[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Theresa May [official profile] on Thursday announced interim stop-and-search guidelines for suspected terrorists in response to a January ruling [JURIST report] by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], which found that searches performed by police without legitimate suspicion are illegal. Following the judgment, the government suspended Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 [text], which authorized police to conduct a search of any pedestrian, vehicle or passenger in a vehicle "if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism." Under the interim guidelines the search must now be "necessary" instead of "expedient," and police may only conduct a stop and search if they reasonably suspect the person of terror-related activities:
The interim guidelines will be in place until the new coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron [official profile] further reviews the nation's counter-terrorism legislation. May said that the government cannot appeal [AFP report] the ECHR ruling, but would not do so if it could.
In January, ECHR unanimously ruled [judgment text] that searches performed by police without legitimate suspicion are illegal. The ECHR found that British police had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF] when they stopped and searched two individuals in 2003 under the Terrorism Act 2000. Under Article 8, everyone is entitled to the right of respect for private and family life. The court found that although the search is undertaken in a public place, Article 8 is still applicable. "Indeed, in the Court's view, the public nature of the search may, in certain cases, compound the seriousness of the interference because of an element of humiliation and embarrassment."
[JURIST] The Cuban government on Thursday began the process of releasing political prisoners as part of an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church [church website], which was brokered by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos [official website, in Spanish]. Under the agreement, five prisoners will be released [AP report] within the next several days, while several others will be moved to prisons closer to Havana in anticipation of the remaining 47 being released within the next two months. Spain has formally agreed to accept the five prisoners who are to be freed immediately and has also informally agreed to accept all 52 of the prisoners. The freed dissidents are expected to leave Cuba in exile. The political prisoners to be released were all captured as part of a 2003 tightening on dissent within the country. A total of 75 dissidents were arrested at that time, although 23 have subsequently been released. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] indicated that she was encouraged by news of the agreement [AFP report], but would not comment as to whether the release would have any impact on US-Cuba relations. A US State Department spokesperson also indicated that the US would be willing to accept any of the freed prisoners.
Cuba continues to face criticism for its human rights record. Last week, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the Cuban legal system [JURIST report], stating that the government's restrictions on freedom of expression create a "climate of fear" among journalists and activists. The report follows a statement released by AI in March urging the Cuban authorities [JURIST report] to "revoke laws that restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association and to release all dissidents unfairly detained by the authorities." Also in March, the US State Department [official website] criticized Cuba for interfering with the right to privacy in its 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials; JURIST report]. In November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] claiming that the Cuban government continued to repress dissidents and violate fundamental civil liberties of Cubans, and resorted to imposing short-term imprisonment measures to elude international critique. According to a February 2009 report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish], the number of political prisoners in Cuba had declined [JURIST report] from 234 in January 2008 to 205, while the number of brief detentions had increased.
[JURIST] The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Thursday upheld a Swedish law [judgment text] restricting Internet gambling. The suit was brought by the publishers of two Swedish newspapers, Expressen and Aftonbladet, which both ran online gambling advertisements for several foreign agencies in 2004. The Swedish lottery law in question prohibits the promotion of Internet gambling by private operators in other EU member states for profit. The publishers were prosecuted under the lottery law and fined 50,000 Swedish crowns. The publishers appealed the judgment, and the court sought guidance from the ECJ to determine whether the Swedish lottery law was compatible with EU law on service provisions and games of chance [Article 49-EC text, PDF]. The ECJ held that bans on Internet gambling were acceptable for cultural, moral or religious reasons, but there should be no discrimination. The court concluded that Sweden's ban on Internet gambling was in line with EU laws, but that the nation's lottery laws were not allowed to penalize foreign gambling agencies differently from domestic agencies.
The judgment comes at a time when the multi-billion euro industry is attempting to break the monopoly held by domestic "game of chance" agencies in many EU member states. In June, the ECJ issued two judgments [JURIST report] against UK betting companies Ladbrokes International and Betfair [judgments], upholding Dutch restrictions on Internet gambling. The ECJ ruled in both cases that national regulations on games of chance are compatible with EU law when they are enacted to mitigate addiction and combat fraud. The US has also taken recently taken steps to tighten restrictions on Internet gambling. Official federal enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) [HR 4411 materials] began in June. The UIGEA, which bans banks and financial institutions from intentionally accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers related to unlawful Internet bets was scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2009, but enforcement was delayed [JURIST report] in November until June 1. The delay allowed US banks and financial institutions six months to get in compliance with the new rules designed to curb Internet gambling. The act was signed into law [JURIST report] by then-president George W. Bush in October 2006 amid controversy over the effects of the bill on US bettors and foreign companies.
[JURIST] Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Thursday suspended the trial [press release] of accused Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [case materials; JURIST news archive], stating that the trial could not proceed until the prosecution obeyed the judge's orders to disclose specific information to the defense. The ICC indicated that Lubanga could not receive a fair trial until the defense received information about the identity of a witness known as "intermediary 143." Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] indicated that the prosecution will appeal the decision to disclose the witness's identity, and the court is expected to consider the appeal during the stay. The court also indicated it will consider possible sanctions for the prosecution under Article 71 of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] if they do not comply with the court's ruling.
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.
[JURIST] The UK Woolwich Crown Court on Thursday convicted three British Muslims [press release] for attempting to blow up transatlantic planes leaving London's Heathrow Airport [corporate website] in 2006. Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zahman [GlobalSecurity profiles] were part of a conspiracy to detonate liquid bombs hidden in soft drink bottles on airliners bound for the US and Canada. The plot was dismantled [JURIST report] after a raid carried out by the London Metropolitan Police Service [official website]. During the raid, the police discovered a digital tape containing the suicide videos relating to 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. The Crown appealed the judgment. The men are scheduled to be sentenced on Monday.
A total of 24 men were arrested during UK raids in August 2006, and police charged 11 suspects [JURIST report] under the Terrorism Act 2006 and Terrorism Act 2000 [texts]eight with conspiracy to commit murder and with 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 men convicted of attempting to smuggle liquid explosives onto the airplanes were sentenced [JURIST reports] to life in prison by the London court.
[JURIST] The Council of Europe's European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) [official website] reported Thursday that racist violence and rhetoric has risen [report, PDF; press release] in Europe during 2009, following the recent economic crisis [JURIST news archive]. According to the report, the economic crisis has led to a rise in the unemployment rate and a decrease in social services in many countries, with immigrants being blamed for the resulting hardship. The report cites increasing hostility toward the Roma minority [JURIST news archive] as well as the continuing discrimination against Muslims as two examples of groups facing more discriminatory actions. The ERCI specifically pointed to the recent trend in some parts of Europe toward banning the wearing of the burqa [JURIST news archive], noting that the legislation is targeted towards Muslims, and called on countries to encourage religious diversity and acceptance. In order to combat the rising incidents of racism, ERCI is urging the 29 Council of Europe members that have not yet ratified Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights [materials], which prohibits racial discrimination, to do so. They are also advising countries to enforce existing laws against racism and to enact new laws in order to "fill the legal gaps that still exist."
Members of the Roma minority have been frequent targets of discriminatory government actions throughout Europe. In March, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text] that the practice of segregating Roma primary school students in Croatia from other pupils is discriminatory [JURIST report]. Also in March, the US State Department released their 2009 human rights report [JURIST report] noting an increase in the killings of Roma people in Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In February of last year, Italian authorities dismantled illegal immigrant camps [JURIST report] 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. In July 2008, the Italian government began recording the fingerprints [JURIST report] of thousands of Roma, including children, ostensibly to reduce street crime and begging. Later that month, the European Parliament [official website] called on EU member states to repeal all anti-Roma laws and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights urged Italy to change its "severe" policies [JURIST reports] on Roma people.
[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday stayed the extradition of four terrorism suspects from the UK to the US, holding that potential punishment could violate Human Rights Convention [text] provisions on the prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment. The court issued the injunction in order to further examine evidence [Telegraph report] against the men and determine if the US sentencing standards would lead to an Article 3 violation. The court denied claims that the men would be treated as "enemy combatants" if extradited to the US. The suspects include British citizens Haroon Rashid Aswat, Seyla Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad [advocacy website; BBC profile] and Egyptian-born radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. All four men are wanted in the US on terrorism charges. The court held that the allegations against Ahmad, Aswat and Ahsan presented a serious risk that the men could face imprisonment without parole at ADX Florence [BOP backgrounder], a super-maximum security prison in Colorado. Hamza's stay of extradition was based solely on further examination of evidence, as he is less likely to serve a lengthy sentence. The court stated the reexamination of evidence against the men was necessary as their complaints raised "serious" questions of highly complex fact and law. The ECHR gave the UK government until September 2 to submit new or revised observations and evidence to be considered in the examination of the case on its merits.
The UK High Court approved the extradition [JURIST report] of Aswat and Ahmad to the US in 2006. Aswat is wanted in the US on suspicion of setting up a terrorist training camp and Ahmad is wanted for conspiring to kill Americans and running a website used to fund terrorists and recruit al Qaeda members. The extraditions were approved only after the US offered assurances that it would not seek the death penalty, try the suspects before military tribunals or declare them enemy combatants. The extradition of Hamza was approved [JURIST report] by a British court in 2007. Hamza, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence in the UK [JURIST report] for urging his followers to kill Jews and other non-Muslims, faces US charges of attempting to establish terrorist training camps in Oregon, conspiring to take hostages in Yemen, and helping terror training in Afghanistan.
The TFTP has provided critical investigative leads -- more than 1,550 to EU Member States -- since its creation after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These leads have aided countries around the world in preventing or investigating many of the past decade's most visible and violent terrorist attacks and attempted attacks, including Bali (2002), Madrid (2004), London (2005), the liquids bomb plot against transatlantic aircraft (2006), New York's John F. Kennedy airport (2007), Germany (2007), Mumbai (2008), and Jakarta (2009).
The agreement is scheduled to enter into force on August 1, 2010, and will be valid for five years. The agreement is then renewable on a yearly basis.
The EU and US have struggled to balance privacy concerns with anti-terrorism efforts in the past. In 2006, an EU panel said that SWIFT broke privacy laws [JURIST report] by sharing data with the US. Revelation of the once-secret program [NYT report; JURIST report], prompted sharp criticism from the Bush administration, which defended the initiative. The chairman of the US House Homeland Security Committee [official website] later encouraged the administration to press criminal charges [JURIST report] against the media for publicizing the program, which allowed the CIA [official website] to monitor international financial transactions processed by SWIFT.
[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday announced charges [press release] against five members of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] allegedly involved in the New York City subway bomb plot in September 2009. The attempted bombing is thought to be part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attack in the UK. The indictment, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website], broadened the case of Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in February to conspiring to set off explosions in New York City's metro system under the direction of al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. The indictment included charges against Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, who were previously arrested by authorities in the UK in relation to suspected terrorist activity in the country that is "directly related" to the attempted September attack in New York. A man referred to as "Ahmad" in the indictment was charged with acting as an "al-Qaeda facilitator" for Naseer and Rehman. The indictment also included Adnan El Shukrijumah, a leader of al-Qaeda's external operations program, who is charged with organizing the New York plot and recruiting Zazi. US officials have been searching for Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabia national, for several years and plan to put him on the FBI's most wanted list this week. The indictment also included additional charges against Adis Medunjanin, who was indicted in February [JURIST report] for an attempted terrorist attack on Whitestone Expressway in Queens, NY. The men were indicted on 10 counts including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and receiving military training from al Qaeda. Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
The DOJ revealed the broader underlying plot of Zazi's failed attack last Septemeber. Zazi is a native of Afghanistan who was arrested [BBC report] by FBI agents in Colorado last fall. He was originally charged with making false statements to the FBI. In September, Zazi was indicted [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] and originally pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. In February, he changed his plea to guilty to three criminal charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in the US and to commit murder in a foreign country, as well as providing material support for al Qaeda. The guilty plea was praised [JURIST report] by US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website], who has been a strong proponent of using civilian courts to try terrorist suspects.
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] released a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF] Wednesday denying habeas corpus relief to Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah [JURIST news archive]. In its opinion, the court affirmed the district court's ruling [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that there was sufficient evidence against al Odah for him to be considered "part of" al Qaeda and Taliban forces. The US government is given authority to detain suspects who can be considered "part of" al Qaeda or the Taliban under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF], and the district court found that it was more likely than not that al Odah "became part of Taliban and al Qaeda forces" after traveling to Afghanistan and attending a terrorist training camp. Lawyers for al Odah attempted to argue that the individual pieces of evidence against him could be explained without reaching the conclusion that he was a member of al Qaeda. The appeals court disagreed, holding that when viewing the evidence in its entirety, there was "strong support" for the district court's findings.
Al Odah's case, pending since 2002, was a companion case to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion text; JURIST report], in which the court determined that Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to bring a habeas challenge in federal court. Last week, the DC Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that evidence against Algerian Guantanamo detainee Belkacem Bensaya, the only one of the six Boumediene petitioners who has not been granted habeas relief, must be reviewed to determine if he was "part of" al Qaeda. Al Odah's case was also a companion case to the 2004 Supreme Court decision of Rasul v. Bush [opinion text; JURIST report], in which the court ruled that US courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges brought by foreign-born detainees to contest their captivity and treatment at Guantanamo Bay.
[JURIST] A Sudanese terrorism suspect held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty [press release] on Wednesday before a military judge to charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] admitted that he supported al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] since 1996 in their hostilities against the US, acting as the terrorist group's cook and accountant in the 1990s and as a bodyguard [AP report] for Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive] in later years. He was also accused of being Bin Laden's driver and helping him escape to the mountains of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. Al Qosi's plea marks the fourth time [Reuters report] a Guantanamo Bay detainee has been convicted by a military tribunal [JURIST news archive] since the detention center opened its doors in 2002 and the first time a captive has been convicted since the Obama administration pledged to shut the center down in 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] reiterated its call to end military commissions and try Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts. Al Qosi's sentencing is scheduled to take place on August 9 before a panel of military officers, and he could face a sentence of up to life in prison or could be sentenced to time served.
Al Qosi has been detained at Guantanamo since he was transferred there from Afghanistan in 2002. In December, a military judge ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US government could partially amend the charges [JURIST report] against al Qosi by changing his jurisdictional basis but could not include four additional years of alleged activities under the charges. In October, military judges granted continuances [JURIST report] for prosecutors in the case against al Qosi, as well as in the case against Noor Uthman Mohammed [DOD materials]. At the time, it was expected that the continuances would make way for a decision on whether to hold the remaining Guantanamo detainee proceedings in civilian or military court.
[JURIST] The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information [official website, in German] announced Wednesday that he has initiated legal proceedings against Facebook [website; JURIST news archive] for accessing and saving non-users' personal information. Dr. Johannes Caspar [official profile, in German] stated the social networking site could be fined tens of thousands of euros [AP report] for violating Germany's strict privacy laws [materials, PDF; in German]. Caspar was alerted that non-users had been contacted by Facebook because their e-mail addresses were listed in Facebook users' e-mail contacts. He estimates this privacy issue could affect millions of Germans. Facebook acknowledged that they have received a letter from Caspar informing them of the pending legal dispute and plan to respond before the August 11 deadline [Washington Times report].
This is not the first time Caspar has initiated legal action against a popular US Internet company over privacy issues. He recently filed a complaint [Boston Globe report] against Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive], joining many in other countries in contending that their Street View feature violates privacy rights. Facebook has also faced privacy complaints in other countries. In January, the Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner [official website] announced that it would launch a new probe [JURIST report] of Facebook to investigate privacy issues in response to complaints. Last year, five Facebook users sued the company in a California court alleging the site violated their privacy [JURIST report].
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