July 2010 Archives


US to file first free trade labor rights case against Guatemala
Ann Riley on July 31, 2010 12:32 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Trade Representative [official website] Ambassador Ron Kirk [official profile] announced Friday that the US will file a case against Guatemala [press release] for labor rights violations. The case, filed under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) [text], will be the first time the US has pursued a labor violations claim against a free trade partner. Addressing Guatemala's labor standards, Kirk said:
We want to see the Government of Guatemala take specific and effective action - including, if appropriate, legislative reforms - to improve the systemic failures in enforcement of Guatemalan labor law. In addition, the issue of labor-related violence is a matter of serious concern to the United States. Our request for consultations also expresses our grave concerns about this problem and indicates that we intend to take this issue up with the Government of Guatemala in the near future.
Also on Friday, US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis [official profile] announced [press release] that the US has requested labor consultations with Guatemala and expressed concern about the "labor-related violence in Guatemala, a problem which is serious and apparently deteriorating." If within 90 days the US and Guatemala fail to resolve the issue, the dispute could go before an arbitration panel. Ultimately, if Guatemala is found guilty of violating CAFTA-DR, it could be subject to a yearly penalty of $15 million, which will fund the enforcement of its labor laws.

In April 2008 the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) [official website] filed a public submission [text, PDF] under CAFTA-DR claiming Guatemala had failed to enforce its labor laws. Following the submission, the US Department of Labor (DOL) [official website] issued a report [text, PDF] highlighting Guatemala's ineffective enforcement of those laws, alleging its failure to meet its obligation under CAFTA-DR. CAFTA-DR was signed into law [JURIST report] in 2005, making it the first official trade pact between the US and Central America. CAFTA ends tariffs against US products in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Honduras, and ensures those countries duty-free access to the US.




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

France ruling expands legal protections for persons held in police custody
Drew Singer on July 31, 2010 12:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Constitutional Council [official website], France's highest constitutional authority, ruled Friday that French police may no longer hold suspects for 48 hours without telling them their rights or bringing charges. Since President Nicolas Sarkozy's [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] came to power in 2007 the number of people in France taken into custody and questioned without charge has exploded [Washington Post report]. In 2001 there were 336,718; in 2009, there were about 790,000. The ruling comes four months after the constitutionality of police custody under article 63-4 [text] of French criminal procedure code was initially challenged.

French defense lawyers have been arguing for years that the practice of detaining suspects without reading them rights or bringing charges is an unethical method of forcing people to confess. The campaign for custody reform [advocacy website, in French] has gained momentum over the past few months as a result of recent decisions by the European Court of Human Rights [official website] in Salduz v. Turkey, Mooren v. Germany and Koslenik v. Ukraine [judgment], which called a lack of safeguards during police custody a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. French lawyers and human rights groups have demanded that all suspects in police custody be given the right to see a lawyer immediately and access to a lawyer during interrogation, as well as be informed of their right to remain silent.




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

Ninth Circuit denies Arizona bid to expedite immigration law appeal
Ann Riley on July 31, 2010 11:11 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] Friday denied [order, PDF] the state of Arizona's request for an expedited appeal to lift the preliminary injunction issued Wednesday against several provisions of a controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The court set a briefing schedule with the opening brief due August 26 and the answering brief due September 23, and scheduled a hearing to occur the week of November 1. No extensions will be granted "absent extraordinary and compelling circumstances." The court indicated [response to motion, PDF] that Ninth Circuit Rule 3-3(b) [text], governing preliminary injunction appeals, should set the appropriate time frame for the appeal. On Thursday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] filed an expedited appeal [JURIST report] asking the court to establish a timeline for briefs, with the opening brief due August 12, the response brief due August 26, and schedule oral arguments for the week of September 13.

The preliminary injunction [JURIST report], issued Wednesday, came at the request of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which filed its suit challenging the constitutionality of the law [JURIST report] earlier this month. Judge Susan Bolton issued the injunction against provisions of the law requiring the verification of the immigration status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants, authorizing the warrantless arrest of those police have probable cause to believe have committed an offense that could lead to deportation, and requiring noncitizens to carry their registration papers with them at all times. The law has been widely criticized as unconstitutional and allegedly legalizing racial profiling. Also in July, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of the DOJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA argued that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers' public safety functions and infringe on both citizens' and noncitizens' constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.




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

Citigroup, SEC settle sub-prime mortgage exposure charges for $75 million
Drew Singer on July 31, 2010 10:36 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission [government website] announced Thursday that it has charged Citigroup Inc. [official website] with misleading investors about the company's exposure to sub-prime mortgage-related assets and settled with the company [press release; litigation release] for $75 million. The SEC alleged [complaint, PDF] that Citigroup "repeatedly made misleading statements about the extent of its holdings of assets backed by sub-prime in earnings calls and public filings." Citigroup represented that its sub-prime exposure was $13 billion or less, when it was more than $50 billion at all times, which SEC officials say contributed to the economic crisis.

The 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis [BBC backgrounder] was precipitated by banks switching from funding mortgage loans through customer deposits to a new model where they sold the mortgages to bond markets, resulting in the banks being having less incentive to check the mortgages they issued. Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives voted 237 to 192 to approve the final version of financial reform legislation [HR 4173 materials], which focuses on increasing regulation in the financial sector. The House and Senate reached an agreement [JURIST report] on the final version of the bill, but were forced to re-open negotiations following the death of Democratic Senator Robert Byrd (WV) [official website] in order to ensure the bill's final passage in the Senate.




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

Croatia high court upholds lawmaker's war crimes conviction
Dwyer Arce on July 30, 2010 4:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Croatia [official website, in Croatian] on Friday upheld the conviction [judgment, PDF; in Croatian] of former Parliament [official website] member Branimir Glavas [JURIST news archive], but reduced his sentence by two years. Glavas was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] in 2009 for ordering the torture and death of Croatian Serbs in the town of Osijek in 1991 during the Serbo-Croatian War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. In confirming the decision of the lower court but reducing the sentence, the Supreme Court held that the war crimes counts of which Glavas was convicted should have been one count instead of two. The court rejected the prosecutor's arguments seeking a higher sentence for Glavas, which could have been as high as 20 years under the charges against him. The court also reduced the sentences of three of Glavas' co-defendants. Glavas has maintained his innocence [AFP report] throughout the proceedings, stating that the convictions are politically motivated. Glavas' lawyer has promised to appeal the decision to the Constitutional Court [official website].

A Bosnian state court refused to extradite Glavas [JURIST report] to Croatia to serve a sentence for war crimes in 2009. Glavas, who holds dual Bosnian and Croatian citizenship, fled to Bosnia to avoid serving his sentence. Shortly after fleeing Croatia in an effort to avoid the sentence, Glavas was arrested on an Interpol warrant in Bosnia. In 2008, Glavas was stripped of his parliamentary immunity [JURIST report] so that lawyers could proceed with his prosecution in Croatia. Glavas is a former prominent member of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union [party website, in Croatian], and was re-elected [JURIST report] to office under the new parliament during the Croatia's November 2007 elections. Glavas staged a 40-day hunger strike in 2006 when he was detained [JURIST report] after the criminal investigation against him initially opened. rder of two Serbs in a separate incident in Osijek.




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

Philippines president creates 'truth commission' to probe rights abuses
Jaclyn Belczyk on July 30, 2010 3:49 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Philippines President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] signed an executive order [text, PDF] Friday to set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations. The commission will look into accusations that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and members of her administration rigged the 2004 presidential election, misused government funds and profited from government contracts. Aquino announced plans to create the commission [JURIST report] earlier this month, prompting a call for him to issue an executive order to make the commission official and clear up any ambiguity regarding its authority. Signing the executive order, Aquino said [statement], "[t]he process of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity has begun." The commission, set to finish its work by 2012, will have the power to recommend or file charges [AFP report]. Arroyo has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament in April after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] despite protests that her presidency gave her an unfair advantage. In March, Aquino and other presidential candidates criticized as "unjust" a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Arroyo to appoint a replacement for the retiring chief justice [JURIST report], who planned to step down a week after the May presidential elections. Arroyo declared martial law [JURIST report] in December for the first time in 23 years in the wake of a massacre in the Maguindanao province that left 57 dead. In February, prosecutors charged 197 people with murder [JURIST report] in connection with the massacre. A Manila trial court ordered the arrest of 189 more suspects [JURIST report] in March. Eleven policemen and militia members pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges in April.




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

California primary election system challenged
Dwyer Arce on July 30, 2010 1:00 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two prospective third party congressional candidates and six California voters filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday seeking to enjoin enforcement [motion, PDF] of Proposition 14 [text], which alters the primary election system, creating an open primary where only the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election. Proposition 14 was approved by voters last month [JURIST report] and changes elections to create a system in which all candidates for a state or federal office except for president would run in a single primary regardless of political affiliation. From this, only the two candidates with the most votes would appear on the ballot in the general election. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of San Fransisco County [official website], challenges the constitutionality of two provisions, one which disallows state election officials from counting write-in ballots while still providing a space for write-ins, and one that only allows primary candidates to list their party affiliations if they are members of one of six parties qualified for the ballot by the state. The complaint alleges that the write-in provisions violate the free speech, due process and equal protection rights of voters under the US and California [texts] constitutions. In urging the court to issue an injunction against the enforcement of the law, the motion for preliminary injunction states:
California voters were lured into an insidious trap [by Proposition 14]. Eager to reform the way our elections are conducted, a slim majority of voters approved [it], which promised to "protect and preserve the right of every Californian to vote for the candidate of his or her choice." However, many voters did not know that by voting for Proposition 14, they were also approving ... a pernicious law that tramples on our fundamental right to vote and run for office[.] ... Because SB 6 now threatens to disenfranchise voters and muzzle candidates, time is of the essence. Unless this Court swiftly issues a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs and similarly situated voters and candidates will suffer imminent and irreparable harm.
The Democratic, Republican and Green [party websites] parties of California, in addition to other third parties, have also been considering a lawsuit to enjoin enforcement of the law, which is set to go into effect in 2011.

In June, the proposition was approved by 53.7 percent [results] of voters. Supporters of the change have described it as necessary [LAT report] to alleviate the strong ideological opposition in the state legislature [official website]. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website], who included the ballot initiative in his 2010 budget, praised the measure [statement], describing it as a sign of a "sweeping change." The new primary system immediately faced heavy criticism from third parties. The Green Party of California described the new system [press release] as designed to "keep dissenting voices off the ... November ballot." Proposition 14 was based largely on the system used in Washington state, which was implemented there in 2004 after the passage of Initiative 872 [text, PDF]. In 2008, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] upheld Washington's primary election system [JURIST report] as constitutional against a First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] challenge, overturning a contrary decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website]. Louisiana has a similar system, but, under that system, a candidate who garners over 50 percent of the vote in the primary will forgo the general election.




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

UN rights body urges Israel to allow international inquiry into flotilla raid
Dwyer Arce on July 30, 2010 10:29 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] on Friday called on Israel to cooperate [report, DOC] with an international inquiry into the May flotilla incident [JURIST news archive], in which Israeli forces raided several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The committee, charged with monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], made a series of recommendations in order to bring the Israeli government into compliance with the covenant, to which it is a state party. It went on to call for an end to the blockade on Gaza, noting that a recent easing [JURIST report] was insufficient to ensure that Gazans had access to basic necessities. The committee also called into question the independence of the Israeli government's internal investigation into the flotilla incident, urging Israel to invite in an international inquiry, something which Israel has refused to do [JURIST reports]. The committee stated:
While noting the preliminary findings of the State party's investigation into the incident, the Committee is concerned at the absence of independence of the commission of inquiry and the prohibition to question the officials of the State party's armed forces involved in the incident. The State party should lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip, insofar as it adversely affects the civilian population. The State party should invite an independent, international fact-finding mission to establish the circumstances of the boarding of the flotilla, including its compatibility with the Covenant.
The committee went on to criticize Israel's noncompliance with the covenant in several other areas. It called on Israel to amend its Basic Law [text] to include general provisions for nondiscrimination, which are currently lacking, and urged Israel to enforce the provisions of the covenant in Gaza, the West Bank [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and the Golan Heights [History backgrounder]. The Israeli government argues that this is not required due to an ongoing state of war, something the committee disputes. The committee also called on Israel to repeal its citizenship law, outlaw the use of torture in all circumstances, end construction of the separation wall, reform its housing policies [JURIST reports] and conduct a credible investigation into international human rights violations during Operation Cast Lead [JURIST news archive].

Earlier this week, a senior Israeli official announced that his government would not cooperate with an investigation into the incident conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], but will comply with a separate UN investigation created under the authority of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website]. Also in July, an Israeli military probe found insufficient intelligence and planning in the raid, but also concluded that no punishments were necessary. The military probe was conducted at the same time as a civilian one established by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official profile; BBC profile] last month. In June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] called for an end to the blockade [JURIST report], which it labeled a violation of international humanitarian law. The organization described the blockade as collective punishment, a war crime under Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions [text; ICRC backgrounder], and called on the international community to work to persuade Israel to lift the closure.




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

Rights groups sue Hawaii for recognition of same-sex civil unions
Dwyer Arce on July 30, 2010 8:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday seeking to force Hawaii to recognize same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] that offer the same rights as marriage. The complaint, filed on behalf of six same-sex couples, was in response to the veto of legislation [JURIST report] earlier this month by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (R) [official website] that would have created same-sex civil unions. The lawsuit, filed in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii [official website], argues that, by failing to provide same-sex couples with the same rights and benefits available to opposite-sex couples, the state is violating the same-sex couples' right to equal protection, due process and privacy under the Hawaii Constitution [text]. The plaintiffs allege that, by providing only reciprocal beneficiary status, a legal relationship offering limited benefits to same-sex couples, the state is impermissibly denying same-sex couples' right to equal protection by giving their relationship "inferior legal status" and providing an "insufficient and defective safety net for their families." Additionally, the complaint argues that the lack of equal status interferes with the plaintiffs' rights to private family life and would survive no level of scrutiny because it reflects "moral disapproval and antipathy toward lesbians and gay men serv[ing] no legitimate government interest." Explaining the harm caused by these constitutional violations, the complaint argues:
The State's relegation of same-sex couples to the inadequate status of reciprocal beneficiaries subjects the Plaintiff couples to legal vulnerability and related stress, while depriving them of the dignity and legitimacy of a legal status that, while still unequal to marriage, would at least recognize their equal entitlement to the same rights, benefits and obligations as are provided to different-sex couples who marry. The State's family relationship scheme ... sends a clear and purposeful message that the State views lesbian and gay people as secondclass citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, protections and support that heterosexual people and their families enjoy.
The lawsuit stops short of seeking recognition of same-sex marriage, noting that the state legislature [official website] has the constitutional authority to define marriage under a 1998 amendment passed following a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision [text] requiring the state to show a compelling reason to deny same-sex marriage.

The ACLU first indicated it would be filing the lawsuit [press release] earlier this month shortly after Lingle's veto. Last week, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to force Montana [JURIST report] to provide legal status to same-sex relationships. The lawsuit seeks declaratory judgment that the state must provide a legal status to same-sex couples that confers the same rights and obligations as marriage under the equal protection, due process, privacy and dignity under provisions of the Montana Constitution [text]. Several jurisdictions in the US have legalized same-sex marriage or recognized same-sex civil unions. Same-sex civil unions that confer the same rights as marriage are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon and Nevada [JURIST reports]. In March, DC legalized same-sex marriage, joining Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts [JURIST reports].




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

Bosnia ex-policeman indicted for war crimes
Ann Riley on July 30, 2010 8:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) [official website] on Thursday indicted [press release] former Serb policeman Srpko Pustivuk for allegedly committing crimes against civilians during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. Pustivuk was arrested [press release] on July 13 in Bijeljina and has been held in custody since. According to a statement by the Prosecutor's Office, Pustivuk is accused of taking part in a May and June 1992 "attack on civilians which resulted in the death and severe bodily injuries to civilians, some of whom were minors," as a member of the Bosnian Serb special police unit. Pustivuk is charged with the criminal offense of War Crimes against Civilians in violation of Article 173(1) in conjunction with Articles 180(1), and 29 of the Criminal Code of BiH [text, PDF]. Pustivuk is also charged with the unlawful detention, deprivation of liberty of civilians, and violating the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts provisions of the Geneva Convention [texts]. The indictment has been submitted to the Court of BiH [official website].

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 [JURIST news archive] prison camp. The ICTY retains jurisdiction over high-level war crimes, such as those against Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive] and General Ratko Mladic [ICTY materials, JURIST news archive], who are charged with genocide for their alleged roles is the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Karadzic, on trial before the ICTY, denies all charges while Mladic, a fugitive since 1995, has yet to be arrested [JURIST reports].




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

Arizona appeals order partially blocking immigration law
Ann Riley on July 30, 2010 7:44 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] on Thursday filed an expedited appeal [text, PDF] asking the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] to lift the preliminary injunction [press release, PDF] issued Wednesday against several provisions of a controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The appeal and motion [text, PDF] for expedited briefing and hearing schedule asks the court to establish a timeline for briefs, schedule oral arguments for the week of September 13 and expedite its ruling. Explaining Arizona's reasons for the appeal, Brewer said:
If the federal government wants to be in charge of illegal immigration and they want no help from states, it then needs to do its job...Illegal immigration is an ongoing crisis the State of Arizona did not create and the federal government has refused to fix. SB 1070 protects all of us, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state lawfully. It ensures that the constitutional rights of ALL in Arizona are undiminished. ... Our state taxpayers cannot sustain the outrageous costs of illegal immigration, and its continued erosion of our time-honored legal immigration traditions.
Wednesday's injunction [JURIST report] came at the request of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which filed its suit challenging the constitutionality of the law [JURIST report] earlier this month. Judge Susan Bolton issued the injunction against provisions of the law requiring the verification of the immigration status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants and authorizing the warrantless arrest of those police have probable cause to believe have committed an offense that could lead to deportation. The court also enjoined a provision of the law requiring noncitizens to carry their registration papers with them at all times. The court declined to enjoin several other provisions of the law, finding that the DOJ was not likely to prevail in its claims against them, including making it a state crime to harbor illegal immigrants and allowing for the impoundment of vehicles used in their transportation.

In its complaint, the DOJ argued that the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." The DOJ also claims that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy and will interfere with foreign relations with Mexico and other countries. The law has been widely criticized as unconstitutional and allegedly legalizing racial profiling. Also in July, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of the DOJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA also argues that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers' public safety functions and infringe on both citizens' and noncitizens' constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.




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

Thailand court issues new arrest warrant for ex-PM
Dwyer Arce on July 29, 2010 3:10 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The criminal division of the Thai Supreme Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Thursday issued a new arrest warrant for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The warrant comes at the request of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) [official website], which charges that Thaksin did not report all of his assets to the commission after the February ruling of the Constitutional Court [official website, in Thai] seizing 46.4 billion baht (USD $1.4 billion) [JURIST report] in assets for abuses of power while in office. The Supreme Court also suspended proceedings against Thaksin [Bangkok Post report] until he is arrested, noting that it considered the failure of either Thaksin or a representative to appear in court as an attempt to escape the warrant. Also on Thursday, Thai police recommended terrorism charges [DPA report] against Thaksin and 24 others for their involvement in the recent political violence [JURIST news archive] in Bangkok. Thaksin is considered the figurehead of the pro-democracy protesters known as the red shirts [BBC backgrounder] who protested against Thailand's current government and called for elections. The protests ended in May after protesters surrendered to police [JURIST report].

In May, a lawyer for Thaksin filed an appeal against a previous arrest warrant [JURIST report] issued on charges of terrorism in relation to the protests. Thaksin's lawyer was accompanied by two additional red shirt leaders [Bangkok Post report], who have sworn they will testify that Thaksin was not involved in any acts of terrorism if the court chooses to hear the appeal. The red shirts' protests in the capital's central commercial district paralyzed the country for two months, and Thaksin has been repeatedly accused of organizing and financing the campaign. The former prime minster was removed from power in 2006 [JURIST report] by a military coup and has been living abroad in Cambodia where the government has refused to extradite him [JURIST report] to Thailand for criminal prosecution.




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

ACLU urges Obama administration to repudiate Bush-era national security policies
Daniel Richey on July 29, 2010 2:13 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Obama administration is in danger of entrenching some of the most draconian aspects of the Bush administration's controversial national security policy, warns a new report, [text, PDF; press release] from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] [press release] released Thursday. The report, titled "Establishing a New Normal: National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration," concludes that the first 18 months of the Obama White House betray a civil rights record that is "mixed, at best." Though the group concedes that "the Obama administration inherited a legal and moral morass" and has had some early successes reinstating certain civil rights protections undone by the Bush administration, it says that the Obama administration risks legitimizing controversial Bush-era policies through its refusal to take action to actively address the civil rights abuses those policies have perpetrated:
[H]is second full day in office ... President Obama signed a series of executive orders that squarely repudiated some of the most egregious abuses of the Bush administration ... These auspicious first steps toward fulfilling candidate Obama's promise of change ... placed the power and prestige of the presidency behind restoration of the rule of law ... But ... on a range of issues including accountability for torture, [indefinite] detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians, there is a very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration.
The report emphasizes the administration's failure to break with Bush-era policies relating to accountability and transparency, targeted killing of terrorist suspects, warrantless surveillance, the use of military commissions and other civil rights abuses for which the Bush administration was widely criticized. It urged the administration to restore "the nation's historic commitment to the rule of law."

Last month, the ACLU called [press release; JURIST report] on the Obama administration to stop shielding Bush administration officials from civil suit and criminal prosecution stemming from treatment of detainees in US custody, touching on issues prominently addressed in today's report. Throughout June, the organization publicized previously classified documents detailing the detainee abuses of the Bush administration in honor of Torture Awareness Month [official website]. In April, an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] suit resulted in the release [JURIST report] of internal Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] documents [part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] revealing that a former agency head may have agreed to the destruction of videotapes [JURIST news archive] showing harsh interrogations of terror suspects. Last May, the ACLU harshly criticized [press release; JURIST report] the Obama administration's plans to revive [JURIST report] the military commissions system to try Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainees, another of the major issues in today's report.




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

France president announces new measures against illegal Roma
Dwyer Arce on July 29, 2010 1:19 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] on Wednesday ordered measures [press release] against illegal Roma [JURIST news archive] communities in France and announced new legislation aimed at making their deportation easier. The announcement comes a week after riots by members of the Roma community sparked by the shooting of a young man, resulting in the deployment of 300 troops [DW report]. The government aims to dismantle half of illegal Roma camps in the country within three months and to immediately deport of all those found to have broken the law. In explaining the need for the measures, the government said:
The President ... found [the] situation of lawlessness that characterized the Roma people [totally unacceptable]. 200 illegal settlements have been ... identified [as] sources of illicit trafficking, deeply unworthy living conditions, exploitation of children for begging, prostitution or crime. He asked the Government to proceed, within three months, the evacuation of these facilities whenever the existing law allows. [Additionally], legislative reform will be undertaken to make [the dismantling of illegal settlements] more efficient.
The move has been criticized by human rights groups, such as the League of Human Rights [advocacy website, in French], which has accused Sarkozy of using the Roma as a "scapegoat" [press release, in French] and stigmatizing the Roma community. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux refuted this, arguing that the goal of the measures were not to target any particular group [BBC report], but to promote public safety. 15,000 Roma are currently estimated to live in France.

In July, the Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) [official website] reported that racist violence and rhetoric has risen [JURIST report] in Europe during 2009, following the recent economic crisis. The report cites increasing hostility toward the Roma minority as well as the continuing discrimination against Muslims as seen in the proposed burqa bans [JURIST news archive] as two examples of groups facing more discriminatory actions. In February, Italian authorities began dismantling illegal immigrant camps [JURIST report] around Rome heavily populated by members of the Roma minority following the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by East European immigrants, which led to public outcry and vigilante reprisals. Opposition parties have voiced disapproval of the move, and the Vatican has warned against scapegoating.




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

Sri Lanka court holds first hearing in case against ex-army chief
Dwyer Arce on July 29, 2010 12:09 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The High Court of Sri Lanka [official website] on Thursday conducted the first hearing in the case against former army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who is accused of provoking violence and bringing disrepute to the government. The charges are in relation to statements made to the Sunday Leader [media website] newspaper, which suggested that the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa [BBC profile] ordered the killing of surrendering rebel leaders during the Sri Lankan civil war [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. At the hearing, the court issued 20 summons [DPA report] for witnesses to appear at the trial, which is scheduled for September 27 and is being held without a jury. Fonseka has maintained that he was misquoted [AFP report] by the newspaper. If convicted, Fonseka could face between five and 20 years in prison. Fonseka also faces another pending criminal proceeding and two court-martials charging him with participating in politics while in uniform and with improperly awarding army procurement contracts. Despite this, Fonseka successfully won a seat in parliament in elections held in April. He maintains that the allegations are politically motivated.

In April, Fonseka appeared before the Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] to call for his freedom [JURIST report] and respect for the rule of law. Fonseka argued for his release from what he characterized as an illegal detention 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. Earlier that month, Fonseka's trials were postponed [JURIST report] to allow the Court of Appeals of Sri Lanka [official website] to examine the legality of the court-martials. Fonseka was arrested by the military in February [JURIST report] after losing presidential elections held the previous month. In March, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court criticized the treatment of the general [JURIST report]. Sarath Nanda Silva, who retired from the Supreme Court [official website] last year, accused the government of using the military justice system to prevent Fonseka from participating in April elections, and of violating Fonseka's civil rights in violation of the Constitution [text].




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

Spain judge orders arrest of US troops suspected of shooting journalist in Iraq
Daniel Richey on July 29, 2010 11:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Spanish National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued an arrest warrant [text, in Spanish; PDF] Thursday for three US troops suspected of gunning down Spanish journalist Juse Couso [advocacy website, JURIST news archive] in Iraq. Couso, a television cameraman, was killed in 2003 when a US tank fired into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The 3rd Division infantrymen named in the warrant, Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, maintain that they fired into the hotel at what they thought was an enemy combatant because they were being fired upon. A US military investigation has cleared them of wrongdoing, and US officials have said they will not extradite the soldiers. Pedraz said that he issued the warrant because the matter "may constitute a crime against the international community," and US officials have not cooperated in Spanish investigations into the incident.

Earlier this month, the Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ordered a lower court to reopen the investigation [JURIST report] into Couso's death. Pedraz reinstated the homicide charges [JURIST report] in May 2009 after they were dropped in 2007 due to lack of evidence. Pedraz initially ordered [text, in Spanish; JURIST report] the soldiers' arrest in 2005 after initiating investigations [JURIST report] into the incident in June of that year. The order was reversed by a panel of judges for the National Court in 2006. The reversal was then overturned by Spain's Supreme Court, resulting in arrest warrants being reissued [JURIST report] in January 2007. The soldiers were indicted [JURIST report] in April that year.




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

Accused Somali pirates plead not guilty in US court
Dwyer Arce on July 29, 2010 11:02 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A group of suspected Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Wednesday before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website]. The defendants, six Somali men alleged to have been involved in the April attack on the USS Ashland in the Gulf of Aden, pleaded not guilty to charges of piracy and assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon. Attorneys for the men argue that they could not have committed piracy because they did not seize or plunder the ship [CP report]. The charge of piracy carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted. The trial is scheduled to begin in October [AP report]. Another group of suspected Somali pirates also pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the district court. This group was indicted on similar charges in relation to the attack on the USS Nicholas, also in April. Their trial date was set for November. The 11 men were charged earlier this month [AP report] by a federal grand jury, adding on to charges filed in April [JURIST report], alleging that the suspects conspired to commit and did commit various offenses, 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."

Several suspected Somali pirates have faced charges in federal court this year. A Somali man charged with piracy pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May to charges of hijacking, kidnapping and hostage taking related to an April 2009 attack on the US container ship Maersk Alabama [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Another group of nine pleaded not guilty to piracy charges [JURIST report] in May. Somali officials have criticized [BBC report] the US for exercising jurisdiction over Muse and other pirate suspects, insisting that piracy prosecutions should be conducted by an international tribunal. They have also asked that Somali pirate suspects be returned to Somalia, which lacks a functioning central government to address the piracy problem. Piracy remains an issue of international concern, as few countries have been willing to prosecute suspected pirates. The few that have attempted to do so include Kenya, Seychelles, the Netherlands, Mauritius, Yemen, Somalia and Spain [JURIST reports].




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

Russia president signs bill expanding secret police powers
Daniel Richey on July 29, 2010 9:51 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday signed into law [press release, in Russian] a bill that will grant controversial new powers to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Federation's successor to the former USSR's KGB [GlobalSecurity backgrounders]. The bill, which the Russian parliament approved [JURIST report] earlier this month, will give the FSB authority to question citizens about actions that may create the conditions for a crime and issue warnings [DW report] not to engage in unapproved acts. Noncompliance may be punishable by fine or up to 15 days in prison. The KGB had similar authority to engage in preemptive questioning, a power that was often used to intimidate dissidents [NYT report] in the USSR. Rights groups and members of the Russian legal community have condemned the law [press release, in Russian], saying that it legalizes arbitrary detentions and extends the FSB's power beyond its authority.

Russia faces ongoing criticism from the international community regarding its human rights record. In October, the the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] issued a report [text; JURIST report] criticizing Russia's record on human rights and calling on the country to take extensive legal reform in order to guarantee its citizens rights such as fair trials and freedoms of speech and press. Last June, the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] urged substantial reforms [JURIST report] to correct systemic problems in the Russian legal system, including the prevalence of political prosecutions and a lack of judicial independence. Medvedev has acknowledged the need for judicial reform [JURIST report], saying that transparent courts would restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from seeking redress in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website].




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

Bangladesh high court outlaws religious parties
Dwyer Arce on July 29, 2010 9:03 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Bangladeshi Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday overturned a constitutional amendment [judgment, PDF] that had allowed religious parties to participate in politics. The court, upholding a lower court decision, held that the Fifth Amendment to the Bangladeshi Constitution [text], which allowed the participation of religious political parties and legitimized military rule, violated the principle of secularism and representative democracy found in the Constitution's preamble. Relying heavily on the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] decision of Marbury v. Madison [text] to reinforce the notion of judicial review, the court found that the supremacy of the Constitution over the actions of government officials required them to strike down the amendment for violating the constitutional principles that the "heroic [Bangladeshi] people ... sacrifice[d] their lives [for]." The court explained:
[T]he second paragraph of the Preamble of the original Constitution ... spells out the high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism which was also reflected in Article 8 of the Constitution. [O]ur liberation war was fought on those high ideals and those high ideals inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in the national liberation struggle and those ideals being the basis of our nationhood shall be the fundamental principles of the Constitution. ... [T]hose fundamental principles shall remain permanently as the guiding principles and as the ever lasting light house for our Republic.
The court also found that the military rule from 1975-1990 was illegal, recommending the prosecution of the leaders of the former military government. Following the decision, Bangladeshi Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed [official profile] stated that future challenges to constitutional amendments that establish Islam as the state religion and incorporate Qur'anic [text] verses would likely be successful as well [AFP report].

The Fifth Amendment was passed in 1979 by the military government. Since this time, religious parties have grown in Bangladesh, numbering at more than two dozen before the court's decision. In 2008, the party of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won in a landslide over the party of former prime minister Khaleda Zia [BBC profiles], which was backed by several Islamist parties. Zia was also backed by the largest Islamist party, Jamaat e Islami (JI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Bangladesh's International Criminal Tribunal (ICT) issued four arrest warrants [JURIST report] for several of JI's leaders for genocide, murder and torture, allegedly committed during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The ICT was established in March [JURIST report] to try those accused of committing war crimes during the 1971 war, in which Bangladeshi forces succeeded in gaining independence from Pakistan.




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

US House approves bill to reduce cocaine sentencing disparity
Erin Bock on July 29, 2010 8:45 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill Wednesday that would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 [S 1789 materials] would amend existing law to reduce the current sentencing ratio from 100:1 to 18:1. Under the existing law passed in 1986, an individual possessing five grams of crack cocaine would receive a mandatory five-year prison sentence, while an individual possessing powder cocaine would need to have 100 times that amount to receive the same sentence. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] praised [press release] the bill's passage, stating that the current law also created a racial disparity, with African Americans comprising 79.8 percent of all offenders sentenced for crack cocaine violations. Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] also supported [statement] the bill's passage, stating that it will "go a long way toward ensuring that our sentencing laws are tough, consistent, and fair." House Judiciary Committee member Lamar Smith (R-TX) [official websites] was the only member to speak out against the bill [NPR report], arguing that reducing penalties could lead to increased violence in communities [press release]:
Crack cocaine is associated with a greater degree of violence than most other drugs. And more than any other drug, the majority of crack defendants have prior criminal convictions. ... I cannot support legislation that might enable the violent and devastating crack cocaine epidemic of the past to become a clear and present danger.
According to a cost estimate [text, PDF] published by the Congressional Budget Office [official website] in March, the Fair Sentencing Act would save the federal prison system $42 million between 2011 and 2015. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama [official website] for his consideration and signature. Obama called for a reduction in the sentencing disparity during his presidential campaign in 2008.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official websites] and was passed in March, less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill [JURIST reports]. Last year, the House Judiciary Committee voted 16-9 to approve a bill [JURIST report] that would have completely eliminated the sentencing disparity between the offenses. In April 2008, a study released by the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) [official website] reported [study, PDF; JURIST report] that more than 3,000 prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses had their sentences reduced under an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [materials]. In 2007, the USSC voted unanimously [JURIST report] to give retroactive effect to an earlier sentencing guideline amendment that reduced crack cocaine penalties [press release].




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

UN declares access to safe drinking water a basic human right
Ann Riley on July 29, 2010 8:25 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN General Assembly [official website] on Wednesday adopted a resolution [materials] declaring that access to clean and sanitized drinking water is a basic human right [press release]. The resolution, passed by a vote of 122-0 with 41 member states abstaining, also requires the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque [official profile], to report to the General Assembly annually. The initiative promotes progress to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [official website] to reduce social and economic harms by 2015, including decreasing the number of people who cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and do not have basic sanitation by half. The resolution also expressed concern that approximately 884 million people are without access to safe drinking water and more than 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.

In March, Bolivian President Evo Morales [BBC profile] called on the UN [JURIST report] to declare access to safe drinking water a basic human right and introduced the resolution. Morales' administration has been working to increase access [NNN-Prensa Latina report] for Bolivian citizens to clean water since 2006, investing in new water and sewage systems throughout the country. Earlier this month, the Botswana High Court [SAFLII database] ruled that the indigenous Bushmen [National Geographic backgrounder], or San, people cannot reopen a well [JURIST report] or dig new wells in their village in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve [official website]. The closest source of water for the Bushmen is 25 miles from their village. The Botswana government has argued that the tribe's village in the game reserve is not a formal settlement and, therefore, the government is not required to provide the Bushmen with water. Spokesmen for the tribe announced in January [JURIST report] that they plan to take the land dispute issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website; JURIST news archive] because the government continues to ignore court orders granting land rights.




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

US House approves commission to reform criminal justice system
Ann Riley on July 29, 2010 7:38 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday passed a bill [HR 5143 materials] that would create a bipartisan commission [press release] charged with reviewing the US criminal justice system. The commission would also propose reforms and promote the reduction and prevention of violence and crime. According to House sponsor Bill Delahunt (D-MA) [official website], the US incarcerates 2.3 million people, with prison costs soon reaching $75 billion. Delahunt praised the passage in the House, asserting that the bill "will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money." Currently pending in the US Senate [official website], the legislation has widespread bipartisan support and 39 co-sponsors. Senate sponsor Jim Webb (D-VA) [official website] urged [press release] the Senate to act on the bill, saying [video]:
This bill will take a long overdue, comprehensive review of our criminal justice system - taking a look at what's broken and what works. ... Essentially all elements in our country that are involved in this issues agree that we need to find the type of solution that's going to make our system more fair, more efficient, and reduce crime and criminal recidivism in our communities.
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010 [S 714 materials; backgrounder] was initially introduced in the Senate by Webb in March 2009. In April, Delahunt introduced the companion legislation in the House. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] in January and now awaits full chamber approval.

The legislation joins a series of recent US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] rulings scrutinizing the criminal justice system. In June, the Court decided [JURIST report] that federal sentencing guidelines [materials] do not provide for special consideration of changes in sentencing guidelines during USC § 3582(c)(2) [text] sentence modification hearings, and are advisory only, although they had never ruled on the application to sentence modification hearings. A week earlier, the court upheld [JURIST report] the Sentencing Reform Act [18 USC § 3624(b) text] method used by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) [official website] permitting federal prison authorities to award prisoners credit against prison time as a reward for good behavior. In May, the court held [JURIST report] that the Eighth Amendment [text] ban on cruel and unusual punishments prohibits the imprisonment of a juvenile for life without the possibility of parole as punishment for the juvenile's commission of a non-homicide offense.




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

UK appeals court rules terror suspects may sue over wrongful control orders
Daniel Richey on July 28, 2010 2:35 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [decision text] Wednesday that two terrorism suspects can sue the government for damages over wrongfully imposed control orders [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The appellants, known only as AF and AE due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence related to their cases, have been fighting their control orders, which confine them essentially to house-arrest conditions, for nearly two years. Last year, the UK House of Lords [official website] ruled that the Home Secretary [official website] had to provide the suspects with more information about the evidence against them to satisfy the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) [text]. When the Secretary refused to adduce further evidence on the grounds that it would compromise counter-terrorism operations, the administrative division of the England and Wales High Court [official website] quashed [decision text] the control orders for failure to meet evidentiary requirements. Upholding that ruling, the Court of Appeal declared the control orders invalid from the moment of their inception:
[I]n my judgment, the appropriate remedy in all these cases is one of quashing ab initio ... I agree with the submission made on behalf of the controlees that, if the appropriate remedy were merely revocation, there is a risk that a breach of Convention rights would go substantially unremedied ... I would dismiss the appeal of the Secretary of State in AF and AE.
The government plans to appeal [BBC report] to the Supreme Court.

In June, the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that a control order requiring an anonymous appellant to live 150 miles away from his family and operated under a 16-hour curfew violated his rights under the ECHR. Such orders were created by the Prevention of Terrorism ACT of 2005 (PTA) [text], which allows the British government to conduct surveillance and impose house arrest on suspects where there does not exist enough evidence to prosecute. The orders can also be used to forbid the use of mobile phones and the Internet. The system set up under PTA has been criticized by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] for what the human rights organization describes as criminal sanctions without trial [press release] that are not compatible with the principles of human rights. AI has called for the repeal of the PTA and the abandonment of control orders, which it has described as "fundamentally flawed." In September, then-Home Secretary Alan Johnson [BBC profile] said that the government would undertake a review [JURIST report] of the system. Johnson issued a ministerial statement [text] saying that his "current assessment is ... that the control order regime remains viable," but that he would "be keeping this assessment under review." In October 2007, the UK Law Lords ruled in a series of decisions that the government can continue to impose control orders [JURIST report] on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders violate human rights.




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

Federal judge enjoins provisions of Arizona immigration law
Dwyer Arce on July 28, 2010 1:44 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] against several provisions of a controversial Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], which is set to take effect Thursday. The injunction comes at the request of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], which filed its suit challenging the constitutionality of the law [JURIST report] earlier this month. Judge Susan Bolton rejected the DOJ's argument that the law should be enjoined in its entirety, finding that the individual provisions of the law were severable. Bolton issued the injunction against provisions of the law requiring the verification of the immigration status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants and authorizing the warrantless arrest of those police have probable cause to believe have committed an offense that could lead to deportation. The court also enjoined a provision of the law requiring noncitizens to carry their registration papers with them at all times, agreeing with the DOJ's assertion that "the federal government has long rejected a system by which aliens' papers are routinely demanded and checked." Bolton ruled that the government was likely to prevail in its claim that these provisions are superseded by federal law, violating the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution [text], and would suffer irreparable harm if the provisions went into effect because they would impair its ability to enforce federal policy. The court declined to enjoin several other provisions of the law, finding that the DOJ was not likely to prevail in its claims against them. This included provisions making it a state crime to harbor illegal immigrants and allowing for the impoundment of vehicles used in their transportation. Bolton also rejected the argument that the law violated the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] by discriminating against interstate commerce.

The DOJ filed its complaint earlier this month, arguing that the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." The DOJ also claims that the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and that the enforcement of the Arizona law is counterproductive to the national immigration policy and will interfere with foreign relations with Mexico and other countries. The law has been widely criticized as unconstitutional and allegedly legalizing racial profiling. Also in July, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of the DOJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA also argues that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers' public safety functions and infringe on both citizens' and noncitizens' constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.




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

Russia court bans YouTube for extremist content
Drew Singer on July 28, 2010 1:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Russian court on Wednesday made public a ruling banning access to five websites, including the video-sharing network Youtube [website], for what it calls extremist elements. A court in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur obliged the local Internet provider Rosnet to block access to the sites in its region of the country, citing Russia's anti-extremism laws [RT report, video]. The decision came after a video entitled "Russia for Russians," also a Russian extremist slogan, was posted on YouTube. The other sites were blocked [Moscow Times report] for containing excerpts of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf [Britannica backgrounder], which was banned by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] in March after it was found in violation of laws against extremism. In 2007, the Russian parliament approved legislative amendments [JURIST report] to change the prevailing definition of extremist crime in Russian law to include activities taken for "political or ideological hatred." Opponents of the legislation criticized the amendments as an attempt to curtail civil liberties and hamper democracy by putting restraints on media coverage and discouraging opposition campaigning.

Last month, a Pakistani court reimposed a ban on YouTube [JURIST report] after content deemed offensive to Muslims resurfaced on the website when a previous ban was lifted in May. The court ordered the ban after evidence of content on the websites regarding the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran was presented at a hearing. Last year, Bangladeshi officials lifted a ban on YouTube [JURIST report] that had been imposed after a recording was posted in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [official profile, BBC profile] is criticized by army officers over how she handled the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] mutiny [BBC backgrounder] in late February 2009. In 2008, the Chinese government blocked Internet users [JURIST report] in the country from accessing YouTube after videos of a government crackdown on Tibetan protesters challenging Chinese rule were posted on the site.




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

Germany prosecutor charges former Nazi camp guard
Dwyer Arce on July 28, 2010 12:50 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Prosecutor Christoph Goeke of the German city of Dortmund announced Wednesday that former Nazi guard Samuel Kunz has been charged in relation to the murder of nearly half a million people during the Nazi regime. Kunz, who has admitted to working at the Belzec concentration camp [HRP backgrounder] from 1942-1943, is accused of helping to murder 430,000 Jewish people [Al Jazeera report] during his time at Belzec, and of shooting 10 other people in separate incidents. Kunz maintains that he never personally murdered anyone [JTA report]. Kunz has been called as a witness in the case of fellow accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile, JURIST news archive]. In May, a German court denied a motion to dismiss charges against Demjanjuk [JURIST report]. The trial began in November [JURIST report], marking the first time a Nazi war crimes trial will focus on a low-ranking foreigner rather than a commander. The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk faces 27,900 accessory accounts stemming from his alleged involvement as a guard at Sobibor concentration camp [Death Camps backgrounder].

In March, a German court sentenced former Nazi SS member Heinrich Boere to life in prison for the 1944 murders [JURIST report] of three Dutch civilians. Boere was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. Boere never served his sentence, as one German court refused to extradite him because of the probability that he was a German national, and another refused the request that he serve his sentence in a German jail due to the likelihood the trial was unfair because Boere was not present for the proceedings. Boere plans to appeal the court's decision and will not begin serving his sentence until the appellate process is finished. In August, a German district court sentenced former Nazi army officer Josef Scheungraber to life in prison [JURIST report] for the 1944 reprisal killing of 10 Italian civilians. Scheungraber was convicted on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for ordering soldiers to blow up a barn in Falzano di Cortona, Tuscany, after forcing 11 civilians inside.




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

China orders police to stop public shaming of prisoners
Daniel Richey on July 28, 2010 11:39 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Chinese Ministry of Public Security [official website, in Chinese] issued an order Monday directing the country's police forces to abandon the practice of publicly shaming suspects and prisoners. The order [Xinhua report, in Chinese] stems from public response to an incident [Xinhua report, in Chinese] earlier this month when officers in the southern city of Dongguan paraded roped and handcuffed suspected prostitutes down a city street in the middle of the day, posting pictures of the event on the internet. Many Internet posters, increasingly leery of corruption in Chinese law enforcement [JURIST news archive], expressed outrage at the police use of public shaming. Though public shaming has been a long-held Chinese law enforcement practice, instances of it have been on the rise in recent months after the country initiated an anti-vice crackdown earlier this year. Police officials have said that the posting of the inflammatory images on the internet was accidental [Xinhua report, in Chinese].

Chinese law enforcement practices have fallen under fire in recent months as police have been accused of brutality and corruption. Earlier this month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to launch an independent investigation into law enforcement conduct during the July 2009 Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive], accusing police of executing arbitrary arrests and employing excessive force. Last October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that more than 40 Uighur Muslims [JURIST news archive] had disappeared while in the custody of Chinese authorities after large-scale police sweeps. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media has reported that most of the deaths were due to protesters. The Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report].




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

Japan to review use of capital punishment
Dwyer Arce on July 28, 2010 10:58 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Japanese Justice Minister Keiko Chiba [Japan Times profile] on Wednesday announced a review of Japan's death penalty [JURIST news archive] and the opening of execution chambers to the media. The announcement came after Chiba witnessed the execution [Japan Times report] of two convicts at the Tokyo Detention House. The review will examine the issue of capital punishment from all angles, according to Chiba, and will include members of the Justice Ministry [official website, in Japanese] in addition to experts who will be asked to participate. Critics have claimed Chiba, who opposes the death penalty, had political motivations in ordering the executions after losing her seat in elections earlier this month. Despite this, Chiba will remain justice minister until September. Responding to the announcement, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized Japanese use of the death penalty [press release], stating:
Japan continues to go against the international trend toward abolition and mete out this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. A day that should have marked one year without executions has instead seen Japan return to carrying out state-sponsored killings. ... A working group to discuss the death penalty is not enough. There needs to be an open and public debate and an immediate moratorium on executions while the discussion takes place.
In September, AI called on Japan to suspend use of the death penalty [JURIST report] and ultimately abandon the practice due to the execution of mentally ill inmates and poor prison conditions. A February study conducted by the government found that capital punishment enjoys support from 85 percent [AFP report] of the Japanese public. 107 inmates are currently on death row in the country.

In recent years, Japan has experienced a sharp upswing in both violent crime [BBC report] and the perceived risk of violent crime [Japan Focus study], factors used as justification for increasing the use of capital punishment. In January 2009, the Justice Ministry announced that four death row inmates were executed [JURIST report], despite international pressure to end the practice. In 2008, the ministry carried out the execution of 15 prisoners, including three inmates in June [JURIST report], as well as an additional two in October. AI issued a statement urging Japan to stop executions [press release] after the hanging of four men in April 2009. In February 2009, a group of parliamentarians proposed a four-year moratorium on the practice [JURIST report]. In November 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee urged Japan to take steps to abolish the death penalty [JURIST report]. In August 2007, Japan's national bar association called for a moratorium on the death penalty [JURIST report] until new safeguards are enacted to prevent wrongful executions.




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

Nebraska city council suspends immigration law pending litigation
Dwyer Arce on July 28, 2010 9:57 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Fremont City Council [official website] on Tuesday voted unanimously to suspend an ordinance [No 5165 text] banning hiring, harboring or renting property to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] pending the outcome of litigation challenging its constitutionality. The ordinance would require all employers in the city to register for the E-Verify program [DHS website] and would make it a crime to rent to illegal immigrants. It would also void any lease entered into by an illegal immigrant and would require every person seeking to rent residential property to obtain an occupancy permit from the city, which would require the applicant to sign a declaration affirming his or her US citizenship or otherwise provide a visa or employment authorization number. The suspension of the ordinance, which was to go into effect Thursday, was taken in light of a pending injunction [Omaha World-Herald report] against the ordinance and as a cost saving measure, according to council members, who have stated that enforcing the law would cost the city $200,000 annually and defending it would cost the city up to $1 million per year. The vote occurred without debate, and the council also voted to hire Kris Kobach [academic profile] to defend the city [KPTM report] against the lawsuits. Kobach, a law professor and political candidate in Kansas, assisted in the drafting of the ordinance and the Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] and offered his assistance to Fremont pro bono. A previous version of the ordinance was narrowly voted down [BBC report] by the city council in 2008.

Two lawsuits were filed last week seeking injunctive relief against the ordinance, which was passed by city voters in a referendum [JURIST reports] last month. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy websites] filed their lawsuits in the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website]. In its lawsuit [complaint, PDF], the ACLU challenged the law based on the Equal Protection and Supremacy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clauses of the US Constitution [text]. MALDEF's lawsuit [complaint, PDF] makes nearly identical arguments, adding that the ordinance interferes with a person's right to enter into and enforce contracts under federal law [42 USC § 1981 text] and violates Article 11 of the Nebraska Constitution [text] because the Fremont municipal government has not been empowered by the Nebraska Legislature [official website] to enforce immigration law. Additionally, MALDEF cites five cases of similar local laws that were struck down by federal and state courts, including a nearly identical law struck down [JURIST report] by a federal district court in Texas. The ACLU is also challenging the Arizona immigration law [JURIST report] on similar grounds.




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

US Senate fails to advance campaign finance reform bill
Dwyer Arce on July 28, 2010 8:45 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Tuesday failed to end debate over the campaign finance reform legislation [S 3628 materials]. The vote of 57-41 [roll call vote] fell short of the supermajority required to overcome a filibuster [Senate backgrounder], and reportedly makes passage before the November elections unlikely [POLITICO report], despite statements to the contrary by supporters. Supporters argue that the legislation is a necessary response to the January US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit corporations receiving federal contracts worth more than $7 million from spending money on "electioneering communications" and would also prohibit foreign-controlled domestic corporations from financing campaigns. The legislation was unanimously opposed by Senate Republicans, who have criticized the bill as an attempt by Democrats to influence the coming election in their favor. In leading the Senate Republicans in opposition to the bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [official website] criticized the legislation, contrasting it with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) [text, PDF], which he said "made [sure] that everybody would have to play by the same rules." Unlike the current legislation which he said:
[I]s not an effort to promote transparency. It is not a response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United. ... This bill is a partisan effort, pure and simple, drafted behind closed doors by current and former Democrat campaign committee leaders, ... aimed at ... protecting incumbent Democrats from criticism ahead of November. The supporters of this bill say it's about transparency. To that, I say it's transparent alright. It's a transparent effort to rig the fall elections. And they're so intent on their goal that they're willing to launch an all-out assault on the First Amendment in order to get there.
On Monday, President Barack Obama [official website] came out in favor of the bill [statement], stating that a 'no' vote on the legislation would damage democracy and "allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections."

Last week, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] introduced an amended version of the campaign finance bill [JURIST report] in order to gain support from moderate Republicans in the hope of increasing the chance of the bill's passage. The new version of the bill removed several provisions included in the version passed by the House of Representatives [JURIST report] last month, including exemptions in the bill that may benefit unions over corporations and requiring organizations funding political advertising in states where they do not do business to disclose the location of the organization. Senate Democrats first introduced their version of the Disclose Act [JURIST report] in April after the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held hearings [JURIST report] in March on the effects of the Citizens United decision. In Citizens United, the court struck down § 203 of the BCRA, 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 on First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] grounds.




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

GE agrees to settle SEC complaint in oil-for-food scandal
Andrea Bottorff on July 28, 2010 8:26 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] General Electric Co. (GE) [corporate website] on Tuesday agreed to a $23.5 million settlement [press release] after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] accusing GE of bribing Iraqi officials to receive contracts under the UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. The SEC claimed that, between 2000 and 2003, four of GE's subsidiaries gave millions of dollars worth of computer equipment, medical supplies and services to the Iraqi Health Ministry in exchange for contract deals. The complaint described the impact of GE's actions:
The Oil for Food Program was intended to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi population, then subject to comprehensive international trade sanctions. The Program allowed the Iraqi government to purchase necessary humanitarian goods, but required that all purchases be made through a UN-controlled escrow account. The kickbacks paid in connection with all four subsidiaries' Oil for Food contracts had the effect of diverting funds out of the escrow account and...into an Iraqi slush fund.
The SEC complaint argued that GE's kickbacks were in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (SEA) [text, PDF] and called for GE to pay back all illegal profits with interest, as well as civil penalties. GE claimed that most of the disputed contracts occurred before the corporation gained ownership of the subsidiaries and that four of the contracts were improperly recorded. The US government will not take further action against GE [Independent report] after the settlement.

Several companies and individuals have been accused of participating in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal. In April, a Paris judge charged [JURIST report] French oil company Total [corporate website] with bribery and complicity in connection with the scandal. According to the 2005 Volcker report, published by a UN-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] investigating corruption in the oil-for-food program, oil companies like Total allegedly paid Iraqi officials over $1.5 billion in illegal kickbacks [materials] in exchange for being selected as oil purchasers. Over the last three years, oil company Chevron [corporate website] also paid a large settlement to the SEC concerning misuse of the program, and two Texan oil barons, David Chalmers and Oscar Wyatt Jr. [JURIST reports], were sentenced to prison for their roles in the scandal. The oil-for-food program allowed the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], under UN sanctions in the wake of the first Gulf War, to sell limited stocks of oil in return for foodstuffs and other humanitarian supplies.




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

Russia court jails neo-Nazis for hate crimes
Andrea Bottorff on July 28, 2010 7:25 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 14 neo-Nazis [JURIST news archive], including a group leader and several teenagers, to jail terms for committing hate crimes against ethnic minorities in the country. The group leader, 22-year-old Dmitry Orlov, was sentenced to life imprisonment [AP report] for planning hate crimes as part of Russian National Unity (RNU), a fundamentalist organization promoting white supremacy and anti-Muslim and Jewish teachings. Russian police said that the group operated around Moscow and committed several violent crimes and murders, including the brutal stabbing of an activist [Euronews report]. The other group members received jail terms of up to 17 years.

Russian courts have recently taken action against neo-Nazi groups in the country. In April, the Moscow City Court ruled that the Slavic Union (SS) violated Russia's extremism laws, banning the organization [JURIST report]. The SS, whose initials are the same as the Nazi paramilitary, was one of Russia's largest neo-Nazi organizations. City prosecutors initiated the action, accusing the group of promoting nationalistic supremacy similar to the ideology of Nazi Germany. Earlier in April, 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].




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

UK court blocks extradition of former Bosnia president
Drew Singer on July 27, 2010 3:42 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A UK court on Tuesday blocked the extradition of former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic [Trial Watch profile] to Serbia to stand trial for alleged war crimes. Ganic, who served as vice president during the outset of the 1992-1995 Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive], is accused of ordering attacks in Sarajevo in violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War [text]. A City of Westminster Magistrates' Court [official website] judge blocked the bid, saying that the extradition request was politically motivated [AFP report] and an abuse of the processes of the court. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office [official website] announced shortly after the decision that it will appeal [BBC report]. Ganic argues that it would be impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Serbia.

The extradition hearing took place earlier this month following Ganic's arrest by British police [JURIST reports] at Heathrow Airport in March pursuant to a Serbian provisional extradition warrant. Ganic is the highest ranking official among 19 for whom Serbia has issued an arrest warrant in connection with the Dobrovoljacka Street incident at the onset of the Bosnian conflict. Bosnian authorities dismiss Serbian claims surrounding the incident on the grounds that they were defending their own territory and that Serbia is undermining procedures in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive].




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

ICTY denies early release of former Serb parliament head
Daniel Richey on July 27, 2010 2:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Monday denied [decision, PDF] early release to former Bosnian Serb Assembly leader and convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik [ICTY materials, PDF; JURIST news archive]. Krajisnik was sentenced [JURIST report] by the ICTY in 2006 to 27 years in a British prison for his role in the forced evacuation and displacement of several thousand Muslims and Croatians, including women and children, during the Bosnian war in 1992. Though British law dictates that Krajisnik should have been eligible for parole on April 2, ICTY President Patrick Robinson said his decision to deny early release was largely based on the severity of Krajisnik's crimes and the tribunal's treatment of similar convicts:
While Mr. KrajiSnik has displayed some evidence of rehabilitation, I am of the view that there remain significant factors that weigh against granting him early release. Mr. Krajisnik's crimes are of a very high gravity, involving a widespread displacement of the non-Serb population in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which caused great suffering. Moreover, in respect of the requirement that the President shall take into account the treatment of similarly-situated prisoners, the practice of the Tribunal is to consider the eligibility of a convicted person only after he has served two-thirds of his sentence; therefore, the fact that Mr. Krajisnik has only recently completed serving half of his sentence does not weigh in favour of his early release.
The ICTY reduced [JURIST report] Krajisnik's sentence to 20 years in September 2009, transferring him to a UK prison to serve his time.

At his 2006 trial, the ICTY found Krajisnik not guilty on a charge of genocide for which prosecutors had requested a life sentence [JURIST report]. Krajisnik was initially indicted together with Biljana Plavsic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive], the former Bosnian Serb president who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003 after testifying against Krajisnik. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY materials; JURIST news archive], with whom Krajisnik worked closely, was arrested in 2008 [JURIST report] and currently faces war crimes charges before the ICTY.




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

Serbia parliament rejects Kosovo independence in perpetuity
Dwyer Arce on July 27, 2010 1:22 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Serbian National Assembly [official website] on Monday voted 192-26 to pass a resolution [press release] that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. The declaration comes a week after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law [JURIST report]. The resolution was passed during the National Assembly's Sixth Extraordinary Session [activity report] after 12 hours of debate and stressed the need to maintain Serbian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Additionally, the resolution called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute, which is in line with the Serbian Constitution [text], which expressly prohibits any action to change Serbia's borders. Also during the parliamentary debate, opposition lawmakers criticized the government for subjecting Serbia to international humiliation. In explaining the resolution, the Serbian government stated:
The Parliament considers that peaceful negotiation should result in a permanent, sustainable and mutually acceptable solution for Kosovo-Metohija, in accordance with the Constitution of Serbia, allowing for a historical reconciliation of the Serbian and Albanian people, as well as peace and stability in the region. The document calls for national unity and the use of all available diplomatic and political means to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. The Parliament expresses its full commitment to achieving national and political unity regarding the preservation of Kosovo-Metohija, and confirms that the Republic of Serbia will never, either explicitly or implicitly, recognise the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo-Metohija.
The government went on to state that it considered all actions of the Kosovo government from the independence declaration onwards to be void and promised to bring the question of Kosovo's independence before the UN General Assembly [official website] when its session opens in September.

The ICJ issued a non-binding ruling Thursday that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia [JURIST report] did not violate international law. Serbia had argued that UN Resolution 1244 [text, PDF], which ended the war in Kosovo, solidified the country's boundaries, which included the southern region of Kosovo. Kosovo argued that the resolution was not meant to exclude the opportunity for secession. The opinion of the court stated that nothing in international law prohibited a unilateral declaration of independence. The ruling could have far-reaching implications for other countries with territories seeking recognition as independent states. Serbia's position was backed by a majority of UN countries, including Russia, China and Spain, but Kosovo has consistently been supported by the US and most European countries. Serbian President Boris Tadic [official profile] maintained that Serbia will not recognize [statement, in Serbian] Kosovo's independence, claiming the ICJ ruling was limited only to the question of whether the declaration itself violated international law, and not whether the secession was legal.




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

US government increasing enforcement of immigration laws: report
Daniel Richey on July 27, 2010 11:05 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Mounting emphasis on enforcement of existing immigration laws under the Obama administration has seen a sharp rise in deportations by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website], according to a Washington Post report [text] Monday. The new emphasis on enforcement was outlined in a June memo [text, PDF] from ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton [official profile]. ICE expects to have the resources to deport 400,000 illegal immigrants this year, a 10 percent increase over last year's total. Additionally, raids on corporations suspected of employing illegal immigrants have seen a fourfold increase over the Bush administration, and law enforcement officers have made the deportation of convicted felons and federal offenders their primary focus, according to the memo. Resources should be focused on illegal immigrants that endanger national security, who have been convicted of crimes or otherwise endanger public safety, the memo emphasized. Critics of the Obama administration have decried the latter policy as facilitating arbitrarily uneven enforcement of the law. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST report], noting the role of immigrants throughout US history and indicating that immigrants must continue to play a role as the country grows and develops.

Last week, a Syracuse University study indicated that backlogs at US immigration courts are up by more than 30 percent [JURIST report] in the past 18 months. As of January 2009, there were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the US, one million less than in 2007, according to the Department of Homeland Security [official website]. In that same period, deportations have more than doubled, peaking at 387,790 last year. Federal authorities have indicated that the workload would continue to grow if Arizona's new immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] is implemented. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. The constitutionality of the law has been widely disputed, and the legislation is now facing several lawsuits [JURIST report].




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

Algeria court indicts ex-Guantanamo detainee
Dwyer Arce on July 27, 2010 10:42 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Algerian prosecutor's office said Monday that former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Aziz Abdul Naji [NYT profile] had been indicted, but did not specify the charges. The charges come after a period of detention by the Algerian government under a statute that allows for the detention of terror suspects for up to 12 days. Naji was released Sunday after a judge placed him under judicial supervision [Reuters report], requiring him to appear at the local police station every week. Naji, who was held at Guantanamo since his capture in 2002, was repatriated to Algeria earlier this month after the US Supreme Court [official website] failed to stay the transfer [JURIST report]. Naji had appealed to the court asking that it review his pending transfer and that he be allowed to remain at the Guantanamo facility. In his appeal, Naji expressed concern that he would be tortured or killed [Washington Post report] if returned to Algeria. The Obama administration had indicated it had received assurances from the Algerian government that Naji would not be mistreated after returning to the country, citing the Algerians who have been returned to the country from Guantanamo Bay without incident as proof that Naji would be safe in the country.

In February, an Algerian criminal court acquitted [JURIST report] former Guantanamo detainee Mustafa Hemlili of charges of counterfeiting and affiliation to a militant group that is active abroad. Hemlili was released from Guantanamo, along with fellow inmate Hederbash Sufian, after a six-year detention period. July's transfers brought the total number of Guantanamo detainees transferred to Algeria to over 20. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced in January that two detainees had been transferred to Algeria [JURIST report]. Hassan Zumiri had spent more than seven years in the Guantanamo detention center, while Adil Hadi al-Jazairi bin Hamlili [NYT profiles] had been held for five. Both men are Algerian nationals.




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

New Jersey high court declines to hear same-sex marriage case
Dwyer Arce on July 27, 2010 9:24 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The New Jersey Supreme Court [official website] on Monday declined to hear a case [order, PDF] challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey's civil unions law, holding that it must first be heard in the lower courts. The lawsuit was filed [JURIST report] in March, arguing that the Civil Unions Law [text, PDF] does not adhere to the 2006 ruling in Lewis v. Harris [decision; Lambda Legal backgrounder], which said that same-sex couples should have "full rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples." The plaintiffs claim that they face discrimination as couples in civil unions compared to opposite-sex married couples. The court divided evenly 3-3 on whether the hear the case, falling short of the four-justice majority required to hear it. The court cited a lack of a trial record in the decision, which it said was necessary to assess the case on its merits. The three dissenting justices argued that the court should not have dismissed the case without a hearing because if the plaintiffs' allegations of discrimination are true they should not face unnecessary delay. Lambda Legal [advocacy website], an organization representing one of the plaintiffs, expressed disappointment with the ruling [press release], stating:
We are terribly disappointed about today's ruling. Our plaintiffs and the New Jersey legislature's own Civil Union Review Commission documented the rampant discrimination same-sex couples face as a consequence of civil union status, and this ruling now relegates our plaintiffs to second-class citizenship for even longer. ... Separating out one group and relegating the people in it to a lesser status, in this case to civil unions in New Jersey, invites discrimination from all quarters—the government, businesses, schools, medical providers, individuals.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, and is expected to be brought in the New Jersey Superior Court [offiicial website].

The New Jersey couples filed the lawsuit seeking to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the Supreme Court claiming that they "and other committed lesbian gay partners in New Jersey live in second-class circumstances, relegated to demonstrably inferior, state-created status of civil unions." They argued that same-sex couples lack workplace benefits and protections, face unequal treatment and lack of recognition in public accommodations and civic life, and that their children are "prejudiced by the unequal and inferior legal and social status" of civil unions. New Jersey has recognized same-sex civil unions [JURIST report] since 2006. In January, the New Jersey Senate voted 20-14 to defeat a bill [JURIST report] that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in DC, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts [JURIST reports].




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

Ex-Khmer Rouge leader to appeal conviction
Dwyer Arce on July 27, 2010 8:45 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A spokesperson for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] confirmed Tuesday that former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] official Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch," intends to appeal his conviction. Kaing's lawyer informed the court of the appeal [AFP report] shortly after Monday's verdict, without stating the grounds for the appeal. The ECCC found Kaing guilty of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions, sentencing him to 35 years in prison. Kaing is expected to serve only 19 years due to credit for time served, including a period of "illegal detention" by the Cambodian Military Court starting in 1999 and his period of detention during his ECCC trial. Prosecutors had sought a 40-year sentence, but the court reduced his sentence due to mitigating factors such as his cooperation with the trial, admission of responsibility, remorse and the potential for rehabilitation. Kaing had also faced charges of premeditated murder and torture under domestic Cambodian law. Kaing was not convicted of these charges, however, because the judges were unable to come to a majority [judgment, PDF] on the charges, leaving the court unable to convict under the ECCC law [text, PDF]. Kaing was the head of the Tuol Sleng detention facility under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The court found that, during this time, more than 12,000 people were killed due to mass executions and the conditions in the facility.

Kaing unexpectedly asked to be released [JURIST report] at the close of his trial in November. His request was a complete departure from his previous conduct, as he had cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. In March 2009, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for his conduct at the detention facility. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC. In April, the pre-trial chamber of the ECCC dismissed appeals by three other former Khmer Rouge officials [JURIST report] to block the extension of their provisional detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, were arrested in November 2007 and face charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecution. The tre-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.




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

Rights group sues UK government over failure to report DRC conflict minerals trade
Andrea Bottorff on July 27, 2010 7:52 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UK rights group Global Witness (GW) [advocacy website] on Monday filed suit [press release] against the UK government for failing to report several UK companies to the UN Sanctions Committee [official website] for allegedly trading "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group argues that the UK government is in violation of UN resolutions 1857 and 1896 [texts, PDF], passed in 2008 and 2009, respectively, which require countries to report any companies involved in trading DRC minerals, believed to have played a large role in ongoing violence [Washington Post report] in the African nation. GW cites violations listed in the 2009 UN Group of Experts report [text, PDF] to support the legal complaint. The government denies the allegations, stating that the UK Foreign Office [official website] has effectively monitored the mineral trade behavior of UK corporations. GW aims to obtain a mandatory court order requiring the coalition government to investigate the conduct of the government office and to ensure compliance with the UN sanctions.

Last week, US President Barack Obama [official website] signed [JURIST report] the Restoring Financial Stability Act [HR 4173 materials] into law. The legislation, which focuses on increasing regulation in the financial sector, included a provision requiring US companies producing electronic equipment like cell phones and laptops, to divulge what steps are being taken to ensure their products do not contain "conflict minerals" from the DRC. Last year, GW published a report claiming that international corporations that purchase minerals from the DRC are responsible for prolonging the conflict [JURIST report] in the African country. The report was critical of several specific corporations, including Amalgamated Metal Corporation, Afrimex and Traxys [corporate websites], for "turning a blind-eye" to the source of minerals they purchase and then sell to manufacturers. In the war-torn country, the Congolese military and numerous militia groups control mines responsible for production of gold and wolframite, and the report alleges that the unregulated market brings significant profit to these groups [BBC report], fueling the conflict. The current conflict in the DRC has been one of the most deadly in the world, claiming an estimated 45,000 [Guardian report] lives per month.




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

Seychelles court convicts Somali pirates
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 3:42 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Seychelles [BBC backgrounder] on Monday convicted a group of Somali pirates [JURIST news archive], sentencing them to 10 years in prison. The 11 men were apprehended in the Indian Ocean following the attempted hijacking [BBC report] of a Seychelles coastguard ship in December. The trial began in March [AFP report], after Seychelles amended its criminal code to allow universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder] in piracy cases. Eight of the men were convicted of piracy, and three others of aiding and abetting piracy. An additional 29 Somalis are being held [AP report] by the Seychelles government for piracy awaiting either trial or deportation to Somalia. Also on Monday, Seychelles President James Michel [official website] lauded the actions of his government [press release] as a leader on the issue of piracy, creating greater international awareness of the problem. In May, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [office website] announced that the island nation of Seychelles will create a UN-supported center [JURIST report] to prosecute suspected pirates. The center will accept and try pirates captured by the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website] off the coast of Somalia and surrounding areas. This will be the second such court established for the prosecution of pirates, following only Kenya. Seychelles has received international support for its actions against piracy through the joint UN, EU Counter-Piracy Program [text, PDF]. The program has also assisted the country in preparing to hold piracy trials.

In June, UNODC announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom in Kenya [JURIST report] that will hear maritime piracy cases as well as cases involving other serious criminal offenses. The courtroom was funded through contributions the UNODC received from donor states including Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the EU and the US. UNODC announced a week prior [JURIST report] that donor states will spend more than USD $9.3 million to fund courts in Kenya and Seychelles that prosecute suspected Somali pirates. The Kenyan government announced in April that it would no longer accept [JURIST report] Somali pirate cases due to its overburdened legal system and the lack of support that had been promised by the international community. Kenya resumed the adjudication of piracy cases in May after being reassured it would receive additional support. Kenya currently has 123 suspected pirates awaiting trial, the highest number of any country that has agreed to hear piracy cases. Kenyan courts have convicted and sentenced 18 pirates since agreeing to assist in the prosecution of piracy cases. The governments of Mauritania and Tanzania have also expressed their willingness to try suspected pirates [JURIST report].




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

US rights groups urge greater protections for mentally disabled immigrants
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 2:11 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] on Monday called on the US government to provide greater protection for those with mental disabilities in the US immigration system. In a joint report, "Deportation by Default" [text, PDF; press release], the rights organizations criticized the US immigration system, which they claim often disadvantages those with mental disabilities who cannot understand the proceedings against them or adequately defend themselves. The report, which defines mental disability to include those with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities, finds that the lack of procedural safeguards, such as the right to appointed counsel, inflexible detention policies and the lack of guidance for judges or attorneys on how to ensure a fair hearing for people with mental disabilities creates a situation that violates both US and international standards for justice and due process. The rights groups estimate that as many as 15 percent of people facing deportation proceedings suffer from mental disabilities. These failures, according to the rights organizations, impair the due process and judicial integrity. The report explains:
Due process is part of judicial integrity. It's a basic principle that this country has decided to prioritize. It's one of our greatest exports—we send people all over the world to talk about rule of law and how to reform judicial systems but we're not doing it here in our fastest growing judicial system[, the immigration courts]. Not every non-citizen with a mental disability is entitled to remain in the United States; but everyone is entitled to a fair hearing and a chance to defend his or her rights. If the US government is going to detain and deport individuals with mental disabilities, it must do so in a way that respects their human rights, honors US human rights commitments, and ensures fair and accurate court decisions.
The report went on urge the US government to take steps to ensure the rights of all people in the immigration system are upheld. These recommendations include calling on Congress to provide for appointed counsel in immigration proceedings and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act [text] to exempt from vulnerable groups from mandatory detention and deportation and for the Justice Department (DOJ) [official website] to put in place regulations to protect vulnerable non-citizens.

Last week, a Syracuse University research center study indicated that backlogs at US immigration courts are up by more than 30 percent [JURIST report] in the past 18 months. As of January 2009, there were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the US, one million less than 2007, according to the Department of Homeland Security [official website]. In the same period, deportations have more than doubled, peaking at 387,790 last year. Federal authorities have indicated that the workload would continue to grow if Arizona's new immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] is implemented. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. The constitutionality of the law has been widely disputed, and the legislation is now facing several lawsuits [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST report], noting the role of immigrants throughout US history and indicating that immigrants must continue to play a role as the country grows and develops.




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

Federal judge orders release of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 11:59 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Friday released a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF] on the habeas corpus petition of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi [NYT report], which was granted by the court earlier this month [JURIST report]. Judge Paul Friedman granted the petition after finding that the Obama administration did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Almerfedi, who has been in US custody since 2002, was either part of or substantially supporting the Taliban or al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounders], under the standard set by the Supreme Court [official wesbite; JURIST news archive] in Boumediene v. Bush [JURIST report]. The government argued that it had met this standard because Almerfedi had stayed at an al Qaeda guest house, had been a facilitator for al Qaeda's activities and was affiliated with Jama'at al Tablighi (JT) [SAAG backgrounder], an Islamic missionary organization that the government alleges to have ties with al Qaeda. Almerfedi argued that he did not have ties with al Qaeda and was only involved with JT in hopes that the organization would send him to Europe for missionary work, where he hoped to relocate. In rejecting the government's arguments, Friedman cited the unreliability of the evidence against him, a significant portion of which was based entirely on the testimony of a fellow Guantanamo detainee. Due to this, the charges that he had stayed at the guest house and had acted as a facilitator were not accepted by the court. Additionally, Friedman held that despite evidence that some members of JT contributed financially to al Qaeda, this did not meet the burden of evidence in showing that Almerfedi provided support to the organization. Also Friday, the district court denied the habeas petition [opinion, PDF; order, PDF] of Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman [NYT profile]. In doing so, Judge John Bates found that the attorney's filing the petition on Kuman's behalf did not have his authorization to do so, as required in Guantanamo habeas petitions. Additionally, Bates held that Kuman's decision not to proceed was knowing and voluntary.

The recent decisions bring the successful number of Guantanamo habeas petitions to 38, with the government winning 16. The district court on Wednesday granted the habeas petition [JURIST report] of another Yemeni detainee, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile], ordering his immediate release from Guantanamo. In a separate decision announced Wednesday, a federal judge denied the habeas petition of Guantanamo detainee Abdul-Rahman Sulayman [NYT profile], ruling that he can continue to be held in custody indefinitely. Sulayman has also been in custody for over eight years. Most of the nearly 200 detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many detainees have been transferred back to Yemen. In January, the US government suspended transfers [JURIST report] of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen after it was revealed that the so-called "Christmas Day Bomber" Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], received al Qaeda training in Yemen.




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

Bangladesh war crimes tribunal issues arrest warrants for Islamist leaders
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 11:03 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) announced Sunday that it had issued four arrest warrants for the leaders of the Islamist group Jamaat e Islami (JI) for crimes committed during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War [GlobalSecurity backgrounders]. The ICT was established in March [JURIST report] to try those accused of committing war crimes during the 1971 war, in which Bangladeshi forces succeeded in gaining independence from Pakistan. The warrants, announced by Chief Justice Nizamul Haque [bdnews24 report] at the tribunal's first hearing, lay charges of genocide, murder and torture on JI head Motiur Rahman Nizami, Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and senior assistant secretaries general Muhammad Qamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Mollah. A fifth JI leader, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, is expected to be charged with war crimes as well. JI has alleged that the government is using the ICT to reign in the activities of opposition parties. The suspects are charged with killing 345 people [Reuters report] during the war, in which JI is suspected of supporting Pakistani forces. The four are already in custody for separate charges or murder and sedition. The warrants were issued at the request of prosecutors to make sure the suspects remain in custody during the investigation. The suspects will not have the opportunity to seek bail. The next hearing in the case is set for early August.

In March, Bangladeshi officials announced the establishment of the tribunal, fulfilling a campaign promise of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile]. The tribunal includes three high court judges and six investigators retired from civilian, law enforcement and military careers. The trials investigating the 1971 war crimes will take place under the recently amended International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 [text, PDF]. Officials estimate that Pakistani soldiers and local militia participated in more than three million killings and 200,000 rapes. The announcement of the tribunal came the same week as the Bangladesh Cabinet ratified the Rome Statute [JURIST report] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. Although the ratification will not directly affect Bangladesh's pending war crimes trials for the 1971 Liberation War because the ICC can only hear cases arising since its formation in 2002, it will require the country to update its laws to reflect provisions of the statute.




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

Wikileaks founder alleges documents may reveal US war crimes in Afghanistan
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 9:42 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Wikileaks [website] founder Julian Assange [Telegraph profile] said Monday that the Afghan War Diaries [materials], a compilation of 91,000 documents leaked to the organization on the US war effort in Afghanistan, may provide evidence of war crimes committed by US forces. The statement comes after the release of the Afghan War Diaries on Sunday, which has been described as the largest unauthorized release of classified documents in US military history. Assange cited thousands of US strikes in Afghanistan [AP report], including a 2007 raid on a compound believed to house a senior al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader, which resulted in the death of seven children and the cover-up of civilian casualties as examples of possible war crimes. The leaked documents reportedly suggest that Pakistani government officials have met with members of the Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and reveal the extent of civilian casualties due to US air strikes and the frustration of the US government with Pakistani leadership for its ties to Afghan militants. Assange has stated that Wikileaks has thousands more documents [BBC report] that it will be releasing in the future under the direction of the source. In responding to the leak, National Security Advisor James Jones [official profile] emphasized that the period covered by the documents, January 2004 to December 2009, was before the comprehensive review [press release] of US war strategy conducted by the Obama administration in fall 2009. He went on to highlight the strong relationship between the US and Pakistan.

Earlier this month, the US Army formally charged [JURIST report] Pfc. Bradley Manning [advocacy website] for leaking a controversial classified video [YouTube video] of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Iraq and classified State Department documents. Manning faces two charges [charge sheet, PDF] under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) [text] for the transfer of classified information and exceeding his authorized computer access. Manning was detained in Kuwait in May after releasing the video, entitled "Collateral Murder," on Wikileaks. Wikileaks does not ask sources to identify themselves, but Manning was reported to authorities by former hacker Andrian Lamo, who learned of the leaks after forming an online friendship with the soldier. Due to the gravity of the charges, Manning's investigation could lead to a court-martial. In May 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the US government to make "fundamental changes to reduce civilian casualties" [JURIST report] in Afghanistan after attacks last week reportedly left more than 140 civilians dead.




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

Cambodia genocide court hands down first conviction of ex-Khmer Rouge leader
Dwyer Arce on July 26, 2010 8:45 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday handed down its first conviction [judgment, PDF; press release] in the case of former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] official Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." The court found Kaing guilty of crimes against humanity and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions, sentencing him to 35 years in prison. Prosecutors had sought a 40-year sentence, but the court reduced his sentence due to mitigating factors such as his cooperation with the trial, admission of responsibility, remorse and the potential for rehabilitation. Kaing also gets credit for time served, including a period of "illegal detention" by the Cambodian Military Court starting in 1999 and his period of detention during his ECCC trial. Kaing had also faced charges of premeditated murder and torture under domestic Cambodian law. Kaing was not convicted of these charges, however, because the judges were unable to come to a majority [judgment, PDF] on the charges, leaving the court unable to convict under the ECCC law [text, PDF]. Kaing was the head of the Tuol Sleng detention facility under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The court found that, during this time, more than 12,000 people were killed due to mass executions and the conditions in the facility.

Kaing unexpectedly asked to be released [JURIST report] at the close of his trial in November. His request was a complete departure from his previous conduct, as he had cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. In March 2009, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for his conduct at the detention facility. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC. In April, the pre-trial chamber of the ECCC dismissed appeals by three other former Khmer Rouge officials [JURIST report] to block the extension of their provisional detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, were arrested in November 2007 and face charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecution. The tre-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.




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

Canada appeals court reverses ruling for government intervention in Khadr case
Erin Bock on July 26, 2010 8:05 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Canadian Federal Court of Appeal [official website] has ruled that a Federal Court [official website] decision calling for the government to protect the rights of Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] while in US custody overstepped judicial boundaries. Chief Justice Pierre Blais criticized the lower court ruling [JURIST report], which gave the Canadian government one week to come up with a list of measures to protect Khadr's rights and stated that the court would impose a remedy if the government failed to do so. In a ruling released Thursday, Blais stated that the lower court lacked the authority [Globe and Mail report] to impose a remedy and that the court's decision interfered with the government's right to oversee and control matters regarding foreign affairs. Khadr's lawyers are uncertain whether they will pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court in light of the fact that Khadr's trial before a US military commission is scheduled to begin on August 10 [JURIST report].

Last week, the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] allowed Khadr to amend his 2004 habeas corpus petition [JURIST report], but refused to lift the stay on the petition pending the conclusion of his trial before the military commission. Earlier this month, a US judge ordered Khadr's military attorney to continue defending him [JURIST report] after Khadr fired his civilian attorneys and requested that the military attorney be fired as well. At a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Khadr informed the US war crimes court that he had previously rejected a plea deal [JURIST report] offered by the US government to suspend all but five years of a 30-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. He stated that the plea would have been used to excuse the torture and abuse of a child. Khadr also indicated that he would not participate in the trial or offer a defense on his own behalf because the process offers him no hope of justice. Khadr is facing murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan.




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

Turkish PM suggests change to army law associated with coups
Hillary Stemple on July 25, 2010 1:50 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] on Saturday stated his willingness to consider changes to a law that allows the military to interfere in domestic matters. Article 35 of Turkish Armed Forces Services Law, which gives the military the authority to intervene in domestic affairs in certain situations, has been used in the past to justify military coups, including the 1980 Turkish coup [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Opponents of Article 35 say the law is authoritarian [Reuters report] and warn that it could be used to justify future coups within the country, while supports contend that the law allows the military to fulfill its role as the protector of a secular government. Erdogan indicated he was willing to consider changing the law at a speech being held as part of a campaign to garner support for a nationwide referendum on a series of constitutional amendments [text, in Turkish] which is scheduled to be held in September. The proposed amendments were approved by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in May, but a portion of the reforms aimed at limiting the power of the judiciary and bringing the judiciary and military under government control were ruled unconstitutional [JURIST reports] by the Turkish Constitutional Court earlier this month. Supporters of the reforms, which include allowing civil courts to try military officers as well as expanded labor union rights and consumer protects, state that they are required for Turkey's admission to the EU. Opponents, however, contend the reforms are meant to consolidate power and to bring the traditionally secular judiciary and military under control of the government. Criticism of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] has been growing, and many see Erdogan's support for the change in the law as a way to build broader support for the referendum vote.

Erdogan's promise to consider changes to the law came one day after a Turkish court ordered the arrest of 102 people [JURIST report], including two serving and three retired military officers, in connection with an alleged 2003 coup plot. The 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish; Al Jazeera backgrounder], or "Sledgehammer" plot, which included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government, was revealed by the Taraf [media website] newspaper in January. The Istanbul 10th Court for Serious Crimes [GlobaLex backgrounder] ordered the arrests after another court indicted 196 [JURIST report] over the plot on Monday. In June, the trial of 33 retired and active naval officers [JURIST report], accused of attempting to overthrow the government and establish military rule in another plot planned by a group called Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], began. The group allegedly planned to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups, blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths and use this to delegitimize the ruling AKP. The investigations into the alleged coups have strained relations between the religiously-inclined government and the secular military, which has been responsible for four coups in the last 50 years.




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

Israel not expected to cooperate with UN flotilla probe
Erin Bock on July 25, 2010 12:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Israel will likely not cooperate with a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] investigation to look into an Israeli military raid of a flotilla in Gaza that took place at the end of May. While the Israeli government has not yet made an official announcement regarding its position, an unnamed senior Israeli official called the investigation unnecessary and obsessive [Haaretz report]. He stated that the selection [JURIST report] of Desmond de Silva, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, to head the panel showed that the investigation was biased [Jerusalem Post report] in light of de Silva's remarks against Israel following the raid. The official announcement regarding Israel's decision is expected to be made this week. While the government may not cooperate with the UNHRC probe, the official is expecting an announcement that the government will comply with a separate UN investigation created under the authority of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website].

The three-member UNHRC panel will include de Silva, the former prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone; Karl Hudson-Phillips, a former judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC); and Mary Shanth Dairiam, a former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [official websites]. Earlier this month, an Israeli military probe into the incident revealed insufficient intelligence and planning [JURIST report] in the raid, but concluded that no punishments were necessary. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] established a separate panel [JURIST report] to investigate the raid independently from the military's investigation. The incident took place at the end of May when Israeli forces raided six Turkish ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza. The raid resulted nine deaths and left many others wounded.




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

Federal judge blocks Arizona law denying benefits to domestic partners
Erin Bock on July 24, 2010 5:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] on Friday granted a preliminary injunction [opinion text] against an amendment to an Arizona law [ARS § 38-651 text] regarding health benefits for the families of state employees. The amendment, added as subsection O, would remove language from the law allowing interdependent domestic partners to receive health benefits by changing the definition of "dependent" to include only married couples and their children, effective October 1, 2010. The state employees argue that the amendment violates their rights to equal protection and substantive due process and that the amendment has no rational relationship to a legitimate state interest. In his order, Judge John Sedwick granted the preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs met their burden of showing that their case would be likely to succeed on the merits and that they would suffer irreparable harm without the injunction. He also found the state's arguments that the amendment served the state interest of cost savings and administrative efficiency to be "speculative at best and discriminatory at worst." Lambda Legal [official website], the organization representing the state workers, praised the judge's decision [press release]:
This injunction removes the sword that's been hanging over the heads of hundreds of state workers and their families. We're pleased Judge Sedwick has recognized that this is a matter of equal pay for equal work, and that eliminating benefits for Arizona's gay and lesbian state employees would hurt real families.
The order also denied the state's motion to dismiss the workers' equal protection claim and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's claim of immunity. The order granted the state's motion to dismiss the workers' substantive due process claim. The injunction is set to go into effect within 10 days.

Arizona is also facing a federal lawsuit regarding its controversial new immigration law. The US Department of Justice [official website] filed suit earlier this month [JURIST report] arguing that the law violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The law criminalizes illegal immigration and allows police officers to question individuals based on "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally. The law is already being contested in a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] led by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website]. Brewer signed the legislation into law in April and the law is set to go into effect on July 29.




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

Dutch court fines oil trading company for dumping hazardous waste in Africa
Erin Bock on July 24, 2010 4:17 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Amsterdam District Court on Friday fined [press release and decisions, in Dutch] oil trading company Trafigura [corporate website] 1 million euros (USD $1.28 million) for shipping hazardous waste to the Netherlands and illegally exporting the waste to the Ivory Coast in 2006. The company chartered a ship, the Probo Koala, to deliver and unload acidic and corrosive fuel refining waste in the Netherlands, but had it pumped back onto the ship due to processing costs. The company then agreed to pay an Ivory Coast contractor to dispose of the waste in 17 sites in the city of Abidjan. Prosecutors alleged the waste was responsible for widespread illness in Abidjan, including 15 deaths. The company was acquitted of forgery charges for concealing the nature of the chemical waste before the ship arrived in the Netherlands. Laywers for the company believe Judge Frans Bauduin applied the incorrect treaty [AP report] in finding that exporting the waste to Ivory Coast was illegal, arguing that the Marine Pollution Treaty [MARPOL 73/78 text] applied, under which such exportation was legal. Trafigura issued a statement [press release] regarding the judgment on its website:
While Trafigura is pleased to have been acquitted of the charge of forgery it is disappointed by the judges' ruling on the other two [charges], which it believes to be incorrect. The court has decided that different technical legislation is applicable than that claimed by Tranfigura in its defence. Concerning the delivery of dangerous goods, it is important that the court has noted that there was limited risk to human health from these slops, and indeed no damage occurred in Amsterdam. Trafigura will study the court's findings carefully with a view to appeal.
Trafigura paid 152 million euros (USD $196.4 million) to Ivory Coast in 2007 to assist with clean-up efforts and settled a civil suit filed in the UK last year by agreeing to compensate 30,000 Abidjan residents made ill by the waste a total of $1,500 each. The Amsterdam court also found the captain of the Probo Koala guilty of co-delivering the hazardous waste and forgery related to concealing its nature. He was sentenced to a five-month suspended prison term. Trafigura employee Naeem Ahmed was also found guilty of leading the harmful delivery and was sentenced to a 6-month suspended sentence and a fine of 25,000 euros (USD $32,300). Both the city of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Port Services were discharged from prosecution in the matter.

Trafigura is the latest oil company to be under fire for questionable business dealings in Africa. Last month, Sweden's international prosecutor announced an investigation [JURIST report] into Lundin Petroleum [company website] for crimes against humanity committed in Sudan from 1997 to 2003. The prosecutor will investigate allegations that Sudanese troops attacked and displaced civilians so that Lundin could have access to the land for drilling, which exacerbated violence in the area and led to displacement and killing of civilians.




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

Honduras judge drops abuse of power charges against ousted leader Zelaya
Zach Zagger on July 24, 2010 12:31 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Honduran judge on Friday dropped two abuse of power charges against ousted leader Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Judge Humberto Palacios dismissed the charges [AP report] because of the amnesty [JURIST report] granted to those involved in Zelaya's removal by the Honduran congress in January. Zelaya still faces other charges including fraud, usurping other institutions' authority and falsifying documents. Honduras remains split over the events of June 28, 2009, when Zelaya was forced into exile. Many still support Zelaya and believe him to be the legitimate leader of the country. The Popular National Resistance Front (FNRP), which supports Zelaya's return to power, is seeking to be recognized [Hondurasweekly report] as an official political party within Honduras and has grown under the banner of creating an assembly to review and rewrite the country's constitution.

Last month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused the Honduran government of failing to address human rights violations [JURIST report] stemming from the June 2009 coup. AI contends that hundreds of people opposed to the coup have been beaten and detained. The group cited evidence that judges critical of the coup have "suffered a series of arbitrary transferrals and unfair disciplinary proceedings" as well as threats and intimidation. The interim government has been attempting to restore Honduras's reputation internationally. In May, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] announced that Honduras dropped proceedings against Brazil [JURIST report] brought by the Honduran interim government last October in response to the sheltering of Zelaya.




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

San Francisco cell phone radiation ordinance challenged
Zach Zagger on July 24, 2010 11:14 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A wireless communications industry group filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Friday challenging a San Francisco ordinance requiring disclosure of cellular phone radiation emission levels. The complaint, filed by CTIA [official website] in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], argues that the ordinance unlawfully interferes with the exclusive authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] to regulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from mobile devices like cell phones. The complaint claims that the ordinance is preempted based on the Supremacy Clause for three basic reasons: first, it interferes with the federal government's authority to set standards for RF emissions; second, it disrupts Congress' ability to set uniform nationwide standards for "safe" cell phones; and third, it is expressly preempted by Section 332(c)(3)(A) of the Communications Act [text], which prohibits state imposed limits on "entry" into the wireless market through things like labeling requirements. CTIA argues [press release] that the FCC set Standard Absorption Rate (SAR) limits for RF emissions and that all cell phones sold legally in the US are "safe":
The problem with the San Francisco ordinance is not the disclosure of wireless phone SAR values - that information is already publicly available. Consumers can learn a device's SAR value from a number of public sources, and the value is often included in user manuals and listed on the websites of manufacturers and the FCC. CTIA's objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone's SAR value at the point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels.
Supporters of the ordinance claim that it will make consumers more informed when purchasing a cell phone.

Last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors [official website] voted 10-1 to approve [JURIST report] the ordinance, which is expected to take effect early next year. The safety of cell phone radiation levels has been a topic of debate, and, while San Francisco is the first to pass legislation on the issue, similar legislation has been considered by Maine and California [materials]. Recently, more legislative concern has been focused on the danger of texting while driving. Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for a global ban on cell phone use [JURIST report] while driving. In October, Ontario enacted a law banning the use of handheld devices [JURIST report] while driving, joining other jurisdictions in Canada and the US to pass similar bans including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, California and New York.




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

UN rights council names Gaza flotilla raid investigators
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 3:56 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Friday named the members [press release] of its fact-finding mission into the May flotilla incident [JURIST news archive], in which Israeli forces raided several Turkish ships bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The UNHRC announced the formation of the commission [JURIST report] in June, shortly after the incident, with the mandate to "investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law." The three-member panel will be composed of Sir Desmond de Silva of the UK, a former prosecutor for the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone; Karl Hudson-Phillips of Trinidad and Tobago, a former judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC); and Mary Shanth Dairiam of Malaysia, a former member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women [official websites]. Announcing the members, UNHRC President, Thai Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, explained:
The expertise, independence and impartiality of the members of the mission will be devoted to clarifying the events which took place that day and their legality. We call upon all parties to fully cooperate with the mission and hope that this mission will contribute to peace in the region and justice for the victims.
The mission is expected to travel to Turkey, Israel and Gaza in the near future and present their findings on the incident in September. Israel has not indicated whether it will cooperate [Al Jazeera report] with the investigation, but has repeatedly rejected calls for an international investigation, instead conducting an internal investigation [JURIST reports].

Earlier this month, an Israeli military probe found insufficient intelligence and planning [JURIST report] in the raid in a report, but also concluded that no punishments were necessary. The report also pointed out the operation relied "excessively on a single course of action ... while no alternative courses of action were prepared for the event of more dangerous scenarios." It went on to commend the actions of the soldiers and their commanders, who exhibited "correct decision making" and justifiably resorted to the use of their firearms. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website; BBC profile] established a panel of jurists [JURIST report] to investigate the attack independently from the IDF investigation. The panel has not yet completed its investigation. Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza in May. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists - eight Turks and one American.




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

Federal judge accepts plea agreement in juvenile sentencing scandal
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 2:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] on Friday accepted a plea agreement [text, PDF] with former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan for his involvement in the juvenile sentencing scandal [JURIST news archive]. Conahan, the former president judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas [official website], pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges [Citizens Voice report] for accepting more than $2.6 million in return for sentencing teenagers to two private juvenile detention facilities. Conahan now faces a 20-year prison sentence, a fine of up to $250,000 and disbarment. The date of his sentencing has not been set [AP report]. Judge Edwin Kosik had 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 maintains his innocence and intends to go to trial.

In April, US Attorney Dennis Pfannenschmidt announced that 28 people have 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 in the scandal. 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] applauded the decision [press release], 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 they entered [JURIST reports] in February 2009.




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

Canada high court rules damages appropriate remedy for Charter rights violations
Hillary Stemple on July 23, 2010 2:14 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Canadian Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Friday that damages are an appropriate remedy for violations of a citizen's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. The case arose after Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward was mistakenly arrested for making threats against then-prime minister Jean Chretien [CBC profile]. Ward was detained and eventually arrested for breach of the peace, and he and his car were searched based on the mistaken arrest. Ward filed a lawsuit alleging tort violations and violations of his Charter rights. The trial court found that the search and seizure conducted under the mistaken arrest were a violation of Ward's Charter rights and granted him monetary damages. The Supreme Court was asked to identify when and what types of damages were appropriate for Charter rights violations. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's ruling, stating that the search violated Ward's rights and that monetary damages were the appropriate remedy for the violation. The court held that determining the appropriate remedy for a violation of Charter rights is a three-step process involving an inquiry into whether the rights were violated, a showing of why damages are an appropriate remedy and the opportunity for the government to refute the appropriateness of the damages. If there was a violation of rights, and if damages are an appropriate remedy for fulfilling the related functions of either compensation, vindication of the right or deterrence, then damages should be awarded by the court.

Friday's ruling is likely to have broad implications going forward and could play a role in lawsuits filed against the Canadian government following the recent Toronto Group of 20 (G-20) summit [official website]. Rights groups have called for an inquiry into possible rights violations [JURIST report] during the summit, condemning police conduct as "arbitrary and excessive" and criticizing the enactment of a local regulation [O Reg 233/10 text] under the Public Works Protection Act [text], which broadened the scope of police search and seizure powers during the summit. The Ontario Ombudsman [official website] launched an investigation [JURIST report] into the enactment of the regulation earlier this month. Some legal experts have indicated that implementation of the regulation may have been a violation [Toronto Star report] of Charter rights. In light of Friday's ruling, plaintiffs suing the government for a violation of their rights may now be entitled to damages.




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

Turkish court issues 102 arrest warrants for alleged coup plot
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 1:47 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Turkish court on Friday ordered the arrest of 102 people, including two serving and three retired military officers, in connection with an alleged coup plot. The 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish; Al Jazeera backgrounder], or "Sledgehammer" plot, which included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government, was revealed by the Taraf [media website] newspaper in January. The Istanbul 10th Court for Serious Crimes [GlobaLex backgrounder] ordered the arrests after another court indicted 196 [JURIST report] over the plot on Monday. The first hearing in the case is set for December 16 [Hurriyet report]. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court Monday and alleges that the plot was crafted in an Istanbul army base shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] took power in November 2002. Prosecutors are calling for prison sentences of 15 to 20 years [Reuters report] for the defendants. The military has maintained that the plot is a war game exercise. In February, a Turkish court charged an additional 11 military officers [JURIST report] in the plot and arrested 18 more. Also in February, 40 military officers and 12 high-ranking Turkish military officers [JURIST reports] were arrested and charged for their involvement in the plot.

In June, the trial of 33 retired and active naval officers began [JURIST report]. The officers were accused of attempting to overthrow the government and establish military rule in another plot planned by a group called Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group allegedly planned to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups, blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths and use this to delegitimize the AKP. Prosecutors in the case will attempt to link [BBC report] the 33 defendants to a plan to detonate a bomb in an Istanbul museum and the deaths of a Catholic priest, Protestant missionaries and journalist Hrant Dink. The investigations have strained relations between the religiously-inclined government and the secular military, which has been responsible for four coups in the last 50 years. Since the founding of the modern republic in 1923, the military has regarded itself as the defender [Guardian report] of the secular legacy of founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile].




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

ICC appeals chamber suspends release of Congo militia leader Lubanga
Hillary Stemple on July 23, 2010 1:08 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday suspended [order, PDF; press release] an order issued last week [press release; JURIST report] directing the release of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials; JURIST news archive]. The court ordered Lubanga's release after previously ordering a stay [JURIST report] in the proceedings until the prosecution complied with a directive to provide certain information to the defense. The prosecution appealed the decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] to release Lubanga, arguing that it was unlikely he would be able to be located and re-detained upon resumption of the trial. The court agreed with the prosecution's argument, ruling that:
[A]n immediate implementation of the order to release [Lubanga] could render the resumption of the trial uncertain, should the Appeals Chamber later find in favour of the Prosecutor's appeals against the Decision to Stay Proceedings and the Impugned Decision. In these circumstances, his release could potentially defeat the purpose of the present appeal and that of the appeal against the Decision to Stay Proceedings, and the granting of suspensive effect is therefore appropriate.
Lubanga will remain in ICC custody until the appeals chamber rules on the suspension of the trial.

Lubanga is accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003. His trial began in January 2009 but was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] last July after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC, formed in 2002, after he was taken into custody [JURIST report] in March 2006.




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

US Senator introduces legislation to block 'net neutrality'
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 11:44 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website] introduced legislation [text, PDF] Wednesday intended to block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] from implementing its National Broadband Plan [official website; materials]. The Freedom for Consumer Choice Act would remove the FCC's ability to declare the actions of a communications provider illegal unless there was a clear showing that the practice causes harm to consumers and will not be corrected by market forces. Additionally, it would force all FCC regulations on providers' activities to expire after five years unless it is found that market forces would not "protect consumers from substantial injury." In explaining the need for the legislation, DeMint stated that it was necessary [press release] to prevent "FCC's rush to takeover the Internet" and stated:
Congress must pass the [act] to protect consumer choice in media services, preserve competition that drives down costs and drives up options, and prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs that the free market Internet economy has created. President Obama's handpicked FCC chairman is attempting to impose unnecessary, antiquated regulations on the Internet in spite of court rulings limiting the FCC's authority, against bipartisan congressional concern over damaging economic consequences, and without any evidence of market failure. The [act] will ensure that the FCC properly uses its rulemaking authority to respond to clear cases of competitive market failure that have proven to harm consumers, and this principle should be the starting point for any debate on Internet governance.
The legislation was co-sponsored by six other Republicans. One co-sponsor, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) [official website] described the legislation as "vital to maintaining jobs" [press release]. It comes two months after Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced similar legislation [The Hill report] in the House of Representatives.

In April, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski [official profile] testified that the agency will move ahead [JURIST report] with its National Broadband Plan despite a recent court ruling [JURIST report] that it lacks the power to enforce net neutrality [JURIST news archive]. Net neutrality, which is unanimously supported [JURIST report] by the FCC's commissioners, is thought by supporters to be essential to the goal of an open flow of information over the Internet regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. Telecommunications companies Verizon, AT&T and Comcast [corporate websites] argue that net neutrality would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic. Genachowski said that the FCC's actions, as laid out in the plan will, "protect America's global competitiveness and help deliver the extraordinary benefits of broadband to all Americans." The roadmap, he continued, falls within the framework of the Communications Act of 1934 [text, PDF] as amended in 1996. The FCC sent the plan to Congress [JURIST report] for approval in March.




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

Amended campaign finance legislation introduced in Senate
Hillary Stemple on July 23, 2010 11:20 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] on Wednesday introduced an amended version of the Senate campaign finance bill [S 3628 materials] in order to gain support from moderate Republicans in the hope of increasing the chance of the bill's passage. The bill, known as the Disclose Act, was developed in response to the January US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit corporations receiving federal contracts worth more than $7 million from spending money on "electioneering communications" and would also prohibit foreign-controlled domestic corporations from financing campaigns. The new version of the bill removes several provisions included in the version passed by the US House of Representatives [JURIST report] last month, including exemptions in the bill which may benefit unions over corporations [The Hill report]. Another provision added to the amended legislation would require organizations funding political advertising in states where they do not do business to disclose the location of the organization. The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the bill on Monday and could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. It is unclear whether Democrats will have the 60 votes needed for cloture on the bill.

Senate Democrats first introduced their version of the Disclose Act [JURIST report] in April after the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] held hearings [JURIST report] in March on the effects of the Citizens United decision. In Citizens United, the court struck down Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [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. President Barack Obama sharply criticized [JURIST report] the decision in his State of the Union Address [transcript] in January. 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. The decision has caused a deep partisan divide [CNN report] over the topic, with Democratic officials largely opposing the decision, and Republican officials mostly in support.




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

ACLU sues Montana for recognition of same-sex civil unions
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 10:05 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Thursday seeking to force Montana to provide legal status to same-sex relationships. The lawsuit, filed in Montana's First Judicial District Court [official website] on behalf of seven same-sex couples, seeks declaratory judgment that the state must provide a legal status to same-sex couples that confers the same rights and obligations as marriage. The complaint argues that, in not providing a legal status to committed same-sex relationships, the state has violated the plaintiffs' rights under the Montana Constitution [text]. The lawsuit does not argue for same-sex marriage, which is banned under the state constitution, but argues that the court should order the state to provide same-sex couples with civil unions [JURIST news archives]. The ACLU argues that the state is discriminating against the plaintiffs based on their sexual orientation and that this situation unconstitutionally burdens the plaintiffs' rights to privacy, dignity and the pursuit of life's basic necessities, in addition to violating their state due process rights. The rights group noted that state and local laws provide some limited rights and obligations to same-sex couples, but deny them a plethora of benefits that are available to opposite-sex couples, including burial rights, hospital visitation rights, intestacy rights and the ability to sue for the wrongful death of a spouse. The complaint explained:
By excluding Plaintiffs and their families from the kind of comprehensive relationship and family recognition and protection offered to different-sex couples through marriage, the State perpetuates the social stigma and prejudice long-suffered by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals in Montana, that they and their relationships are inferior to heterosexual individuals and heterosexual relationships. This exclusion also encourages discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual Montanans, by both public and private actors. As described above, Plaintiffs suffer distinct dignitary harms when they are forced to plead for recognition of their committed relationship, which is automatically granted to different-sex couples who marry.
The ACLU also argued that the policy was not rational or narrowly tailored to achieve legitimate state goals.

Earlier this month, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (R) [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have allowed same-sex civil unions. The American Civil Liberties Union-Hawaii (ACLU-HI) [advocacy website], indicated it would be filing a lawsuit [press release] challenging the state's ban on same-sex civil unions as a violation of the Hawaiian Constitution [text] prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Several jurisdictions in the US have legalized same-sex marriage or recognized same-sex civil unions. Same-sex civil unions that confer the same rights as marriage are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon and Nevada [JURIST reports]. In March, DC legalized same-sex marriage, joining Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts [JURIST reports].




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

US Senate to delay vote on broad climate legislation
Hillary Stemple on July 23, 2010 9:56 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] will not pass broad climate legislation during this session, according to statements made Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website]. Reid said that the body lacks the 60 votes necessary [BBC report] to end debate on the bill and pass the legislation, but also indicated that he would attempt to pass a smaller bill focused on energy efficiency, promoting the use of natural gas, and increased deepwater drilling regulations. The US House of Representatives [official website] passed its version of the climate bill [JURIST report] last year. Several versions of climate change legislation have been negotiated and debated in the Senate. Last month, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced legislation [S 3464 text, PDF] intended to reduce foreign oil dependence [JURIST report] and cut greenhouse gas emissions. An energy bill [S 1462 materials], including amendments aimed at decreasing dependence on foreign oil imports, passed out of committee with Republican support in 2009, but key Republicans supporting that legislation have since withdrawn their support. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) [official websites] also worked on developing a comprehensive bill [materials] that would have included a cap-and-trade [CFR backgrounder] scheme, but efforts stalled after Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) [official website] withdrew his support in April [JURIST report], citing concerns that the Obama administration planned on moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST news archive]. It is unclear whether Reid will be able to garner the votes necessary to pass the smaller bill.

The Senate's failure to pass comprehensive climate legislation will likely revive the debate over the authority of administrative agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to implement standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST news archive]. Last month, the Senate defeated a resolution [materials; JURIST report] aimed at limiting the authority of the EPA to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act [materials]. Supporters of the resolution argued that Congress, and not the EPA, should have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] affirmed the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act in its 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report]. In its ruling, the court held that if the EPA could show a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health and welfare then the act gives it the power to regulate emissions. The EPA announced last December [JURIST report] that it had found that greenhouse gases "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations," and that emissions from motor vehicles contribute to greenhouse gas pollution. The EPA first announced its proposed finding [JURIST report] in April before undertaking a 60-day public comment period.




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

China court convicts Uighur journalist of endangering national security
Dwyer Arce on July 23, 2010 9:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Chinese court on Friday convicted a Uighur journalist of endangering national security for statements made following the 2009 Xinjiang riots [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi [CIIC backgrounder] sentenced Gheyret Niyaz, editor of uighurbiz.net [website, in Chinese] and two state-run websites, to 15 years in prison [AP report] after the one-day trial for statements he made had to foreign media after the riots. The government accused the website of helping spark the riots by posting information on ethnic violence in China unemployment and discrimination against Uighurs in Xianjiang. Niyaz did not deny writing the posts or speaking to foreign media but insisted that he did not break the law. The sentence has been described as unusually long [Reuters report] for someone not facing charges of separatism or extremism. Niyaz was detained along with a number of other Uighur publishers following the riots. On Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) [advocacy website] called on the Chinese government to drop the charges [press release] against Niyaz, saying that he was being prosecuted for his work as a journalist.

In January, the Urumqi court sentenced four people to death [JURIST report], eight others to life in prison and one to the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, which is usually commuted to life in prison, for their roles in the riots. To date, at least 26 people have received death sentences. In November, the Chinese government carried out the executions [JURIST report] of nine others convicted in connection with the riots for murder, assault, arson and robbery, after a review by the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] upheld their sentences. The actions of the Chinese government in the aftermath of the riots were heavily criticized [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW has stated that the trials of the suspected rioters have been marred by infringements on due process and political considerations. Additionally, HRW reported that more than 40 Uighurs had disappeared [JURIST report] while in the custody of Chinese authorities after large-scale sweeps by police. The Muslim Uighur population is opposed to China's restrictive bans [BBC report] on religious practice and says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs. Violence broke out in July 2009 after Uighurs attacked Han Chinese during protests ignited by an attack at a factory in southern China that left two Uighurs dead.




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

ICC chief prosecutor: al-Bashir will be arrested
Hillary Stemple on July 23, 2010 8:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Thursday called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST news archive], saying that he will eventually face trial before the ICC. Last week, the ICC charged al-Bashir with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF; JURIST report] in relation to the Darfur conflict [BBC backgrounder]. The genocide charges were added to seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against al-Bashir [JURIST report] in March 2009. Al-Bashir is in Chad to take part in a meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) [official website], and the visit is his first to an ICC member state since the warrants were issued. Ocampo said that al-Bashir remains a threat to the security of the region [NTDT report] and indicated that, if al-Bashir continues traveling to other countries, he will eventually be arrested. Ocampo's call for al-Bashir's arrest echoed calls made earlier in the week by advocacy groups urging Chad to detain al-Bashir. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the government of Chad to arrest al-Bashir [JURIST report], contending that because Chad is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], it has an obligation under the statute to execute outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC. Prior to his visit, the government of Chad indicated that al-Bashir would not be arrested [AFP report] while he was in the country to take part in the CEN-SAD meetings. During their meeting on Thursday, CEN-SAD refuted the charges against al-Bashir [DB/MMN report], saying that the situation in Darfur remains of great concern but that the accusations against al-Bashir will not help to bring peace to the region.

The recent charges against al-Bashir come after the appeals chamber reversed a prior decision [JURIST report] by the lower chamber denying the prosecutor's request for genocide charges. ICC prosecutors appealed the decision [JURIST report] not to charge al-Bashir with genocide in July 2009. The appeals chamber found that the standard of proof applied by the lower chamber had been too high, and that there only needed to be a showing of reasonable grounds of a genocidal specific intent, a showing that had been met when the first arrest warrant was issued. The warrant issued last week alleges that the Sudanese government, using the national armed forces, police and the Janjaweed militia [BBC backgrounder], targeted ethnic groups for extermination that were believed to be close to armed opposition groups in Darfur as part of a counter-insurgency strategy, and that as commander-in-chief of Sudanese forces, Bashir "played an essential role in [its] coordinati[on]." Al-Bashir has eluded arrest since the issuance of the first warrant. The warrant has been controversial, with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union and others calling for the proceedings against Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing [JURIST reports] not to cooperate with the warrant.




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

Discriminatory laws contribute to spread of HIV/AIDS: report
Drew Singer on July 22, 2010 1:15 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Laws criminalizing homosexual activity are contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS [press release, PDF] in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the findings of a study [text, PDF] announced Wednesday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) [official website]. The study, "Legal environments, human rights and HIV responses among men who have sex with men and transgender people in Asia and the Pacific," commissioned by the UNDP and the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) [advocacy website], was presented at the International AIDS Conference [official website] held this week in Vienna. Among its findings were that laws against public disorder and vagrancy were often used exclusively against homosexual men and transgender people. Additionally, other legal provisions are used in an arbitrary manner to infringe on the rights of homosexuals, creating an environment where HIV treatment efforts are obstructed. Jeff O'Malley, Director of UNDP's HIV Practice elaborated:
[R]epressive legal environments institutionalize discrimination, limit funding and in effect obstruct the participation of men who have sex with men and transgender people in protecting themselves and their families, friends and communities from HIV. In the context of HIV and in the context of human rights, we must continue to vigorously defend and promote rights based HIV, health and development policies and programme responses - this necessitates working to remove punitive laws and discriminatory practices.
The report noted, however, that there is a rising awareness of the need to address this segment of the population among policymakers, leading to national strategies to deal with the growing problem.

The report comes one month after the launch of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, created by the UNDP and the UNAIDS Secretariat [official websites] in order to better understand the role played by the law [JURIST report] in facilitating universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment. The commission is charged with developing "actionable and evidence-informed recommendations" to create national legal environments with effective and efficient HIV/AIDS responses. The commission is composed of an international panel of experts that is expected to complete its inquiry by December 2011. UNAIDS has repeatedly urged policy changes in the 51 countries and areas that still bar entry to individuals with HIV/AIDS. In April, the Chinese government lifted a ban on entry [JURIST report] for individuals with HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases. The US lifted its 22 year-old entry ban [JURIST report] in January when the Centers for Disease Control [official website] removed HIV/AIDS from its list of communicable diseases of public significance. UNAIDS strongly opposes any laws that restrict movement based on HIV-positive status, holding that such restrictions are discriminatory and do not prevent HIV transmission or protect public health.




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

Federal judge grants Yemeni Guantanamo detainee's habeas petition
Hillary Stemple on July 22, 2010 1:01 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday granted the habeas corpus petition of Yemeni citizen Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile] and ordered his immediate release from the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility. Latif, who has been in custody for over eight years, contends that he was in Pakistan for medical treatment when he was arrested and turned over to US forces. According to a lawyer for Latif, he suffers from mental illness [Miami Herald report] and depression, and he remains suicidal. The judge ordered the Obama administration to take all necessary steps to ensure that Latif is released. In a separate decision announced Wednesday, a federal judge denied the habeas petition of Guantanamo detainee Abdul-Rahman Sulayman [NYT profile], ruling that he can continue to be held in custody indefinitely. Sulayman has also been in custody for over eight years. The rulings in both cases remain under seal as they are examined for possible security issues. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is considering whether to appeal the ruling in Latif's case.

The district court has ruled in favor of the government in 15 habeas corpus cases [JURIST news archive], while Guantanamo detainees have prevailed in 38 cases. Earlier this month, a court of appeals overturned a decision granting habeas relief [JURIST report] to detainee Mohammed al-Adahi, ruling that the evidence, viewed as a whole, supported the conclusion that al-Adahi was part of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. Also this month, the appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling denying habeas corpus relief [JURIST report] to Guantanamo detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah [JURIST news archive], ruling there was sufficient evidence to consider him part of al Qaeda. In May, the district court ordered the release [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed Hassen [NYT profile]. Hassen had been initially detained in March 2002 following a raid in Faisalabad by Pakistani security forces. He has maintained throughout his detention that he had traveled to Pakistan to study the Qur'an [text] at Salafi University and had no knowledge of al Qaeda prior to his detention.




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

ICJ rules Kosovo independence declaration did not violate international law
Hillary Stemple on July 22, 2010 12:29 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Thursday that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia [JURIST report] did not violate international law. Serbia argued that UN Resolution 1244 [text, PDF], which ended the war in Kosovo, solidified the country's boundaries, which included the southern region of Kosovo. Kosovo argued that the resolution was not meant to exclude the opportunity for secession. ICJ President Hisashi Owada read the opinion of the court, stating that nothing in international law prohibits a unilateral declaration of independence. The outcome of the proceedings is non-binding, but could have far-reaching implications for other countries with territories seeking recognition as independent states. Serbia was backed by a majority of UN countries, including Russia, China and Spain, but Kosovo has consistently been supported by the US and most European countries. After the ruling, Kosovo officials indicated that Serbia must now address the country as a sovereign state [BBC report]. Serbian President Boris Tadic [official profile] maintained that Serbia will not recognize [statement, in Serbian] Kosovo's independence, claiming the ICJ ruling was limited only to the question of whether the declaration itself violated international law, and not whether the secession was legal.

The advisory proceedings [materials], which began in December [JURIST report], included arguments from 29 additional countries, including the five member-states of the UN Security Council [official website], debating whether Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed secession complied with international law. In an effort to further the legitimacy of its independence, Kosovo began operations of its own judicial system in 2009. In March of that year, 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 EU 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.




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

Kenya court awards compensation to Nyayo torture victims
Dwyer Arce on July 22, 2010 11:57 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Kenya's High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] ruled Wednesday that Kenyan authorities had violated the fundamental rights of 21 former political prisoners subjected to torture, awarding them Ksh 40 million (USD $500,000) in compensation. The former prisoners were held during the 1980s by the government of former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi [BBC profile], who ruled from 1978-2002, and subjected to torture in the Nyayo torture chambers. In finding that their rights had been violated, Judge Hannah Okwengu said that the government had violated their right to liberty and freedom from torture [BBC report]. The political prisoners alleged that during their time in detention they had been left in the chambers without food or water and had been hung from the ceiling and beaten by police after being charged with treason and associating with an unlawful society. The government argued that the lawsuit had been filed too late and the court should refer the case to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The court rejected both arguments, stating that the case was not within the jurisdiction of the commission. The suit was filed in 2004 after the original suit was postponed by the court in 1988, finding that they had to wait until the Moi regime had left power. The government will appeal the ruling [Daily Nation report].

The Kenyan government announced in November 2008 that it was taking initiatives to eliminate torture [JURIST report] and other inhumane treatment after the UN Committee on Torture [official website] released a report [text] on violence that occurred in the country in late 2007 and early 2008. The report highlighted cases of gender-based violence and gang rapes by police and other security forces, and discussed police corruption among other rights-related problems. Kenyan Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Martha Karua said that since 2003 the government has closed torture chambers, amended its criminal laws and made it easier to citizens to report abusive acts. The previous month, a commission established [JURIST report] by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [BBC profile] to review the events following the 2008 presidential election released a report recommending the establishment of an international tribunal [JURIST report] to try those involved. Kibaki created the commission to ease the domestic and international tension that was a result of the controversial election [JURIST report], including threats from 13 nations to cut off aid to the Kenyan government [JURIST report].




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

China violated international law in reaction to 2008 Tibet protests: HRW
Dwyer Arce on July 22, 2010 11:14 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] charged Wednesday that Chinese authorities used excessive force [press release] in responding to the 2008 Tibetan demonstrations [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and tortured those in custody following the demonstrations in violation of international law. In a report, "I Saw It With My Own Eyes" [materials], HRW said that the Chinese government violated the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials [text], which limits the use of force to that which is strictly necessary to protect life or to apprehend perpetrators of violent crimes. Chinese officials reportedly violated this by using disproportionate force, including opening fire on protesters on at least four occasions and conducting large-scale arrests. The Chinese government also violated international law in its handling of suspects held for involvement in the demonstrations by torturing and brutalizing them, not revealing the conditions in which suspects were held and not allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website] to visit them, according to HRW. The report explained:
Such tactics are unlikely to resolve, and may even aggravate, the longstanding grievances that prompted the protests in the first place, undermining prospects for long-term stability in the region. China urgently needs to investigate the protests and their aftermath, and open the region to media and international monitors. It also needs to examine the conduct of its security forces, which eyewitnesses consistently say used disproportionate force; deliberately brutalized and mistreated Tibetans[;] ... and deprived detainees of minimum guarantees of due process of law, including formal notification of where, or why, they were held.
HRW went on to call for the Chinese government to release of all Tibetan detainees that have not been charged with a crime and to release accurate statistics about all Tibetans held and about the number of casualties. The report also urged the international community to pressure China to end forced disappearances, prosecute those who carried out the human rights abuses and allow an investigation into the violence to be conducted by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website].

In March 2009, HRW reported that the Chinese government has not accounted for hundreds of Tibetan protesters [JURIST report] arrested in connection with the March 2008 demonstrations, revealing a thorough review regarding the numbers of arrests, detentions and trials of the protesters. There were allegedly several hundred protesters still in custody and documents have revealed that, contrary to information supplied by the Chinese government, several demonstrators died after the March 2008 demonstrations. To date there has been no public information regarding the trials of the remaining demonstrators. In June 2008, the Chinese government released more than 1000 demonstrators [JURIST report] detained by authorities during the demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet, two days after Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on China to free all detainees who engaged in peaceful protest [JURIST report]. Chinese officials have blamed the exiled Dalai Lama [personal website] for organizing the protests.




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

Spain accepts third Guantanamo detainee
Hillary Stemple on July 22, 2010 10:54 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Spanish Interior Ministry [official website, in Spanish] announced Thursday that the country has accepted its third [press release, in Spanish] Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee. The man, an Afghan national, arrived in Spain on Wednesday and will be given residency and work permits. The ministry also noted that the former-detainee has no pending charges of terrorism against him in any jurisdiction. This is the third of five detainees that Spain has agreed to accept [JURIST report]. Spain had previously agreed [JURIST report] to accept only two detainees, one Yemeni and one Palestinian, in response to a June 2009 request [AFP report] by the Obama administration. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos [official profile] indicated [El Pais report, in Spanish] that Spain was willing to increase the number of detainees accepted in order to help remedy what it sees as an unacceptable situation at the detention facility. The first Guantanamo detainee was transferred to Spain in February, while a second detainee was transferred in May [JURIST reports]. Also Thursday, the US Department of Defense [official website] announced that another detainee was transferred to Latvia [press release]. There are currently 176 detainees awaiting transfer from Guantanamo.

The Obama administration continues its push to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, despite missing its self-imposed one-year deadline [JURIST report] in January. The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including opposition from members of Congress and the suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. The number of detainees at Guantanamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports].




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

No criminal charges over 2006 US Attorney firings: DOJ
Dwyer Arce on July 22, 2010 10:35 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be brought against Bush administration officials for the firing of nine US Attorneys [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in 2006. In a letter [text, PDF] sent from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) [official website], Weich detailed the findings of a two-year investigation conducted by a special prosecutor. Although acknowledging that the firings were political, violating "DOJ principles," the investigation found "insufficient evidence" to suggest that any Bush-era officials had violated federal law [18 USC § 1503 text] by firing the attorneys to influence the pace of the prosecution of political opponents. Additionally, the investigation found that despite "inaccurate and misleading" statements by former attorney general Alberto Gonzales [official profile] during the investigation and congressional testimony, there was not enough evidence to establish that he or other DOJ officials had "knowingly made material false statements to ... Congress or corruptly endeavored to obstruct justice," which would also constitute a violation of federal law [18 USC § 1001(a) text]. Reacting to the letter, Gonzales's attorney described it as a vindication [NYT report], stating that the attorneys were political appointees that could be removed at the whim of the president. In his reaction to the letter, Conyers said that it is not an exoneration, but that the findings reaffirmed the impropriety of the firings and confirmed the Bush administration's attempted cover up.

Gonzales' successor, Michael Mukasey [professional profile] appointed the special prosecutor [JURIST report] in September 2008 to determine whether criminal charges were warranted in connection with the firings. The move was recommended in a report [text, PDF] by investigators at the DOJ. The report was one of several internal assessments of the role politics played in DOJ hiring and firing practices. In July 2008, the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility offices concluded that DOJ officials made illegal hiring decisions [JURIST report] based on applicants' political and ideological beliefs. In November 2009, the House Judiciary Committee [official website] released testimony and e-mails [JURIST report] purporting to show that Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove [personal website] was involved in the firings. Citing executive privilege, Rove refused to testify in July 2008 [JURIST reports].




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

Rights group ranks Burundi as most corrupt East-African country
Hillary Stemple on July 22, 2010 9:54 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A report [text] released Thursday by Transparency International (TI) [advocacy website] named Burundi as the most corrupt East-African nation, with a corruption index of 36.7 percent. Also cited by TI for having high rates of corruption were Uganda, with a rate of 33 percent, Kenya at 31.9 percent and Tanzania at 28.6 percent. The survey was expanded this year to include both Burundi and Rwanda. Rwanda was named the least corrupt state in the region, with the incidence of corruption being 6.6 percent. TI found that, apart from Rwanda, corruption in the region significantly impedes the ability of local governments to provide adequate public services. Corruption was found to be prevalent throughout the governments, with particularly problematic areas including security services and the judiciary. The Executive-Director for TI noted the importance of ending corruption in the region stating, "East African countries need to scrutinize their service delivery mechanisms with the objective of rooting out practices such as corruption that are impeding the accessibility of basic services. This will promote equality, development and the reduction of poverty in the region." TI also highlighted the limited reporting of corruption in the countries, indicating that the problem could be more wide-spread than the report suggests.

Kenya had previously been ranked as the most corrupt country in the region, with a 2009 rate of corruption at 45 percent. In 2008, two judges of Kenya's High Court were fired from their positions [JURIST report] after two investigatory tribunals found them guilty of corruption. In 2007, Kenyan lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] that would have limited the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) [official website] to investigating crimes committed after 2003. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] refused to sign the bill [JURIST report], which would have made it impossible for the commission to continue investigations into some of the country's most notorious corruption cases. In a report issued by TI in 2007, lawyers were ranked among the most corrupt groups [JURIST report] in Kenya.




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

Argentina president signs same-sex marriage legislation
Dwyer Arce on July 22, 2010 9:31 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Argentine President Cristina Fernandez [official website, in Spanish] on Wednesday signed a same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] bill into law. The signing ceremony comes one week after the bill was approved by the legislature [JURIST report], making Argentina the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex marriage. The legislation, which includes adoption rights for same-sex couples, was approved after 14 hours of debate, despite strong opposition from some lawmakers who introduced an alternative bill that would have allowed civil unions nationwide without adoption rights. At the signing ceremony, Fernandez described the bill as creating a more equal society [statement, in Spanish], stating:
I receive this bill in the name of the whole society in Argentina, even on behalf of those that disagree with it. In a few years this debate will be absolutely anachronistic. ... I think [this] constitute[s] a major milestone on the road to equality. ... [W]e have not really passed a law, we have enacted a social construct and a good social construct is diverse, it is plural, broad and does not belong to anyone but those who built it: society.
Some Argentine magistrates have stated that they will not perform same-sex marriages [TIME report], despite threats of dismissal if they refuse. The first same-sex marriage under the new law is scheduled for August 13.

The legislation faced strong opposition from the Catholic Church [official website], which organized protests outside of the capitol building during debate on the bill, gathering more than 60,000 people [AP report]. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio [official website] criticized the legislation, stating that it interfered with a child's right to be raised by a mother and father. Freedom to Marry [advocacy website], a US-based same-sex marriage advocacy group, described the passage as a "human rights achievement" [press release] demonstrating Argentina's movement to "true democratic values." Recent polling has shown that 70 percent [NYT report] of the Argentine public support the legislation. Same-sex marriage is recognized in jurisdictions in Mexico and the US, and is recognized nationwide in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Africa [JURIST reports].




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

Federal judge refuses to reinstate original drilling moratorium
Hillary Stemple on July 22, 2010 8:43 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Wednesday refused to reinstate a six-month drilling moratorium [JURIST report] issued in May by the Obama administration in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Judge Martin Feldman issued a preliminary injunction against the moratorium [JURIST report] last month, holding that the drilling ban caused irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, small oil companies that were harmed by the ban, and that the Obama administration had not considered proper alternatives when issuing the moratorium. The Obama administration has since issued a new drilling moratorium [JURIST report] affecting only specific types of drilling equipment. Advocacy groups, including the Defenders of Wildlife [advocacy website], asked the judge to consider reinstating the original moratorium because it would have effectively banned all deepwater oil drilling. The newly-issued moratorium will not have such a broad effect. The advocacy groups argued that Feldman should be disqualified from the case [Reuters report] because he owned stocks in several oil and drilling companies. Feldman denied the request saying it had no basis in the law. A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court challenging the Obama administration's new drilling moratorium.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to reinstate the original six-month drilling moratorium [JURIST report], arguing that the ban should be upheld because the government would likely win its appeal of the lower court's ruling. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] originally asked the court of appeals to stay the preliminary injunction [JURIST report] in June, on the basis that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the spill with catastrophic results. Lawyers for the DOJ also claimed that that the district judge abused his discretion [Reuters report] in issuing the injunction. More than 120 million gallons of oil have leaked already from the rig's broken pipe and has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez oil spill [JURIST news archive] as the worst in US history.




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

Botswana high court rules against water rights for Bushmen
Erin Bock on July 22, 2010 7:37 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Botswana High Court [SAFLII database] ruled Wednesday that the indigenous Bushmen [National Geographic backgrounder], or San, people will not be able to reopen a water well or dig new wells in their village in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve [official website]. The Bushmen applied for permission to use a borehole [BBC report], originally dug by diamond company De Beers [corporate website] in the 1980s, as a water well on their ancestral land located in the Kalahari desert. Judge Lashkavinder Walia denied [AFP report] the tribe's application, stating that they needed to specify how much water they intended to pump from the borehole in order to comply with water regulations and calling on the government to further clarify water regulations. Director of Survival International [advocacy website], Stephen Corry, called on tourists and consumers [press release] to consider the country's treatment of its indigenous people before planning trips and making purchases:
In the last ten years Botswana has become one of the harshest places in the world for indigenous peoples. If Bushmen are to be denied water on their lands when it is freely provided for tourists, animals, and diamond mines, then foreigners should be asked if they really want to support this regime with their visits and jewellery [sic] shopping.
Tourist areas as well as diamond claims are located within miles of the game reserve [AP report], and the closest source of water for the Bushmen is 25 miles from their village. The Botswana government has argued that the tribe's village in the game reserve is not a formal settlement and, therefore, the government is not required to provide the Bushmen with water. The Bushmen are considered to be the first inhabitants of southern Africa, with ancestors occupying the Kalahari Desert region for 20,000 years. They are expected to appeal this most recent decision.

The tribe was evicted from the game reserve from 1997 to 2002 and forced to reside in settlement camps. The Bushmen contend the eviction was the result of the government attempting to make room for diamond claims and tourist areas, whereas the government cited the Bushmen's negative effect on conservation as the motivation behind the relocation. The borehole was sealed in 2002 in an additional effort to drive the tribe from the land. In 2006, the High Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government's eviction was "unlawful and unconstitutional" and allowed the Bushmen return to the area. Spokesmen for the tribe announced in January [JURIST report] that they plan to take the land dispute issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website; JURIST news archive] because the government continues to ignore court orders granting land rights. In March, Bolivian President Evo Morales [BBC profile] called upon the UN to declare access to safe drinking water a basic human right [JURIST report].




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

Germany court allows ongoing surveillance of left-wing political party
Hillary Stemple on July 21, 2010 3:32 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A German appeals court announced Wednesday that the government's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC) [official website, in German] will be permitted to continue surveillance of members of the country's Left [Spiegel backgrounder] political party. The decision overturned a lower court ruling [The Local report], which prohibited the monitoring of a member of the Left. In its ruling the, court stated that the party has unconstitutional goals [DW report], which makes the government surveillance legitimate. The Left party has some historic ties to the former East German Communist party and has been linked to violent left-wing extremist groups. The suit challenging the surveillance was filed by Left member Bobo Ramelow, who has indicated that he will appeal the court's decision to the Constitutional Court [official website, in German].

The German government continues monitoring the rise of extremist groups and attempting to limit their influence within the country. Last November, the Constitutional Court upheld legislation [JURIST report] prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. The ruling means that neo-Nazis are forbidden from assembling for the purposes of of approving, glorifying or justifying the Nazi regime. The OPC issued a report in 2006 [JURIST report] showing an increase in neo-Nazi violence. In 2005, the Constitutional Court ruled that despite the failure of past government efforts, the extreme right-wing neo-Nazi party could still be banned [JURIST report] under German law.




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

Israel parliament votes to extend citizenship law
Dwyer Arce on July 21, 2010 3:18 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Israeli Knesset [official website] on Wednesday voted 53-13 to extend a law [TO 5763 text] limiting the ability of Arab-Israelis [JVL backgrounder] to bring Palestinian family members into Israel. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, first passed by the Knesset in 2002, allows only Palestinian women 25 years or older and men 35 years or older to join their families in Israel and eventually be eligible for full citizenship. The law, now extended for six months [Ynet report], has been extended every year since it was first passed. In explaining the need for the law, Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi [official profile] stated that the policy was necessary to increase security because some Palestinian residents have exploited their legal status following reunification proceedings to carry out suicide bombings. Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset described the law as racist and discriminatory [UPI report] and said that it failed to address security concerns.

In May 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] ruled 6-5 to uphold the law [JURIST report], holding that it does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of Israelis, and, if it does, that harm is "measured." The dissent wrote that the law violates the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty [text] by infringing on the right to family life. The petitioners challenging the law said it impermissibly interferes with their right to have a Palestinian family in Israel. Critics say the law is motivated by a desire to maintain Israel's Jewish majority. Israel's State Prosecutor said that the state has granted 6,000 of the 22,000 family reunification applications received since a 1993 Oslo Accords [CFR backgrounder] between Israel and the Palestinians. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Israel to repeal the law [JURIST report] in 2004, calling it "explicitly discriminatory," in violation of international humanitarian law.




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

Rights group calls for al-Bashir arrest during visit to Chad
Hillary Stemple on July 21, 2010 2:23 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the country of Chad to arrest [press release] Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST news archive] during his visit to the country. Al-Bashir was charged last week by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF; JURIST report] in relation to the Darfur conflict [BBC backgrounder]. The genocide charges were added to seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against al-Bashir [JURIST report] in March 2009. Al-Bashir is in Chad to take part in a meeting of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) [official website], and the visit is his first to an ICC member state since the warrants were issued. The government of Chad indicated that al-Bashir would not be arrested [AFP report] during his visit to the country because he is there as an acting member of CEN-SAD. HRW contends that because Chad is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], it has an obligation under the statute to execute outstanding arrest warrants issued by the ICC. A spokesperson for HRW warned about the implication of al-Bashir being allowed in the country without being arrested stating that, "Chad risks the shameful distinction of being the first ICC member state to harbor a suspected war criminal from the court." The spokesperson also noted that, "a political deal between Chad and Sudan is no justification for shielding alleged war criminals."

The recent charges against al-Bashir come after the appeals chamber reversed a prior decision [JURIST report] by the lower chamber denying the prosecutor's request for genocide charges. ICC prosecutors appealed the decision [JURIST report] not to charge al-Bashir with genocide in July 2009. The appeals chamber found that the standard of proof applied by the lower chamber had been too high, and that there only needed to be a showing of reasonable grounds of a genocidal specific intent, a showing that had been met when the first arrest warrant was issued. The warrant issued last week alleges that the Sudanese government, using the national armed forces, police and the Janjaweed militia [BBC backgrounder], targeted ethnic groups for extermination that were believed to be close to armed opposition groups in Darfur as part of a counter-insurgency strategy, and that as commander-in-chief of Sudanese forces, Bashir "played an essential role in [its] coordinati[on]." Al-Bashir has eluded arrest since the issuance of the first warrant. The warrant has been controversial, with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union and others calling for the proceedings against Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing [JURIST reports] not to cooperate with the warrant.




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

Nebraska city immigration law challenged
Dwyer Arce on July 21, 2010 1:16 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Two lawsuits were filed Wednesday seeking injunctive relief against a Fremont, Nebraska ordinance [No 5165 text, PDF] banning the hiring, harboring or renting property to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive]. The ordinance, passed by city voters in a referendum [JURIST report] last month, requires all employers in the city to register for the E-Verify program [DHS website] and makes it a crime to rent to illegal immigrants. The ordinance also voids any lease entered into by an illegal immigrant and requires every person seeking to rent residential property to obtain an occupancy permit from the city, which will require the applicant to sign a declaration affirming his or her US citizenship or otherwise provide a visa or employment authorization number. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy websites] filed their lawsuits in the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website]. In its lawsuit [complaint, PDF], the ACLU challenges the law based on the Equal Protection and the Supremacy [Cornell LII backgrounder] clauses of the US Constitution [text]. The ACLU alleges that the ordinance was passed with the intent of discriminating against people based on their race or national origin, violating Equal Protection. It argues that the law violates the Supremacy Clause because immigration is a matter solely within federal jurisdiction and Congress has enacted a comprehensive immigration scheme. MALDEF's lawsuit [complaint, PDF] makes nearly identical arguments, adding that the ordinance interferes with a person's right to enter into and enforce contracts under federal law [42 USC § 1981 text] and violates Article 11 of the Nebraska Constitution [text] because the Fremont municipal government has not been empowered by the Nebraska Legislature [official website] to enforce immigration law. Additionally, MALDEF cites five cases of similar local laws that were struck down by federal and state courts, including a nearly identical law struck down [JURIST report] by a federal district court in Texas. The law will become effective July 29.

The ordinance was passed in June, with 57 percent in favor, in response to a wave of immigration to the region due to the availability of jobs in the meatpacking industry. The Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that the vote could occur, denying the city's request for declaratory relief on the basis that the ordinance would be preempted by federal law. A similar initiative was narrowly voted down [BBC report] by the Fremont City Council [official website] in 2008. Shortly after the ordinance's passage, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska [advocacy website] promised to challenge the ordinance in court [press release], describing the law as "un-American and unconstitutional" and arguing that the ordinance will "cause discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos and others who appear to be foreign born, including U.S. citizens." The ACLU is also challenging [JURIST report] Arizona's new immigration law [SB 1070; JURIST news archive] on similar grounds.




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

Obama signs financial reform legislation
Hillary Stemple on July 21, 2010 12:36 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Wednesday signed [statement] the Restoring Financial Stability Act [HR 4173 materials] into law. The legislation, which focuses on increasing regulation in the financial sector following the recent economic crisis [JURIST news archive], received final approval by the Senate last week after being approved by the House of Representatives [JURIST reports] earlier this month. The law will create a new regulatory council to monitor financial institutions in order to prevent the companies from becoming "too big to fail." It also gives the Federal Reserve [official website] the power to supervise the largest financial companies and report to the government any risks the firms may pose to the economy at large. Additionally, a new consumer protection division will be established within the Federal Reserve to enforce rules against certain business practices like abusive mortgage lending and some credit card practices. As a final protection against future bailouts, the government will have the ability to seize and liquidate failing financial institutions before their collapse can have an adverse affect on the entire economy. The so-called "Volcker Rule" is included in the legislation, but instead of prohibiting banks from owning hedge funds, banks will be permitted to invest up to 3 percent of their capital into hedge funds or private equity funds. The legislation also includes regulation of some derivatives, requiring that they be bought and sold through clearinghouses or exchanges. One little-noted provision included in the legislation is a regulation requiring US companies producing electronic equipment like cell phones and laptops, to divulge what steps are being taken to ensure their products do not contain "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive]. The sale of "conflict minerals" have played a large role in ongoing violence [Washington Post report] in the DRC. When signing the bill, Obama called the reforms "the strongest consumer financial protections in history" and stated that because of financial reform, "the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes."

The House and Senate reconciled their versions of the bill [JURIST report] last month but were forced to re-open negotiations, eventually removing a $17.9 billion tax on large financial institutions that was meant to cover the bill's costs. The Senate approved its version of the bill in May, after the House passed its version [JURIST reports] in December. The Senate Banking Committee [official website] proposed a bill [text, PDF; JURIST report] in 2009 that was met with resistance and resulted in the committee's development of the bill ultimately passed by the Senate. One provision in the bill that has been the source of much debate is the creation of a consumer protection agency. The House Financial Services Committee [official website] had approved a bill to create the agency in October, after originally delaying [JURIST reports] it at the behest of financial industry leaders in July 2009. The creation of the agency is a key step in achieving the Obama administration's stated goal of tightening financial industry regulations. Last June, the administration proposed a broad series of regulatory reforms [press release; JURIST report] aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system.




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

Guinea high court announces election results
Dwyer Arce on July 21, 2010 11:42 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Guinea Supreme Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Tuesday announced the final election results in last month's presidential election, in which no candidate received enough votes to avoid a runoff. The ruling comes after allegations of fraud [BBC report] in the election, which has been described as Guinea's first free election since attaining independence in 1958. Chief Justice Mamadou Sima Sylla announced that out of the 24 candidates appearing on the ballot, former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo received nearly 44 percent of the vote, opposition leader Alpha Conde received 18 percent and Sidya Toure garnered 13 percent. With no candidates claiming a majority, a runoff will be held between Diallo and Conde. The runoff was initially scheduled for July 18 [Reuters report], but was postponed while the court considered 15 complaints of misconduct during the balloting. The votes have divided primarily along ethnic lines, with all candidates running on a similar platform of economic expansion and the rule of law. A date for the runoff has not yet been set, but according to the Constitution, the vote must be held at least 14 days after the court's ruling.

The election comes as the conclusion to 18 months of governance by a military junta, which took power in a 2008 coup. The coup followed the death of Lansana Conte [BBC profile], who had ruled the West African country since 1984. The election was postponed several times and was originally scheduled for December 2009 by the military government. In May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sent a delegation from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) [official websites] to Guinea to further investigate the killing [JURIST report] of more than 150 pro-democracy protesters in Conakry [BBC backgrounder] in September 2009. The protesters had rallied against Guinean military leader Moussa Dadis Camara [BBC profile], who announced in October that he intended to push elections forward three months and stand for election, breaking a promise not to run made shortly after he took power. An assassination attempt on Camara two months later eventually drove him into exile.




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

BP facing lawsuit over handling of oil spill cleanup
Hillary Stemple on July 21, 2010 11:21 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A lawsuit [complaint, PDF] was filed Tuesday against BP in a Louisiana state court alleging that the company's negligent actions led to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and that BP was also negligent in its handling of the cleanup of the oil spill. The plaintiffs contend that BP assumed responsibility for the health and safety of the local cleanup workers hired by the company but failed to provide them with adequate training, protective equipment, decontamination equipment and instructions to help them conduct the cleanup in a safe manner. Plaintiff John Wunstell, a former shrimper, alleges that he was hospitalized after being exposed to the chemical dispersants used to clean the oil, and that he is now at a greater risk of developing lung and esophageal cancer due to his exposure to the chemicals. Plaintiffs also contend that they were required to use their own boats to conduct cleanup efforts and that the boats are now damaged, threatening their future ability to earn a living through commercial fishing. Plaintiffs are seeking damages for current and future medical care, repair and detoxification of the fishing boats as well as damages for loss of earnings capacity. The complaint also includes a class action claim that would cover all workers or volunteers participating in the cleanup efforts who have shown symptoms including nausea, severe headaches, respiratory illness, increased liver enzymes and high blood pressure. The class action is seeking the establishment of a court-supervised medical monitoring program in order to provide early detection of diseases associated with the chemical exposure.

Calls for criminal and civil actions have been mounting against BP, as evidence of the oil giant's lack of proper compliance with regulations has come out. Last month, two lawsuits were filed against BP [JURIST report] alleging violations of the Rackteer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.] statute. The lawsuits allege that BP purposefully defrauded the American public in order increase company profits. Also last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is reviewing whether any criminal or civil laws were violated [JURIST report] by BP resulting in the oil spill. Holder cited several statutes being examined by government lawyers including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 [materials]. The Clean Water Act includes both civil and criminal penalties, and the Oil Pollution Act can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs. In May, DC-based consumer advocacy organization Food and Water Watch (FWW) [advocacy website] filed suit [JURIST report] in a US district court against the US Department of Interior (DOI) and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) [official websites] for an injunction to halt drilling at the BP Atlantis Facility [corporate website], another BP Gulf of Mexico site.




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

Federal court maintains stay on Khadr habeas petition
Dwyer Arce on July 21, 2010 9:59 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday allowed [opinion, PDF] Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] to amend his 2004 habeas corpus petition, but refused to lift the stay on the petition pending the conclusion of his military commission. The petition was stayed under a criteria set forth by the US Supreme Court's 1975 decision in Schlesinger v. Councilman [opinion text], staying action on the petition until the resolution of the military commission proceedings because the claims in Khadr's habeas petition can be raised during the commission or in the appeals process. Judge John Bates still allowed Khadr to amend his petition, finding that it was not "futile" as the government alleged, because the stay may be lifted after Khadr concludes his appeals from the commission. Khadr argued that the intent for district courts to hear his habeas petition despite the ongoing commission was demonstrated by the differences in the military commission acts of 2006 and 2009 [texts, PDF], in which § 950j(b) of the 2006 act, providing for district court review only after the conclusion of the military commission, was removed. Bates rejected this. Additionally, the court maintained the stay on the petition despite Khadr's argument that the amended petition fell under one of the exceptions to Councilman, arguing that the military lacked personal jurisdiction [Cornell LII backgrounder] over him because he was a juvenile at the time of his capture and that the military commission system established by Congress was unconstitutional. Bates rejected both arguments, finding that the jurisdictional argument did not fall with the Councilman exceptions, and cited the Supreme Court case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [Cornell LII syllabus] in upholding the constitutionality of the military commissions.

A US military lawyer for Khadr announced Saturday that he will vigorously defend Khadr at his US military commission trial scheduled to begin August 10 [JURIST reports]. Khadr fired his US civilian lawyers earlier this month and requested that his US military lawyer be fired as well. Judge Patrick Parrish denied Khadr's request and ordered US Army Lt-Col. Jon Jackson to remain Khadr's lawyer and provide him with a defense at trial. At a pre-trial hearing held last week, Khadr informed the court that he had previously rejected a plea deal [JURIST report] offered by the US government, which would have resulted in a five-year prison sentence. Khadr told the court that the agreement was a ploy by the US government to look good in the eyes of the international community and that he would not be used to achieve US goals. Khadr also informed the court that he did not wish to mount a defense at trial because he believed the outcome would be the same regardless of his defense and that he had no hope of obtaining justice through the legal process. Khadr is facing murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injuring another. If he is found guilty, he could face a life sentence. Khadr's defense lawyers have repeatedly sought his repatriation [JURIST report] to Canada on the basis that the Canadian government's refusal to request repatriation from the US violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text].




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

Rights group urges ICC to probe Zimbabwe pre-election rights violations
Hillary Stemple on July 21, 2010 9:12 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human rights organization AIDS-Free World [advocacy website] on Wednesday renewed calls [press release, PDF] for an International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] investigation into allegations of rape and torture in Zimbabwe prior to the 2008 presidential elections [JURIST report]. AIDS-Free World released a report [text, PDF; press release] last December, detailing the systematic rape of female supporters of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] candidate Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] by supporters of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. According to the report, 70 victims were interviewed, and the group was able to document 380 rapes committed by 241 perpetrators in the weeks leading up to the presidential elections. The documented rapes followed similar patterns, with comparable rhetoric about the MDC being used before and after the rapes and the victims being subjected to similar tortures including arbitrary detentions and repeated beatings. The crimes were allegedly committed by members of the ZANU-PF youth militia, war veterans and security forces under the control of Mugabe. The group also contends that many of the women were threatened with HIV and that 37-percent of the victims interviewed have now tested positive for the virus. AIDS-Free World is urging the ICC to launch proceedings against the perpetrators of the rapes for crimes against humanity, as well as those in a position of power, such as Mugabe, who had the authority to order the rapes. The group expressed concern about the continued impunity for the crimes, stating that if the international community does not take action, similar intimidation tactics could be used in future elections. A new election could be called in Zimbabwe as soon as 2011.

Zimbabwe's 2008 elections [JURIST news archive] were marred by allegations of fraud [JURIST report] and government ballot rigging. Zimbabwe police arrested several members of the MDC prior to the election, allegedly to prevent the MDC party from participating in the election and the UN criticized both parties for rights abuses [JURIST reports] leading up to the election. A period of uncertainty also followed the elections, after the ruling government initially refused to release election results, and then announced that a run-off election was needed [JURIST reports] because Tsvangirai had won a slim majority of the votes, but not enough to claim outright victory. Mugabe ran unopposed in the run-off election after Tsvangirai withdrew his candidacy and sought refuge at the Dutch embassy. The results of the run-off election were condemned by the international community [JURIST report] as being neither transparent nor impartial, and the government of Mugabe has been called illegitimate.




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

ICTY appeals chamber reverses acquittal of former Kosovo PM
Dwyer Arce on July 21, 2010 8:47 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Wednesday reversed the acquittal [press release; judgment summary, PDF] of former Kosovo Albanian military leader Ramush Haradinaj [ICTY materials, PDF; JURIST news archive] and two others. In reversing the acquittal, the appeals chamber ordered a retrial, holding that the trial chamber had erred when it failed to grant the prosecution additional time to secure the testimony of two witnesses. Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, who were all commanders in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], will now be tried again for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war. In explaining the severity of the trial chamber's error, the appeals court stated:
[I]t is clear that the Trial Chamber seriously erred in failing to take adequate measures to secure the testimony of certain witnesses. ... [T]he Trial Chamber failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat that witness intimidation posed to the trial's integrity. Some of these failures were in response to specific requests by the Prosecution, while in certain other cases the Trial Chamber should have acted proprio motu to facilitate witness testimony. For the reasons set out in the Judgement, the Appeals Chamber therefore has found that the Trial Chamber failed to take sufficient steps to counter the witness intimidation that permeated the trial. Given the potential importance of these witnesses to the Prosecution's case, the error undermined the fairness of the proceedings and resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
The appeals chamber went on to reject the other grounds upon which the prosecution had appealed, finding that the trial chamber had not erred in acquitting Balaj of aiding and abetting three murders and for rape, cruel treatment and torture. The date for the retrial has not been set [AP report].

Last July, the appeals chamber affirmed the conviction of Bajrush Morina [JURIST report] for interfering with a witness during the trial. In May 2008, ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz filed an appeal against the acquittals [JURIST report]. Brammertz asked that the case be retried before a different chamber of the tribunal, arguing that prosecution was not allowed the to present enough witnesses. Haradinaj was charged with 37 counts of war crimes [JURIST report], including murder, persecution and rape, but the ICTY acquitted him of all charges [JURIST report] in April 2008, citing a lack of evidence. Haradinaj was a senior commander of the KLA, the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that opposed Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder]. Since the acquittal, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other top officials have expressed concern that the decision could heighten tensions [JURIST report] in Kosovo and decrease the likelihood that fugitive war crimes suspects Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archives] would be caught.




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

Spain lower house rejects proposal to ban burqa
Ann Riley on July 21, 2010 7:55 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Spain's lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], on Tuesday rejected [press release, in Spanish] a proposal [text, in Spanish; PDF] to ban the burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full face veils, by a vote of 183 to 162 with 2 abstaining. In June, the Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [JURIST report] calling on the Spanish government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. The Spanish opposition Popular Party (PP) [party website, in Spanish], which put forth the non-binding proposition [El Pais report, in Spanish], claimed that it represented a positive step towards equality for women [AFP report]. The leading Socialist Party [party website, in Spanish] opposed the measure out of concern that regulation of the burqa could lead to regulation [El Pais report, in Spanish] of other religious symbols. Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] indicated that the Spanish government plans to introduce legislation [JURIST report] banning the burqa in government buildings as part of Spain's Religious Freedom Bill, which is to be debated in the fall.

Many international jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban full-face scarves and the burqa. On Sunday, Syrian Minister of Education [official website, in Arabic] Ghiath Barakat issued a directive [JURIST report] forbidding university students and teachers from wearing the niqab. UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated last week that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning [JURIST report] the wearing of the Islamic burqa or other face coverings in public. Last Tuesday, the French National Assembly [official website, in French] voted [JURIST report] to give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face and make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full-face veils in public. In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) [official website] voted unanimously to reject [JURIST report] any general prohibition on the wearing of the burqa or other religious clothing.




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

UN rights chief warns of continuing violations in Kyrgyzstan
Hillary Stemple on July 20, 2010 3:11 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay [official website] Tuesday issued a warning [press release] about ongoing human rights violations in Kyrgyzstan following the recent ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder] in the country. According to Pillay, security forces in the southern part of the country have been arbitrarily detaining large numbers of Uzbeks in violation of both Kyrgz and international laws. Pillay cited cases of torture and intimidation leading to an "increasing climate of fear" within the country, including reports of repeated beatings, detainees being forced to confess to crimes they did not commit and detainees being forced to pay bribes in order to be released. She also noted reports of security forces attempting to influence victims seeking medical attention, causing doctors to refuse treatment to victims of torture. Pillay emphasized the importance of holding those responsible for the violations accountable stating that, "accountability for past crimes and redoubled efforts at fighting impunity, while respecting the rights of all in Kyrgyzstan, are necessary to ensure protection, respect for the rule of law and to avoid a repeat of ethnic violence." She also noted the need for an independent investigation into the ethnic violence.

Last week, Kyrgyz interim President Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] established a commission [JURIST report] to investigate the recent ethnic violence against the country's Uzbek population. The commission is comprised of 30 former government officials [VOR report], human rights activists and professors, headed by former parliament speaker Abdygany Erkebayev. It will consult with government and international experts and present its findings [AP report] on the causes and repercussions of the violence in September. Earlier this month, the Kyrgyz government announced that it has opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the recent violence. Regional officials in Osh, an area in southern Kyrgyzstan, announced that 106 individuals had already been detained [ITAR-TASS report]. The violence resulted from a clash between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority and official estimates place the death toll at 309, with an additional 2,000 reportedly injured. Property damage estimates exceed $71 million.




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

European rights court rejects appeal of Saddam chemical weapons supplier
Hillary Stemple on July 20, 2010 1:42 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] Tuesday rejected an appeal [judgment, PDF; press release] by a Dutch businessman convicted of selling chemicals used by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] to create chemical weapons. Frans Van Anraat [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted of war crimes in 2005 for selling 1,100 tons of thiodiglycol (TDG) to the Iraqi government in the 1980s, which was used to produce mustard gas used against Iraqis and Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Van Anraat appealed to the ECHR, arguing that because the Netherlands did not have jurisdiction over members of the Iraqi government who perpetrated the war crimes, including Saddam Hussein, he could not be convicted for his complicity in the war crimes. He also argued that the definition of "customs of war" provided by the Dutch War Crimes Act did not meet the international standard of sufficiency required under the European Convention on Human Rights [materials]. The court dismissed Van Anraat's argument regarding jurisdiction, stating that the issue was not raised until the appeals process and that the court hearing the appeal was not required to consider the argument at that time. It also rejected the contention that the definition of war crimes was vague, stating that there was nothing unclear about the criminal nature of using mustard gas as a weapon, at the time when Van Anraat sold the chemical to the Iraqis. Van Anraat is currently serving a 16-year sentence.

In June 2009, the Dutch Supreme Court [official website, in Dutch] upheld [judgment, in Dutch; JURIST report] Van Anraat's conviction finding that the record, including his continuing role as Iraq's sole supplier of TDG after the death of 5,000 Iraqis in the 1988 Hajabla attack [JURIST report], showed that his participation was intentional. Prior to the Supreme Court hearing the case, Van Anraat had appealed his conviction on charges of complicity in war crimes to the Court of Appeal, which also upheld the conviction [judgment, in Dutch] in May 2007. In January, Iraqi officials executed [press release, in Arabic] Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], better known as "Chemical Ali," for ordering the Hajabla attack.




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

Judiciary Committee votes to send Kagan nomination to full Senate
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 1:14 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Tuesday voted 13-6 [hearing video] to send the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan [official profile; JURIST news archive] to the full Senate. The vote divided largely along party lines, with Democrats voting unanimously in favor of sending the nomination forward, joined by one Republican vote. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) [official website] explained his 'no' vote [press release] by arguing that Kagan did not meet a "proper judicial philosophy" and that her testimony suggested that her values were "out of step with those of the American people." Before casting his vote in support Kagan's nomination, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official website] criticized the confirmation process, arguing that senators allow their personal philosophies to influence their vote and said:
I think there's a good reason for a conservative to vote yes, and that's provided in the Constitution itself. ... All of us abhor judicial activism, ... [but] are we living in an age of legislative activism[?] ... I could give you a hundred reasons to vote 'no,' ... but the Constitution in my view puts a requirement on me as a senator to not replace my judgment for [the president's], ... it puts upon me a standard ... that's stood the test of time: is the person qualified, is it a person of good character, is it someone who understands the difference between being a judge and being a politician, and quite frankly, I think [Kagan has] passed all those tests.
In a statement following the vote, President Barack Obama [official profile] described the vote as a "bipartisan affirmation" [press release] of Kagan's strong performance during the confirmation hearings. The full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination next month.

Last week, the committee delayed the vote on the confirmation [JURIST report] at the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website]. In requesting the delay, Sessions described the confirmation process as moving in an "expeditious manner," [hearing video] and went on to outline his potential objections to Kagan's confirmation. Among them, he called Kagan's answers to questions during her confirmation hearings as "less than candid" and expressed concern over her positions on legislation during her time working in the Clinton administration. Kagan's confirmation hearings concluded last month [JURIST report]. During the hearings, Kagan addressed the effect of political bias on the court and stressed the importance of not bringing politics to the bench. Kagan's confirmation hearings began [JURIST report] with Democratic and Republican senators offering contrasting interpretations of Kagan's judicial philosophy and lack of experience on the bench. Obama nominated Kagan [JURIST report] in May to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement [JURIST report] in April. Kagan became the first woman confirmed as Solicitor General [JURIST report] in 2009.




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

US transfers 2 Guantanamo detainees to Cape Verde, Algeria
Hillary Stemple on July 20, 2010 12:25 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that two more detainees have been released from the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility. Abd-al-Nisr Mohammed Khantumani was released to Cape Verde, while Abdul Aziz Naji was repatriated to his native Algeria. Naji had appealed to the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive], asking that it review his pending transfer and that he be allowed to remain at the Guantanamo facility. In his appeal, Naji expressed concern that he would be tortured or killed [Washington Post report] if returned to Algeria. The court rejected his request [order, PDF; JURIST report] Friday, clearing the remaining legal hurdles to his repatriation. The Obama administration had indicated it had received assurances from the Algerian government that Naji would not be mistreated after returning to the country, citing the Algerians [JURIST report] who have been returned to the country from Guantanamo Bay, without incident as proof that Naji would be safe in the country. DOD said that the orders to release both men were carefully scrutinized and that a number of factors, including security issues, were considered when deciding to release the detainees. DOD also noted the appreciation of the US government for the cooperation they have received from Algeria and Cape Verde in supporting the efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay facility. There are currently 178 detainees awaiting transfer from Guantanamo.

The Obama administration continues its push to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, despite missing its self-imposed one-year deadline [JURIST report] in January. The administration has run into several hurdles in closing the prison, including opposition from members of Congress and the suspension of detainee transfers to Yemen [JURIST report]. In May, the US House Armed Services Committee [official website] approved a bill [JURIST report] prohibiting the Obama administration from modifying or building a facility in the US to hold detainees currently held at Guantanamo. The bill requires that any plan to construct or modify US facilities to accommodate Guantanamo transfers be "accompanied by a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs and risks associated with utilizing such a facility." As the Obama administration has not presented such a plan to Congress, the bill prohibits the use of any funds for the purpose of preparing a US facility for Guantanamo transfers. The number of detainees at Guantanamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports].




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

Google agreed to follow Chinese censorship laws before license renewal: official
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 12:10 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Chinese government official announced Tuesday that Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] has agreed to abide by the country's censorship laws and stop automatically redirecting users to its uncensored Hong Kong-based site. Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesperson Zhang Feng, speaking at a press conference, said that the agreement allowed [UKPA report] the Chinese government to renew Google's Internet Content Provider (ICP) license. The agreement with Google, according to Zhang, will prevent users from accessing information that will compromise national security, damage national interests or spread hatred. According to a spokesperson for the internet company, the agreement will not require Google to censor [AFP report] its China or Hong Kong based websites, and will allow the company to keep several of its services available to Chinese users. The Chinese government confirmed earlier this month that it had renewed Google's ICP license [Xinhua report], allowing the company to continue operating within the country. In June, Google announced that it would stop redirecting [JURIST report] Internet users in mainland China to its unfiltered search engine in Honk Kong in an effort to renew the company's ICP license. In March, Google began redirecting users [JURIST report] from its google.cn search engine to google.com.hk [websites] after reaching a legal impasse with the Chinese government over censoring search results. The redirect allowed Google to maintain a presence in mainland China without having to filter search results. The Chinese government claimed that Google did not uphold agreements the company had made when it entered the Chinese market in 2006 and that the company "violated its written promise" when it ceased censoring Internet searches.

In February, China issued new regulations tightening restrictions on Internet use [JURIST report] by requiring citizens operating websites to submit identity cards and meet with regulators before their sites can be registered. The new policies came amid negotiations with Google regarding the Internet company's January threat to discontinue operations in China [JURIST report] due to the country's overarching Internet censorship. Google's action was in response to a cyber attack on its Gmail service in December, which targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists in China and drew the ire of rights groups around the world. Google indicated that it would work with the Chinese government to find a way to allow an, "unfiltered search engine within the law as well," but also noted that if an agreement cannot be reached, it would close its offices there and shut down its google.cn website. China responded by reiterating its commitment [JURIST report] to open Internet, but stressed that international Internet companies must follow Chinese law.




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

UN ECOSOC accredits US-based gay rights group
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 11:46 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) [official website] on Monday voted 23-13 to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) [advocacy website] as a consultative non-governmental organization (NGO). IGLHRC, an human rights organization for those discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has been working towards accreditation since 2007. According to the organization they are only the tenth [press release] gay-rights group among 3,200 accredited NGOs. With consultative status, the IGLHRC will be able to collaborate with UN agencies and member governments and attend UN meetings. The vote comes on the heels of a significant lobbying effort by the Obama administration in favor of accreditation. Additionally, the accreditation was supported by 14 members of Congress and four Senators [letter texts, PDF], who sent letters of support on the group's behalf. Reacting to the vote, US UN representative Ambassador Susan Rice [official website] called it a "decisive victory" [press release] for the US and its partners, continuing:
[IGLHRC] does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Today's vote reaffirmed the Economic and Social Council's commitment to include a diverse range of voices from civil society in the work of the UN. Most important, the vote was a significant achievement for all those who work to see the United Nations embody its founding principles and advance the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Among the "no" votes were China, Egypt, Russia and Pakistan, citing procedural reasons [AP report] for doing so.

In March 2009, US President Barack Obama [official profile] endorsed a UN declaration [JURIST report] calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, reversing the decision of his predecessor. In signing UN General Assembly Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity [text, PDF], the US joined 66 other nations in supporting the document that divided the UN General Assembly [official website]. Nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement, among them were China, Russia, members of the Islamic Conference and the Vatican.




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

Zimbabwe not bound by regional court rulings: justice minister
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 10:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said Sunday that Zimbabwe is not bound by the rulings of the Tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) [official websites]. The statement comes two days after the Tribunal ruled that farmers who lost their land under Zimbabwe's land reform program [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] may take their case to the SADC summit meeting [JURIST report] next month. Chinamasa also said that the Tribunal's rulings would not influence the Zimbabwe government's policies [SWRA report] on land reform, and called the farmers' cases propaganda efforts. On Monday, the Zimbabwean government filed an application [The Zimbabwean report] in the North Gauteng High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] in South Africa, seeking to prevent the petitioners in the land reform case from attaching property owned by the Zimbabwean government in that country. The farmers attached the land and sought to force its sale in order to enforce the Tribunal order of monetary compensation and payment of legal fees for the land that was confiscated by the Zimbabwean government. The property's value is estimated at over USD $1 million. In January, the Zimbabwe High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] ruled that it is not bound [JURIST report] by the Tribunal's decision ordering the state to halt its land reforms, refusing to register it. Justice Bharat Patel stated that enforcing the ruling, which was in favor of white farmers whose land was taken over in the government's farm redistribution program [JURIST report], would violate the Zimbabwean Constitution [text, PDF] and would be against public policy.

Last week's ruling, which also reaffirmed a previous ruling finding the land reform program racially motivated [JURIST report], discriminatory and contrary to the SADC treaty [text, DOC], marks the third time that the Tribunal has referred Zimbabwe to the SADC summit meeting for non-compliance with court orders, continued human rights abuses and violation of the SADC treaty. The summit has yet to act in any of these instances. In bringing the case to the Tribunal, the dispossessed farmers urged the SADC to suspend Zimbabwe from membership until it either halted the seizures or compensated the farmers, as previously ordered by the Tribunal. The farmers have alleged that they face ongoing violence and harassment by government forces seeking to evict them from their farmland. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] has defended the law, calling it necessary to correct historical racial disparities resulting from the country's history as a British colony.




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

Turkish court indicts 196 in connection with alleged coup plot
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 10:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Turkish criminal court Monday accepted the indictment [summary, in Turkish] of 196 defendants, including four retired military officers, over an alleged coup plot. The 2003 Balyoz Security Operation Plan [Taraf report, in Turkish; Al Jazeera backgrounder], or "Sledgehammer" plot, which included plans to bomb Istanbul mosques and provoke Greece into shooting down a Turkish plane in order to undermine the government, was revealed by the Taraf [media website] newspaper in January. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] and alleges that the plot was crafted in an Istanbul army base shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website] took power in November 2002. Prosecutors are calling for prison sentences of 15 to 20 years [Reuters report] for the defendants. The military has maintained that the plot is a war game exercise. The trial date has not been set [ANA report]. In February, a Turkish court charged an additional 11 military officers [JURIST report] in the plot and arrested 18 more. Additionally in February, 40 military officers and 12 high-ranking Turkish military officers [JURIST reports] were arrested and charged for their involvement in the plot.

In June, the trial of 33 retired and active naval officers began [JURIST report]. The officers were accused of attempting to overthrow the government and establish military rule in another plot planned by a group called Ergenekon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The group allegedly planned to assassinate prominent members of Turkey's Christian and Jewish minority groups, blame Islamic terrorists for the deaths and use this to delegitimize the AKP. Prosecutors in the case will attempt to link [BBC report] the 33 defendants to a plan to detonate a bomb in an Istanbul museum and the deaths of a Catholic priest, Protestant missionaries and journalist Hrant Dink. The investigations have strained relations between the religiously-inclined government and the secular military, which has been responsible for four coups in the last fifty years. Since the founding of the modern republic in 1923, the military has regarded itself as the defender [Guardian report] of the secular legacy of founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile].




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

Bosnia court convicts Serbian war crimes suspect of crimes against humanity
Dwyer Arce on July 20, 2010 9:19 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website] Monday convicted Marko Boskic [press release] of committing crimes against humanity [BiH Criminal Code Article 172 text, PDF] in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive]. The conviction comes after Boskic confessed to his role in the massacre, where 1,200 unarmed prisoners of war were killed, accepting a plea agreement with the BiH Prosecutor's Office [official website]. Under the plea deal, Boskic was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the court, the lowest sentence he could have received for the charges, in return for his cooperation with prosecutors. In explaining the decision to seek only the 10-year sentence, the prosecutor emphasized the usefulness of the information [press release] Boskic provided, and his remorse, stating that the prosecutor
bore in mind that the accused[,] ... while in detention in the USA, admitted his guilt and expressed his remorse. The accused stated that he was aware of the crimes he committed and the suffering he caused, and that he must be punished for his actions. Moreover, the accused ... did not seek extradition to Croatia; he holds Croatian citizenship and would thus become unavailable to [Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH)] judicial authorities. Instead, he expressed his wish to be deported to BiH, to admit his guilt for the crimes charged and to be punished for the crimes that he had committed.
Boskic was extradited to BiH from the US in April after a 2006 US court ruling sentencing him to 63 months [JURIST reports] in prison for failing to reveal his role in the massacre while seeking refugee status in the US, where he briefly worked in the construction industry.

Boskic was charged [JURIST report] in August 2004 with five counts of making false declarations on US immigration applications and in an interview with federal agents. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report], claiming he had been held in a Serbian prison camp and threatened with a gun to his head if he did not take part in the killings. He was convicted in July on two counts of concealing his military record. 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.




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

Federal appeals court grants Conrad Black bail request
Hillary Stemple on July 20, 2010 8:58 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Monday granted a request for bail by Canadian-born media mogul Conrad Black [CBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The court granted bail following last month's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] in Black v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder] which vacated the conviction of the former chairman and CEO of Hollinger International Inc. under the honest services doctrine. The Supreme Court instructed the circuit court to review the jury instructions given at trial concerning the "honest services" doctrine [18 USC § 1346 text]. Black's case was remanded to the court of appeals for further consideration consistent with the Supreme Court's June ruling [opinion, PDF] in Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the "honest services" doctrine is limited in scope to bribery and kickbacks. Black is to be released on bail while the court of appeals considers whether to overturn his 2007 conviction [JURIST report]. The terms of his bail will be set by a district court judge [Chicago Tribune report] and it is unclear when Black will be released. Black has been in federal custody for over two years.

Black originally faced 17 counts of fraud, obstruction of justice, racketeering and tax evasion. He was accused [indictment, PDF] by the US government of diverting more than $80 million from Hollinger International and its shareholders [JURIST report] during Hollinger's $2.1 billion sale of several hundred Canadian newspapers. In July 2007 Black was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice and sentenced [JURIST report] to 78 months in prison. The court of appeals initially rejected Black's appeal, holding that § 1346 may be applied in a private setting [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] regardless of whether the defendant's conduct risked any foreseeable economic harm to the victim. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] last year to determine the scope of the "honest services" clause. Black is also currently facing charges [docket] before the US Tax Court [official website] for failure to pay nearly $71 million in taxes [Bloomberg report]. He denies being obligated to pay the taxes because he is not a US citizen.




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

Federal judge refuses to withdraw from drilling ban case for alleged conflict of interest
Ann Riley on July 20, 2010 12:59 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Judge Martin Feldman of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Friday refused to recuse himself [order, PDF] from a case in which he has already overturned a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling [JURIST report] issued last month by the Obama administration in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, environmental groups sought the removal of Feldman and relief of the preliminary injunction [motions, PDF] because of his personal investments in the oil industry. In the order refusing his recusal Feldman said, "The motion for disqualification is without merit." According to his 2008 financial disclosure report [text, PDF], Feldman owned stock in five companies directly or indirectly related to the offshore drilling business. The release of Feldman's 2009 financial holdings [text, PDF] also showed that the judge had owned stock in Exxon Mobil, one of the companies affected by the initial moratorium. Feldman claimed [WSJ report] he learned of his investments the day before his ruling and sold his stock the next morning.

Last week, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar [official profile] issued a new six-month drilling moratorium [JURIST report], citing new evidence regarding safety concerns after the BP oil spill. Unlike the previously ordered moratorium, this one is not based on the depths at which drilling occurs, but affects drilling with specific technologies, which are most often used during deepshore drilling and will not affect shallow water drilling operations. Also last week, Government lawyers asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] to lift its order barring the previous moratorium [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] because the new plan had been filed. Earlier this month, the Obama administration filed a brief asking the court to reinstate the original offshore drilling ban [JURIST report] after Feldman issued his preliminary injunction [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The BP spill has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez oil spill [JURIST news archive] as the worst in US history.




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

Syria government bans full-face veils from universities
Ann Riley on July 19, 2010 10:42 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Syrian Minister of Education [official website, in Arabic] Ghiath Barakat issued a directive [Syria News report, in Arabic] Sunday forbidding students and teachers at universities from wearing the niqab [JURIST news archive]. The ban applies to both public and private universities, but only affects full-face veils [AP report] and not hijab headscarves that are more commonly worn in the region. Students and parents reportedly requested the ban to promote equality in education. According to a government official, the ban seeks to protect the country's secular identity [Guardian report], as the niqab "contradicts university ethics" and academic traditions. Last month to promote state secularism, more than 1,200 Syrian government elementary school teachers wearing niqabs and burqas were transferred to administrative jobs where they would not come in contact with students.

Many international jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban full-face scarves and the burqa. UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated Sunday that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning [JURIST report] the wearing of the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other face coverings in public. Last Tuesday the French National Assembly [official website, in French] voted [JURIST report] to give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full-face veils in public.




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

Lack of clear DNI legal mandate complicating US intelligence effort: report
Dwyer Arce on July 19, 2010 4:15 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The lack of a concrete legal mandate for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) [official website], constant infighting within the intelligence community and an unprecedented expansion of resources and intelligence-gathering capacities following the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] have created an unfocused and chaotic environment where intelligence efforts are duplicated and effectiveness is impossible to assess, according to a report released by the Washington Post [media website] Monday. The report, Top Secret America [materials], is the product of a two-year investigation conducted by the newspaper into the intelligence community. The findings detail a complex and amorphous assortment of government agencies and private companies engaged in intelligence gathering efforts that are largely duplicative and disjointed, making effective analysis and oversight nearly impossible. This opaque intelligence structure has been perpetuated in spite of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 [text, PDF] which established the DNI [JURIST report] but denied the new oversight position the legal and budgetary authority to manage the 16 agencies [official website] the office was intended to control and coordinate. This structure, which largely mirrors that existing before 9/11, caused the intelligence failures leading to the Fort Hood shooting [BBC backgrounder], where the military agency that should have been aware of warning signs before the shooting was ineffectively duplicating the efforts of other agencies, according to the report. These intelligence failures also led to the near-success of Christmas 2009 transatlantic airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], when critical information was possessed by several different agencies that were either unable to differentiate it from the great deal of intelligence compiled every day, or were unaware of information possessed by other agencies.

The generally negative report comes despite continued efforts to streamline and oversee intelligence gathering and coordinate government agencies. In July 2008, former president George W. Bush [official profile] issued an executive order [JURIST report] giving the DNI the authority to coordinate information sharing between different US and foreign intelligence services and to make funding decisions for the various US agencies. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 into law in December 2004, implementing a series of intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission [official website] and authorizing the broadest re-working of the US intelligence structure since President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.




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

Sudan security forces targeting rights workers: AI
Hillary Stemple on July 19, 2010 2:47 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The National Security Services in Sudan (NISS) are brutally suppressing internal dissent and targeting rights workers in the process, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] issued Monday. AI documented cases of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances and death at the hands of the NISS. The suppression of dissent also includes heavy censorship of the press, with NISS agents making daily visits press and printing offices in order to intimidate and influence the content printed in publications. AI contends that under the 2010 National Security Act the NISS retains extensive powers of arrest and detention, and maintains a "culture of impunity" for human rights violations. AI maintains that the current state of the act shows that it, "remains faithful to the government's vision of the national security force as a body whose function is to maintain it in power, including by repressing the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression." The report calls for an immediate reform of the 2010 National Security Act and urges the Sudanese government to reduce the role of the NISS to information gathering and analysis. AI has also recommended that the country end impunity for those committing human rights violations and provide redress to the victims and their families.

AI's report was released one week after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST news archive] was charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF; JURIST report] in relation to the Darfur conflict [BBC backgrounder]. The charges included "genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction." They were issued after the Appeals Chamber reversed a prior decision [JURIST report] by the lower chamber denying the prosecutor's request for genocide charges. ICC prosecutors appealed the decision [JURIST report] not to charge al-Bashir with genocide in July 2009. Bashir has eluded arrest since the issuance of the first warrant. The warrant has been controversial, with Egypt, Sudan, the African Union and others calling for the proceedings against Bashir to be delayed, and African Union leaders agreeing [JURIST reports] not to cooperate with the warrant.




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

Oklahoma court extends bar against law requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds
Drew Singer on July 19, 2010 1:37 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] An Oklahoma district judge issued an injunction [text] Monday morning extending a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a new law [HB 2780 text, DOC] that requires women seeking abortions [JURIST news archive] to have an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus. The Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] in New York sued to have the law declared unconstitutional in May. "Today's ruling is a great victory for women in Oklahoma. The government has no business mandating to doctors how to practice medicine and intruding in women's private medical decisions," Stephanie Toti, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release [text]. Abortion rights groups call Oklahoma's ultrasound law the strictest such requirement in the nation. The text of the law states that its purpose is "in order for the woman to make an informed decision." Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich [official website] said the order would remain in effect at least until a hearing Jan. 21.

Last month, Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] vetoed [veto letter text, PDF; JURIST report] a bill [HB 1143 materials] that also would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. Crist said that "personal views should not result in laws that unwisely expand the role of government and coerce people to obtain medical tests or procedures that are not medically necessary. In this case, such action would violate a woman's right to privacy." In May, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, the Oklahoma Senate voted to override a veto [JURIST report] of two anti-abortion bills, resulting in the bills immediately becoming law. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] prevents "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 is the one blocked by the court Monday.




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

Switzerland court approves transfer of UBS client data to US
Hillary Stemple on July 19, 2010 1:14 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Administrative Court [official website, in German] announced [press release] Monday that an agreement [text, PDF] with the US, allowing Swiss bank UBS [corporate website; JURIST news archive] to disclose account information of clients suspected by the US government of tax evasion, is binding. The agreement, approved last month [JURIST report] by the Swiss parliament, allows UBS to turn over information of 4,450 US clients to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] and may prevent the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] from resuming a lawsuit against UBS in which it had sought the names of 52,000 UBS clients. The court also announced that they have rejected a challenge to the law by a UBS client who had objected to the data transfer. In announcing its ruling, the court noted the importance of the US-Swiss agreement, saying "the economic interests of Switzerland as well as the interests in fulfilling obligations that have been entered into in international law are of major significance and outweigh the individual interests of the complainant in this case." The ruling could potentially affect 100 other appeals from UBS clients [Bloomberg report], which are currently pending.

The US-Swiss agreement was before the Swiss parliament due to a court ruling in January, when the Federal Administrative Court ruled [JURIST report] that an American taxpayer's financial information at UBS may not be disclosed to the IRS pursuant to an August 2009 agreement [JURIST report]. Also in January, the Federal Administrative Court ruled [JURIST report] that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority [official website, in German] violated the law in February 2009 when it ordered UBS to disclose information to the US on more than 250 of the bank's clients without the authority to do so. In September, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement came one month after a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. In March 2009, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.




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

Ex-Guantanamo detainee Hicks should be cleared: lawyer
Dwyer Arce on July 19, 2010 12:38 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The former defense lawyer for Australian ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archives] said Sunday that his former client should be cleared of all links to terrorism because he never committed a crime. The lawyer, Steve Kenny, said he has been unable [AAP report] to find a law that Hicks had broken, either under Australian, Afghan or international law, and was actually prosecuted for a crime that did not exist at the time of his trial. Hicks was convicted [JURIST report] of one charge of providing material support for terrorism at his US military commission [JURIST news archive] after pleading guilty in 2007. In a letter [text] to The Canberra Times [media website] on Monday, the watchdog Australia Defence Association (ADA) [advocacy website] disputed Kenny's statements, arguing:
Hicks' 2001-06 detention was as a belligerent captured in war, not for a crime. This was and remains lawful under the Geneva Conventions - as was confirmed by the US Supreme Court in the June 2006 Hamdan ruling - and is not disputed by any serious international lawyer. ... [W]hether Hicks' later separate criminal trial, conviction and sentence by US Military Commission was justified in international law or not remains understandably controversial. But it does not change the factual and moral situations that if Hicks was to commit the same acts today as he has freely admitted doing in 2000-01 he would commit an offence against Australian law. Even ignoring Hicks' own admissions and boasts about voluntarily joining terrorist training camps, in moral terms [Hicks should] never have his name cleared of any terrorism links.
The statements come as Hicks is preparing a legal challenge [SMH report] to his conviction, seeking to have it overturned.

Hicks was released from prison in December 2007 after being transferred from Guantanamo to Australia [JURIST reports] in May of that year to serve the remainder of his sentence at a maximum security prison near his hometown of Adelaide, South Australia. He was later made subject to a control order which was lifted [JURIST reports] in December 2008.




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

US immigration court caseloads spike amid government crackdown
Drew Singer on July 19, 2010 12:35 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Backlogs at US immigration courts are up by more than 30 percent in the past 18 months, according to a Syracuse University research center study [text]. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse [official website] study found that the 4,145 cases referred to federal prosecutors in March and April were the most in any two-month period since the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency [official website] was created under the Bush administration five years ago. The extra workload has also increased wait times for rulings, up to an average of 443 days. Among nationalities, Armenians with cases pending have the longest wait times of 938 days — more than twice the national average. Other nationalities whose citizens were within the top five in terms of the length their cases had been pending were Indonesia (731 days), Lebanon (688 days), Albania (830 days), and Iran (594 days). The heightened caseloads come as the federal government stiffens immigration enforcement and local police offices are increasing communications with immigration officials. As of January 2009, there were an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the US, 1 million less than 2007, according to the Department of Homeland Security [official website]. In the same period, deportations have more than doubled, peaking at 387,790 last year.

Federal authorities have indicated that the workload would continue to grow [AP report] if Arizona's new immigration enforcement law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] is implemented. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. The constitutionality of the law has been widely disputed, and the legislation is now facing several lawsuits [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama called for comprehensive immigration reform [statement; JURIST report], noting the role of immigrants throughout US history and indicating that immigrants must continue to play a role as the country grows and develops. He acknowledged the continuing difficulty with securing the border but cited efforts made by the administration to improve enforcement of current laws, including increased numbers of enforcement agents.




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

Russia upper house approves bill expanding secret police powers
Hillary Stemple on July 19, 2010 11:56 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Russian Federation Council [official website, in Russian] on Monday approved legislation that will allow the country's secret police, the Federal Security Service (FSB) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], to question citizens about their actions related to crimes that have not yet occurred. The KGB [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], predecessor to the FSB, had the authority to conduct similar preemptive questioning, which was often used to intimidate dissidents [NYT report] in the USSR. Under the legislation, which was approved last week by the Russian State Duma [JURIST report], the FSB can, without evidence, question and warn citizens [DW report] about the possible commission of future crimes. Citizens who fail to comply with the questioning may be subject to fines or sentenced to up to 15 days in jail. Rights groups and members of the Russian legal community have condemned the law [press release, in Russian] saying that it legalizes arbitrary detentions by the FSB and that it extends the scope of the FSB beyond its authority. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] has indicated that he supports the bill [Moscow Times report] and has warned against international interference in Russian lawmaking. The legislation, which was approved in the Federation Council by a vote of 121-1 [AP report], will now be signed into law by Medvedev.

Russia faces ongoing criticism from the international community regarding its human rights record. In October, the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] issued a report [text; JURIST report] criticizing Russia's record on human rights and calling on the country to take extensive legal reform in order to guarantee its citizens rights such as fair trials and freedoms of speech and of the press. Last June, the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] urged substantial reforms [JURIST report] to correct systemic problems in the Russian legal system, including the prevalence of political prosecutions and a lack of judicial independence. Medvedev has acknowledged the need for judicial reform [JURIST report], saying that transparent courts would restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from seeking redress in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website].




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

ABA files second brief against Arizona immigration law
Dwyer Arce on July 19, 2010 11:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] has filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] urging the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] to block enforcement of the state's controversial new immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] before it takes effect July 29. The brief, filed in support of the US government, follows the submission of another amicus curiae brief [text, PDF; JURIST report] by the ABA earlier this month in a different case challenging the Arizona law filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. A revised version of that brief was also filed Wednesday, after the court requested that all supporting briefs conform to a ten-page limit. In the brief filed in support of the US, the ABA argues that the Arizona law violates the Supremacy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution [text], an issue that has been of "considerable importance" to the ABA since 1983. The ABA specifically says the law should be ruled invalid because it necessarily interferes in a realm of policy that the Constitution places solely within federal jurisdiction, explaining:
The ABA has long opposed initiatives such as S.B. 1070 that, by their plain language, can only be implemented by usurping the federal government's exclusive authority to make immigration law and set immigration policy. While the ABA believes ... that the federal immigration system must be reformed, and while the ABA appreciates Arizona's desire to tackle the problems faced by that state, the ABA also urges that our Constitution does not allow for unilateral state action in the formulation of immigration law. Immigration matters are and must remain federal, and states should not be permitted to enforce immigration law independently of specific federal authorization; the practical result of the contrary would be the undermining of uniformity in immigration law and immigration law enforcement.
In supporting its claim that immigration is solely within federal jurisdiction, the ABA cited the Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] case of Truax v. Raich [Cornell LII syllabus], and federal statute such as the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 USC § 1101 et seq. text]. The brief also argued that the Arizona law would interfere with law enforcement officers' public safety functions and infringe on both citizens' and noncitizens' constitutional rights by placing upon them the burden of proving their citizenship.

Earlier this month, the ABA filed their first brief in support of a class-action lawsuit led by the ACLU, arguing that the law will increase the use of racial profiling, resulting in unlawful and unreasonable detentions and increase the burden on the state's indigent defense system. The ABA usually waits until a case reaches the appellate level to file an amicus curiae brief, but ABA President Carolyn Lamm [professional profile] said this case requires "extraordinary action." The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit [JURIST report] in May. Two week ago, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed suit seeking to permanently enjoin [JURIST report] the law from taking effect, arguing that the Constitution and federal law "do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country," and calling it counterproductive to national immigration policy. The suit was filed against the State of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website], who signed the legislation into law [JURIST report] by in April.




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

Israel high court issues injunction against Gaza protester amnesty law
Dwyer Arce on July 19, 2010 10:50 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] on Sunday issued a 90-day injunction against the enforcement of a law preventing the prosecution of 400 protesters arrested during the 2005 Gaza disengagement [official backgrounder; JURIST report]. The law, passed in January [JURIST report], prevents the prosecution or suspends the sentences of those who were arrested for protesting Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. During the disengagement, the Israeli government dismantled 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], demolished residential buildings and evacuated all security personnel. The plan sparked nationwide protests in which hundreds of thousands participated. In ordering the 90-day injunction, the court ordered the government to explain the law [Haaretz report], otherwise it would be struck down permanently. The court ruled that the amnesty law is inequitable because it favors one group of protesters, while other protesters opposing other government policies are still prosecuted. The ruling came in response to a petition by a group of left-wing protesters arrested while opposing the evacuation Palestinians from the East Jerusalem [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The petitioners claimed that the amnesty law discriminates against them because they still must face prosecution while protesters of an opposing ideology do not.

The Israeli Knesset [official website, in Hebrew] approved the amnesty law in January. The amnesty measure, which passed by a vote of 51-9 [Haaretz report], does not extend immunity to people who committed acts that endangered human life, but rather mainly affects approximately 400 teenagers who were charged with committing minor criminal infractions. This is the third general amnesty measure issued by Israel. The first two were issued after the Arab-Israeli conflicts of 1948 and 1967 [NPR backgrounders].




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

Saddam-era Iraqi foreign minister faces new charges
Hillary Stemple on July 19, 2010 10:29 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and 15 other high ranking former officials in the government of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] appeared in court over the weekend and were charged with crimes committed during Hussein's regime. According to his lawyer, Aziz will now stand trial on charges of squandering public funds [Al Jazeera report]. Aziz's lawyer contends that he has been denied access to his client and that the current Iraqi government is attempting to find a reason to execute Aziz [AFP report]. The new charges were filed less than a week after the US transferred 26 Saddam-era Iraqi officials [JURIST report], including Aziz, from Camp Cropper [JURIST news archive] to the Iraqi-controlled Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad. Aziz has said he he fears for his life [AP report] while in the custody of the current Iraqi government and plans to appeal to the Vatican to intervene on his behalf. Aziz's family has called for his release on health grounds, claiming he has had two heart attacks and suffered a stroke [JURIST report] in January. In August 2009, Aziz was convicted of forcing Kurdish displacement [JURIST report] from northeast Iraq during the late 1980s, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. In March 2009, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years [JURIST report] in prison for the 1992 murders of 42 merchants accused of price-gouging during a period of UN-imposed sanctions. The US continues to hold eight Saddam-era officials at the request of the Iraqi government.

Camp Cropper, the last US-run detention facility in Iraq, and the 1,600 prisoners held there were transferred to the Iraqi government [BBC report] on Thursday. In March, the US military transferred Camp Taji prison [JURIST report] to Iraqi authorities. The US began to scale back its Iraq detention facilities in September when Camp Bucca [JURIST news archive] in southern Iraq was closed [JURIST report] pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement [text, PDF]. According to the agreement, all US troops must be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the US must release all prisoners or transfer them to the control of Iraqi authorities. The Iraqi government must have arrest warrants or detention orders to accept transferred prisoners into Iraqi facilities, otherwise risking release. A fourth US-run prison, Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], was transferred back to Iraqi control [JURIST report] in 2006. The Iraqi government has recently faced criticism for its treatment of prisoners from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. In April, the rights group claimed that Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [JURIST report] in a secret prison in Baghdad.




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

Guantanamo detainees accepted by Germany to be held for a year
Dwyer Arce on July 19, 2010 9:16 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The government of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate announced Monday that the two Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees accepted by Germany earlier this month would be confined for at least a year while undergoing psychological treatment and integration training. The German government agreed to take the detainees [JURIST report] after negotiations with the Obama administration. Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Karl Peter Bruch [official website, in German] did not name the closed facility [DW report] in which the detainees would be held after their arrival in September, but stated that they would remain there at least a year before being released into the the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg. During that time, they will be undergo psychological analysis, receive German language training and be observed by doctors and social workers. Once they are released, they will receive what has been described as intensive integration assistance from their host states, and following this they will be granted permanent residency permits [Der Spiegel report] that will allow them to live and travel anywhere in the EU. The terms for their release from the facility are to be set Monday. German critics of the plan, including opposition lawmakers and police unions, have argued that their presence could radicalize the Muslim population within the country and pose security problems. Bruch, along with other US and German officials have denied that, arguing that the detainees would not pose any security threats.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere [official website, in German] announced earlier this month that Germany would accept two detainees from Guantanamo. The Obama administration had originally asked Germany to take up to 10 detainees [JURIST report] from the facility. De Maiziere emphasized at the time that Germany had informed the US it would not consider any further requests [DW report] to accept detainees. There are currently 181 detainees remaining at the Guantanamo facility. The Obama administration continues its push to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, despite missing its self-imposed one-year deadline [JURIST report] in January.




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

DHHS limits abortion funding for new high-risk insurance pools
Hillary Stemple on July 19, 2010 9:12 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) [official website] has announced [press release] that insurance plans being offered as part of a new federally-funded program providing insurance to persons denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions will only cover abortions [JURIST news archive] in cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the mother is in danger. The announcement. made last week, came as states have begun accepting applications for the Pre-Existing Insurance Plan (PCIP) [official website], a key component of the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [HR 3590 materials; JURIST report], which will allow people who have been denied insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions to purchase coverage at the same rate as those without pre-existing conditions. The program will be administered by the states. Controversy arose over the issue after New Mexico and Pennsylvania initially announced that elective abortions would be funded [AP report] under their states' high-risk plans. In a press release the DHHS emphasized that an executive order [text], signed by President Barack Obama [official website] after the passage of the health care reform bill, prohibits federal funding of abortions at both the state and federal level effectively prohibiting PCIPs from covering elective abortions. Pro-life advocates welcomed the statement from the DHHS [CNA/EWTN report], but urged Congress to take more permanent steps to ensure that federal funds will not be spent on abortions. The pro-choice advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America (NARAL) [advocacy website] called the decision "inexplicable" [press release], stating that it was unacceptable to classify abortion differently than other standard medical procedures.

Abortion remains a controversial issue at both the state and federal levels. Last week, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] preventing a new Nebraska abortion law [LB 594 materials] from being enforced. The law would require physicians to evaluate the mental health of the woman seeking the abortion and to inform the patient of all risk factors and complications [LB 594 text] statistically associated with the procedure. Last month, Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. In May, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, the Nebraska legislature approved a bill prohibiting abortions at or past 20 weeks [JURIST report] on the theory that a fetus can allegedly feel pain following that point. Advocacy groups have criticized the laws and indicated they will challenge them in court.




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

Khadr military lawyer to offer vigorous defense
Hillary Stemple on July 18, 2010 3:24 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A US military lawyer for Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] announced Saturday that he will vigorously defend Khadr at his US military commission trial scheduled to begin next month [JURIST report]. Khadr fired his US civilian lawyers [AFP report] earlier this month and requested that his US military lawyer be fired as well. Judge Patrick Parrish denied Khadr's request and ordered US Army Lt-Col. Jon Jackson to remain Khadr's lawyer and provide him with a defense at trial. Jackson initially questioned the ethical implications of defending a suspect who does not wish to provide a defense [Toronto Sun report], but ultimately concluded that he was ethically bound to provide a zealous defense for Khadr. At a pre-trial hearing held last week [JURIST report], Khadr informed the court that he had previously rejected a plea deal offered by the US government, which would have resulted in a five-year prison sentence. Khadr told the court that the agreement was a ploy by the US government to look good in the eyes of the international community and that he would not be used to achieve US goals. He also said the agreement would have been used to excuse the torture and abuse of a child [Reuters report]. Khadr also informed the court that he did not wish to mount a defense at trial because he believed the outcome would be the same regardless of his defense and that he had no hope of obtaining justice through the legal process. Khadr is facing murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injured another. If he is found guilty, he could face a sentence of life in prison.

Khadr's defense lawyers have repeatedly sought his repatriation [JURIST report] to Canada on the basis that the Canadian government's refusal to request repatriation from the US violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. The Harper administration announced in February that they would not pursue Khadr's repatriation, after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government was not obligated to seek his return [JURIST reports] to Canada despite having his Charter rights violated. In May, a UN official called on the US and Canada to respect international conventions [JURIST report] and release Khadr into Canadian custody. The UN claimed that since Khadr was 15 when he was captured, his detention would fall in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which has been ratified by Canada, but not the US.




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

UK minister: government will not support burqa ban
Hillary Stemple on July 18, 2010 11:19 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated in an interview Sunday that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning the wearing of the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other face coverings in public. Green stated that banning the burqa would not be consistent with British society [Telegraph report], where mutual respect for differences among cultures is important. Earlier this month, legislation was introduced [JURIST report] in the House of Commons [official website] that would ban the wearing of the burqa or other face coverings in public. The Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill [materials] was introduced by MP Philip Hollobone [official website] in order to regulate the covering of the face in public and, if passed, would prohibit the wearing of both the burqa and the niqab. Green stated that the bill was unlikely to pass and that the government had little interest in telling citizens what they are allowed to wear in public. Also on Sunday, the Spanish opposition Popular Party (PP) [party website, in Spanish] announced that debate will begin [AP report] over a Spanish burqa ban in the lower house of the parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], on Tuesday. The plans for a Spanish burqa ban were first announced last month [JURIST report] by Spanish Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] and will be included in Spain's Religious Freedom Bill, which would also prohibit religious symbols, such as crucifixes, in state-owned buildings. The Spanish burqa ban appears to have strong support from both the ruling and opposition parties. In June, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] calling on the Spanish government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. The proposed Spanish burqa ban is expected to become law unless ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish].

Last week, the French government moved closer to implementing a law that would make it illegal to wear the burqa or other full face veils in public. The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday approved by a vote of 336 to one [JURIST report], legislation [materials, in French] that would give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. The National Assembly began debate on the bill earlier this month, after the French cabinet approved the legislation [JURIST reports] in May. The bill will now proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French], which is currently scheduled for September. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public.




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

Supreme Court permits Guantanamo detainees' return to Algeria
Daniel Makosky on July 17, 2010 3:32 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday declined [order, PDF] to review the decision of a lower court permitting the government to transfer Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed to Algeria. The 5-3 decision leaves in place a ruling [order, PDF] of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [official website], in which the government asserted that Mohammed's return to Algeria was permissible because there was not credible evidence that he would face torture upon his arrival. Mohammed may appeal, though it is possible that he will have been returned to Algeria by that time. Later Friday, the court similarly rejected [order, PDF] the request of a second Algerian, Abdul Aziz Naji, to review his pending transfer.

The court's refusal to hear the cases lends credence to the circuit court's decision to rely upon Munaf v. Green [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report] in affirming the government's decision over that of a federal judge. Munaf granted the government the authority to transfer detainees to the country where their crimes are alleged to have been committed as a means by which to show deference to that country's ability to enforce its laws. A federal judge ordered [JURIST report] Mohammed's release in November. Judge Gladys Kessler of the US District Court for the District of Columbia directed the government to "take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate [Fari Saeed's] release forthwith." The order resulted from a civil action brought against the US government for unlawfully detaining him since 2002.




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

EU judges reject US extradition request for Kosovo terror suspect
Daniel Makosky on July 17, 2010 2:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A panel of EU judges on Friday declined a request from US officials to extradite Kosovo terror suspect Bajram Asllani. Nicholas Hawton, a spokesperson for the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website], stated that the panel ruled that the presented evidence of Asllani's involvement was insufficient and that the countries lack a standing extradition agreement [AP report]. The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina [official website] had based its request on an October 1901 treaty signed by the US and the former Kingdom of Serbia, but the panel found that the charges Asllani faces do not fall within the agreement's terms. Asllani was released following the judges' ruling.

Last month, US officials charged [press release] Asllani with providing support to terrorists and conspiring to murder and harm people abroad. He was arrested by Kosovo law enforcement, though released shortly thereafter and required only to report to police twice weekly [Reuters report]. If extradited and convicted, Asllani faced a maximum of 40 years imprisonment for his alleged role in a 2009 attempt to attack military personnel in Quantico, Virginia.




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

Federal appeals court orders US to reconsider terror label for Iran opposition group
Brian Jackson on July 17, 2010 10:09 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday ordered [opinion, PDF] the State Department to reconsider the status of the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) [organization website]. The PMOI has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the US since 1997, but it argues that it stopped military action in 2001 [Washington Post report], and since 2003 has been without weapons. The group has also touted its actions in providing information about Iran's nuclear program. The State Department has argued that the PMOI still engages in military action and that the information it provided about Iran's nuclear program was not reliable. In its decision, the panel took issue with how the State Department provided information to PMOI as to why it continued to be included on a list of foreign terrorist organizations, saying:
The PMOI was notified of the Secretary's decision and permitted access to the unclassified portion of the record only after the decision was final. And even though the PMOI was given the opportunity to include in the record its own evidence supporting delisting, it had no opportunity to rebut the unclassified portion of the record the Secretary was compiling—an omission, the PMOI argues, that deprived it of the due process protections detailed in our previous decisions.
If the PMOI is removed from the State Department's list of terrorist groups, it will be able to raise funds and would not be subject to having its assets frozen by the US. The State Department did not immediately indicate whether it would appeal the ruling.

In 2008, the European Court of First Instance annulled a decision by the EU [JURIST] to place the PMOI on a list of terrorist groups. That decision followed an order by the UK Parliament [JURIST report] to remove the PMOI from a British list of terrorist groups. PMOI is Iran's main political opposition organization and part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) [group website], an umbrella coalition of Iranian opposition groups. The PMOI has been at odds with the Iranian government since it chose to support Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] during the 1980s.




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

ICC prosecutors appeal order releasing Congo militia leader Lubanga
Brian Jackson on July 17, 2010 9:29 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday appealed [text, PDF] an order to release accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [JURIST news archive]. The order was issued [press release; JURIST report] on Thursday after the court determined that Lubanga could not be detained for an indeterminate period of time pending resumption of his trial. The court had previously ordered a stay [JURIST report] in the proceedings until the prosecution complied with an order to provide certain information to the defense. In the appeal, the prosecutor focused on the unlikelihood that Lubanga could be located and re-detained upon resumption of the trial:
Throughout these proceedings, the accused has been detained on the basis of repeated findings that his detention is necessary to ensure his appearance at trial, and that there exists "the real possibility that the Court is likely to be unable to ensure the Accused's presence at trial if he is released" - a finding referred to by this Chamber in an earlier appeal on realease [sic]. In its Decision on Release, the Chamber did not purport to conclude that the risk of flight has abated or indeed address risk of flight at all. Thus, the previous findings regarding the possibility of flight are undisputed and undiminished.
The prosecutor indicated that an appeal of the order staying the proceedings is forthcoming.

Lubanga is accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003. His trial began in January 2009 but was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] last July after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC, formed in 2002, after he was taken into custody [JURIST report] in March 2006.




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

UK court allows suit seeking to force Iraq torture inquiry
Dwyer Arce on July 16, 2010 4:07 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A UK High Court of Justice on Friday allowed a lawsuit to proceed that seeks to force the UK government to hold a public inquiry into torture allegations [JURIST news archive] made following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The suit was brought by 102 Iraqi men who claim they were subjected torture, including hooding, electrical shocks and sexual abuse, while being held in 14 UK military detention centers in Iraq from 2003 through 2008. The court held that there was sufficient evidence presented [Guardian report] by the men to argue that their treatment had been systemic, raising questions of government authorization or complicity. The men contend that Defense Secretary Liam Fox had a duty to conduct an independent investigation [AFP report] into the torture allegations. Fox opted not to conduct such an inquiry, instead establishing the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which will consist of military police and civilian investigators under civilian leadership. The government argued that the suit should be suspended because of IHAT's establishment, which it said would provide a more effective means of investigating the torture allegations than a public inquiry. The court held that it could be argued that IHAT would not be effective [UKPA report] in investigating allegations of systemic torture. The case will now move to a full hearing.

Last week, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced that he will create a panel [JURIST report] to investigate claims that British government agents were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held overseas. The inquiry comes after 12 ex-detainees brought civil cases against the government, claiming that British agents took part in their mistreatment while they were held in prisons in foreign countries, including Pakistan and Morocco. The UK will ask the ex-detainees to drop their lawsuits [AP report] in exchange for possible compensation and a promise that the inquiry will fully investigate their claims. Cameron said that he hopes to start the investigation by the end of the year, once a separate investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of MI5 and MI6 agents at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] concludes, and to have a full report back within the next 12 months. It has yet to be determined whether parts of the investigation will be held publicly. The UK government indicated last month that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture [JURIST report]. Claims of complicity in torture were made against the government in a report [materials] released last week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to HRW, intelligence services in France, Germany and the UK lack proper oversight of intelligence information that is received from countries that torture.




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

New York governor signs law banning 'stop and frisk' database
Hillary Stemple on July 16, 2010 3:17 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] New York Governor David Paterson (D) [official website] signed a bill [press release] Friday prohibiting the retention of personal information of individuals detained New York City police during a "stop and frisk" but ultimately not charged with a crime. The law [A 11177A materials] was approved by the New York Assembly [official website] last month and will end the practice of police obtaining and keeping an electronic record of all individuals who are temporarily detained based on a police officer's reasonable suspicion. Opponents of the law, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website], argue that the current database has been an important crime fighting tool [AFP report] for police officers in New York City, crediting the database with a significant decrease in crime. Paterson stated that the law was consistent with the state's Criminal Procedure Laws [§ 160.50 text] and with societal principles of justice, stating:
There is a principle - which is compatible with the presumption of innocence, and is deeply ingrained in our sense of justice - that individuals wrongly accused of a crime should suffer neither stigma nor adverse consequences by virtue of an arrest or criminal accusation not resulting in conviction. ... Those accused of a crime are permitted to have their records sealed upon the dismissal of the charges. Therefore, simple justice as well as common sense suggest that those questioned by police and not even accused of a crime should not be subjected to perpetual suspicion.
In 2009, New York City police officers obtained information from more than 500,000 individuals [AP report], primarily minorities, as a result "stop and frisk" detentions.

"Stop and frisk" detentions are considered an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment [text], based on an officer's reasonable suspicion and the necessity to protect the safety of police officers. Courts continue developing the case law surrounding the Fourth Amendment, balancing privacy issues against social necessity. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in City of Ontario v. Quon [Cornell LII backgrounder] that an employer's search of private text messages on a work-issued device does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the search is motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and is not excessive in scope. In February, a US court of appeals ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that strip searching all incoming inmates does not violate the Fourth Amendment because it is necessary in order to prevent illegal substances from entering prisons. The Ohio Supreme Court [official website] ruled in December that a warrantless search of the contents of a suspect's cell phone violates the Fourth Amendment [JURIST report] prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, unless the search is necessary to protect the officers' safety or there are other exigent circumstances




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

UK court fines 5 companies for roles in oil depot explosion
Hillary Stemple on July 16, 2010 2:08 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A UK crown court on Friday ordered five companies to pay £9.5 million [press release] in damages relating to the 2005 Buncefield oil storage depot explosion [investigation website; case materials], which has been described as the most costly industrial accident in the UK. Total UK, a subsidiary of French oil company Total [corporate websites], was ordered to pay £3.6 million, the second largest fine ever to be levied in the UK for safety offenses. In ordering the fines, the judge said the companies had shown, "a slackness, inefficiency and a more or less complacent attitude to safety." An investigation into the Buncefield explosion [materials] found that a series of safety lapses by the companies resulted in the release of thousands of gallons of oil that formed a vapor cloud. The cloud ignited causing an explosion that injured 43 and caused widespread damage to local businesses. The offices of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency [official websites] conducted the joint investigation into the incident and issued a statement [press release] urging corporations to act responsibly:
Society rightly demands the highest of standards from the high hazard industries. The risks created by these businesses must be managed effectively because when things go wrong in this sector, the consequences are severe and can destroy lives, shatter local communities and cause damage to the environment that lasts for generations. ...From the Board room down companies must ask themselves these questions: do we understand what could go wrong; do we know what our systems are to prevent this happening; and are we getting the right information to assure us they are working effectively.
The court also levied fines against Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd, TAV Engineering Ltd, Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd and British Pipeline Agency Ltd.

Total oil has recently faced a series of high-profile legal challenges. In April, a French judge charged Total with bribery and complicity [JURIST report] in connection with a scandal involving the UN's Iraq Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. The company denied the allegations, stating that the company followed UN policy and acted lawfully [text, PDF]. In March, the Paris Appellate Court [official website, in French] upheld a lower court's 2008 decision finding Total and several other defendants criminally liable for an oil spill [JURIST report] that occurred of the coast of Brittany in 1999. The court also increased the fine against the defendants from 192 million euros to 200 million euros. Over 20,000 tons of oil [Euronews report] seeped from an oil tanker called Erika, which Total chartered from an Italian company, decimating 400 kilometers of coastline and causing harm to wildlife. Total has indicated that it plans to appeal the judgment [Reuters report].




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

Africa court refers Zimbabwe land reform case to regional summit meeting
Dwyer Arce on July 16, 2010 1:48 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) [official websites] ruled Friday that the farmers who lost their land under Zimbabwe's land reform program [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] may take their case to the SADC summit meeting next month. The ruling, which also reaffirms a previous ruling finding the land reform program to be racially motivated [JURIST report], discriminatory and contrary to the SADC treaty [text, DOC], marks the third time that the Tribunal has referred Zimbabwe to the SADC summit meeting for non-compliance with court orders, continued human rights abuses and violation of the SADC treaty. The summit has yet to act in any of these instances. In bringing the case to the Tribunal, the farmers urged SADC to suspend Zimbabwe [AFP report] from its membership until it either halted the seizures or compensated the farmers, as previously ordered by the Tribunal. The farmers have alleged that they face ongoing violence and harassment by government forces that seek to evict them from their farmland. After the ruling, the farmers' lawyer described Zimbabwe as a rogue state [Reuters report] that disregards human rights. The farmers' lawyer also asserted that if SADC does not take action against Zimbabwe this year, the organization's legitimacy will be greatly undermined. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] has defended the law, calling it necessary to correct historical racial disparities resulting from the country's history as a British colony.Those familiar with the regional organization have expressed skepticism at the prospect of SADC taking action against Zimbabwe this year.

In January, the Zimbabwe High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] ruled that it is not bound [JURIST report] by the Tribunal's decision ordering the state to halt its land reforms, refusing to register it. Justice Bharat Patel stated that enforcing the ruling, which was in favor of white farmers whose land was taken over in the government's farm redistribution program [JURIST report], would violate the Zimbabwean Constitution [text, PDF] and would be against public policy. Patel believed that a decision in favor the SADC ruling would lead to the removal of the majority of the people that the government was trying to support through the redistribution program. The High Court had previously ruled that the Tribunal is not superior [JURIST report] to the courts of the individual SADC member countries. In December 2008, four white Zimbabwe farmers were charged with trespassing [JURIST report] on state property for failing to vacate lands that the government seized for the land reform program, in open defiance of the November 2008 Tribunal ruling. One of the farmers, Colin Cloete, filed suit to cause the government and attorney general to register the SADC ruling in the High Court Registry, a step necessary to enable its enforcement in the country.




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

US geologist appeals China state secrets conviction
Hillary Stemple on July 16, 2010 1:19 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The lawyer for US geologist Xue Feng [advocacy website] announced Friday that Xue has appealed his conviction for selling state secrets, arguing that the information to which he had access did not include protected information. Xue was convicted earlier this month [JURIST report] by Beijing's No.1 Intermediate People's Court [official website] and sentenced to eight years in prison for collecting intelligence and illegally providing state secrets. The court stated that Xue received a database containing the coordinates for oil wells owned by the China National Petroleum Corporation [official website] while conducting research for US-based IHS energy. Upon discovery, Xue agreed to sell the database to IHS [AP report], which the court ruled was illegal under China's controversial state secrets [JURIST news archive] law. The database was allegedly made available to the public and only considered classified after its sale. In addition to filing an appeal over the classification of the information as a state secret, Xue's attorney is also appealing his sentence [WSJ report], arguing that the prison term as well as a 200,000 yuan fine was too harsh. The US has been working through diplomatic channels [AP report] in order to obtain Xue's release, but so far has had little success.

China's state secrets law has frequently been criticized for alleged overbreadth. In November, 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. In March, four employees of Australian mining company Rio Tinto [corporate website] were convicted of receiving bribes and stealing commercial secrets [JURIST report] during stalled iron ore price negotiations and sentenced to a range of seven to 14 years in prison. In April, the Chinese government revised the state secrets law [JURIST report] to require Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who share state secrets. 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.




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

No rights reform in Syria despite rhetoric: HRW
Dwyer Arce on July 16, 2010 12:18 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Friday criticized the human rights record [press release] of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad [BBC profile], claiming he has made virtually no progress on rights despite repeated promises for reform. In a report, "A Wasted Decade" [materials], released a day in advance of the 10-year anniversary of al-Asad's rise to power, HRW sharply criticized the human rights situation in the country today. Despite continued promises of reform and a brief period of eased restrictions on political activity, the report concludes that there has been no improvement in the country's human rights record. HRW cited the conviction of lawyer and human rights activist Haitham Maleh [JURIST report] for campaigning against the emergency rule as a recent example of this rights situation. HRW called for an end to the emergency rule, in place since 1963 [AI backgrounder], which it said violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. The rights organization also called for an end to Internet and media censorship and warrantless detentions and torture, calling for the Syrian government to allow detainees access to counsel and to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture [text]. The report urges the government to recognize the Kurdish minority's right to its culture and to resolve the status of 300,000 Kurds and their descendants who were stripped of their Syrian citizenship in 1962 and remain stateless. The only time in which any progress was made, according to HRW, was shortly after al-Asad ascended to the presidency during the so-called "Damascus Spring." During this period, groups advocating political reform were allowed to organize, political prisoners were released and prisons were shut down. This period ended abruptly in 2001, however, as the government resumed the repression of dissidents.

Over the past several years, Syria has increased its prosecution of political dissidents, drawing strong criticism from the international community. Earlier this month, a Syrian military court sentenced Haitham Maleh [RNW profile] to three years in prison for "weakening national morale." The 78-year-old former judge was put on trial in October 2009 sparking criticism from the US government [press release] and several human rights groups. In October 2008 a Damascus criminal court sentenced 12 dissidents [JURIST report] found guilty on charges of weakening national sentiment, broadcasting false or exaggerated news that could affect the morale of the country, joining an organization formed with the purpose of changing the financial or social status of the state and inciting sectarian strife. In January 2008, the Syrian government arrested former parliamentarian [JURIST report] and dissident Riyad Sayf, a prominent member of the "Damascus Declaration" group, which, in 2005, issued a declaration urging Syria to embark on democratic transition and improve relations with Lebanon. In 2007, a Syrian court sentenced writer and activist Michel Kilo [JURIST report] to a prison term of three years for "speaking false news, weakening national feeling and inciting sectarian sentiments."




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

Russia lower house approves bill expanding secret police powers
Hillary Stemple on July 16, 2010 11:21 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Friday voted 354 to 96 to approve legislation that would allow the country's secret police, the Federal Security Service (FSB) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], to question citizens about their actions related to crimes that have not yet occurred. The KGB [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], predecessor to the FSB, had the authority to conduct similar preemptive questioning, which was often used to intimidate dissidents [NYT report] in the USSR. Under the proposed legislation, the FSB could, without evidence, question and warn citizens [DW report] about the possible commission of future crimes, although the final bill falls short of punishing individuals who ignore the FSB warnings. Rights groups and members of the Russian legal community have condemned the law [press release, in Russian] saying that it legalizes arbitrary detentions by the FSB and that it extends the scope of the FSB beyond its authority. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] has indicated that he supports the bill [Moscow Times report] and has warned against international interference in Russian lawmaking. The bill must now be approved by the Russian Federation Council [official website, in Russian] before Medvedev can sign it into law.

Russia continues facing criticism from the international community regarding its human rights record. In October, the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] issued a report [text; JURIST report] criticizing Russia's record on human rights and calling on the country to take extensive legal reform in order to guarantee its citizens rights such as fair trials and freedoms of speech and of the press. Last June, the Council of Europe (COE) [official website] urged substantial reforms [JURIST report] to correct systemic problems in the Russian legal system, including the prevalence of political prosecutions and a lack of judicial independence. Medvedev has acknowledged the need for judicial reform [JURIST report], saying that transparent courts would restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from seeking redress in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website].




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

Diamond monitoring body approves limited Zimbabwe trade
Dwyer Arce on July 16, 2010 10:23 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Kimberley Process (KP) [official website] on Thursday approved the limited sale of diamonds from the controversial Marange mines after reaching an agreement with the Zimbabwean government. The agreement, reached in a meeting of the international diamond monitoring body, comes after the KP was unable to reach a consensus [AFP report] on Zimbabwe in its June meeting in Tel Aviv. Under the agreement, the KP will allow Zimbabwe to sell [NYT report] a portion of its estimated USD $1.7 billion worth of mined diamonds before September, and the Zimbabwean government will allow KP experts to enter the country to certify that the diamond mines meet international standards. Diamonds sales after September will be contingent upon this certification. Civil society groups Global Watch and Partnership Africa Canada [advocacy websites], which have been critical of the Zimbabwean government's actions in the Marange mines, expressed cautious optimism [press release] following the deal, stating that it may help increase international oversight of the Zimbabwe diamond trade, but qualifying:
Ultimately the success or otherwise of this agreement will be determined by what the main players do next. The ball is now in Zimbabwe's court to make good on its promises and act to end one of the most egregious cases of diamond-related violence for many years. We fervently hope that the governments in the Kimberley Process will, for their part, hold Zimbabwe to its commitments in order to begin to restore the battered integrity of the scheme.
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti [BBC profile] said Tuesday that although the KP has indicated that USD $30 million has been generated by the sale of Marange diamonds, the government has no record of it [New Zimbabwe report], suggesting the revenue may of have been diverted. Biti is a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], which is currently in a power-sharing agreement with President Robert Mugabe [PBS profile; JURIST news archive] after the disputed 2008 elections [JURIST news archive].

The agreement comes the same week as human rights activist Farai Maguwu was granted bail [JURIST report] by a Zimbabwean court. Maguwu was being held for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's diamond mining practices to the KP. In June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the body to remove Zimbabwe [JURIST report] from its membership. According to HRW, human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government have persisted since the discovery of diamonds in the Marange fields. Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have also called for the suspension of Zimbabwe's international diamond trade due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields.




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

'Torture memo' lawyer denies authorizing some CIA interrogation techniques
Hillary Stemple on July 16, 2010 9:01 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] and federal judge Jay Bybee [official profile] denied approving a number of interrogation techniques used by the CIA, according to testimony [transcript materials] released Thursday by the US House Judiciary Committee [official website]. Bybee was questioned by the committee in May in a closed-door hearing about controversial memos written by the OLC during the Bush administration, which asserted the legality of certain enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive]. The CIA subsequently used the enhanced interrogation techniques on prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] prison facility. According to Bybee, a number of the techniques, including repetitive waterboarding [JURIST news archive], extended isolation, the use of blackout goggles and daily beatings, were not authorized by the OLC memos. Bybee admitted to authorizing limited use of waterboarding when performed in a specific way, but he contended that the manner in which the CIA used the technique went beyond the recommendations made in the memos. Bybee also stated that he believed the relationship between OLC lawyer John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive] and the Bush White House may have been "too close." Committee Chairman John Coyners (D-MI) [official website] indicated that Bybee's testimony would play a vital role [press release] in the ongoing investigation into detainee abuse [JURIST report], stating:
This testimony reveals that many brutal techniques reportedly used in CIA interrogations were not authorized by the Justice Department - the author of these legal memos has now admitted this on the record. These statements are highly relevant to the pending criminal investigation of detainee abuse and I have provided the Committee's interview to the Justice Department[.]
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] responded [press release] to the release of Bybee's testimony by renewing their call for a "comprehensive criminal investigation" [JURIST report] into Bush administration torture policies.

As former head of the OLC, Bybee signed off on a memo, released last year [JURIST report], authorizing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques as well as a controversial memo that defined torture as physical pain equivalent in "intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily functions, or even death." In January, Bybee and Yoo were cleared of allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the memos. The Office of Professional Responsibility [official website] concluded that the lawyers exercised poor judgment [JURIST report] in crafting the 2002 memos, but that their actions did not reach the level of professional misconduct. Originally, the OPR investigation had concluded that Yoo and Bybee had violated their professional obligations in crafting the memos, but this finding was softened by the reviewer. Bybee had previously declined a request by a Senate committee to testify about the interrogation memos [JURIST reports].




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

Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart sentenced to 10 years for aiding terror client
Dwyer Arce on July 16, 2010 8:51 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge on Thursday sentenced civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] to 10 years in prison, increasing her original sentence of 28 months. Stewart was convicted by a jury in 2005 [JURIST report] on charges of conspiracy, giving material support to terrorists and defrauding the US government for smuggling messages from convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman [NNBD profile] to members of his militant Islamic Group [CNS backgrounder]. The judgment was upheld [JURIST reports] later that year, resulting in a 28-month prison sentence [JURIST reports]. In re-sentencing Stewart, Judge John Koeltl of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] cited statements she made [NYT report] after her first sentence, which Koeltl said demonstrated her remorselessness. He also found that she had committed perjury during her trial. Koeltl ordered that Stewart, who suffers from breast cancer, be transferred to a federal prison in Connecticut [CNN report] due to her deteriorating health. After the sentencing, Stewart's husband described it as a death sentence.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] affirmed [JURIST report] Stewart's conviction in 2009, but ordered the district court to reconsider her sentence, finding that the current 28-month sentence was "out of line with the extreme seriousness of her criminal conduct." As part of his conviction, Rahman is subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), which limit his ability to communicate with individuals outside the prison. The court found that despite being a lawyer, Stewart was bound by the SAMs and knowingly and willfully lied about her intentions to comply. The court also found that Stewart provided and concealed material support to the conspiracy to murder persons in a foreign country. Federal prosecutors sought the maximum sentence [JURIST report] of 30 years, saying that Stewart's "egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession ... deserves to be severely punished." In 2007, Stewart was disbarred [JURIST report] in the state of New York after her voluntary resignation was rejected.




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

Goldman Sachs reaches record $550 million settlement with SEC
Ann Riley on July 16, 2010 8:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Goldman, Sachs & Co. [official website; JURIST news archive] on Thursday agreed to a $550 million settlement [text, PDF] with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] to resolve charges [press release] that they marketed a subprime mortgage product and made misleading statements and omissions to investors in early 2007. Of the $550 million settlement, $300 million will be paid to the US Treasury and $250 million will be distributed to harmed investors. Additionally, Goldman agreed to implement a series of changes to its business practices and acknowledged [press release] "that the marketing materials for the ... transaction contained incomplete information ... [and] regrets that the marketing materials did not contain [full] disclosure." In response to the penalty, SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said [video]:
This settlement is a stark lesson to Wall Street firms that no product is too complex, and no investor too sophisticated, to avoid a heavy price if a firm violates the fundamental principles of honest treatment and fair dealing.
The penalty, subject to the approval of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], is the largest against a financial company in SEC history. The SEC had filed suit [JURIST report] against Goldman in April alleging securities fraud in regard to its conduct in marketing collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) [Investopedia backgrounder] to investors in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 [text, PDF] and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text, PDF].

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. In June, Bank of America (BOA) [corporate website] subsidiary Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. reached a $108 million settlement agreement [JURIST report] with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] to resolve charges that the subsidiary collected excessive fees from homeowners facing foreclosure. In February, a district court judge accepted a $150 million dollar settlement agreement [JURIST report] between BOA and the SEC. The SEC had charged [JURIST report] BOA with misleading investors regarding billions of dollars paid to Merrill Lynch [corporate website] executives during the acquisition of the firm. The judge twice rejected a proposed settlement [JURIST report] between the SEC and BOA for $33 million, which did not admit any fault or directly penalize any corporate executives, calling the settlement unfair to the shareholders.




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

Federal appeals court upholds sentence for son of Liberia ex-president
Ann Riley on July 16, 2010 7:11 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] on Thursday upheld [opinion, PDF] the torture convictions and sentence of Charles McArthur Emmanuel, son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor [JURIST news archives]. Emmanuel was sentenced [JURIST report] last year to 97 years in prison after being convicted in 2008 on charges [JURIST reports] that he was involved in torture and other crimes committed while he was the head of the paramilitary Anti-Terrorism Union (ATU), which tortured and killed opponents during the presidency of his father between 1997 and 2003. The court also upheld the 1994 federal anti-torture statute (the Torture Act) [18 USC § 2340A text], under which Emmanuel was charged. Emmanuel was the first individual to be indicted under the statute and argued that the Torture Act exceeded Congressional authority because it criminalizes behavior of foreign government officials outside the territorial jurisdiction of the US.

In February, a federal court ordered a final judgment of $22 million [JURIST] in the civil case against Emmanuel, to be paid to five torture victims. Emmanuel, a US citizen raised in Boston, was arrested in Miami on a passport violation in 2006 and pleaded guilty in September of that year. He was then indicted [JURIST report] on torture charges by a federal grand jury that December. He pleaded not guilty, and, in July 2008, a US District Court Judge upheld [JURIST report] the torture charges and rejected Emmanuel's constitutional argument. He was later denied bail [JURIST report] on grounds that he was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Emmanuel's father, Taylor, is currently on trial [case website] 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.




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

US Senate sends financial reform legislation to Obama
Dwyer Arce on July 15, 2010 3:38 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday voted 60-39 [roll call vote] in favor of comprehensive financial reform legislation [HR 4173 materials; JURIST news archive], sending it to President Barack Obama [official profile]. The vote on the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 occurred after Democrats garnered the support [The Hill report] of Republican Senators Scott Brown (MA), Olympia Snowe (ME) and Susan Collins (ME) [official websites], securing the 60 votes needed to end debate. The legislation creates a new regulatory council to monitor financial institutions in order to prevent the companies from becoming "too big to fail" and will establish a new consumer protection division within the Federal Reserve [official website] to enforce rules against abusive business practices. It also gives the Federal Reserve the power to supervise the largest financial companies and report to the government any risks the firms may pose to the economy at large. The government will have the ability to seize and liquidate failing financial institutions before their collapse can have an adverse economic effect, and the bill permits banks to invest only 3 percent of their capital into hedge funds or private equity funds. The bill also creates regulations for the trading of derivatives. Shortly after the Senate vote, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner [official profile] praised the reform package [press release], stating:
[The bill is] the strongest financial reform[] this country has considered since the Great Depression. ... [The] reforms will restore the banking system to its core purpose of helping Americans save for their future and channeling those savings to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas for building a stronger America. These reforms will allow the government to make sure that [banks] do not threaten the health of the economy as a whole.
Just before the Senate vote, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) [official website] called for the law's repeal should it pass. In a statement [text] released after the bill's passage, he explained why this was necessary:
[The bill] makes bailouts permanent, enshrines 'too big to fail' into law, and fails to reform the government mortgage companies that sparked the meltdown by giving high-risk loans to people who couldn't afford it, and it needs to be fixed. House Republicans offered a better solution to stop the Democrats' permanent bailouts, reform Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, and protect taxpayers and help small businesses create jobs.
Obama is expected to sign the bill [NYT report] next week.

Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives [official website] voted 237-192 [JURIST report] to approve the financial reform bill. The House and Senate reconciled their versions of the bill [JURIST report] last month but were forced to re-open negotiations, eventually removing a $17.9 billion tax on large financial institutions that was meant to cover the bill's costs. The Senate approved its version of the bill in May, after the House passed its version [JURIST reports] in December. The legislation closely mirrors a proposal put forth by the Obama administration [JURIST report] last June consisting of a broad series of regulatory reforms aimed at restoring confidence in the US financial system following the recent economic crisis [FT backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Financial reform represents a cornerstone of Obama's legislative agenda since taking office in 2009, along with health care, immigration reform, climate change legislation, and the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" [JURIST news archives].




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

Kyrgyzstan establishes commission to probe ethnic violence
Dwyer Arce on July 15, 2010 2:28 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Kyrgyz interim President Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] on Thursday issued a decree establishing a commission to investigate last month's ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder] against the country's Uzbek population. The commission is comprised of 30 former government officials [VOR report], human rights activists and professors, headed by former parliament speaker Abdygany Erkebayev. It will consult with government and international experts and present its findings [AP report] on the causes and repercussions of the violence in September. The decree comes one week after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that the Kyrgyz government requested that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] conduct an international inquiry [press release] into the violence. HRW urged OSCE to include the role of the Kyrgyz security forces in instigating and perpetrating the violence during the investigation, in addition to their conduct in the aftermath. On Wednesday, HRW called for an end to the torture [press release] and detention of Uzbeks believed to have been involved in the violence and urged the Kyrgyz government to abide by national and international law during the investigation.

The Kyrgyz government announced Friday that it has opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the recent violence. Regional officials in Osh, an area in southern Kyrgyzstan, announced that 106 individuals had already been detained [ITAR-TASS report]. The violence resulted from a clash between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority and official estimates place the death toll at 309, with an additional 2,000 reportedly injured. Property damage estimates exceed $71 million. The interim government extended a curfew and state of emergency [UPI report] in the area until August. A new constitution took effect in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month after it was approved by voters [JURIST reports] in a nationwide referendum. In June, the interim government under Otunbayeva announced the referendum to reform the country's constitution would occur despite the ethnic violence [JURIST report] in Osh. The constitution was originally approved by the interim government [JURIST report] in May. The June rioting in Osh followed violent protests in the capital city of Bishkek in April that resulted in former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev being removed from office [JURIST report].




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

ICTR defense lawyer shot dead
Drew Singer on July 15, 2010 2:10 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A senior defense lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] was shot dead outside of his home Tuesday night. Police say Jwani Mwaikusa [Martindale profile] was killed [BBC report], along with his nephew and neighbor, and that the attackers then ransacked Mwaikusa's car, taking a briefcase and some documents. Mwaikusa worked as a defense counsel for former businessman Yussuf Munyakazi, who was convicted [judgment summary; JURIST report] earlier this month on charges of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity. Rwandan authorities had sought to have Munyakazi transferred to Rwanda for trial, but that request and the subsequent appeal were both denied [JURIST report] based on Mwaikusa's argument that his client couldn't get a fair trial there, because the judiciary in Rwanda may not be fully independent and immune from outside pressure. Mwaikusa lived outside of Tanzania's main city of Dar es Salaam, where he also taught law at the University of Dar es Salaam [official website]. It is unclear whether the shooting is related to Mwaikusa's work with the ICTR, as five people in Dar es Salaam have been shot dead by armed robbers in the last two months, a higher number than normal.

This is not the first instance of an ICTR defense lawyer facing hostilities. Last month, US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] returned to the US Tuesday after spending 21 days in a Rwandan prison. Erlinder was arrested [JURIST report] on charges that he denied the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He was in Rwanda to prepare his defense of opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], who was arrested in April [JURIST report] on similar charges. Erlinder had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. Demanding Erlinder's release, more than 30 ICTR defense lawyers issued a joint statement [JURIST report; text] last month, threatening a boycott. According to the statement, Erlinder's arrest indicated a growing threat to the country's legal system, because, "anyone who is involved in the defence of an accused person - be they counsel, investigator, assistant or Defense witness - runs the same risks and is exposed to the same threats of being criminally categorized as a 'negationist' as defined in Rwandan legislation."




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

Democratic fundraiser sentenced to 12 years for Ponzi scheme
Hillary Stemple on July 15, 2010 1:57 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Former Democratic Party fundraiser Hassan Nemazee was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty in March to charges of bank fraud and wire fraud relating to his orchestration of $292 million pyramid scheme. The federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] also ordered Nemazee to pay $292 million in restitution to the banks that were the targets of the fraud. Nemazee spoke prior to the sentencing, stating that he takes responsibility for his crimes [WSJ report] and blaming his conduct on pride and arrogance. Nemazee had previously admitted to using forged documents [Bloomberg report] in order to borrow from banks, starting in the 1990s. He originally pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] last September after being indicted [text] on three counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. If the case had gone to trial, Nemzaee could have faced up to 30 years in prison for each charge of fraud. Nemazee, who was a fundraiser for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats, was ordered report to prison by August 27.

In May 2009, disgraced Democratic Party fundraiser Norman Hsu [JURIST news archive] was convicted [JURIST report] on charges of violating the Federal Elections Campaign Act (FECA) [text]. Hsu was accused of making illegal campaign contributions in other peoples' names in violation of the FECA. According to the indictment [JURIST report], Hsu also allegedly pressured clients to donate to his preferred democratic candidates and threatened to cut them off if they did not comply with his wishes. In September 2007, New York prosecutors charged [JURIST report] Hsu with orchestrating a $60 million Ponzi scheme in connection with the same events. Hsu pleaded guilty [NYT report] to those fraud charges in May. The FBI arrested Hsu in Colorado on federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution after Hsu failed to appear for a bail hearing in California on unrelated fraud charges on September 5, 2007. Hsu formerly raised funds for political candidates, including Clinton. Clinton agreed to return $850,000 she received from Hsu when news of the charges became public.




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

DC appeals court rules against same-sex marriage vote
Dwyer Arce on July 15, 2010 1:35 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The District of Columbia Court of Appeals [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that the DC Charter was not violated when city officials refused to allow a ballot initiative on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The court, affirming a ruling [JURIST report] of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia [official website], found that DC's Human Rights Act (HRA) did not violate the DC Charter [texts] right to public referendum when it disallowed referendums on laws that would be discriminatory under the HRA. The appellants argued that the Charter, which acts as the district's constitution, allows public referendums on all legislative issues excepting appropriations and so the HRA exemption is invalid. Alternatively, they argued that a public referendum to bar the city from recognizing same-sex marriage would not be discriminatory. The court rejected both arguments, finding that the proposed ban would be discriminatory under the HRA due to its express prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation. The court also found that the ability of the Council of the District of Columbia [official website] to regulate what could be put to a vote under the Charter was ambiguous, requiring deference to the Council. Additionally, the court held, the Council could not have intended to allow issues of discrimination to go to a referendum because it approved both the HRA and the referendum amendment in the same legislative session. The dissenting judges agreed with the appellants, finding that the Council exceeded its authority under the Charter by seeking to restrict the right to referendum. In reacting to the decision, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) [advocacy website] stated that it represented a "significant victory for justice, the rule of law and the protection of all D.C. residents against discrimination" and that individual civil rights should not be subject to referendums [press release].

In May, the court heard arguments [JURIST report] after the Superior Court denied Reverend Harry Jackson's request to allow a vote on a measure defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The case was heard en banc by all nine judges of the appeals court, instead of the three-judge panels that usually hear cases. The ruling affirmed a November decision by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics [official website], which held that putting the act to a public vote would violate the HRA. DC began recognizing same-sex marriages in March after the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] denied an emergency appeal to block the law from taking effect, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire [JURIST reports] in recognizing same-sex marriage.




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

Gambia court sentences 8 to death for roles in 2009 coup attempt
Hillary Stemple on July 15, 2010 12:54 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A Gambian court on Thursday sentenced eight men—six former army officers and two former high-ranking government officials—to death for their roles in a 2009 coup attempt. The men were charged in March [JURIST report] with conspiring to overthrow the government of President Yahya Jammeh [official website]. The men were found guilty of treason [BBC report] after the prosecution was able to sufficiently show that they had obtained arms and troops from Guinea in order to oust the government. In his closing statement, the state's chief prosecutor urged the court to set an example [AFP report] with the men in order to prevent future instability in the country. The men will have 30 days to appeal their convictions and sentences.

The Jammeh administration was also the target of a coup attempt in 2006 that resulted in 10 military officers being jailed [BBC report] for threatening to overthrow the government. Critics contend that Jammeh maintains stability in the Gambia by suppressing any signs of dissent. In March, an opposition official complained of frequent incidents of indefinite detention [BBC report] of citizens, including government officials, without charges being filed. In February, Gambia ordered an envoy [Afrol report] from UNICEF [official website] to leave the country. Last September, Jammeh threatened to kill human rights workers [Newstime Africa] who threatened to destabilize his regime.




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

ICC orders release of Congo militia leader Lubanga, pending appeal
Hillary Stemple on July 15, 2010 11:55 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Thursday ordered the release [press release] of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials; JURIST news archive]. The announcement comes one week after the court suspended [press release; JURIST report] Lubanga's trial, stating that the trial could not proceed until the prosecution obeyed the judge's orders to disclose specific information to the defense. In ordering Lubanga's release, the ICC said that because the trial had been suspended, Lubanga could not be held indefinitely based on the assumption that his trial might resume at some point in the future. Lubanga's trial was suspended on the basis that he could not receive a fair trial until the defense received information about the identity of a witness known as "intermediary 143." The court previously indicated that the prosecution might be sanctioned under Article 71 of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] for not complying with the court's ruling, but the court stated Thursday that sanctions will not be issued at this time. During its session, the court also granted the prosecutions leave to appeal the court's decision to stay the proceedings. Lubanga will remain in custody pending an appeal of the court's decision ordering his release.

Lubanga is accused of war crimes for allegedly recruiting child soldiers to fight in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002-2003. His trial began in January 2009 but was halted soon after when one of the child witnesses recanted his testimony [JURIST report] that Lubanga had recruited him for the militia. The prosecution concluded its case [JURIST report] last July after presenting 22 weeks of testimony. Lubanga maintains he is innocent [JURIST report] of the charges against him. He became the first war crimes defendant to appear before the ICC, formed in 2002, after he was taken into custody [JURIST report] in March 2006.




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

Nine states file amicus brief supporting Arizona immigration law
Hillary Stemple on July 15, 2010 10:43 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] Wednesday on behalf of nine states in support of Arizona in a lawsuit filed earlier this month [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], seeking to permanently enjoin Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. The DOJ's complaint claims that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. In their amicus brief, the states, including Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania, contend SB 1070 is not preempted by federal law unless the statute consists of a regulation of immigration or unless it conflicts with federal law so that the objective of the federal law cannot be achieved as intended by Congress. The states argue that SB 1070 does not constitute a regulation of immigration and that it does not conflict with, but rather supports federal immigration law. The states also maintain that Congress intended for there to be cooperative enforcement of immigration laws and that the DOJ seeks to supplant the cooperative scheme with a system where the federal government chooses which laws to enforce. Cox, announcing the filing of the brief, condemned the DOJ lawsuit [press release], stating, "Arizona, Michigan and every other state have the authority to enforce immigration laws, and it is appalling to see President Obama use taxpayer dollars to stop a state's efforts to protect its own borders." The Arizona legislation was signed into law [JURIST report] in April and is set to take effect July 29.

The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling. Earlier this month, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] urging the federal district court in Arizona to block the enforcement of the state's immigration law. The brief was filed in support of a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The Mexican government has also filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] supporting the ACLU suit, claiming a substantial interest in ensuring its "bilateral diplomatic relations" with the US remain "transparent, consistent and reliable, and not frustrated by the actions of individual US states." The government also claims an interest in ensuring that its citizens are "accorded human and civil rights when present in the US in accordance with federal immigration law." Brewer is also currently facing federal lawsuits filed by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders and several Tuscon police officers [JURIST reports], who claim they cannot properly implement the law without racially profiling.




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

Last US-run detention facility transferred to Iraqi control
Dwyer Arce on July 15, 2010 10:32 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US military on Thursday transferred control over Camp Cropper [JURIST news archive] to Iraqi authorities as US troops prepare to withdraw from the country next month. Despite the transfer, the US will maintain advisers and inspectors [CNN report] in the detention facility to respond to any allegations of prisoner abuse and will still hold 200 prisoners, including eight high-ranking officials from the regime of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] in a part of the camp called Compound 5. US military officials expressed their confidence [AP report] in the ability of the Iraqi forces to live up to human rights standards in managing the 1,600 prisoners held at the camp and stressed that even those prisoners still held by the US were under Iraqi jurisdiction. Iraq's justice minister announced Wednesday that 26 Saddam-era officials had been transferred [JURIST report] from US to Iraqi custody. The prisoner transfer, from Camp Cropper to Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad, included former foreign minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], former interior minister Mohammed Zumam and former oil minister Amir Mohammed, and followed the transfer of 29 other former officials 10 months ago. According to his lawyer, Aziz fears for his life [AP report] while in the custody of the current Iraqi government and plans to appeal to the Vatican to intervene on his behalf.

In March, the US military transferred Camp Taji prison [JURIST report] to Iraqi authorities. The US began to scale back its Iraq detention facilities in September when Camp Bucca [JURIST news archive] in southern Iraq was closed [JURIST report] pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement [text, PDF]. According to the agreement, all US troops must be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the US must release all prisoners or transfer them to the control of Iraqi authorities. The Iraqi government must have arrest warrants or detention orders to accept transferred prisoners into Iraqi facilities, otherwise risking release. A fourth US-run prison, Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], was transferred back to Iraqi control [JURIST report] in 2006. The Iraqi government has recently faced criticism for its treatment of prisoners from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. In April, the rights group claimed that Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [JURIST report] in a secret prison in Baghdad.




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

Argentina Senate passes same-sex marriage legislation
Dwyer Arce on July 15, 2010 9:21 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Argentine Senate [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday voted 33-27 to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], making Argentina the first Latin American nation to do so. The legislation, which includes adoption rights for same-sex couples, was approved after 14 hours of debate [BBC report]. President Cristina Fernandez [official website, in Spanish] has expressed her support for the bill and is expected to sign it upon her return from abroad. The legislation faced strong opposition from some lawmakers who introduced an alternative bill that would have allowed civil unions nationwide without adoption rights. The bill also faced strong opposition from the Catholic Church [official website], which organized protests outside of the capitol building that gathered more than 60,000 people [AP report]. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio [official website] criticized the legislation, stating that it interfered with a child's right to be raised by a mother and father. Freedom to Marry [advocacy website], a US-based same-sex marriage advocacy group, described the passage as a "human rights achievement" [press release] demonstrating Argentina's movement to "true democratic values." Recent polling has shown that 70 percent [NYT report] of the Argentine public support the legislation.

In May, the Argentine Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Spanish] voted 126-109 in favor [JURIST report] of the bill after 12 hours of debate. The legislation has been under consideration since last year, with more than 50,000 marching in support [JURIST report] of it last November. In September, Uruguay approved a bill granting adoption rights to same-sex couples [JURIST report] and currently is the only country in the region to offer civil unions nationwide. Same-sex marriage is recognized in jurisdictions in Mexico and the US, and is recognized nationwide in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Africa [JURIST reports].




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

House committee approves measure restricting offshore drilling permits
Hillary Stemple on July 15, 2010 9:04 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US House Committee on Natural Resources [official website] on Wednesday approved an amendment [press release], as part of a broader piece of legislation [HB 3534 materials] that would bar new offshore drilling and gas permits to any company with a history of violating environmental or workplace safety laws. Under the amendment, any company that has, during the previous seven years, incurred fines of $10 million under the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act [materials] or has had more than 10 fatalities at any of its facilities would be barred from drilling in US waters. The amendment would also hold companies responsible for the health and safety record of any of their subsidiaries or successor companies, in order to prevent corporate reorganization to avoid the regulations. The proposed legislation would apply to all drilling companies, but would immediately bar British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] from receiving drilling permits due to the 11 fatalities related to the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Congressman George Miller (D-CA) [official website] proposed the amendment to encourage corporate responsibility among oil companies. He singled out BP as an example of a company in need of reform, stating:
[M]any companies are proud of their safety and environment records, and demonstrate a commitment to good behavior. They are the model for what my Amendment seeks to achieve. It is regrettable that BP is a company with extensive violations and no history of working to mend its ways. Unable to change on its own, my amendment would require BP, and any other company like it, to become a responsible actor or lose access to the valuable offshore assets that belong to the American people.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] is expected to begin discussion on similar legislation [HR 5626 materials] on Thursday.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar [official website] on Tuesday issued a new six-month drilling moratorium [text, PDF; JURIST report] that prohibits deepwater drilling with certain technologies, citing new evidence regarding safety concerns after the BP oil spill. The new moratorium was issued after a federal judge placed a preliminary injunction against the original moratorium [JURIST reports] implemented by the Obama administration in May. The Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] appealed the ruling [JURIST report] arguing that the district judge abused his discretion in issuing the injunction and that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the spill with catastrophic results. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] denied [JURIST report] the DOJ's request last week. More than 120 million gallons of oil have leaked already from the rig's broken pipe and has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez oil spill [JURIST news archive] as the worst in US history.




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

eBay sued for $3.8 billion in patent infringement case
Ann Riley on July 15, 2010 8:16 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Connecticut company XPRT Ventures LLC filed suit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against eBay [corporate website] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware [official website], claiming the infringement of six patents [materials] for online auctions and payment systems. According to the complaint, which also names PayPal, Bill Me Later, Shopping.com and StubHub [corporate websites] as defendants, XPRT alleges [press release] that eBay misappropriated information shared in confidence by the inventors of XPRT's patents and incorporated it into eBay's existing payment systems. Additionally, eBay allegedly filed a subsequent patent application [text] with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) [official website] incorporating the concepts of XPRT's patents and trade secrets. XPRT seeks a minimum of $3.8 billion in damages for eBay's unjust enrichment and the lack of compensation to the inventors and patent holder, based on the estimated value of the patents.

Recently, eBay has been scrutinized for various intellectual property infringements. In April, a federal appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that eBay is not required to actively monitor its website for the sale of counterfeit goods. The US appeals court ruling marked a dramatic contrast with other recent rulings in Europe. In February, the Paris District Court [official website, in French] ordered [JURIST report] eBay to pay LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) [corporate website] 200,000 euros (USD $275,000) in damages for paying search engines to direct customers to counterfeit LVMH products. In a separate case in September, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] issued an advisory opinion against LVMH [JURIST report] in its suit to collect damages from Google for Google's AdWords system, which allows companies and individuals to purchase advertising space when a user searches for a product or brand name. In 2008, a French court ordered eBay to pay LVMH USD $63 million [JURIST report] for failing to prevent the sale of counterfeit luxury goods.




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

US transfers 26 Saddam-era officials to Iraqi custody
Dwyer Arce on July 14, 2010 4:32 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Iraq's justice minister announced Wednesday that 26 former officials in the government of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] have been transferred from US to Iraqi custody as US troops prepare to withdraw from the country next month. The prisoners, transferred from Camp Cropper [JURIST news archive] to Kadhimiya prison in Baghdad, include former foreign minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], former interior minister Mohammed Zumam and former oil minister Amir Mohammed, and follows the transfer of 29 other former officials ten months ago. Only eight high-anking officials and 200 prisoners remain in US custody. According to his lawyer, Aziz fears for his life [AP report] while in the custody of the current Iraqi government and plans to appeal to the Vatican to intervene on his behalf. Aziz's family has called for his release on health grounds, claiming he has had two heart attacks and suffered a stroke [JURIST report] in January. In August 2009, Aziz was convicted of forcing Kurdish displacement [JURIST report] from northeast Iraq during the late 1980s, and was sentenced to seven years in prison. In March 2009, Aziz was sentenced to 15 years [JURIST report] in prison for the 1992 murders of 42 merchants accused of price-gouging during a period of UN-imposed sanctions. Camp Cropper and the 1,600 prisoners held there will also be transfered to Iraqi administration [CNN report] on Thursday and is the last US-run detention facility in the country.

In March, the US military transfered Camp Taji prison [JURIST report] to Iraqi authorities. The US began to scale back its Iraq detention facilities in September when Camp Bucca [JURIST news archive] in southern Iraq was closed [JURIST report] pursuant to the Status of Forces Agreement [text, PDF]. According to the agreement, all US troops must be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, and the US must release all prisoners or transfer them to the control of Iraqi authorities. The Iraqi government must have arrest warrants or detention orders to accept transferred prisoners into Iraqi facilities, otherwise risking release. A fourth US-run prison, Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], was transferred back to Iraqi control [JURIST report] in 2006. The Iraqi government has recently faced criticism for its treatment of prisoners from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. In April, the rights group claimed that Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [JURIST report] in a secret prison in Baghdad.




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

UK court allows ex-Guantanamo detainees' torture suit to continue
Hillary Stemple on July 14, 2010 3:31 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UK High Court announced Wednesday that a lawsuit, filed by former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees and alleging that the UK government was complicit in their torture, can proceed. The lawsuit, filed by 12 ex-detainees, alleges that British agents took part in their mistreatment while they were held in prisons in foreign countries, including Pakistan and Morocco. The UK government had asked that the lawsuit be suspended [AP report] while the government conducted an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations and while settlement negotiations are ongoing. UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced the creation of the inquiry [press release] last week but indicated that the inquiry could not begin while the lawsuit was continuing. The judge, however, ruled that the lawsuit can continue even as the negotiations are ongoing. Cameron has stated that he hopes to start the inquiry by the end of the year, once a separate investigation [JURIST report] into the actions of MI5 and MI6 agents at Guantanamo Bay concludes, and to have a full report back within the next 12 months.

The British government indicated last week that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture [JURIST report]. The announcement came as part of the government's defense against a lawsuit filed by the human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website], which has been seeking a review of the country's torture policy. A UK High Court judge agreed that the country's policy must be reviewed [press release], but indicated that because lawyers for the government promised new guidelines would be released shortly, the court would take no immediate action. Similar claims of complicity were made against the government in a new report [materials] released last week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to HRW, intelligence services in France, Germany and the UK lack proper oversight of intelligence information that is received from countries that torture.




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

Federal judge blocks enforcement of Nebraska abortion law
Hillary Stemple on July 14, 2010 1:30 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Nebraska [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] Wednesday preventing a new Nebraska abortion law [LB 594 materials] from being enforced. The law, known as the Women's Health Protection Act, requires physicians to evaluate patients to determine that their choice to have an abortion [JURIST news archive] is voluntary and to inform the patients of all risk factors and complications [LB 594 text] that have been statistically associated with abortion and published in peer-reviewed journals 12 months prior to the pre-abortion evaluation, as well as earlier studies. Violations of the Act can result in a $10,000 penalty for each failure to screen or inform, wrongful death damages, actual damages and attorney's fees. The lawsuit was filed [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] by women's rights group Planned Parenthood of the Heartland [advocacy website] and argues that the law is unconstitutional because, by setting out unreasonable requirements that most physicians are unable to meet, the law pressures those doctors to stop performing abortions or face large penalties. In issuing the injunction Judge Laurie Smith Camp indicated that she believed the lawsuit would likely succeed on the merits because the law would require screenings that may be impracticable to perform and it would create "substantial, likely insurmountable, obstacles in the path of women seeking abortions in Nebraska." She also stated that the law, if applied literally, would "require medical providers to give untruthful, misleading and irrelevant information to patients," which violates the First Amendment [text] rights of the physicians performing the services. The new law will go into effect on July 15, but the state will be prohibited from enforcing the law until the outcome of the lawsuit has been decided.

Several state legislatures have acted recently to place restrictions on women's access to abortion. Last month, Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. In May, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, the Nebraska legislature approved a bill prohibiting abortions at or past 20 weeks [JURIST report] on the theory that a fetus can allegedly feel pain following that point. Advocacy groups have criticized the laws and indicated they will challenge them in court.




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

Taiwan judicial officials arrested for corruption
Dwyer Arce on July 14, 2010 12:06 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Taipei District Court [official website, in Chinese] announced Wednesday that a prosecutor and three judges had been arrested [press release, DOC; in Chinese] on corruption charges. The three judges, all from the Taiwan High Court [official website, in Chinese] are believed to have accepted more than NT $5 million (USD $155,000) [AFP report] offered to them by Ho Chi-hui in return for a not-guilty verdict granted in May. The prosecutor is accused of facilitating the deal. Ho, a former legislator, had been appealing a 19-year sentence and NT $220 million (USD $6.8 million) fine handed down in 2004 [CNA report] in relation to a corrupt land-development project. The judges were suspended following their arrest. A fourth High Court judge is also under investigation, but has not been arrested.

The arrests come just one month after the High Court denied the bail request [JURIST report] of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who is appealing a 20-year conviction for corruption and embezzlement. Chen was originally sentenced to life imprisonment, but the court reduced his sentence [JURIST reports] in June after finding that he had not embezzled as much money as previously thought. Chen was originally found guilty on corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison in September. His wife was also given a life sentence [CNA report] after the pair were convicted on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery and money laundering. Chen has maintained his innocence against all charges, claiming that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website] is using Chen's trial to distance himself from Chen's anti-China views. Chen was also indicted in December for allegedly embezzling USD $20 million from banks [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during Chen's financial reform program.




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

UN rights expert condemns proposed Italy wiretapping law
Hillary Stemple on July 14, 2010 11:48 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue [official website] on Tuesday condemned [press release] an Italian bill [materials, in Italian] that would restrict the use of wiretaps [JURIST news archive] and criminalize the reporting of wiretap transcripts by the news media. La Rue urged the Italian government to either abolish or substantially revise the bill, warning that if it is adopted in its current form, it could significantly suppress freedom of expression in the country. Under the proposed legislation, a three-judge panel would be required to grant a wiretap, and the wiretap would only be valid for a two-month period. Any publication reporting on the contents of a wiretap during an ongoing investigation would be subject to fines of USD $540,000, and the individual journalist reporting the information could also be held liable. La Rue expressed concern about the penalties journalists would face under the bill and the effect it would have on investigative reports on matters of public interest like corruption. He also cautioned that the penalties proposed under the bill would, "seriously undermine all individuals' right to seek and impart information" in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] to which Italy is a party. The Italian Senate [official website, in Italian] approved the bill [JURIST report] last month. The bill must be approved by Italy's lower house of parliament before it becomes law.

The Italian bill has been extremely controversial. Supporters of the bill claim it is necessary in order to protect privacy and curb the excessive use of wiretaps [NYT report]. The bill has been widely criticized [WSJ report] by members of the media and prosecutors who contend the bill is aimed at protecting high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile; JURIST news archive], who are often the focus of wiretap investigations. Last week, a majority of the Italian media went on strike [JURIST report] to protest the bill in a "day of silence" that was meant to be representative of the silence the public would be faced with if the bill were to be signed into law. Opponents also contend that the bill would weaken the ability of the judiciary to conduct investigations, including investigations into organized crime.




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

Federal appeals court overturns Guantanamo habeas grant
Dwyer Arce on July 14, 2010 11:07 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Tuesday overturned a decision [opinion, PDF] that granted the habeas corpus petition of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohammed al-Adahi. In reversing the decision, the appellate court held that the district court erred in examining the evidence against al-Adahi individually, considering and rejecting each piece of evidence in isolation without considering them as a whole. This approach, according the court, led to the "manifestly incorrect [and] startling" conclusion that the government lacked credible evidence to keep al-Adahi in detention. The evidence, including al-Adahi's meetings with Osama bin Laden, attending an al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] training camp, staying in one of the organization's safe houses and additional classified evidence, was sufficient to leave "no doubt that Al-Adahi was more likely than not part of al-Qaida." The court explained:
The [district] court appeared to rule that an individual must embrace every tenet of al-Qaida before United States forces may detain him. There is no such requirement. When the government shows that an individual received and executed orders from al-Qaida embers in a training camp, that evidence is sufficient (but not necessary) to prove that the individual has affiliated himself with al-Qaida.
Additionally, the appellate court criticized the lower court's failure to question the credibility of al-Adahi as a witness. The court emphasized the necessity of this finding because of the training al Qaeda operatives receive to create cover stories, lie to interrogators and claim they had been tortured.

In August 2009, the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled that the US lacks enough evidence [JURIST report] to justify the continued detention of al-Adahi, granting his habeas petition. The government argued that al-Adahi, who has been detained at Guantanamo since 2002, was a supporter or member of the Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and/or al Qaeda, claiming that al-Adahi had acted as an instructor at al Qaeda camp al Farouq, had familial ties to both the Taliban and al Qaeda, had been employed as a bodyguard for bin Laden and that al-Adahi's story lacked credibility. In December 2009, the court found the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] in contempt for failing to videotape [JURIST report] al-Adahi's testimony, contrary to a court order issued in June.




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

Guantanamo detainee transferred to Yemen
Hillary Stemple on July 14, 2010 10:52 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] announced Tuesday that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohammed Odaini was transferred [press release] to his homeland of Yemen [JURIST news archive] after a federal court ordered his release [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. In his ruling ordering Odaini's release, Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], ruled that the US government had illegally detained Odaini for the past eight years and that the US government had failed to show sufficient evidence linking Odaini to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. Odaini is the first detainee to be transferred to Yemen since the Obama administration suspended all transfers of Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] to the country citing security concerns. The DOD noted that the suspension of Yemeni repatriations remains in effect but that the administration respected the decision of the court and complied with all Congressionally-mandated requirements when facilitating the transfer. The DOD also indicated that the US and Yemeni governments will work together to ensure that all appropriate security measures are taken following Odaini's transfer. There are currently 180 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo facility, which the US government has been attempting to close [JURIST news archive] since US President Barack Obama took office last year.

Most of the detainees remaining at Guantanamo are Yemeni, and many have been transferred back to the Arab nation. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] upheld the detention [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo detainee Ghaleb Nassar Al-Bihani [NYT materials], ruling that he can remain in US custody, but, in December, the US government transferred six detainees [JURIST report] back to Yemen. Also in December, a federal judge granted Yemeni detainee Saeed Hatim's petition for habeas corpus, ordering his release [JURIST report]. A few weeks after the Obama administration suspended transfers to Yemen, a Yemeni government official said that Yemen will build a rehabilitation center for Guantanamo detainees. According to the anonymous official, Yemen will begin building [Reuters report] once it receives funding for the $11 million project promised by the US. It is believed the rehabilitation center will be internationally financed and monitored.




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

Federal court begins trial on 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' challenge
Dwyer Arce on July 14, 2010 9:19 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Tuesday began the trial in a case challenging the constitutionality of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive]. Judge Virginia Phillips, trying the case without a jury, heard opening statements [text] in the case, Log Cabin Republicans v. United States [case materials; LCR backgrounder], in which the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) [advocacy website] argued that the military policy violates the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder]. They claim the policy has the effect of barring homosexual members of the military from "communicating the core of their identity and emotions," or associating with pro-homosexual groups. Citing Lawrence v. Texas [Cornell LII backgrounder], in which the Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] struck down state bans on homosexual activity, LCR argued that the policy violated the Fifth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] guarantee of due process. Under Lawrence and later precedent, the government must show that an interference with the private life of homosexuals is "necessary to further [important government interests]," according to LCR. LCR also pointed to statements made by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profiles] claiming that the law weakens national security and that the rationale for it is not based in fact. LCR stated that it would introduce as evidence testimony from homosexual service members affected by the policy and government reports that undermine the rationale for it. Despite its objections to the policy, the Obama administration argued for its constitutionality [AP report], describing plaintiffs' evidence as irrelevant and stating that the federal court was inappropriately hearing an issue that was currently being debated in Congress.

Last week, the court denied the government's motion for summary judgment [text, PDF], finding the possibility of legislative action to repeal the policy was "sufficiently remote" [opinion, PDF] to allow the case to proceed. LCR, an organization for homosexual members of the Republican Party [party website], filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in 2004 in reaction to the Lawrence decision. In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee [official websites] voted to repeal the policy after Obama and Gates agreed to a compromise [JURIST reports] that would prevent the repeal from taking effect until the completion of a review to determine what effects the repeal would have on military effectiveness, soldier retention and family readiness. Also in May, A CNN poll [results, PDF] released found that 78 percent of American adults believe that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military. In March, Gates announced changes to the enforcement [JURIST report] of the policy to make it more difficult to expel openly gay service members from the military. In May 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that the US military cannot dismiss a soldier [JURIST report] on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The repeal of the controversial "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy has been an important issue for Obama since he took office, as reaffirmed in his State of Union Address [JURIST report].




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

Federal appeals court rules FCC indecency policy unconstitutional
Hillary Stemple on July 14, 2010 9:00 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] indecency policy [text] is unconstitutional. The court held that the FCC's policy is a violation of the First Amendment [text] right to freedom of speech because it is unconstitutionally vague and could have a "chilling effect" on speech. The case was originally filed by Fox Television Stations [corporate website] after the FCC changed its longstanding policy to allow broadcast corporations to be fined based on isolated expletives. Fox argued that the agency's indecency test was unconstitutionally vague because it provided no clear guidelines as to what is covered by the agency's policy, forcing broadcast corporations to severely limit speech in order to avoid potential fines. The court agreed with Fox, finding that:
Under the current policy, broadcasters must choose between not airing or censoring controversial programs and risking massive fines or possibly even loss of their licenses, and it is not surprising which option they choose. Indeed, there is ample evidence in the record that the FCC's indecency policy has chilled protected speech.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps [official profile] called Tuesday's ruling "anti-family" [press release, PDF], stating that the court was more concerned with the "chilling effect" the indecency policy has on "indecent programming" rather than the ability of parents to protect their children. Copps urged the government to appeal the decision and called on the FCC to "clarify and strengthen its indecency framework to ensure that American parents can protect their children from the indecent and violent images that bombard us more and more each day."

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] remanded the case to the appeals court after ruling [opinion text; JURIST report] in April 2009 that the FCC did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in changing its policy regarding fines for the broadcast of isolated expletives. That ruling overturned a previous decision [JURIST report] by the Second Circuit, which held that the 2004 policy was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act [text] for failing to articulate a reasoned basis for its change in policy. The Supreme Court declined to address the constitutionality of the FCC policy in its decision and remanded the case to the lower court for further consideration of the constitutional issue.




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

Federal judge refuses to dismiss charges against ex-Guantanamo detainee
Andrea Bottorff on July 14, 2010 8:22 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss charges [opinion, PDF] against former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive], ruling that his Sixth Amendment [text] right to a speedy trial was not violated. Ghailani's lawyers had sought a dismissal of charges, arguing that he was denied the right to a speedy trial [JURIST reports] while being detained for nearly five years in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] secret prisons and later at Guantanamo Bay. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] rejected this argument:
Considering all of the circumstances, particularly the lack of significant prejudice of the sort that the Speedy Trial Clause was intended to prevent, the delay in this case did not materialy infringe upon any interest protected by the right to a speedy trial. The Court therefore holds that Ghailani's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial has not been violated.
Kaplan's ruling cleared the way for Ghailani to face a civilian trial in September for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder] in Kenya and Tanzania.

Earlier this month, Kaplan ruled that Ghailani is not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and is therefore fit to stand trial [JURIST report]. The issue of Ghailani's psychological state arose after he requested to be exempt [JURIST report] from prison strip searches because it triggers his PTSD, which he allegedly acquired while being interrogated at an overseas CIA detention camp. The exemption request was filed in May after Kaplan ruled that Ghailani must attend the opening of his trial [JURIST report], requiring him to submit to strip searches. Also in May, Kaplan refused to dismiss criminal charges [JURIST report] against Ghailani, despite his lawyer's claims that he had been tortured in prison. Ghailani was the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the SDNY in June to face 286 separate counts, including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance.




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

UK PM announces plans for criminal justice reform
Andrea Bottorff on July 14, 2010 7:47 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] on Tuesday announced [press release] the coalition government's plans to reform the criminal justice system [text, PDF] to include lesser prison sentences and more community punishment options. The Ministry of Justice [official website] on Tuesday published its Structural Reform Plan, which outlines reform goals for the next two years, including changing criminal sentencing and penalties to include different degrees of crimes and shorter jail terms, increasing prisoner rehabilitation, improving the efficacy of the legal aid system, reorganizing prisons to meet capacity challenges and developing more civil liberty protections. UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke [official profile] praised the reform strategy [press release], saying "we need to focus our resources on protecting the public, punishing offenders and providing access to justice - in a way that is both intelligent and transparent." Cameron's announcement came one day after the Centre for Social Justice [advocacy website] published a report calling for radical reforms [text, PDF] to the country's penal system. However, others oppose the reforms [Mirror report]—particularly victims' rights groups that support tough sentences for murder.

UK criminal justice reform has been debated in the country over the last four years. In 2006, the UK Law Commission [official website] published a report proposing a breakdown of the sentencing scheme for murder [text, PDF] into separate categories with different requirements and punishments. Months later, a UK chief justice spoke out against mandatory sentencing [JURIST report], citing concern over the Law Commission's report and suggesting that the mandatory life sentence for murder be abandoned and that a new broad offense of "homicide" be created which would allow judges wide discretion in sentencing for different scenarios of that according to circumstances. However, previous attempts at reform have met with strong opposition [JURIST report] from British judges, who have called such plans "kneejerk reactions" to sentencing scandals. Proponents of the reforms urge officials to limit prison sentences to only the most dangerous criminals in order to help the government deal with prison overcrowding [BBC backgrounder; Guardian backgrounder] that has reached crisis proportions [JURIST report].




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

France parliament approves burqa ban
Hillary Stemple on July 13, 2010 3:43 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday voted 336-1 to approve a bill [materials, in French] that would make it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other full face veils in public. Under the legislation, women who wear the veil can be required by police to show their face, and, if they refuse, they can be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. The National Assembly began debate on the bill last week, after the French cabinet approved the legislation [JURIST reports] in May. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] condemned the vote [press release] stating, "A complete ban on the covering of the face would violate the rights to freedom of expression and religion of those women who wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs." The bill will now proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French], which is currently scheduled for September.

Many jurisdictions are currently debating legislation that would ban the burqa. Last month, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [JURIST report] calling on the government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. In May, the Quebec legislature began hearings [CBC report] on a bill that would ban full face veils for public servants, while Australian lawmakers voted to end further discussion [JURIST report] on a bill that would have banned wearing the burqa. Also in May, European Parliament [official website] Vice President Silvana Koch-Mehrin [official website, in German] expressed her support for a continent-wide burqa ban [JURIST report]. In April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public.




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

China looks to increase Internet regulation, decrease anonymity
Daniel Richey on July 13, 2010 3:36 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Chinese Internet regulators have plans to drastically reduce internet anonymity by requiring users to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites, according to documents [text] released Tuesday by New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website]. The documents contain various versions of an April 29 speech to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress by Wang Chen [official profile, in Chinese], Director of the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China and Deputy Director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China [official websites, in Chinese]. The HRIC website provides two different texts of the speech, the original posted May 4 and an abridged version [text] posted the next day, from which all mention of the identity disclosure requirements was removed [text comparison] before the speech was apparently removed from the SCIO speech archive [official website] altogether. Much of the excised material details the Chinese government's past efforts and future plans to constrict the flow of dissenting and overseas information and use the Internet to spread pro-state propaganda. In one section, Wang lays out new plans to "strengthen [China's] supervision" of Internet content by curbing opportunities for anonymous discussion:
We are implementing ... a permission and examination and approval system to handle online information services involving ideological security and public interests. We are also establishing a robust series of management procedures ... to handle harmful information and prevent the infiltration of harmful information from overseas ... On major news websites and key commercial websites, we are implementing a system to require real-name identification of forum moderators and a function that successfully removes "anonymous comments" on news stories. We are also exploring an identity authentication system for users of online bulletin boards.

HRIC's revelation comes on the heels of a June announcement that Google will continue to operate its google.cn Internet search engine in mainland China, ending a four-month period during which the site simply redirected to the uncensored google.hk [search websites; JURIST report] after the company threatened in January to pull out of China entirely [JURIST report]. Earlier last month, the Chinese government defended [JURIST report] its Internet censorship laws in a report [materials] on Internet usage in the country. In February, the government announced new regulations [JURIST report] further restricting Internet use by requiring Chinese citizens to submit identity cards and meet with regulars before registering a website, prompting many to register sites overseas to avoid regulation.




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

US lawmakers call for investigation into BP involvement in release of Lockerbie bomber
Hillary Stemple on July 13, 2010 2:22 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US lawmakers are calling for an investigation [press release] into the role that oil company British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] may have played in obtaining an early release for convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile]. The lawmakers are asking that the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] investigate whether BP played a role in lobbying for the release of al-Megrahi in exchange for a 2007 contract [AP report] with Libya allowing the company to drill in the country's coastal waters. Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official, was released from custody [JURIST report] last August on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with cancer and subsequently returned to his native Libya. His release was controversial, with both US officials and the Scottish Parliament [JURIST reports] condemning his release. In a letter to the committee [text, PDF], Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) [official website] stated that serious questions remain regarding the veracity of medical reports detailing al-Megrahi's health at the time of his release as well as regarding BP's role in the negotiations for his freedom. Lautenberg cites BP's 2007 admission that they, "told the UK ... it was concerned that a delay in concluding a prisoner transfer with the Libyan government might hurt" the oil deal as evidence that further investigation is warranted. The call for a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation comes one week after a group of senators, including Lautenberg, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) [official websites], urged the British government to conduct a "full, transparent" investigation [press release] into the circumstances surrounding al-Megrahi's release.

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the Pan Am bombing and sentenced to 27 years in prison, which he subsequently appealed. In November 2008, the Scottish High Court of Judiciary [official website] denied al-Megrahi's request to be released [JURIST report] on bail during the appeals process. In March 2008, lawyers for al-Megrahi were denied access to a "missing document," that they had sought in appealing his conviction [JURIST reports]. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in al-Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds for a possible "miscarriage of justice" [press release, PDF] in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility for the 1988 airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed all 259 on board [memorial website] including 180 Americans.




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

Kagan committee vote delayed a week by Republican Senator
Dwyer Arce on July 13, 2010 1:54 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday delayed a vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan [official profile; JURIST news archive] at the request of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website]. The vote on whether to send the nomination for consideration by the full Senate is now scheduled for July 20 [hearing video] after Sessions, the ranking member on the committee, requested that the vote be delayed under committee rules allowing any member to do so. In requesting the delay, Sessions described the confirmation process as moving in an "expeditious manner," and went on to outline his potential objections to Kagan's confirmation. Among them, he called Kagan's answers to questions during her confirmation hearings as "less than candid" and expressed concern over her positions on legislation during her time working in the Clinton administration. Sessions explained:
The nominee lacks the experience and intellectual rigor that you develop from [the] full-time practice of law and serving as a judge. She's had neither of those experiences and I think it showed in her testimony. ... [H]er testimony lacked the clarity and strict intellectual honesty that I think we should look for in a nomination to the Supreme Court.
Sessions also called for further clarification of Kagan's participation in her role as solicitor general in the efforts of the Obama administration to defend against a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 materials; JURIST news archive], describing her denial of involvement as insufficient. Also on Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] announced that he will support Kagan's nomination [press release], describing her as possessing "an impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it[.] ... She made clear that she will base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not politics or an ideological agenda."

Kagan's confirmation hearings concluded two weeks ago [JURIST report]. During the hearings, Kagan addressed the effect of political bias on the court and stressed the importance of not bringing politics to the bench. "Every judge has to do what he or she thinks the law requires. But on the other hand, there's no question that the court is served best and our country is served best when people trust the court as an entirely non-political body." Kagan later discussed the balancing test she deems necessary in resolving First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] lawsuits. Kagan's confirmation hearings began late last month [JURIST report] with Democratic and Republican senators offering contrasting interpretations of Kagan's judicial philosophy and lack of experience on the bench. Obama nominated Kagan [JURIST report] in May to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his retirement [JURIST report] in April. Kagan became the first woman confirmed as Solicitor General [JURIST report] in 2009.




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

US issues new drilling moratorium
Drew Singer on July 13, 2010 1:13 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar [official profile] issued a new six-month drilling moratorium [text, PDF] on Tuesday, citing new evidence regarding safety concerns after the BP oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Unlike the previously ordered moratorium, this one is not based on the depths at which drilling occurs. Instead, the moratorium affects drilling with specific technologies, although the applicable technologies are most often used during deepshore drilling and will not affect shallow water drilling operations. The new plan, the government says, offers more specifics on the types of drilling that will and will not be banned. In a press release [text], Salazar said that the new pause on deepwater drilling will provide time to implement recent safety reforms and for:
1. The submission of evidence by operators demonstrating that they have the ability to respond effectively to a potential oil spill in the Gulf, given the unprecedented commitment of available oil spill response resources that are now being dedicated to the BP oil spill;

2. The assessment of wild well intervention and blowout containment resources to determine the strategies and methods by which they can be made more readily available should another blowout occur; and

3. The collection and analysis of key evidence regarding the potential causes of the April 20, 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, including information collected by the Presidential Commission and other investigations.

In this period, the government will also create interim safety rules in accordance with recommendations submitted to President Barack Obama in May and is supported by an "extensive record of existing and new information indicating that allowing new deepwater drilling to commence would pose a threat of serious, irreparable, or immediate harm or damage to the marine, coastal, and human environment." Government lawyers on Monday also asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] to lift its order barring the previous moratorium [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] because the new plan had been filed. The plaintiffs who sued to block the original moratorium said they have substantial concerns about the ban [AP report], but have not announced whether they will challenge it. Those against the moratorium argue that it will unnecessarily hurt the gulf economy [PBS video].

Last week, the Obama administration filed a brief asking the court to reinstate the original offshore drilling ban [JURIST report] after a district judge issued a preliminary injunction against the moratorium [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], saying it was necessary because the ban caused irreparable harm to both the plaintiffs - small oil companies affected by the ban - and the public. The US Department of Justice [official website] contended that the district judge abused his discretion [JURIST report] in issuing the injunction and that another deepwater spill could overwhelm the ongoing efforts to clean up the spill with catastrophic results. More than 120 million gallons of oil have leaked already from the rig's broken pipe and has now surpassed the Exxon Valdez oil spill [JURIST news archive] as the worst in US history.




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

Italy police arrest hundreds, seize millions in organized crime raid
Daniel Richey on July 13, 2010 12:28 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Italian police on Tuesday arrested [press release, in Italian] more than 300 individuals and seized millions of euros worth of assets in a countrywide raid on the 'Ndrangheta [CNN backgrounder] crime organization. The predawn operation, dubbed "Il crimine," the largest such action in 15 years, involved more than 3000 police in numerous provinces, but most arrests were concentrated in the southern region of Calabria and the northern region of Lombardy. Among those arrested were Pino Neri, suspected of leading the 'Ndrangheta's northern operation in Milan, and Domenico Oppedisano, who authorities believe to be the head of the organization. The 'Ndrangheta has emerged in recent years as the largest of Italy's organized crime operations, and has been implicated [police report, in Italian] in illegal activities ranging from murder, kidnapping and extortion to drug and weapons trafficking and infiltration of local government. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [official biography, in Italian] characterized "Il crimine" as a major blow to the organization stating, "This is absolutely the most important operation against the 'Ndrangheta in recent years ... today [we] struck the 'Ndrangheta at the heart of its criminal system, both in terms of organization and in terms of finance."

Tuesday's arrests come amid controversy surrounding last month's advancement [JURIST report] through the Italian senate of a hotly contested bill that would impose new constraints on wiretapping operations. The bill [materials, in Italian] would criminalize the reporting of wiretap investigations by the media and would require a panel of judges to approve new wiretaps, something opponents of the bill claim would impair government efforts to combat organized crime. Last month, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] released a report detailing the globalization of organized crime [text, PDF; JURIST report] and its threat to international security. At a conference in May, Antonia Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UNODC called for international efforts to fight organized crime, warning [JURIST report] about the inadequacy of current checks and saying that criminal organizations are gaining economic strength [press release].




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

Afghanistan cabinet approves a bill targeting government corruption
Hillary Stemple on July 13, 2010 11:36 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Afghan cabinet on Monday approved a bill that would allow high-ranking government officials to stand trial on charges of corruption. Under the bill the Afghan judiciary would be empowered [Xinhua report] to establish special tribunals which would hear the cases of high-ranking government officials accused of corruption. Under current Afghan law, government ministers are immune from prosecution in the traditional court system. The cabinet's approval comes one week before the Afghan government is expected to ask for additional funds from the international community in order to help in the country's rebuilding efforts. The approval of the funds may be contingent on the government's ability to reduce corruption, which is reportedly extensive. Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) [advocacy website] reports [text, PDF] that Afghans paid USD $1 billion in bribes in 2009, and that corruption threatens the country's legitimacy [press release]. Transparency International (TI) [advocacy website], in its 2009 Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI) [text; JURIST report], ranked Afghanistan one of the world's most corrupt countries. The bill must now be approved [AFP report] by the Afghan Parliament [official website] or passed by presidential decree.

In March, US President Barack Obama [official website], during a surprise visit to the country, urged the Afghan government to reduce corruption [JURIST report] and institute an effective judicial system. Obama called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website; JURIST news archive] to take steps to promote good governance [CBS/AP report], end cronyism, and curtail the opium trade [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Last November, Karzai pledged to fight corruption [JURIST report] in his government during his inaugural address [text, PDF]. In his speech Karzai announced that he would organize a conference to research the sources of the corruption and bribery and find ways to combat it.




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

Afghanistan government must protect women's rights during reconciliation efforts: HRW
Dwyer Arce on July 13, 2010 11:22 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Tuesday called on the Afghan government to protect the rights of women [press release] during integration and reconciliation efforts conducted with the Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] and other militants. In a report, Ten-Dollar Talib [materials], the human rights organization criticized recent actions taken by the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to end the ongoing conflict with the Taliban and other insurgent groups, claiming they ignored women's rights in favor of reaching an expedient resolution. HRW criticized what it called politically motivated actions that undermine women's rights, such as Karzai's signing [JURIST report] of the Shia Personal Status Law [Reuters backgrounder], and his pardon of two convicted rapists. HRW explained:
The Afghan government and its international supporters have ignored the need to protect women in programs to reintegrate insurgent fighters and have not guaranteed that women's rights will be included in potential talks with the Taliban[.] ... Afghan women shouldn't have to give up their rights so the government can cut a deal with the Taliban[.] ... It would be a tragic betrayal to snatch away the progress made by and for women and girls over the past nine years.
In avoiding this result, HRW renewed its previous call [JURIST report] for the immediate repeal of a law that became effective in January that allows immunity for Taliban fighters who join the reconciliation process, which it described as an abdication of Afghanistan's obligation under international law to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. HRW also urged the Afghan government to require that all militants participating in the reconciliation process explicitly affirm their support for gender equality, as mandated by Article 22 of the Afghan Constitution [text]. The report went on to criticize the international community, including the UN, US and NATO, which HRW says has failed to provide adequate oversight of the reconciliation process and has ignored women's rights in favor of bringing the war to an end.

Women's rights in Afghanistan faced significant opposition under the Taliban, which ruled the country from 1996-2001. This rights situation has been ameliorated since the US-led invasion, but continues to face opposition from Afghan government officials and militants. In August 2009, HRW criticized the Shia Personal Status Law as violating the Afghan Constitution and severely undermining women's rights, despite an announcement the previous month [JURIST reports] that provisions requiring a wife to submit to sex with her husband and to obtain his permission before leaving the home were removed. In April 2009, 300 Afghan women protested the law [JURIST report] and were confronted by 1,000 counter-protesters, some of whom threw stones and gravel at the women. Earlier that month, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing Sitara Achakzai [JURIST report], an Afghan politician and women's rights advocate, outside her home. In 2006, Safia Hana Jan, another women's rights advocate and director of the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kandahar [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], was killed by armed gunmen [JURIST report] after she publicly criticized the Taliban.




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

Canada government to appeal Khadr rights ruling
Ann Riley on July 13, 2010 11:13 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Canadian Department of Justice [official website] on Monday announced that it will appeal [press release] a court ruling ordering the government to provide Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [DOD Materials; JURIST news archive] with a list of remedies to ameliorate its breach of his constitutional rights. Earlier this month, the Federal Court of Canada [official website] held that Khadr, who is a Canadian citizen, has a right to "procedural fairness and natural justice" [JURIST report] under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], and the government has so far failed to take appropriate action to guarantee these rights. On filing the appeal, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Rob Nicholson [official profile] said:
This case raises important issues concerning the Crown prerogative over foreign affairs. As the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in an earlier case involving Mr. Khadr, 'it would not be appropriate for the Court to give direction as to the diplomatic steps necessary to address the breaches of Mr. Khadr's Charter rights.' Omar Khadr faces very serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism, and spying.
Khadr's lawyers said they doubt the court could reach a decision [CBC report] before Khadr's US military commission trial, which is set to begin on August 10 [JURIST report]. Also on Monday at his US military commission pre-trial, Khadr told the presiding judge, Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, that he intends to boycott his upcoming trial [JURIST report] and requested to fire his court-appointed military lawyer. Parrish denied the request after Khadr fired his US civilian lawyers and sought to represent himself last week.

Khadr has been held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] since his 2002 capture by US forces in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old. He is facing murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injured another, although he has repeatedly denied the accusations. Khadr sought judicial review from the Federal Court following the Supreme Court's decision in January that Canadian government could continue to refuse to request his repatriation [JURIST reports] from Guantanamo, even though the judges unanimously agreed that the government had breached Khadr's Charter rights. According to the ruling, Canadian officials questioned Khadr even though they knew he was being indefinitely detained and with knowledge that he was subjected to three weeks sleep deprivation by US authorities. In May, a UN official called on the US and Canada to respect international conventions [JURIST report] and release Khadr into Canadian custody. The UN claimed that since Khadr was 15 when he was captured, his detention would fall in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which has been ratified by Canada, but not the US.




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

UN begins arms treaty negotiations
Ann Riley on July 13, 2010 10:52 AM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs [official website] on Monday began negotiating a treaty to regulate the arms trade and prevent guns from entering conflict zones. The Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) [official website], established following a 2008 report [text] by the Group of Governmental Experts, has been examining the scope and draft parameters of a 2006 resolution [JURIST report] in order to make recommendations on an international, legally binding arms treaty. After fully considering the findings and recommendations of the PrepCom, the UN General Assembly [official website] plans to finalize the treaty [Reuters report] in 2012. The Control Arms Campaign, a network including Amnesty International (AI), Oxfam and Instituto Sou da Paz [advocacy websites], has called on the UN to draft an effective treaty regulating all weapons, ammunition and related equipment [press release]. In outlining the need for an effective treaty, the organizations explained:
Half of the world's poorest people live in states that are at risk of, or experiencing, violent conflict. Conventional arms, especially small arms, light weapons and associated ammunition, are used for the majority of grave human rights violations. Now is the time for an Arms Trade Treaty that really protects people, not just states.
In addition to strong arms regulation, the Control Arms Campaign is advocating for the treaty to contain specific international human rights, humanitarian law and sustainable development criteria. While 151 of the 192 UN member states voted to begin formal negotiations in December 2009, 19 states, including Russia, China, India and Pakistan, have consistently abstained in the General Assembly votes on the Arms Trade Treaty, with Zimbabwe voting against.

In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] urged Central African nations to adopt a legally binding instrument [JURIST report] to combat illicit arms trafficking. In March, UN officials warned that arms trafficking was interfering with development [UN News Centre report] in Central Africa's security and justice by increasing cross-border crime. Also in March, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] reported [text] that Africa suffers the most casualties as a result of the global illicit arms trade market. In April, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profiles] signed the New START treaty [JURIST report], pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. The treaty agreement was reached [JURIST report] in February, and is the first nuclear arms control agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years.




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

Lawyers file complaint in Morocco seeking arrest of Israel officials
Dwyer Arce on July 12, 2010 3:33 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] A group of lawyers on Monday filed a complaint with a Morocco prosecutor seeking the arrest of several high ranking Israeli officials over their involvement in Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The complaint names former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak [BBC profiles] for violating anti-terror laws [AFP report] and laws requiring the protection of civilians during the 22-day conflict in the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. If the complaint is accepted by the Rabat chief prosecutor, the Israeli officials would face arrest upon entering Moroccan jurisdiction. Israeli officials have faced several arrest threats following the operation in which an estimated 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. In January, a military delegation canceled a trip to the UK [JURIST report] over fears that they would be arrested on war crimes charges for their involvement in the conflict under several British warrants. The arrest warrants were the result of Palestinian plaintiffs working with British lawyers to file charges against Israeli officials under universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder], which allows a country to prosecute serious crimes against humanity no matter where the activity takes place. In December, Livni canceled a UK trip [JURIST report] after a British magistrate court issued, and later revoked, an arrest warrant for her on war crimes charges relating to the Gaza offensive.

Israel has faced mounting international pressure following the Gaza conflict. The Goldstone Report [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] accused both the Israel Defense Force (IDF) [official website] and Hamas [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] of war crimes during the conflict. Both Israel and Hamas conducted independent investigations into the incident after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution [JURIST report] in November giving them three months to probe possible war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict. Hamas reported to the UN that its independent investigation had absolved Palestinian forces of any wrongdoing. Israel presented a report to the UN in February detailing its role in the conflict [JURIST report] and noting that two high-ranking Israeli officers were indicted for their actions during the incident. Rights groups have questioned the impartiality of the internal investigations. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused both Israel and Hamas of failing to conduct credible investigations [JURIST report] into accusations of war crimes during the conflict. In February, HRW criticized Israel for failing to demonstrate that it would conduct a thorough and impartial investigation [JURIST report] of the alleged war crimes.




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

China expands income-reporting rules to fight corruption
Daniel Richey on July 12, 2010 3:28 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The Chinese government instituted new regulations Sunday requiring a wide variety of government officials to disclose to the state details about their personal finances and the legal statuses of their family members. The new regulations [Xinhua report], which apply to county-level and higher-ranking political officials, party officers and employees of public institutions and state-held business entities, require individuals to disclose their family's investment holdings, property and income, as well as the marital statuses, employment statuses and whereabouts of all family members. The inclusion of detailed information about family members in the new disclosure requirements is intended to deter officials from hiding ill-gotten assets and bribes under family members' names, a practice the government believes to be widespread. While the regulations, enacted by the General Office of China's State Council [official website, in Chinese] and the General office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], do not go so far as to require public disclosure of the financial information in question, feedback from Chinese citizens posted to state-run portals has shown the move to be well received [Xinhua report]. The regulations also institute stiffer penalties for failure to comply, with offenders now facing a range of disciplines from public sanction to removal from office.

The expanded regulations are the latest salvo by the Chinese government in a years-long battle against what is perceived to be pervasive corruption [JURIST news archive] in the state's various business and administrative bodies. Last week, the Chinese government executed [JURIST report] a top judicial official after a corruption probe in the southwestern city of Chongquing revealed he had taken nearly $2 million in bribes and had been protecting a number of organized crime gangs. In March, the Hebei Province People's High Court upheld a life sentence for the former vice president of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC), Huang Songyou, who had been convicted [JURIST reports] of bribery and embezzlement. Earlier that month, SPC president Wang Shengjun 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.




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

UK court sentences 3 in 2006 airliner bomb plot to life in prison
Daniel Richey on July 12, 2010 1:35 PM ET

Photo source or description
[JURIST] The UK Woolwich Crown Court on Monday sentenced three British Muslims [press release] charged in connection with a 2006 plot to blow up numerous transatlantic flights to life in prison. Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zahman [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] were part of a conspiracy to detonate liquid bombs hidden in soft drink bottles on airliners bound for the US and Canada from London's Heathrow Airport [corporate website]. The plot was dismantled [JURIST report] after a raid carried out by London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) [official website]. During the raid, the police discovered a digital tape containing suicide videos for Savant, Khan and Zaman. All three claimed the videos were fake and pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to causing a public nuisance at a previous trial in 2008. Stuart Osborne, the MPS's senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism, said:
The martyrdom videos, the instructions left for the media to use them, passport applications, the loan applications and the forensic and surveillance ... all add up to a clear picture of intent. The length of the sentence reflects the severity of their crime. Sadly, this case also highlights that there are people out there who are intent on causing us harm.
The sentence requires each of the men to serve a minimum of 20 years.

The men were convicted last week [JURIST report] of conspiracy to commit murder. A total of 24 men were arrested during 2006's Operation Overt, one of the biggest raids ever executed by MPS, and 11 were charged [JURIST report] under the Terrorism Act of 2006 and Terrorism Act of 2000 [texts]--eight with conspiracy to commit murder and preparing acts of terrorism, one with possession of articles useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism and two with failing to disclose information of material assistance in preventing an act of terrorism. In September, three other men convicted of attempting to smuggle liquid explosives onto the airplanes were sentenced [JURIST reports] to life in prison by the same court.




Link |