be held on October 10.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Kyrgyzstan's interim government to begin a comprehensive investigation into the violence between April 6 and 8 that resulted in the overthrow of president Bakiyev. Kyrgyz interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] said last week that Bakiyev should stand trial [JURIST report] for the recent violence. Despite the pledge to bring Bakiyev and his allies to justice, so far only former defense minister Baktybek Kaliyev has been arrested [AFP report]. The protests, prompted in part by a drastic increase in utility costs, led to at least 84 deaths [Reuters report] and many more injuries. Earlier this month, Otunbayeva launched the interim government [JURIST report] after the violence forced Bakiyev to flee the capital.






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Sri Lanka ex-army chief calls for freedom, 'rule of law'
Daniel Makosky on April 22, 2010 12:53 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] appeared before parliament [official website] Thursday to call for both his freedom and respect for the "rule of law." Fonseka argued for his release from what he characterized as an "illegal detention" [Al Jazeera report] and a byproduct of injustice, while also insisting on democratic improvements [BBC report] and institution of the "rule of law." He was temporarily released from military custody in order to attend the session, to which he traveled under guard. Fonseka faces two separate court-martials, charging him with participating in politics while in uniform and with improperly awarding army procurement contracts, but he successfully won a seat in parliament in elections held earlier this month. He maintains that the allegations are politically motivated. Fonseka is scheduled for a hearing before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court [official website] on April 26, where he will challenge his detention.

Earlier this month, Fonseka's trials were postponed [JURIST report] to allow the Sri Lankan Court of Appeals [official website] to examine the legality of court-martials. Fonseka was arrested [JURIST report] by the military in February after losing presidential elections held the previous month. In March, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court criticized [JURIST report] the government's treatment of the general. Sarath Nanda Silva, who retired from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court last year, accused the government of using the military justice system to prevent Fonseka from participating in the upcoming elections, and of violating Fonseka's civil rights. Silva also said that Fonseka's arrest was made in violation of the country's constitution [text].






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Dutch court acquits Arab group of hate speech over Holocaust cartoon
Erin Bock on April 22, 2010 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The Netherlands Utrecht District Court on Thursday acquitted [decision, in Dutch; press release, in Dutch ] members of the Arab European League (AEL) of hate speech charges resulting from the posting a cartoon on their website that insinuated that the Holocaust was fabricated. The criminal complaint against the group alleged that the cartoon violated Article 137c of the Dutch Penal Code, which punishes individuals for making discriminatory and defamatory statements against certain groups. The AEL argued that they do not actually deny the historical facts of the Holocaust, but that the cartoon was posted to call attention to what they saw as a double standard in the distribution of Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed [JURIST news archive]. The court held that the cartoon was offensive, but that, in light an accompanying disclaimer and subsequent statements regarding its purpose, it was nevertheless protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]:

Although the cartoon, in the opinion of the court, is in very bad taste and very hurtful for Jews and others, the right to make this statement is ensured given its specific context and purpose. In light of the case as a whole, an infringement on that right in the form of a criminal conviction is not proportional to the objective to which it serves.
Prosecutors had sought for the court to consider the fact that Jewish groups were not involved in the creation or distribution of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, but the court refused.

The Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed were originally published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, leading to worldwide protests and lawsuits for those who reprinted the cartoons including suits in Yemen, France and Jordan [JURIST reports]. The Danish government did not press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the Danish newspaper that originally printed the articles. Last month, US citizen David Headley plead not guilty [JURIST report] to 12 counts of federal terrorism, including charges related to an alleged plot against the Danish creator and publishers of the controversial cartoons.





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Bosnian Serbs sentenced to 31 years for Srebrenica massacre
Haley Wojdowski on April 22, 2010 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) war crimes court [official website] on Thursday convicted [press release] Radomir Vukovic and Zoran Tomic for their alleged roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. The accused were found guilty of genocide under Article 171 paragraph a) of the BiH criminal code [text, PDF] and were each sentenced to 31 years imprisonment. As members of the 2nd Sekovici Special Police Detachment, the court found that Vukovic and Tomic participated in capturing Bosniak men from the UN safe area and in securing a road to allow the transfer of Bosniak women, children, and elderly. The court also held that the accused knowingly aided in the event in which 1,000 Bosniak men were imprisoned in a warehouse and then executed by Serb police firing automatic weapons and throwing hand grenades. Vukovic participated by throwing hand grenades and Tomic fired an automatic rifle at the captured men. The court extended custody of the accused for up to nine months or until the court issues a new decision.

In March, the BiH indicted Nedjo Ikonic [JURIST report], a former Serb commander of a special police brigade, for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre. The BiH war crimes court was set up in 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 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].






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US Navy SEAL acquitted of Iraqi prisoner assault charges
Bhargav Katikaneni on April 22, 2010 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] A US military panel in Iraq on Thursday acquitted Navy SEAL [official website] Julio Huertas of any wrongdoing in connection with the alleged assault of a high-profile Iraqi detainee. A six-person jury found Huertas not guilty [AP report] on charges of dereliction of duty and impeding an investigation for taking no action while a fellow SEAL allegedly punched and kicked Iraqi prisoner Ahmed Hashim Abed. US authorities believe Abed to be the mastermind behind the 2004 Blackwater [JURIST news archive] contractor killings in Falluja. A US military judge ruled [JURIST report] in January that Huertas's court-martial would be held at Camp Victory [GlobalSecurity Backgrounder] in Baghdad, Iraq, so that Abed could testify against him. Two other Navy SEALs, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, have also been charged in connection with the incident, and their trial is scheduled to begin Friday.

Detainee abuse has been a major issue during the Iraq war. In September 2008, the UK Defense Ministry [official website] admitted [JURIST report] the unlawful abuse of nine detainees and announced monetary compensation. Three British soldiers were ultimately convicted [JURIST report], and dishonorably discharged. In 2005, another Navy SEAL was charged [JURIST report] with assault, dereliction of duty, and conduct unbecoming of an officer stemming from the treatment of an Iraqi prisoner. 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.






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Civil rights groups seek suspension of airport full body scanners
Jonathan Cohen on April 22, 2010 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] A group of more than 30 privacy and civil liberty groups on Wednesday asked [petition, PDF; press release] the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to suspend the full body scanner [TSA backgrounder] program being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website]. The petition states that use of the full body scanner program is an invasion of privacy [JURIST news archive] and that:


deployment of Full Body Scanners in US airports, as currently proposed, violates the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), the Privacy Act of 1974 ("Privacy Act"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). As described below, the FBS program effectively subjects all air travelers to unconstitutionally intrusive searches that are disproportionate and for which the TSA lacks any suspicion of wrongdoing.

According to the petitioners, the scanners are a step toward doing away with individualized suspicion and are particularly offensive to devout individuals. As such, the scans are opposed by religious groups [RNS report]. The petition also alleges that the scanners themselves have two major flaws: they cannot detect powdered explosives [Independent report], and the operating systems are vulnerable to attack [WP report].

In February, the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) [official website] announced that full body scanners in use at two UK airports may be illegal [JURIST report]. The body scanners were introduced in part as a response to the failed US bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [Telegraph profile; JURIST news archive] on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. The attempted attack prompted Obama to announce tighter security measures, which civil rights groups opposed [JURIST reports] as a pretext to racial profiling.





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Germany prosecutors charge ex-Red Army Faction member with murder
Andrea Bottorff on April 22, 2010 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] German federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they have charged former Red Army Faction (RAF) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] member Verena Beckman for the 1977 murders of federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback and two other men. Beckman was originally arrested two months after Buback's assassination and served 12 years of a life sentence for her role in other killings before she was pardoned and freed [BBC report] in 1989 by former president Richard von Weizsaecker [profile]. Prosecutors reopened the case in light of new DNA evidence [AP report] linking Beckman to the high-profile murder. The RAF, commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang [BBC backgrounder], was a leftist group that targeted political and financial institutions and personnel, killing 34 people between 1968 and 1998.

Some reports allege that, in the aftermath of the RAF's terrorist attacks, German officials tortured RAF prisoners [JURIST comment] and compromised their trials. In 2008, a German court granted parole [JURIST report] for RAF leader Christian Klar after he served 26 years in prison on nine counts of murder and 11 counts of attempted murder. The court found no grounds [BBC report] on which continue to detain him, and he was released last year. Before being granted parole, Klar had called for the defeat of capitalism [Der Spiegel report] and lost an appeal for clemency [JURIST report]. Other prominent RAF members, including Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Eve Haule [JURIST reports], have also been paroled in recent years.






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Rwanda opposition leader arrested on genocide denial charges
Matt Glenn on April 22, 2010 8:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Rwandan authorities arrested opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website] Wednesday, accusing her of denying the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and collaborating with terrorists. Authorities cited Ingabire's call for the prosecution [AFP report] of those who killed Hutus during the genocide, in which over 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were slain, as evidence of her denial of the genocide. Prosecutors also alleged that Ingabire has collaborated with Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Rwanda, which borders Rwanda. The arrest comes at a time when current Tutsi President Paul Kagame [official website] has received criticism [press release] from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] for his treatment of opposition parties. The United Democratic Forces (FDU) [official website], the party chaired by Ingabire, released a statement Wednesday condemning the arrest [press release]:


Such a barbaric and unlawful act against a peace loving mother who braved the system to show that there is another way to bring about lasting peace and development in Rwanda is not only a challenge to the conscience and dignity of the Rwandan people but also to the international community, in particular foreign governments who are sponsoring the government.

The UDF urged "governments and peace loving people and organisations to support us in getting our chair immediately and unconditionally released."

Rwanda continues to try those involved in the 1994 genocide. In March, an aid to Ingabire who had been convicted in absentia, pleaded guilty to genocide charges [JURIST report] in exchange for a reduced prison sentence of 17 years. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] was established for the prosecution of high-level officials responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law during the Rwandan genocide. Last month, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR affirmed the genocide conviction [JURIST report] of popular Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi [Trial Watch profile]. The court also reversed the conviction for counts of genocide, murder, and extermination against Rwandan district attorney Simeon Nchamihigo. Earlier in March, the widow of assassinated Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, Agathe Habyarimana, was arrested [JURIST report] in France on suspicions of complicity in genocide and was later released on bail. In January, the Rwandan government released a report [JURIST report] concluding that the assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the genocide, was the work of Hutu extremists.





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Suspected Somali pirates to face trial in US: report
Matt Glenn on April 22, 2010 7:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A US government official said Wednesday that at least five accused Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] will face charges in the US [AP report], according to the Associated Press. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while the transfers are pending, said that the accused will arrive in Norfolk, Virginia, by the end of this week. Although Kenyan courts are no longer willing to prosecute [JURIST report] piracy cases, the source claims that not all 21 of those recently arrested in piracy incidents will face charges in the US. US State Department [official website] spokesperson Philip Crowley told reporters [daily press briefing] Wednesday, "I would not deny that we have plans to bring pirates who are responsible for attacks against our vessels back to the United States." Crowley added that, "Kenya is reaching a capacity problem – challenge. So this is where all countries have to step up just as we are doing and take responsibility for pirates who have attacked their ships and prosecute them to the fullest extent of national law."

In January, the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau (IMB) [official website] reported that 2009 marked the worst year for maritime piracy [JURIST report] in six years. The information indicated that the total reported incidents of piracy reached 406, surpassing 400 for the first time since 2003. Earlier that month, 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 pleaded 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.






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Supreme Court hears arguments on meaning of 'mistake' in civil procedure case
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 21, 2010 3:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in Krupski v. Costa Crociere [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on the appropriate construction of "mistake" in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C) [text]. The rule 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. Counsel for the petitioner argued that the rule should apply when substituting the correct defendant. Counsel for the respondent argued that there can be no mistake where the plaintiff knows all the facts. There is a circuit split on the issue.






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Egypt court to try Muslim Brotherhood members for money laundering
Carrie Schimizzi on April 21, 2010 2:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Five international Muslim Brotherhood (MB) [party website; JURIST news archive] members will be tried [MB press release] in an Egyptian criminal court on charges of money laundering, Attorney General Abdul Magid Mahmoud announced Wednesday. The members, including Muslim Brotherhood International Secretary General Ibrahim Munir, were referred to the Supreme State Security Emergency Court for trial. The five members have been accused of laundering money [AFP report] through a British-based Islamic charity in order to fund the MB movement, which has been banned in Egypt [JURIST news archive]. In a statement, MB media spokesman Mohamed Morsy said the charges are a move by the Egyptian government to escalate the tense relationship between the two:

At a time when all opposition factors in Egypt including the MB are uniting in the call for the elimination of the oppressive 'Emergency Law', the ruling regime has once again demonstrated its inability to interact with its people and practice democracy. We, the MB, will continue the path of promoting peace and will continue calling for reform through the regulatory and legitimate constitutional channels in which we have always adhered to. None of the ruling regime's measures will deter us.
The Egyptian government has often used the country's emergency laws [FIDH backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to arrest and indefinitely detain individuals it considered a threat to state security.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian criminal court ordered 16 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were arrested in February and charged with plotting to overthrow the Egyptian government, released on bail [JURIST report]. In the past, Egypt has also used the emergency laws extensively against other opposition parties. In July, the trial of 26 individuals with alleged ties to Hezbollah was transferred to a court [JURIST report] established under the emergency laws. In February 2009, a military court utilized the laws during a trial in which it sentenced [JURIST report] opposition leader Magdy Ahmed Hussein to two years in prison. The emergency laws have been in effect continuously since the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and were renewed [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] most recently in May 2008.





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Rights group calls for inquiry into Kyrgyzstan violence
Michael Kraemer on April 21, 2010 1:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged [press release] Kyrgyzstan's interim government to begin a comprehensive investigation into the violence [JURIST report] between April 6 and 8 that resulted in the overthrow of president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile]. After conducting witness interviews and examining photo and video evidence, HRW concluded [report text] that the violence was fueled by the actions of both security forces and demonstrators and called on the government to officially request assistance from the international community to "help to safeguard against accusations of bias" in the probe. HRW claims that authorities committed several violations of international law, which stipulates that lethal force may only be used as a last resort, citing in particular the alleged shooting of an unarmed man seeking to negotiate. The interim government is currently planning to try [JURIST report] members of Bakiyev's family and administration on charges that include corruption and human rights violations.

Kyrgyz interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] said last week that Bakiyev should stand trial [JURIST report] for the recent violence. Despite the pledge to bring Bakiyev and his allies to justice, so far only former defense minister Baktybek Kaliyev has been arrested [AFP report]. It is believed that Bakiyev is currently in Belarus, and interim officials have said they will seek extradition to bring him before their courts. The protests, prompted in part by a drastic increase in utility costs, led to at least 84 deaths [Reuters report] and many more injuries. Earlier this month, Otunbayeva launched the interim government [JURIST report] after the violence forced Bakiyev to flee the capital. The protests came just one week after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged Kyrgyzstan to protect all forms of human rights [JURIST report], including "free speech and freedom of the media."






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Supreme Court rules attorney's fees may be enhanced in 'extraordinary circumstances'
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 21, 2010 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Perdue v. Kentucky [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that calculation of an attorney's fee based on the lodestar may be increased due to superior performance, but only in extraordinary circumstances. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed [opinion, PDF] the lower court's enhancement of attorney's fees in a class action suit, finding that even though factors such as quality of performance and results obtained are already included in the lodestar calculation, they may appropriately be considered to enhance the fees. In reversing the lower court decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote:


We have stated in previous cases that such an increase is permitted in extraordinary circumstances, and we reaffirm that rule. But as we have also said in prior cases, there is a strong presumption that the lodestar is sufficient; factors subsumed in the lodestar calculation cannot be used as a ground for increasing an award above the lodestar; and a party seeking fees has the burden of identifying a factor that the lodestar does not adequately take into account and proving with specificity that an enhanced fee is justified. Because the District Court did not apply these standards, we reverse the decision below and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justice John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor joined. Breyer would not have reached the question of whether the fees were appropriately calculated in this case. Had he reached that question, he would have upheld the lower court's decision.

The lodestar calculation is used by courts in awarding attorney's fees and is the product of reasonable hours worked and a reasonable hourly rate. The class action suit was filed on behalf of 3,000 children in the Georgia foster care system. After reaching a settlement, plaintiffs requested more than $14 million in attorney's fees. Half that amount was based on the lodestar, and the other half was an enhancement for superior work and results.





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Thailand PM demands protesters abide by laws
Haley Wojdowski on April 21, 2010 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced Wednesday that he is prepared to negotiate with protesters once they cease their illegal conduct. Government spokesperson Panitan Wattanyagorn stated that the prime minister is willing to speak with protesters [BBC report] regarding an election and amending the constitution once protesters abide by the law. Anti-government protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], have been associated with a series on unlawful acts [AP report], including blocking a train carrying military vehicles and fortifying their base area with tire barriers and homemade weapons. Their camp, which occupies Bangkok's business district, has forced businesses to close and suffer financial losses. Unidentified attackers have also caused fire damage after launching rocket-propelled grenades at a fuel depot near an airport. The red shirts claim [BBC report] that Abhisit came to power illegitimately and that he should resign and call for elections.

The protests are currently in their sixth week and have led to an increasingly hostile political climate in Thailand. On Tuesday, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the deaths of 25 people during recent anti-government protests. Earlier this month, a Thai court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for at least 17 high-profile protesters, including top red shirt officials. Abhisit hopes that the arrest warrants will encourage the protesters to disperse. Abhisit was forced to declare a state of emergency earlier this month after a Thai court refused to issue an injunction [JURIST reports] against the protesters. The protesters are supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power [JURIST report] during a 2006 military coup. Thaksin was convicted [JURIST report] in absentia on corruption charges in October 2008. Despite the conviction, the Cambodian government refused to extradite [JURIST report] the ousted prime minister to face a two-year prison sentence.






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Obama to consider women's rights in Supreme Court nomination
David Manes on April 21, 2010 12:01 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] said Wednesday that he will take into account a potential nominee's position on individual liberty, including women's rights, when nominating a Supreme Court justice. Speaking at a meeting with Senate leaders, Obama acknowledged that abortion [JURIST news archive] has been "a hugely contentious issue in our country for a very long time" and explained [text] how his approach to choosing a nominee will take reproductive rights into account:


I am somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction. ... I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights. And that's going to be something that's very important to me, because I think part of what our core ... constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.

Obama met with Senate leaders from both parties in an effort to pave the way for a smooth confirmation [AP report] for his eventual nominee. The meeting on Wednesday included Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and ranking committee Republican Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official websites]. Obama said that he plans to announce his nomination by the end of May, and hopes to replicate last year's "smooth, civil [and] thoughtful" confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor [JURIST news archive].

Earlier this month, Leahy predicted that President Obama will nominate a replacement for retiring [JURIST reports] Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens [official profile; Cornell LII materials] in time for hearings to be concluded over the summer. In a letter [text, PDF] to Obama explaining is retirement, Stevens said that "it would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court's next Term." There had been much speculation about Stevens's possible retirement, and leading candidates for his replacement reportedly include Solicitor General Elena Kagan [official profile] and federal appellate judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood. Stevens, 89, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford and was seated in December 1975. Stevens is the court's oldest and most senior member and has served as the leader of the court's liberal bloc. His retirement gives Obama his second opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, following last year's retirement of Justice David Souter and confirmation of Sotomayor [JURIST reports].





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Supreme Court rules legal error no defense against fair debt collection violation
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 21, 2010 11:28 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in Jerman v. Carlisle [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a debt collector's legal error does not qualify for the bona fide error defense under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) [15 USC § 1692 text, PDF]. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that although the defendants violated the FDCPA by giving erroneous legal advice, they qualified for the FDCPA bona fide error defense. In reversing the decision below, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court:


The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA or Act) imposes civil liability on "debt collector[s]" for certain prohibited debt collection practices. Section 813(c) of the Act provides that a debt collector is not liable in an action brought under the Act if she can show "the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error." This case presents the question whether the "bona fide error" defense in &setc; 1692k(c) applies to a violation resulting from a debt collector's mistaken interpretation of the legal requirements of the FDCPA. We conclude it does not.

Justice Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

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.





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Philippines police plead not guilty to murder for November massacre
Jay Carmella on April 21, 2010 10:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Eleven Philippines policemen and militia members pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges for their involvement in the November 2009 massacre [CSM backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that left 57 dead. The arraignment [Manila Bulletin report] was held in Camp Bagong Diwa, which is also the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) [official website]. The arraignment of four additional suspects was delayed until April 30 after a last minute motion was filed by their counsel. The decision to defer was made despite objections from the prosecution that the motion was a deliberate attempt to delay the proceedings. Several family members of the victims attended the arraignment. The family members had filed a manifestation with the court asking that the proceedings be delayed [Reuters report] until after upcoming elections, as they fear justice can not be served under current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website]. The court acknowledged the manifestation but still proceeded. The timing of the arraignment, as well as the pending trials of several other key suspects, has increased the concern over potential violence surrounding the May elections.

The arraignment comes just days after prosecutors dropped charges[AP report] against two massacre suspects, causing accusations of political interference. Last month, a Quezon City court dismissed [JURIST report] rebellion charges against 24 people, including Andal Ampatuan Sr., the leader of a Muslim clan in the Philippines' semi-autonomous southern province of Maguindanao, and four of his family members. The Ampatuans and several of their followers are alleged to have intercepted Esmael Mangudadatu's convoy en route to declare his candidacy for governor at a regional election office, ultimately forcing his convoy to a remote hilltop where the Ampatuans' group killed and buried them. In order to prove their cases against the large number of accused, the prosecution will have to rely heavily on oral testimonies [JURIST op-ed] that can often prove to be problematic. Following the killings, Arroyo imposed martial law [JURIST report] and suspended habeas corpus in Maguindanao. She later lifted the conditions, following international pressure [JURIST reports] and domestic legal challenges.






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Argentina ex-president sentenced to 25 years for 'Dirty War' rights abuses
Tara Tighe on April 21, 2010 10:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal court in Argentina on Tuesday sentenced [verdict, PDF, in Spanish; CIJ report, in Spanish] former president and military general Reynaldo Bignone [JURIST news archive] to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses during the 1976-83 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Bignone served as de facto president from 1982 to 1983 and represents the last dictator to hold power during the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The court found Bignone guilty [BBC report] of involvement in 56 cases of murder, torture, and kidnappings in one of Argentina's largest torture centers, the Campo de Mayo military base. The court also sentenced [AP report] five other retired military officers to prison terms ranging from 17 to 25 years in connection with abuses during the military regime.

Bignone went on trial [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] in November on charges stemming from two separate federal court determinations that he should stand trial. In April 2007, Bignone was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for the kidnapping of children of dissidents killed during the "Dirty War." Bignone had already been ordered in March 2007 to stand trial [JURIST report] on separate charges connected to the illegal arrest, torture, and killing of dissidents at secret detention centers in Buenos Aires. Earlier that same month, an Argentine federal judge ordered Bignone's arrest [JURIST report] for his role in the alleged abuses.






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Supreme Court rules district court must defer to retirement plan administrator
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 21, 2010 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-3 in Conkright v. Frommert [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that 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. In reversing the opinion below, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:


We held in Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch that an ERISA plan administrator with discretionary authority to interpret a plan is entitled to deference in exercising that discretion. The question here is whether a single honest mistake in plan interpretation justifies stripping the administrator of that deference for subsequent related interpretations of the plan. We hold that it does not.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Sonia Sotomayor took no part in the consideration of the case.

The case was brought by former Xerox [corporate website] employees who left the company in the 1980s and were later rehired. The employees challenged the method used to calculate their retirement benefits. The district court deferred to the method used by the plan administrator, but the Second Circuit reversed.





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Sarkozy to introduce legislation banning full veils in public
Erin Bock on April 21, 2010 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] A spokesperson for French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; BBC profile] said Wednesday that the president is in favor of a complete public ban on the burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full face veils and will be submitting a bill to parliament in May. According to spokesperson Luc Chatel, Sarkozy wants the ban to be carried out in a way that doesn't stigmatize individuals for their religious beliefs and practices, but he feels that the veils are oppressive and harm female dignity [Reuters report]. In addition to the bill, parliament will also be discussing a separate resolution on May 11, which will discuss ways of limiting the use of full veils. The issue has sparked debate with feminists supporting the ban because it prevents women from being forced into wearing the veils, and others questioning the proposed ban's constitutionality. France houses the largest Muslim population in the European Union [official website] with Muslims comprising about 10 percent of the total French population.

Last month, the French Council of State advised the French government against a complete ban [JURIST report] on full Islamic veils because it risks violating the French Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. France already has a partial ban that prevents public officials from wearing veils while operating in their official capacity and also prohibits veils in public schools. Critics of the ban say the law would alienate France's Muslim minority [JURIST comment] and violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], of which France is a signatory. Last month, lawmakers in Quebec introduced a bill [Star report] that would ban women from wearing full face veils from public services, which garnered support from members of the Muslim Canadian Congress who argue that the law would not violate human rights [JURIST comment] and would promote the ideals of a free and democratic society. Also last month, a Belgian parliamentary committee voted unanimously [JURIST report] to completely ban the wearing of full veils in public. If approved, Belgium will be the first European nation to impose a nationwide restriction on traditional face-covering veils.






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UK Supreme Court rules sex offenders can challenge inclusion on registry
Brian Jackson on April 21, 2010 8:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Wednesday that the country's sex offender registry [Guardian backgrounder] requirement violates the right to privacy. The case involved an appeal filed by two convicted sex offenders who challenged the notification requirement [legislative materials] of Section 82 of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which mandates indefinite notification for any individual sentenced to 30 or more months in prison for a sex offense. The trial court ruled that Section 82 of the Act was incompatible with privacy rights guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [materials]. The Supreme Court considered several issues before affirming that dismissal, including how valuable the notification requirements are for achieving the goal of lower crime, and the extent of harm to that goal if the notification requirements were subject to review. The court considered empirical evidence that, over a 21-year period, 75 percent of sex offenders in the UK were not re-convicted, and that, despite the possibility that a convicted offender may be able to prove he will not re-offend, he or she has no recourse. Lord Phillips, writing for the court, concluded:


I think that it is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified. As the courts below have observed, it is open to the legislature to impose an appropriately high threshold for review.

As the Court suggested, the UK legislature will have to craft a review process for the notification requirement. It is not clear what will happen to individuals already on the notification register, and any change will be delayed until the upcoming general election [Telegraph backgrounder] has passed.

Wednesday's ruling is the second high-profile result regarding individual rights and sex offenders in the UK in the past week. On Monday, a Pakistani man, currently serving a jail term for a sex offense, won an appeal against deportation [Times Online report] because he has a wife and child in the UK and has lived there legally for 20 years. That ruling resulted in significant public outrage [Lancashire Telegraph report], and the Home Office [official website] has indicated it will appeal the ruling. There are currently more than 24,000 individuals in the UK subject to the registry requirement, and, in the past, the government has had to reduce the sentence [Telegraph report] of some sex offenders because of prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive].





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Rights group urges Thailand to investigate protester deaths
Tara Tighe on April 21, 2010 8:16 AM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called for an investigation [public statement, PDF] into the deaths of 25 people during recent anti-government protests. The group stated that it would welcome a pledge by the Thai government to "investigate promptly, effectively, and impartially the recent violence," and urges it to "provide accountability for any violations by security forces as well as abuses by violent protesters." The protesters, known as red shirts [BBC backgrounder], claim [BBC report] that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva [official profile; JURIST news archive] came to power illegitimately and that he should resign and call for elections. After the death toll rose to 21, the Thai army was called in [BBC reports] on Monday to prevent the protests from spreading into Bangkok's financial district. While AI's statement recognized that the military's use of force may have been justified by the fact that some of the protesters were armed with guns and grenades, the group also urged the Thai government to adhere to international principles on crowd dispersal and the use of force. Such principles dictate that law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary

The protests are currently in their sixth week and have led to an increasingly hostile political climate in Thailand. Earlier this month, a Thai court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for at least 17 high-profile protesters, including top red shirt officials. Abhisit hopes that the arrest warrants will encourage the protesters to disperse. Abhisit was forced to declare a state of emergency earlier this month after a Thai court refused to issue an injunction [JURIST reports] against the protesters. The protesters are supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was removed from power [JURIST report] during a 2006 military coup. Thaksin was convicted [JURIST report] in absentia on corruption charges in October 2008. Despite the conviction, the Cambodian government refused to extradite [JURIST report] the ousted prime minister to face a two-year prison sentence.






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UK court documents allege Afghan detainee abuse
Steve Czajkowski on April 21, 2010 7:20 AM ET

[JURIST] British human rights lawyers on Monday submitted documents to a UK High Court that allege Britain allowed Afghan detainees to be tortured [press release] following their transfer to Afghanistan authorities. The documents were submitted by Public Interest Lawyers [advocacy website] on behalf of human rights and anti-war activist Maya Evans, who is seeking a judicial inquiry [CBC report] into Britain's policy for transferring detainees in Afghanistan. Evans alleges that British officials turned over al Qaeda and Taliban suspects to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS), which is believed to have used torture [Globe and Mail report] as a means of interrogating prisoners. The documents detail nine cases of detainee abuse, including the use of physical beatings, electrocution, and sleep deprivation. The application for review has been opposed by Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth [official profile], who has said that safeguards were put in place to prevent abuse.

Concerns over detainee abuse were first brought to light in a 2007 report [text; JURIST report] by Amnesty International [advocacy website], which said that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) [official website], led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was exposing terrorism detainees to risks of torture by transferring NATO-held detainees into custody of Afghanistan authorities. Amnesty's report focused on actions by Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK, saying that the forces from those countries have been transferring terror detainees to the NDS, despite numerous reports of torture. The report prompted Evans to bring her suit seeking judicial review in 2008. The case mirrors similar allegations that Canadian military officials were complicit [JURIST news archive] in the torture of detainees that were transferred to Afghanistan officials.






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Supreme Court hears arguments on restitution order deadline
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 20, 2010 3:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in Dolan v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on whether a district court may enter a restitution order beyond the time limit prescribed in 18 USC § 3664(d)(5) [text]. The petitioner, Brian Dolan, attacked a hitchhiker and was ordered to pay restitution to his victim. He argued that the court's restitution order came after the deadline imposed by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that "a tardy restitution order is not an invalid one." Counsel for Dolan argued Tuesday that, "[o]nce that 90-day period has run ... the district court loses the authority to impose restitution." Counsel for the United States argued that the court may impose restitution after the 90-day period in certain circumstances.






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Russia Constitutional Court upholds ban on jury trials for terrorism suspects
Sarah Paulsworth on April 20, 2010 2:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Russia's Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] on Monday upheld [judgment text, in Russian] the practice of trying terrorism cases in the absence of juries. Several Russian citizens had challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions of the country's Criminal Procedure Code, which provided that criminal cases involving crimes under articles 205 (terrorist act), 278 (violent seizure of power or forcible retention of power) and 279 (armed rebellion) are not considered with the participation of a jury, but rather by three judges. The petitioners argued that this practice violates the right to trial by jury, which is envisaged in Russia's Constitution [text, in Russian]. They also cited Article 55 of the Constitution, under which the country is barred from passing laws that abrogate or derogate from human rights. The Constitutional Court disagreed, finding that the constitution only guarantees jury trials in cases where the defendants could be sentenced to death. In other situations, the court said the right to trial by jury is defined by federal legislation. The court emphasized the impartiality and professionalism of the judges in Russia tasked with trying terrorism cases, noting that this would ensure fair trials for terrorism suspects.

Russia has been tightening its anti-terrorism and other national security legislation recent years, leading to concerns that some of the reforms infringe on human rights. The provision banning jury trials for terrorism suspects was approved [JURIST report] by Russian Dmitry President Medvedev [official website] at the beginning of 2009. Also last year, a spokesperson for Medvedev announced [JURIST report] that his administration would modify a legislative proposal that would change the definition of treason, state secrets, and espionage. Last month, Medvedev proposed amending the country's terrorism legislation in the wake of twin suicide bombing attacks [Moscow Times report] on Moscow subway stations. Literature including Mein Kampf and 34 religious books [JURIST reprots] related to the Jehovah's Witnesses have been banned recently under the country's extremism laws.






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UN chief legal counsel urges financial support for Cambodia genocide tribunal
Sarah Paulsworth on April 20, 2010 1:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The Chief Legal Counsel [official website] to the UN, Under-Secretary-General Patricia O'Brien [official profile, PDF], and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said Monday that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] needs financial support from the international community. In a joint statement [text; UN News Centre report], O'Brien and Sok expressed concern about the financial situation of the UN-backed tribunal charged with trying alleged Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] war criminals, but also emphasized the great success that the tribunal has had:


The ECCC has confirmed its ability to conduct complex international criminal trials to international standards, and is living up to the hope for it to be a model court. The proceedings have attracted unprecedented interest and support, as witnessed by the fact that over 30,000 Cambodians have attended the court proceedings since its inception.

As of December, UN member countries had contributed [financial report] nearly $77 million in support of the Khmer Rouge trials. The ECCC's approved budget [ECCC materials] for 2010-2011 amounts to $87.1 million, of which $42.9 million is for 2010 and $44.2 million is for 2011. The international component of the ECCC budget is $65.4 million, of which $32.2 million is for 2010 and $33.2 million is for 2011.

In December, the ECCC charged [JURIST report] former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Thirith [Trial Watch profile; case materials] with genocide, torture, and persecution, adding to previous charges that include war crimes and murder. Ieng Thirith, the wife of ECCC defendant Ieng Sary [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], served as social affairs minister for the regime. Ieng Thirith is the fourth former official to be charged with genocide. Also in December, the ECCC brought genocide charges against former head of state Khieu Samphan, former deputy leader and chief ideologist Nuon Chea, and former foreign minister Ieng Sary [JURIST reports] in connection with the same events. In November, the court heard final arguments [JURIST report] in its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav [Trial Watch profile; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Kaing was the first of eight [JURIST report] ex-Khmer Rouge officials to be tried before the ECCC. Members of the Khmer Rouge allegedly killed 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979.





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ICJ rules Uruguay may continue operating pulp mill on Argentina border
Sarah Miley on April 20, 2010 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] in The Hague ruled [judgment, PDF; case materials] Tuesday that Uruguay may continue operating a pulp mill on the River Uruguay despite breaching its treaty obligations to Argentina. The ICJ found that Uruguay did not breach its substantive obligation [press release, PDF] to Argentina to protect the environment under the 1975 Statute of the River Uruguay [text, PDF] by planning to construct two pulp mills. The court did find that Uruguay had breached its procedural duties laid out in the statute by not cooperating with Argentina and the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay (CARU) during the development phase and prior to the construction of the Orion (Botnia) pulp mill, but concluded that shutting down the plant or ordering damages would not be an appropriate remedy. The ruling was criticized by environmental activists [Reuters report] but welcomed by diplomats from both Argentina and Uruguay who hoped it would help repair relations between the two countries.

The hearings for the treaty dispute began [JURIST report] in September. Argentina claimed that pollutants from the plant were causing extreme harm [El Pais report, in Spanish] to the river and surrounding environment and that Uruguay failed to obtain Argentina's approval before starting the project. In 2007, the ICJ refused [JURIST report] to order Argentina to prevent demonstrators protesting the plant from blocking traffic on roads and bridges into the country from Uruguay. In 2006, the ICJ denied [JURIST report] Argentina's request that Uruguay be ordered to stop construction on the plants.






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Oklahoma lawmakers approve bills restricting abortions
Ann Riley on April 20, 2010 11:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The Oklahoma State Senate [official website] voted to approve five anti-abortion bills on Monday, sending three to Governor Brad Henry [official website] for his approval and returning two to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives [official website]. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] would prevent "wrongful life" lawsuits in which parents seek damages for a child born with a birth defect because the mother was unable to obtain an abortion. The second bill [HB 2780 text, RTF] would require doctors to conduct a vaginal ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion while displaying and explaining the images. The third bill [HB 3075 text, RTF] would require any facility conducting abortions to post a sign stating that it is against the law to be forced to have an abortion. Pending House approval, two additional bills would require a woman to answer 38 questions [HB 3284 text, RTF], including why she is seeking an abortion, and prohibit state health plans from covering elective abortions [HB 3290 text, RTF]. Senate Republican Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee [official website] praised the bills [press release] saying, "Oklahomans have consistently voted and called for measures like these, and today we have held true to Oklahoma values." If approved by Henry, the bills would give Oklahoma the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Earlier this month, Henry signed three anti-abortion bills into law [JURIST report], prohibiting abortions performed because of the gender of the fetus, protecting medical employees who refuse to participate in procedures such as abortion based on religious beliefs, and regulating a chemical used in abortion procedures. The measures signed by the governor and the provisions of the bills passed Monday were previously included in a larger state law struck down [JURIST report] by the Oklahoma Supreme Court [official website] last month for violating the Oklahoma Constitution [text], which requires legislation to be limited to one subject. In February, an Oklahoma state court ruled [JURIST report] that a different state law [HB 1595, PDF], making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion based on the gender of a fetus and requiring numerous reporting requirements, also violated the state constitution's single subject requirement. The Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website], which initially filed lawsuits against the bills, has indicated that it will challenge the constitutionality of the separated bills. Staff Attorney Stephanie Toti criticized the laws [JURIST comment], arguing that "they violate a myriad of constitutional principles, from freedom of speech to due process to equal protection of the law."






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Sudan opposition parties accuse ruling party of election fraud
Hillary Stemple on April 20, 2010 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Two political parties in eastern Sudan on Tuesday accused the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) [party website] of using voter fraud and intimidation in gaining electoral victories in their region of the country during last week's national elections. Representatives of the Beja Congress party and the Democratic Congress for East Sudan have separately accused members of the NCP [Reuters report] of emptying of ballot boxes and compromising ballots in an effort to secure victory for their party. The Beja Congress also contend that fraud is indicated by the fact their party won only one seat on a state assembly and no seats at the national level. Reports from one electoral area have the NCP candidate winning with close to 18,000 votes compared to 839 for the eastern party candidate. Official results of the election have not yet been released by the National Election Commission [official website], but indicators point to a strong national win by the NCP. Also on Tuesday, a representative of the US State Department [official website] commented [transcript] on the elections, stating that they were not "free and fair" and that they did not meet international standards. It is expected that President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will win re-election when the results are announced.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] currently has an arrest warrant against al-Bashir charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC is considering whether to add an additional charge of genocide to the warrant after overturning a March 2009 decision [JURIST reports] by the Pre-Trial Chamber not to prosecute on the charge. The warrant has been controversial [JURIST news archive], with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union [JURIST reports] and others calling for the proceedings against al-Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing [JURIST report] not to cooperate with the ruling. Al-Bashir is accused of systematically targeting and purging the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa, three Arabic-speaking ethnic groups, under the pretext of counterinsurgency since 2003.






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Supreme Court strikes down animal cruelty video ban
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 20, 2010 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-1 in United States v. Stevens [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a federal law [18 USC § 48 text] banning depictions of animal cruelty violates the First Amendment [text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the law illegally restricts speech, overturning the conviction of Robert Stevens, who was prosecuted for selling videos depicting dog fights. In upholding the opinion below, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that the statute is, "substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment." Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion. Instead of applying the doctrine of overbreadth, Alito, "would vacate the decision below and instruct the Court of Appeals on remand to decide whether the videos that respondent sold are constitutionally protected."

The statute establishes a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for anyone who knowingly "creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty," if done "for commercial gain" in interstate or foreign commerce. It was originally intended to ban "crush videos," which feature small animals being tortured and killed. Stevens was charged under the statute for selling videos of dog fights. Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.






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Arizona Senate approves strict illegal immigration bill
Andrea Bottorff on April 20, 2010 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] The Arizona Senate approved a bill [SB 1070 materials] on Monday that would establish one of the strictest illegal immigration [JURIST news archive] policies in the nation, requiring individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants to provide proof of their legal status. The bill proposes giving the police permission to determine the immigration status of any individual who arouses reasonable suspicion, criminalizing the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor, and allowing citizens to sue the local government if they believe the policy is not being used properly. Proponents of the bill argue that the new law would decrease illegal immigration [Reuters report] in the state, which borders Mexico. However, the bill has also been heavily criticized [press release] by Arizona Democrats, as well as immigrant rights groups who say the proposed measures could lead to racial profiling [LAT report]. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official profile] has five days to decide whether to veto or sign the bill into law.

A week after the Arizona House approved [JURIST report] the bill, US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) [official profiles] supported the bill and announced on Monday their proposal for additional federal controls on illegal immigration [press release], such as an increased National Guard presence and a 700-mile-long fence along the Arizona-Mexico border. In 2008, Arizona voters defeated a ballot measure [JURIST report] dealing with illegal immigrants. The initiative would have revoked the business licenses of employers that knowingly hire illegal immigrants and would have strengthened penalties for identity theft. More illegal immigrants enter the US through Arizona's border than through any other state, and citizens have expressed frustration with the federal government's failure to prevent illegal immigration.






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Blackwater contractors will not face death penalty for 2009 killings: prosecutors
Megan McKee on April 20, 2010 8:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Blackwater [JURIST news archive] contractors working for the US Department of Defense [official website] will not face the death penalty for the alleged May 2009 shooting of two Afghans at an intersection in Kabul. Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi and Christopher Drotleff of Virginia Beach, were arrested in January and charged [JURIST report] with 13 counts related to the shooting, including second-degree murder, attempted murder, and weapons charges. Federal prosecutors told a district court judge in a hearing on Monday that they will not seek the death penalty [Reuters report]. However, if convicted, the men could still face life in prison. The men have pleaded not guilty, and maintain that they fired at the vehicle in self defense, as it sped toward them. The trial is set for September 14.

Last week, a federal grand jury indicted [press release] five former Blackwater executives on charges [JURIST report] of weapons violations and lying to criminal investigators. In February, the Iraqi government ordered approximately 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report]. The government was reacting to a US federal court's December decision to dismiss charges against five former Blackwater employees accused of killing 17 innocent Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in 2007 because information against the defendants was obtained unconstitutionally. Earlier that month, the New York Times reported that the US Department of Justice [official website] is investigating [JURIST report] Blackwater, now known as Xe, to determine whether the company bribed the Iraqi government to allow Blackwater to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts for the protection of US diplomats expired.






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Italy judges question law allowing Berlusconi to postpone trials
Ximena Marinero on April 20, 2010 8:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Milan judges presiding over the tax fraud trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] suspended the trial Monday while consulting [ASCA report, in Italian] with a Constitutional Court [official website] on the legitimacy of a new law that Berlusconi has invoked to postpone criminal proceedings against him for 18 months. The case is the second to be suspended this month, with the corruption trial postponed [AFP report] last Friday. The law in question was passed [JURIST report] in March and allows cabinet officials to postpone criminal proceedings against them for up to 18 months if the charges constitute a "legitimate impediment" to performing public duties. The judges are questioning [ANSA report, in Italian] whether the new law violates the Italian Constitution [text] because it improperly creates a new faculty for cabinet members through a law rather than by constitutional amendment, and because it alters the equality of citizens under the law. Berlusconi maintains that the proceedings are politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Italian prosecutors sought to indict [JURIST report] Berlusconi on additional fraud and embezzlement charges [JURIST report] involving his media company Mediatrade, despite a new law granting the executive temporary immunity. In January, hundreds of Italy's judges walked out of their courtrooms to protest the passage of a law that placed strict time limits [JURIST reports] on the trial and appeals process. The law was criticized for being tailored for Berlusconi's benefit.






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Indonesia constitutional court upholds controversial anti-blasphemy law
Ximena Marinero on April 20, 2010 7:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website, in Bahasa] voted 8-1 Monday to uphold [judgment, PDF, in Bahasa; press release, in Bahasa] a controversial anti-blasphemy law enacted in 1965 by the first Indonesian president. The court rejected the legal challenge raised by a coalition of human rights groups and social activists supporting [NYT report] the Wahid Organization, a civil organization that advocates for religious pluralism in Indonesia. Critics of the law, titled Presidential Decree for the Prevention of Blasphemy and the Desecration of Religions, argued that it is used to discriminate against minorities and violates freedom of religion. Eight of the judges found that the law is necessary to maintain public order and is respectful of the principle of religious freedom, called Pancasila in Indonesia. Dissenting judge Maria Farida, the first ever female member of the court, reasoned that the law should be revoked because it is at odds with the constitution since it only recognizes six religions and is used arbitrarily to suppress all other religions.

Blasphemy laws [JURIST news archive] have been a controversial issue in several countries. Last month, the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform proposed a referendum [JURIST report] to remove the criminal offense of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution [text, PDF]. Blasphemy is a punishable offense under section 40 of the constitution, but the language of the text had been deemed too vague to hold any prosecutions. In February, a Pakistani government official said that the country would begin to revise its blasphemy laws [JURIST report] later this year. Pakistan currently punishes blasphemy against Islam by death, but no one has yet been executed for the offense. Last year, the death sentence of Afghan journalism student Sayad Parwaz Kambaksh [JURIST news archive] for blasphemy was reduced [JURIST report] to 20 years' imprisonment by an Afghan appeals court. Kambaksh was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for distributing papers questioning gender roles under Islam. In 2008, the UK House of Lords voted to abolish [JURIST report] the criminal offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous libel from the UK common law.






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Supreme Court hears religious student group, workplace texting cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 19, 2010 3:54 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 Christian Legal Society v. Martinez [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether a state law school may deny recognition to a religious student organization where the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious beliefs, thereby excluding gay students. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] in favor of the law school. Counsel for the petitioner argued that, "[a] public forum for speech must be open and inclusive, but participants in the forum are entitled to their own voice." Counsel for the respondents argued that all organizations must abide by the school's open membership policy. The justices appeared split along ideological lines, but much of their questioning focused on the facts of the case rather than the broader constitutional question.

In City of Ontario v. Quon [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team member has a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages sent to and from his SWAT pager, where the police department has an official no-privacy policy, but a non-policymaking lieutenant announced an informal policy of allowing some personal use of the pagers. The Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the SWAT team member had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that a search of his text messages violated his Fourth Amendment [text] rights. Counsel for the petitioners argued that, "[u]nder the less restrictive constitutional standards applied when government acts as employer, as opposed to sovereign, there was no Fourth Amendment violation here." Counsel for the US argued as amicus curiae on behalf of the city. Counsel for the respondents argued that, "[t]he scope of the search was unreasonable." Several of the justices appeared to side with the government employer, with Justice Steven Breyer saying, "I don't see anything, quite honestly, unreasonable about [the search]."






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Kyrgyzstan provisional government pledges constitutional reform
Steve Dotterer on April 19, 2010 2:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Kyrgyzstan's provisional government on Monday announced a plan to institute democratic reforms, including a referendum on a new constitution. The plan seeks to move Kyrgyzstan toward a parliamentary republic [Reuters report] with increased checks and balances and a reduction in the constitutional scope of presidential power. In order to increase the perceived legitimacy of the process, the government has stated it will invite UN officials to join Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Committee. The pledge for reform follows an anti-government uprising [JURIST report] earlier this month that forced president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile] from office and led to the formation of an interim government [JURIST report] headed by former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile]. The interim government has taken a number of steps, including suspending the constitutional court [JURIST report] because of the court's perceived support for Bakiyev. It was also reported on Monday that Bakivey had fled Kazakhstan [AP report], where he had been hiding since his ouster.

On Sunday, the interim Kyrgyz government announced that Bakiyev will be tried [JURIST report] for killings that took place during the uprising. Last week, the Kyrgyzstan Prosecutor General's Office announced that Bakiyev's son faces charges [JURIST report] of abuse of power and misuse of state credit. UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) [official website] Executive Director Jan Kubis [official profile] stated [press release] Friday that Kyrgyzstan needs international support in order to continue democratic reforms. UN officials have also pointed to concerns over human rights in Kyrgyzstan. Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] called on Kyrgyzstan [JURIST report] to show "tolerance for diversity and media freedom." Kyrgyzstan's recent problems mirror many of those addressed in 2005 when Bakiyev assumed power in the Tulip Revolution.






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Toyota accepts record $16 million fine for safety reporting delay
Michael Kraemer on April 19, 2010 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Toyota Motor Corporation [corporate website; JURIST news archive] on Monday accepted a record civil penalty of $16.375 million [press release] imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] for a four-month delay in notifying the agency about a problem with "sticky" and "slow to return pedal" gas pedals in various car models. US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood [official profile] announced that Toyota has acknowledged responsibility for violating its legal obligations to report any defects promptly. The fine, the largest ever assessed against a car maker, is based on a preliminary review of extensive corporate documents attained through an investigation [press release] launched by the NHTSA in February. Toyota declined to appeal the fine, and, if further defect-related violations are discovered, the NHTSA may increase the penalty. NHTSA statutes [text, PDF] require that a vehicle manufacturer notify the NHTSA within five days of discovering a safety defect and launch a recall. The NHTSA has evidence that Toyota knew of the defect in late September, but notification and a recall were not launched until January.

Earlier this month, the US Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) [official website] consolidated more than 150 pending lawsuits [JURIST report] against Toyota and transferred them to the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] where Judge James Selna ordered [JURIST report] a May 13 pre-trial conference. In March, the NHTSA enlisted the help of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and NASA [official websites] to conduct a 15-month investigation into the sources of recent safety defects. The agency has faced a hearing [transcript, PDF] before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce [official website] and strong criticism [FOXNews video] regarding the effectiveness of its recent investigations into car safety defects. Previously, the largest fine assessed by the NHTSA was of $1 million [CNN report] against General Motors for failing to conduct a timely recall in 2004. At the time, the NHTSA was also criticized [CCR report] for appearing to be lenient on the American vehicle manufacturer. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny [NHTSA materials] since December 2009, and has conducted three recalls.






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Pakistan constitutional amendment curbing presidential powers signed into law
Carrie Schimizzi on April 19, 2010 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] on Monday signed into law [press release] the 18th Amendment bill [text, PDF], limiting presidential powers expanded under former military leader Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Under the amendment, which effectively reduces the role of the president to a figurehead, the vast majority of the president's powers will be transferred [AFP report] to the office of the prime minister [official website]. The president will no longer have the power to appoint heads of the armed forces, dissolve the parliament or dismiss the prime minister. In addition, the president may only enact emergency rule after parliamentary approval. Both the National Assembly and the Senate unanimously passed [JURIST reports] the amendment bill earlier this month.

The introduction of the bill comes amid controversy over reopening corruption investigations against Zardari. Earlier this month, Pakistan's attorney general Anwar Mansoor announced his resignation over controversy surrounding a Supreme Court order to investigate corruption allegations [JURIST reports] against Zardari. Last month, Swiss authorities denied a request [JURIST report] from Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau [official website], refusing to reopen a corruption investigation against Zardari. Aides to Zardari believe that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution, even after the Supreme Court overturned an amnesty law [JURIST report] implemented by Musharraf. The amnesty was signed [JURIST report] by Musharraf 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.






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Bangladesh court convicts dozens more over border guard mutiny
Megan McKee on April 19, 2010 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A Bangladeshi special court in the district of Sathkhira on Monday sentenced 56 members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] on charges relating to their involvement in last year's border guard mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that left 74 dead. Of the 60 charged [AP report] with taking up arms, firing, driving their army commanders out of offices and homes, and blocking a road during the 33-hour mutiny, 24 received the maximum seven-year sentence, and only four were acquitted. Civilian courts will hear the more serious charges [AFP report] faced by another 2,200 guards, such as murder, for which those found guilty may be subject to the death penalty. These were the fourth set of convictions relating to the mutiny, coming just one day after a special court in Feni convicted 57 BDR members [JURIST report] on similar charges.

The six special courts were established [Priyo report] shortly after the Bangladeshi Supreme Court [official website] recommended against [JURIST report] military court-martial trials for BDR members who took part in the mutiny. Dozens of BDR officers, including the force's commander, were killed and their bodies left in sewers and shallow graves during the mutiny, which was sparked by grievances over pay and conditions. President Zillur Rahman [official profile] asked for the court's opinion to determine whether the accused should be tried under the Army Act of 1952 [text] or whether they should face civilian trials. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile] initially offered the mutineers amnesty as part of a deal negotiated to end the uprising, but the agreement was rescinded when the conduct of the mutineers was fully revealed.






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Iraq election commission orders Baghdad ballot recount after fraud allegations
Patrice Collins on April 19, 2010 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) [official website] on Monday ordered a manual recount of Baghdad province ballots cast in the March 7 parliamentary elections [JURIST news archive], following fraud allegations. The election commissioner for the IHEC informed the public that the Baghdad recount would begin immediately [Al Jazeera report], citing manipulation in voting stations. The ruling State of Law [official website] coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] alleged fraud [JURIST report] after a preliminary count showed the Iraqiya coalition of former prime minister Iyad Allawi [official website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile] held a slight lead. The results of the election are expected to have a significant role [AFP report] in the direction of the Iraqi government, as the two main factions strive for control.

Soon after the fraud allegations were first made last month, Iraqi election officials rejected [JURIST report] the allegations and calls for a recount. Previously, the commission dismissed allegations of election fraud [JURIST report] from a member of the European Parliament [official website]. The fraud allegations are the latest in a series of problems plaguing the elections. In February, an Iraqi appeals panel ruled [JURIST report] that 28 of the 500 candidates previously banned due to allegations of ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] could stand in the election. The initial ban was characterized by the Iraqi government as illegal, and was reversed [JURIST reports] when the panel acknowledged that it did not have to rule on all 500 candidates at once.






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UN rights chief urges Gulf countries to respect human rights
Ann Riley on April 19, 2010 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Monday encouraged the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) [official website, in Arabic; GlobalSecurity backgrounder] states to address continuing rights issues [press release], including women's rights, treatment of migrant workers, statelessness, and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. In a speech at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the first stop on a 10-day tour [press release] of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, Pillay also noted "encouraging" progress in economic and social rights, children's rights, and human trafficking. Pillay was pleased with the cooperation of GCC states thus far with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) [materials] process, reviewing the human rights records of all UN Member States every four years. Pillay additionally applauded the establishment of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) [official website] in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and recently in Bahrain and Oman, noting their "growing effectiveness" in promoting human rights.

According to a Freedom House [advocacy website] report [JURIST report] released last month, women's rights and opportunities have increased the most in Persian Gulf countries, which were ranked as the worst violators of women's rights five years ago. Despite the progress, the report found that women still face many obstacles in achieving recourse for domestic violence and equality in employment, education, and politics. The annual rights report [JURIST report] released by the US State Department (DOS) [official website] last month, criticized Saudi Arabia for violence against women. In February, Saudi Arabia proposed a new law [JURIST report] that would allow female lawyers to practice in some areas. In October, Kuwait's Constitutional Court ruled that female lawmakers are not required [JURIST report] to wear the hijab [JURIST news archive], the traditional Islamic headscarf, and that women do not need permission [JURIST report] to get a passport. A 2008 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] report found that female domestic and migrant workers faced frequent abuse [JURIST report] throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.






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Supreme Court to hear copyright, employment discrimination cases
Jaclyn Belczyk on April 19, 2010 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in four cases. In Costco v. Omega [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the first-sale doctrine [17 USC § 109(a)], which provides that the owner of any particular copy "lawfully made under this title" may resell that good without the authority of the copyright holder, applies to imported goods manufactured abroad. Swiss watchmaker Omega [corporate website] manufactures watches in Switzerland and then sells them to authorized distributors overseas. Watches were purchased by third parties and eventually sold to Costco [corporate website], which sold them to US consumers without authorization from Omega. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods.

In Staub v. Proctor Hospital [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider in what circumstances an employer may be held liable based on the unlawful intent of officials who caused or influenced but did not make the ultimate employment decision. Vincent Staub sued his former employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) [text] for wrongful termination. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the unlawful intent of the officials who allegedly brought about Staub's dismissal could not be attributed to the employer.

In United States v. Tohono O'odham Nation [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether 28 USC § 1500 [text] deprives the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) [official website] of jurisdiction over a claim seeking monetary relief for the government's alleged violation of fiduciary obligations if the plaintiff has another suit pending in federal district court based on substantially the same operative facts, especially when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief or other overlapping relief in the two suits. 28 USC § 1500 provides that the CFC lacks jurisdiction over "any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff has any suit or process against the United States" or its agents "pending in any other court." The Tohono O'odham Nation filed a complaint against the US in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, and, one day later, it filed a similar complaint against the US in the CFC. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed [opinion, PDF] the CFC's dismissal of the case, concluding "that the Nation's complaint in the Court of Federal Claims seeks relief that is different from the relief sought in its earlier-filed district court action."

In Ransom v. MBNA [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether, in calculating the debtor's "projected disposable income" during the plan period, the bankruptcy court may allow an ownership cost deduction for vehicles only if the debtor is actually making payments on the vehicles. The Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the bankruptcy court may not allow such deductions.






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Iran court sentences 3 progressive activists to prison
Daniel Richey on April 19, 2010 9:21 AM ET

[JURIST] A Tehran Revolutionary Court [official website, in Persian; GlobaLex backgrounder] on Monday sentenced three prominent progressive activists to six years in prison in connection with protests following the controversial re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in June. According to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) [official website, in Persian], Mohsen Mirdamadi, Mostafa Tajzadeh, and Davood Soleimani were convicted of spreading propaganda against the government. The men are high-ranking officials of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) [party website], a pro-democracy reformist political party that supported opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi [BBC profile] in the disputed election. In addition to the jail time, the court also banned them from participation in political activity for 10 years.

The Iranian government has arrested hundreds in a crackdown on anti-government activity in the wake of protests over Ahmadenijad's re-election, drawing criticism from international human rights groups and advocacy organizations. Iranian authorities jailed prominent Iranian journalist Mohammad Nourizad and reform movement leader Hossein Marashi [JURIST reports] on similar charges in April and March, respectively. Also in March, an Iranian appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the death sentence of 20-year-old student Mohammad Amin Valian, who took part in anti-government protests in December. In February, the US and EU jointly issued a statement condemning [JURIST report] Iran's action against protesters and political dissenters.






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Sunnis held without warrant, tortured in Iraq prison: report
Dwyer Arce on April 19, 2010 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Hundreds of Sunni men were detained without warrant and subjected to torture under authority of the military office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official profile, in Arabic; BBC profile], according to a Monday Los Angeles Times report [text]. More than 400 men were initially detained in October during sweeps of Nineveh province, an area in which al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was active, and transferred to a Baghdad prison due to concerns over corruption in the provincial capitol of Mosul. According to Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, many of the men were not members of AQI and were detained without a warrant. Maliki maintains that the conditions of the prison were first revealed to him earlier this month, after Iraqi Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim was allowed to inspect the facility. Salim's inspection teams found that all of the men had been kept in poor conditions and more than 100 of men had been subject to torture, including a former colonel under Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], who died in January as a result. Since the inspections, 75 of the men have been freed and 275 have been transferred to other prisons. Maliki said that he plans to close [UPI report] the prison and arrest the officers responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners. News of the secret prison comes at a sensitive time for Maliki as he tries to build a government following the March parliamentary election [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive], in which his Shiite dominated State of Law [official website] coalition came in a close second [Majlis report] to the cross-sectarian Iraqiya headed by former-prime minister Iyad Allawi [official website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile].

Maliki created a special committee [JURIST report] in June to investigate alleged abuse and torture in the country's prisons. Comprised of eight members, the committee includes representatives from human rights and judicial government agencies and security ministries. The decision to create the panel came shortly after charges were brought [JURIST report] against 43 Iraqi police officers for human rights abuses, warrantless arrests, and bribery allegations. The violations were discovered by an investigatory committee formed by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [JURIST news archive]. Loyalists to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr [CFR profile] have pressured the Iraqi government over prison conditions that they claim include confessions elicited from torture and politically motivated false accusations. In August 2008, officials for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry said that they plan to prosecute those suspected of torturing inmates [JURIST report] of the country's prison system. In November 2005, US troops found 173 prisoners [JURIST report], many abused, in a secret bunker run by the Interior Ministry. Earlier that year, then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile] said that Iraq's detention practices may violate international law and expressed concern [JURIST report] over the failure of Coalition forces to publish the results of their investigation into the torture allegations.






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Rights group criticizes ongoing Somalia violence
Hillary Stemple on April 19, 2010 7:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday criticized [report text] the violent and repressive conditions in southern Somalia that have been implemented by the Islamist group al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder]. HRW interviewed more than 70 victims and witnesses, concluding that while some areas of the country under al-Shabaab rule are more stable when compared to areas under control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) [official website], that stability comes at a steep price. The report details the use of harsh punishments including beatings, amputations, and executions without due process for the victims. Women have been particularly affected by al-Shabaab rule and the implementation of harsh measures in the name of Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. According to the report:


Freedoms women took for granted in traditional Somali culture have been dramatically rolled back. In many areas, women have been barred from engaging in any activity that leads them to mix with men—even small-scale commercial enterprises that many of them depend on for a living. Al-Shabaab authorities have arrested, threatened, or whipped countless women for trying to support their families by selling cups of tea. [sic] In many areas, al-Shabaab officials require women to wear a particularly heavy type of abaya, a traditional form of Islamic dress that covers everything but the face, hands, and feet. Women who fail to do so are often arrested, publicly flogged, or both.

HRW also criticized the TFG and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) [official website] for their roles in the continuing violence in Mogadishu, stating [press release], "[a]ll sides are responsible for laws-of-war violations that continue unabated in Mogadishu. Many Somalis confront indiscriminate warfare, terrifying patterns of repression, and brutal acts of targeted violence on a daily basis."

Somalia has endured a lengthy civil war and several rounds of failed peace talks [BBC timeline] since the collapse of its last civil government in 1991. Last July, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicated that human rights violations committed during recent Somalian conflicts may amount to war crimes [JURIST report]. In an attempt to avoid violence in Mogadishu, the Somali parliament voted last April [JURIST report] to adopt Islamic Sharia law as part of a cease-fire agreement with the country's Hizb al-Islamiya and al-Shabaab rebels. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] had previously expressed his support [JURIST report] for the adoption of a moderate form of Sharia as part of peace talks with the rebels.





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Iran journalist sentenced for propaganda against the revolution
Dwyer Arce on April 18, 2010 3:42 PM ET

[JURIST] A prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker was sentenced on Sunday to three-and-a-half years in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the disputed 2009 presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Mohammad Nourizad was sentenced [Kaleme report, in Persian] by Judge Pyrbasy, the head of Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 26 [GlobaLex backgrounder] for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary, and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts [official website, in Persian]. Nourizad was initially arrested [AP report] in November after writing an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [BBC profile], criticizing the Iranian government for its crackdown on protesters following the disputed presidential election, which resulted in more than 80 deaths. Nourizad was a writer for Kayhan [official website, in Persian], a publication under the direct supervision of the Khamenei, but Nourizad distanced himself [AFP report] from the paper following the election unrest.

In March, Iranian authorities jailed reform movement leader [JURIST report] Hossein Marashi after an appeals court upheld a one-year sentence for spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic. Marashi was a leading supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi [BBC profile] who opposed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in the disputed presidential election. The court also upheld [AFP report] a ban on Marashi from participating in party political activity for six years. Also in March, an Iranian appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the death sentence for a 20-year-old student who took part in anti-government protests in December. Mohammad Amin Valian was convicted of Moharebeh, which means waging war against God and is punishable by death under Iranian law. In February, a joint US-EU statement condemned [JURIST report] Iranian action against protesters and other critics of government policy. The Iranian government responded strongly to opposition following June's disputed elections, prompting additional criticism from rights groups and advocacy organizations.






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Bangladesh court convicts 57 more over border guard mutiny
Dwyer Arce on April 18, 2010 12:50 PM ET

[JURIST] A special tribunal in Bangladesh on Sunday convicted 57 members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] on charges relating to their involvement in last year's border guard mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. BDR Special Court-3 in the southeast district of Feni sentenced [Daily Star report] those convicted to jail terms ranging from four months to seven years, and fined each BDT $100 (USD $1.45) for taking up arms and blocking a road during the 33-hour mutiny. Only five were acquitted. Civilian courts will hear more serious charges [BBC report] related to the mutiny, such as murder, arson, and rape, and may impose the death penalty on those found guilty. The sentences comprise the third [AP report] of dozens of cases against the several thousand alleged mutiny participants who are being tried throughout Bangladesh, and come two weeks after the sentencing of 29 BDR members [JURIST report] on similar charges.

The six Special Courts were established [Priyo report] shortly after the Bangladeshi Supreme Court [official website] recommended against [JURIST report] military court-martial trials for BDR members who took part in the mutiny. Dozens of BDR officers, including the force's commander, were killed and their bodies left in sewers and shallow graves during the mutiny, which was sparked by grievances over pay and conditions. President Zillur Rahman [official profile] asked for the court's opinion to determine whether the accused should be tried under the Army Act of 1952 [text] or whether they should face civilian trials. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile] initially offered the mutineers amnesty as part of a deal negotiated to end the uprising, but the agreement was rescinded when the conduct of the mutineers was fully revealed.






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Germany considering legal action against Goldman Sachs: report
Steve Czajkowski on April 18, 2010 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The German government said Saturday that it is considering taking legal action against Goldman, Sachs & Co. [corporate website] for defrauding investors, according to a report [text, in German] by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. The announcement comes just a day after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed a civil suit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] on alleging securities fraud against the bank. German government spokesperson Ulrich Wilheim said that the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) [official website] will request information from the SEC to decide whether to file a suit. Britain has indicated that it may also pursue legal action [Bloomberg report] after it found out the scope of the allegations contained in the SEC lawsuit.

The SEC complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], alleges that Goldman made misleading statements and omissions to investors in early 2007 in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 [text, PDF] and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. Goldman's alleged conduct in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) [Investopedia backgrounder] to investors lies at the core of the controversy. Goldman responded [press release] to the allegations by denying all wrongdoing. The SEC is seeking "injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, civil penalties and other appropriate and necessary equitable relief from both defendants," remedies considered appropriate in securities fraud cases.






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Kyrgyzstan interim government to try ousted president
Steve Czajkowski on April 18, 2010 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kyrgyzstan interim government announced Sunday that it will place ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile] on trial for killings that took place during the recent uprising [JURIST report] earlier this month and for abuse of power while in office. The interim government is also planning to try [VOA report] members of Bakiyev's family and administration on charges that include corruption and human rights violations. Despite the pledge to bring Bakiyev and his allies to justice, so far only Baktybek Kaliyev, Bakiyev's defense minister, has been arrested [AFP report]. It is believed that Bakiyev is currently in Kazakhstan, and interim officials have said they will seek extradition to bring him before their courts.

Last week, Kyrgyzstan interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] said that Bakiyev should stand trial [JURIST report] for the recent violence. The protests, prompted in part by a drastic increase in utility costs, led to at least 84 deaths [Reuters report] and many more injuries. Earlier this month, Otunbayeva launched the interim government [JURIST report] after the violence forced Bakiyev to flee the capital. The protests came just one week after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged Kyrgyzstan to protect all forms of human rights [JURIST report], including "free speech and freedom of the media."






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Russia lower house approves WWII amnesty law
Ximena Marinero on April 17, 2010 6:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] voted 437-0 Friday to approve a bill giving amnesty to veterans as well as concentration camp and Leningrad siege survivors for most crimes committed during World War II by. If approved in the upper house, the bill would apply [UPI report] to an estimated 100-200 persons, but the amnesty would not apply to crimes of murder or sexual crimes against minors. The legislative action commemorates [ITAR-TASS report] the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Great Patriotic War, as the period of the war along the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1945 is known in Russia.

The legislative measure may be part of Russian efforts to rehabilitate the image of the Soviet Union. In October, a Russian historian who was researching Soviet treatment of German prisoners of war during World War II was charged [JURIST report] with violating privacy laws. Also in October, a Russian court rejected a libel suit [BBC report] brought by Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili against the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta for a report that Stalin ordered the death of Soviet citizens. In September, critics of this rehabilitation expressed outrage when a renovated Moscow train station was unveiled with inscriptions praising Stalin [CNN report]. A controversial December 2008 poll found that Russians considered Stalin the third most popular Russian [BBC report] in history, a result criticized by many.






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Convicted Bosnian war criminal dies while awaiting appeal
Ximena Marinero on April 17, 2010 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Former commander of the Bosnian army during the 1992-1994 Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] Rasim Delic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; Trial Watch profile] died Friday of cancer in his home. Delic was awaiting a decision from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website, JURIST news archive] on his appeal from his 2008 conviction [JURIST report]. Delic was found guilty of cruel treatment for failing to prevent abuses committed by his army detachment to detained Bosnian Serb Army soldiers, although he did not order them. He was sentenced [press release] to three years in prison after a majority of the trial chamber judges found Delic "to have had imputed knowledge of these crimes, as opposed to actual knowledge."

Delic is one of the highest-ranking Bosnian military leaders to stand trial before the tribunal. The ICTY trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] resumed earlier this week after multiple delays. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said [transcript] that the ICTY will continue to operate [JURIST report] beyond its originally planned end of 2010 until 2013 because two high-ranking subjects remain at large. The ICTY has indicted 161 political and military officials since its creation in 1993.






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Arkansas judge strikes down gay adoption ban
Bhargav Katikaneni on April 17, 2010 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] An Arkansas judge ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that a state law prohibiting all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children violates the Arkansas Constitution [text, PDF]. Critics claimed that the Arkansas Adoption and Foster Care Act of 2008 [ACLU backgrounder], or Initiated Act I, was discriminatory because it prohibited all gay couples from adopting or fostering children as Arkansas does not recognize gay marriage. Judge Christopher Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court [official website] agreed and said that while the the law, passed via ballot initiative, was valid under the federal Constitution, it violates the Arkansas state constitution:


Initiated Act 1 prohibits cohabiting same-sex couples and heterosexual couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents. It does not prohibit them from becoming foster or adoptive parents if they do not cohabitate. However, the act significantly burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults and forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having any type of meaningful intimate relationship outside of the marriage. This infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which brought the challenge against Initiated Act I, welcomed the ruling [press release], saying it would allow more children in Arkansas to be adopted or fostered.

The ballot measure was approved in November 2008 after being certified [JURIST reports] the previous August. The measure followed a 2006 Arkansas Supreme Court decision [text, PDF] that struck down an administrative regulation [JURIST report] specifically prohibiting homosexuals from rearing foster children. Reacting to that decision, then-governor Mike Huckabee suggested that such a ban be implemented through legislation [JURIST report]. Arkansas, like many states, has amended its constitution to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive].





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Former Blackwater executives indicted on weapons charges
Bhargav Katikaneni on April 17, 2010 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal grand jury on Friday indicted [press release] five former Blackwater [JURIST news archive] executives on charges of weapons violations and lying to criminal investigators. The 15-count indictment [LAT report] charges five former executives, including former president Gary Jackson, with giving away certain weapons to the King of Jordan to curry favor and then lying on federal forms about where the weapons went. The indictment also charges the executives with trying to hide weapons purchases by acting through an intermediary, avoiding regulations on the export of short-barreled rifles, and making false statements to investigators. Jackson and other Blackwater officials have said that federal officials knew of the weapons purchases [VOA report] for years but did nothing.

In February, the Iraqi government ordered approximately 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report]. The government was reacting to a US federal court's December decision to dismiss charges against five former Blackwater employees accused of killing 17 innocent Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in 2007 because information against the defendants was obtained unconstitutionally. Earlier that month, the New York Times reported that the US Department of Justice [official website] is investigating [JURIST report] Blackwater, now known as Xe, to determine whether the company bribed the Iraqi government to allow Blackwater to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. In January, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that Iraq will file lawsuits against Blackwater [JURIST reports] for the 2007 killings in both US and Iraqi courts. US Vice-President Joe Biden has said that the DOJ will appeal the dismissal [JURIST report]. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts for the protection of US diplomats expired.






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SEC charges Goldman Sachs with securities fraud
Steve Dotterer on April 16, 2010 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed a civil suit [complaint, PDF] on Friday alleging securities fraud against Goldman, Sachs & Co. [corporate website]. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], alleges that Goldman made misleading statements and omissions to investors in early 2007 in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 [text, PDF] and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. Goldman's alleged conduct in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) [Investopedia backgrounder] to investors lies at the core of the controversy. Goldman responded [press release] to the allegations by denying all wrongdoing. The SEC is seeking "injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, prejudgment interest, civil penalties and other appropriate and necessary equitable relief from both defendants," remedies considered appropriate in securities fraud cases.

The SEC action continues a trend in bringing action against financial corporations and their agents that engaged in allegedly illegal conduct at the start of the subprime mortgage downturn in 2007. Last year, two former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers were acquitted [JURIST report] of securities-related charges. The June 2008 SEC complaint [text, PDF] alleged that the managers had taken leveraged positions in financial derivatives based on subprime mortgage-based assets and then taken steps to conceal ensuing losses from investors.






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CIA documents reveal possible cover-up of interrogation video destruction
Zach Zagger on April 16, 2010 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Internal Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] documents [part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] released Thursday reveal that the former head of the agency Porter Goss may have agreed with the destruction of videotapes [JURIST news archive] showing harsh interrogations of terror suspects. The heavily redacted documents reveal [NYT report] that, despite being unaware of the order before it was carried out, Goss agreed with the order from Jose Rodriguez, then head of the CIA clandestine services, to destroy videotapes of the interrogations of two terror suspects. Some of the documents reveal an e-mail in which Rodriguez said that "the heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain ... they would make us look terrible; it would be devastating to us." The documents were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website]. Ben Wizner, senior staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project said that the "documents provide further evidence that senior CIA officials were willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture. If the Department of Justice fails to hold these officials accountable, they will have succeeded in their cover-up."

Last year, it was revealed that 12 of the 92 videotapes destroyed by the CIA contained evidence [JURIST report] of "enhanced interrogation techniques." The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] had previously acknowledged that the CIA destroyed [letter, PDF] 92 videotapes, in response to an August 2008 judicial order [text, PDF] that the CIA turn over information regarding the tapes or provide specific justifications on why it could not release the information.






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UN rights chief denounces Hamas executions
Daniel Richey on April 16, 2010 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Friday decried [press release] the recent decision by Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to execute several of its prisoners. On Thursday, the de-facto government of Palestinian Gaza [JURIST news archive] executed Naser Abu Furaih and Mohamed al-Sabaa, both of whom were convicted of treason last February in connection with the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Pillay, who said that she was "alarmed" by reports that Hamas planned to execute several more prisoners soon, called on the Islamist authority to abolish the use of the death penalty:


It is extremely disappointing that Hamas is contemplating a return to the use of the death penalty, despite the fact that no officially-sanctioned death sentences have been carried out in Gaza since 2005. ... I call on Hamas to reconsider its position and exhibit respect for the international community's firm rejection of the death penalty ... and to fully uphold and promote the right to life.

Human rights groups have also denounced the executions. On Thursday, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem [advocacy website] condemned Hamas [press release], saying that the prisoners' trial "did not meet even minimal standards of due process." Also Thursday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) [advocacy website] said that any execution conducted without the ratification of Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], the president of the secular Palestinian National Authority (PNA) [IMEU backgrounder], was unconstitutional [press release].

Hamas has recently fallen under fire [JURIST report] from human rights groups recently for its failure to conduct an independent investigation into accusations of war crimes during the January 2009 Gaza conflict [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The UN called on the Islamist authority to conduct a thorough investigation in a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] last October.





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Germany court convicts UK bishop for Holocaust denial
Sarah Paulsworth on April 16, 2010 1:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The Regensburg District Court in southern Germany convicted British Bishop Richard Williamson of incitement on Friday for denying the Holocaust [JURIST news archive] and ordered him to pay a 10,000 euro fine. The case stemmed from an interview to Swedish TV channel SVT1, broadcast in January 2009,in which Williamson said he doubted [Die Zeit report, in German] that six million Jews were killed in gas chambers. Last year, the same court issued a 12,000 euro fine against Williamson in connection with this case, but Williamson contested the decision, forcing the public trial [AP report]. When Williamson gave the interview to the Swedish TV channel he asked the crew not to broadcast the interview in Germany, because denial of the Holocaust is a criminal offense there. The lifting of Williamson's excommunication [NYT report] last year by Pope Benedict XVI [Vatican profile] caused international outrage.

In February, the Hungarian Parliament [official website, in Hungarian] passed a bill [JURIST report] that prohibits denials of the Holocaust. In November, the German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld [JURIST report] legislation prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. In 2007, the European Union approved [JURIST report] a framework aimed at criminalizing denial of the Holocaust and other genocides after six years of contentious debate. Also in 2007, a German court sentenced [JURIST report] anti-Semitic writer Ernst Zundel [ADL profile; JURIST news archive] to five years in prison after finding him guilty on 14 counts of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead.






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Federal judge orders cleric to leave country for lying to FBI about New York subway plot
Steve Dotterer on April 16, 2010 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] on Thursday ordered Imam Ahmad Afzali [NYT profile] to leave the country within 90 days. Afzali pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in March to lying to FBI agents in connection with the investigation of a plot to detonate explosives in the New York City subway system. Judge Frederic Block ordered electronic surveillance of Afzali until he leaves the country. Afzali will serve no prison sentence for the crime, but will be deported to Afghanistan if he does not comply with the order to leave the country voluntarily.

Afzali's case stems from his role as a police informant in an investigation of Najibullah Zazi [JURIST news archive], who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in February to terrorism charges for planning the subway attacks. Afzali has admitted to telling Zazi that the FBI was investigating him, but later denying the fact to the FBI. Also in February, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced superseding indictments [JURIST report] against Adis Mendunjanin and Zaerein Ahmedzay, two other men accused of planning to bomb subways in New York City. Mendunjanin previously pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to similar charges.






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Federal judge rules National Day of Prayer unconstitutional
Zach Zagger on April 16, 2010 1:02 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge for US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the National Day of Prayer [official website] is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Judge Barbara Crabb issued summary judgment in favor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation [advocacy website], which challenged 36 USC § 119 [text], establishing a day of prayer. The statute, passed in 1952 and amended in 1988 to make it the first Thursday in May, says the president will declare the day so people "may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals." In her ruling, Crabb said the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]:


It goes beyond mere "acknowledgment" of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. "When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual's decision about whether and how to worship."

The White House said that President Barack Obama still intends to recognize [official update] the day of prayer as he did last year [proclamation text].

Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that a teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance [JURIST report] in public schools does not violate the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The court also upheld the use of the phrase "In God We Trust" on currency. In November, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled that a school district's policy prohibiting the performance of religious holiday songs [JURIST report] does not violate the Establishment Clause. Also that month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] ruled that license plates [JURIST report] produced by the state bearing a picture of a cross in front of a stained glass window and the words "I Believe" violate the Constitution.





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Obama expands hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples
Jonathan Cohen on April 16, 2010 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] to expand the rights [memo] of patients and non-related visitors in hospitals that receive funding from Medicaid and Medicare [official websites]. The rules that Obama asked HHS to establish are designed to ensure that hospitals respect the rights of patients' advance directives, such as designating visitors and powers of attorney, and that visitors may not be denied rights for discriminatory purposes. Obama requested that HHS:


ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. It should be made clear that designated visitors, including individuals designated by legally valid advance directives (such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies), should enjoy visitation privileges that are no more restrictive than those that immediate family members enjoy. You should also provide that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) [advocacy website] welcomed the order [press release] as an "important step[] to protect the visitation and healthcare decision-making rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people."

Obama pledged during his presidential campaign to make expanding gay rights a priority of his administration. Last month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] announced changes to the enforcement [JURIST report] of the controversial Don't Ask, Don't Tell [10 USC § 654 text; JURIST news archive] policy to make it more difficult to expel openly gay service members from the military. Obama has made clear that repealing the policy is a top priority for his administration, pledging to end it in October and reiterating his commitment [JURIST reports] in the State of the Union address. In August, a bill [S 1584 materials] aimed at banning workplace discrimination motivated by an employee's sexual orientation or gender identification was introduced [JURIST report] in the US Senate [official website]. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), if passed, would protect employees from discriminatory hiring and firing practices, and from segregation or classification on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity.





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Son of deposed Kyrgyzstan president facing abuse of power charges
Sarah Paulsworth on April 16, 2010 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kyrgyzstan Prosecutor General’s Office announced Friday that the son of deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile], Maksim Bakiyev, faces charges of abuse of power and misuse of state credit. Maksim Bakiyev ran Kyrgyzstan's Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovation and is accused of transferring [RFE/RL report] USD $35 million of a $300 million loan from Russia into private bank accounts. In separate criminal cases, Maksim Bakiyev, along with his brother Marat and paternal uncle Janysh are also facing three charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder [RFE/RL report].

Also Friday, Kyrgyzstan interim leader Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] announced that the government is working on a new constitution [Reuters report] that will provide for a parliamentary democracy for the country. Kurmanbek Bakiyev officially resigned [CSM report] from the presidency on Thursday after a week of political chaos following violent political protests [JURIST report].

Earlier this week, Otunbayeva said that Kurmanbek Bakiyev should stand trial [JURIST report] for the recent violence. The protests, prompted in part by a drastic increase in utility costs, led to at least 84 deaths [Reuters report] and many more injuries. On Tuesday, Kyrgyzstan's interim government announced that the country's highest court will be suspended [JURIST report] until a permanent government is established. Roza Otunbayeva launched the interim government [JURIST report] last week after violence forced Bakiyev to flee the capital. The protests came just one week after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged Kyrgyzstan to protect all forms of human rights [JURIST report], including "free speech and freedom of the media."






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Germany court rules former East Germany citizens not unique ethnic group
Daniel Makosky on April 16, 2010 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] A German court ruled Thursday that persons from the former East Germany do not constitute a unique ethnic group for discrimination prevention purposes. The matter arose [DW report] when an East Berlin woman sued a Stuttgart company after the company rejected her employment application and returned her resume with the term "Ossi," a derogatory term for someone with ties to the former East Germany, written alongside a minus sign. Though admitting the term's negative connotation, the judge concluded that place of birth alone is inadequate to qualify [Spiegel report] as an ethnic group. Additional attributes such as tradition, culture, language, and religion must be considered, and the former East Germany is not sufficiently disparate from West Germany, per the court.

Many Germans believe that, though the physical barriers that once divided Germany no longer exist, a "wall in the mind" persists that leads to continued prejudice. A 2008 study concluded that 64 percent of those from the former East Germany believe they are regarded as "second-class citizens," [Spiegel report] while 77 percent believe that those from West Germany receive preferential treatment. The same study revealed that 59 percent of those surveyed feel the country continues to consist of two distinct communities.






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Federal judge sets date for Toyota litigation hearing
Patrice Collins on April 16, 2010 10:48 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge James Selna on Thursday ordered [text, PDF] a May 13 pre-trial conference for the consolidated litigation against Toyota Motor Corporation [corporate website, JURIST news archive] surrounding the company's auto safety failures. The court found that, "[b]ecause this docket involves both personal injury actions and actions for economic loss, the Court believes a somewhat unique structure is required." Toyota will defend itself in US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] against [Reuters report] nearly 100 consumer fraud class action and personal injury claims. In addition to civil suits, Toyota faces a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] probe [ABC report] into investor disclosures, as well as a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors surrounding "sudden acceleration" in Toyota cars.

Last week, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) [official website] consolidated [JURIST report] more than 150 pending lawsuits against Toyota, transferring them to the district court. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] announced that it will seek a record civil penalty [JURIST report] of $16.375 million against Toyota for a four-month delay in notifying the agency about a problem with "sticky" gas pedals in various car models. In March, the California Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) [official website] filed a consumer protection suit [JURIST report] against Toyota, alleging that the company knowingly sold vehicles with acceleration defects. Toyota has been under federal scrutiny [NHTSA materials] since December and has recalled approximately eight million cars.






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UN commission report blames Pakistan officials for Bhutto assassination
Carrie Schimizzi on April 16, 2010 9:48 AM ET

[JURIST] An independent UN commission has blamed the Pakistani government and police forces for the 2007 assassination [JURIST report] of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] in its investigatory report [text, PDF] released Thursday. According to the report, the Pakistani federal government "lacked a comprehensive security plan" and failed to provide adequate security for Bhutto by relying on local officials without giving them "necessary instructions." In the report, the commission accused the government of failing to launch a proper investigation into those responsible for the attack. The report also accused the government of hindering their investigation and called their various failures "deliberate":


A range of Government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms. Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing. ... The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms. Bhutto's assassination were, in most cases, deliberate.

The commission ultimately concluded that Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented, if not for governmental ignorance. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] praised [statement] the commission's work and left the responsibility for any criminal investigation with Pakistani authorities.

The three-member commission was formed [JURIST report] in June. Members included Chilean Ambassador to the UN Heraldo Munoz [official profile], former attorney general of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman, and Peter Fitzgerald, a former deputy police commissioner in the Irish National Police who has served with the UN in other capacities. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack in December 2007 that claimed the lives of at least 20 other people. At that time, Bhutto was the head of the opposition Pakistan People's Party, which was challenging then-prime minister Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) [party websites] in the lead-up to parliamentary elections.





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Europe rights commissioner criticizes Germany-Kosovo repatriation agreement
Matt Glenn on April 16, 2010 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg [official profile] on Thursday criticized an agreement reached Wednesday between Germany and Kosovo that would return to Kosovo thousands of refugees who fled to Germany during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The agreement calls for Germany to repatriate up to 2,500 refugees per year [AFP report] and ensures that refugees from all ethnic groups will face repatriation, rather than only Roma [JURIST news archive], who may face persecution in Kosovo. Hammarberg worried that Kosovo does not yet have the infrastructure [DW report] to care for the returning refugees or to protect them from ethnically motivated violence.

Kosovo is currently struggling to be recognized as an independent nation. In December, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] began oral arguments regarding an advisory opinion requested by Serbia on the effectiveness of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence [JURIST reports]. Last year, in an effort to further the legitimacy of their independence, Kosovo began operations of its own judicial system. In March 2009, more than 100 Serbian judges, prosecutors, and legal professionals prevented the opening [JURIST report] of the first EU-backed trial in Kosovo by protesting in front of the Mitrovica court house. A panel of three judges had been set to preside over a criminal case involving two Serbian defendants. As Serbia and Kosovo's Serbian population have refused to accept Kosovo's independence, the demonstration was intended to bar the EU from holding trial [B92 report] in Kosovo except under UN laws. The trial court was established by European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website], an EU mission designed to guide Kosovo toward independence in accordance with the Rule of Law.






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Nova Scotia government posthumously pardons civil rights icon
Matt Glenn on April 16, 2010 7:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The Nova Scotian government officially pardoned [ceremony materials] and issued an apology to Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond in a ceremony Thursday attended by Premier Darrell Dexter and Minister of Justice Landry Ross [official profiles]. Desmond, an African-Canadian woman who died in 1965, was fined $20 and jailed overnight in 1946 on charges that stemmed from her refusal to leave an area of a theater reserved for white patrons. Dexter apologized [CBC report] to Desmond's family, including her sister Wanda Robson who was at the ceremony, and all African Nova Scotians for the government's actions against Desmond. Dexter stated:


The arrest, detainment and conviction of Viola Desmond is an example in our history where the law was used to perpetuate racism and racial segregation - this is contrary to the values of Canadian society. We recognize today that the act for which Viola Desmond was arrested, was an act of courage, not an offence.

Robson said her parents would be proud to know that Desmond had become a Canadian hero and urged people to learn from the incident to prevent similar situations. This marked the first posthumous "free pardon" in Canadian history, recognizing that Desmond was innocent and her conviction was in error.

Last year, Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Barry Langford pardoned about 2,500 people [JURIST report] arrested for non-violent civil rights protests in the city during the 1960's. In April 2006, Alabama Governor Bob Riley [official website] authorized pardons [JURIST report] for Rosa Parks [TIME profile], the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [King Center profile], and other civil rights activists convicted of violating Jim Crow laws [Britannica backgrounder] in the state. Parks helped trigger the civil rights movement across the US after she was arrested in Montgomery, AL, in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Parks died in 2005 [JURIST report] at the age of 92.





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Israel ex-PM suspected of corruption in Jerusalem real estate scandal
Zach Zagger on April 15, 2010 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert [official profile; JURIST news archive] was named a suspect Thursday in an investigation into the Holyland bribery scandal that occurred during his time as mayor of Jerusalem. It is expected that law enforcement will interrogate [Ynet report] Olmert over the alleged bribery scandal in which top Jerusalem officials are believed to have taken bribes for enabling the construction of a high-rise luxury housing development. Seven former officials have been arrested including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, who was deputy mayor under Olmert. Lupolianski accused [Ynet report] Olmert of being responsible for the scandal, saying the deputy mayor is nothing more than a mere title with no real authority. Police believe [BBC report] Olmert alone received $940,000 to approve zoning change, rejecting hundreds of objections, to allow for a twelve-fold increase in the number of residential units allowed in the area, enabling the construction of a high-rise complex. Olmert is denying involvement in the scandal.

Olmert has been embroiled in accusations of scandal for much of his political career. He is already facing trial [JURIST report], the first of a former or current Israeli prime minister, for corruption and fraud charges that led to his resignation from being prime minister in 2008. He is accused of illegally accepting cash contributions from an American businessman, double billing [JURIST reports] travel expenses to the state and charitable donors, and giving his former law partner access to state information. In April 2007, Olmert was investigated for improperly favoring his supporters [JURIST report] in distributing business grants during his time as trade minister. In January 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Justice announced plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that he promoted the interests of two business associates during the 2005 state sale of Bank Leumi [corporate website].






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Chiquita sued in US court for aiding Colombian terrorists
Sarah Miley on April 15, 2010 2:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia filed suit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against Chiquita Brand International [corporate website], which has admitted to funding a right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia. In the complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website], 242 Colombians alleged that they had been seriously injured or had family members killed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [CDI backgrounder]. The AUC has been accused of mass killings during the Colombia guerrilla warfare movement before disarmament in 2003. The plaintiffs, who are seeking over $1 billion in damages, brought suit under a 1992 law that allows US citizens to sue for terrorist acts committed by US firms abroad. The complaint alleges that Chiquita aided and abetted in the murders and provided material support and resources to terrorists.

In February, a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit accusing Chiquita of assisting Marxist rebels who killed Colombian missionaries may go forward. The suit was brought [Palm Beach Post report] by family members of five North American missionaries who had worked for the New Tribes Mission (NTM) [mission website] in South America and were killed in separate incidents between 1995 and 1996. Chiquita admitted it had paid AUC for protection of its workers but it argued that it did not condone the killings. In 2007, Chiquita was fined $25 million [JURIST report] after it admitted to making payments of around $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004 to AUC. Following that admission, hundreds of family members of Colombians killed by FARC filed lawsuits in the US against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [text]. In January, Chiquita settled [Bloomberg report] a shareholder lawsuit over the illegal payments.






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Pakistan senate approves bill to curb presidential powers
Haley Wojdowski on April 15, 2010 1:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Senate [official website] on Thur