September 2010 Archives


Global rights group urges states to respect migrant rights
Megan McKee on September 30, 2010 4:29 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Global Migration Group (GMG) [official website] adopted a statement [text] Thursday urging all governments to respect the human rights of migrants, who are more likely to face various forms of abuse as they lack proper legal status. The GMG, which is comprised of 12 UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration [official websites], stressed that everybody, regardless of migration status, should enjoy the fundamental rights to life, liberty and security, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, asylum from persecution, and protection from discrimination based on race, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, or other status. The group further recognized that:
Although States have legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration controls, such concerns cannot, and indeed, as a matter of international law do not, trump the obligations of the State to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons, to protect those rights against abuses, and to fulfill the rights necessary for them to enjoy a life of dignity and security.
The statement may target recent events such as Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants and France's expulsions of Roma migrants.

In July, French President Nicholas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered measures [press release] against illegal Roma [JURIST news archive] communities in France and announced new legislation [JURIST report] aimed at making their deportation easier. 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. The government identified the Roma's illegal settlements as sources of illicit trafficking, unworthy living conditions, and the exploitation of children for begging, prostitution or crime. In April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] signed into law [press release, PDF] a controversial bill [SB1070 materials; JURIST news archive] that requires any individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant to present valid identification to law enforcement officials. The legislation [JURIST report] gives police officers permission to determine the immigration status of any individual who arouses reasonable suspicion, criminalizes the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor, and allows citizens to sue the local government if they believe the policy is not being used properly. Both measures have drawn significant criticism both internationally and domestically, and have been charged with stigmatizing migrant communities.




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EU suing UK over internet privacy
Megan McKee on September 30, 2010 3:23 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) announced Thursday that it would refer the UK [press release] to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] for not fully complying with EU regulations that protect the privacy of electronic communications. The EU has found UK law in breach of the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC and the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC [texts], regulations regarding consent to interception and the role of enforcement and supervisory committees. Specifically, current UK law does not provide for an independent national authority to supervise the interception of some communications, it allows for communications to be received without fulfilling the EU definition of consent and it does not have a mechanism that ensures sanctions for unlawful unintentional interception, as required by EU law.

The EC formally notified [JURIST report] the UK in April 2009 that it was starting infringement proceedings [EC backgrounder] for failure to follow EU Internet privacy and data protection rules [text]. The commission specifically referred to "Phorm" [BBC report], an Internet technology used by UK Internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor user web-surfing habits and deliver personalized advertising without the user's consent. The program was stopped after public outrage, but the EC said it was unsatisfied with the official response to "Phorm" and pointed that out weak UK laws meant that the authorities could do little to actively protect user privacy. The EC called for an overhaul of UK laws, giving the government two months to respond.




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India court divides disputed holy site between Hindus and Muslims
Hillary Stemple on September 30, 2010 3:10 PM ET

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[JURIST] An Indian court on Thursday ruled [judgment Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, PDFs] that the disputed holy site Ayodhya [BBC backgrounder] must be split among Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu sect representing the Hindu deity Ram. The dispute over ownership of the site has been ongoing for more than 60 years [WP report] and has resulted in tensions between the religious communities, leading to violence in the country. In 1992, a sixteenth-century Muslim mosque located on the site was destroyed by a mob, sparking riots that led to over 2,000 deaths. The court was asked to address several questions regarding the sit,e including whether a Hindu temple was destroyed in order to build the mosque, whether the site was the birthplace of Ram and whether ownership of the property could be established. The court determined that no Hindu temple was destroyed in order to build the mosque and that joint ownership among the parties had been established by their religious beliefs and over 150 years of Muslims and Hindus practicing their faiths side by side. The court also gave deference to the belief regarding the birthplace of Ram and allocated a courtyard near the previous mosque location to Nirmohi Akhara. Two of the judges ruling on the issues indicated that it would be possible for a new mosque to be built on the site in the future. The dissenting judge in the case rejected this decision, finding that the mosque had been built against the tenets of Islam and was therefore not entitled to be treated as a mosque. The changes at the site will not go into effect for three months, which could be extended because multiple petitioners have indicated that they will appeal the ruling [Times of India report].

The Indian government increased security [Times of India report] around Ayodhya and Delhi in anticipation of Thursday's ruling. Measures implemented by the government included blocking mass text messaging [NYT report] in order to prevent large, organized protests. The government also stationed paramilitary units across the Uttar Pradesh region and at culturally significant sites including the Taj Mahal. In addition to government efforts, officials representing both Muslims and Hindus urged the public to remain calm in light of the decision.




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US lawmakers seek to ban visas for Russia officials linked to lawyer's death
Hillary Stemple on September 30, 2010 1:58 PM ET

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[JURIST] US lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill [press release, PDF] that would prohibit the US State Department (DOS) [official website] from issuing visas to individuals, or their family members, who are connected to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, who was arrested on allegations of tax fraud and held for over a year without a trial after representing London-based hedge fund Hermitage Capital [corporate website] in a suit against Russian officials, died [JURIST report] last November in a Moscow prison. Magnitsky's family and employers have made allegations that, on several occasions, he was denied medical treatment that could have saved his life and his death has been labeled a "murder" [JURIST report] by Russian human rights leaders. In addition to the visa restrictions, the bill would also prohibit the transaction of property or finances through US financial institutions by officials implicated in Magnitsky's death. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) [official website], who introduced the bill, said it was necessary for the US to take action because the Russian judicial system had failed to hold anyone accountable for Magnitsky's death. In his statement [text] introducing the bill, Cardin noted the bill's importance in protecting US business interests abroad and sending "a strong message to those who are currently acting with impunity in Russia that there will be consequences for corruption should you wish to travel and invest abroad." Cardin originally urged the DOS to take action on the visas in a letter [text, PDF] he submitted in April to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In addition to the letter, Cardin provided a list of 60 senior officials [text, PDF] in the Russian government and their connection to the death of Magnitsky.

The Russian government has been highly criticized for its alleged role in the deaths of several high-profile individuals who died under suspicious circumstances. Last November, a suspect was arrested [JURIST report] for the double murder [JURIST report] of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Markelov had represented famed journalist Anna Politskovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] who was shot and killed [JURIST report] in 2006. To date, no one has been convicted [JURIST report] for Politkovskaya's murder. Russia has also received a great deal of criticism for apparently baseless detentions such as Magnitsky's. The expropriation of OAO Yukos Oil Co. [Time backgrounder] and the indictment against and detention of company founder, Mikhail Khordorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] have provoked the condemnation [JURIST op-ed] of many legal experts abroad.




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Federal court begins first civilian trial of ex-Guantanamo detainee
Drew Singer on September 30, 2010 12:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] The first civilian trial of a former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee began Wednesday, as Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] appeared in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] for jury selection. Ghailani, a Tanzanian man, is accused of a key role in the 1998 bombings against two US embassies in Africa. Ghailani's defense filed a motion to dismiss over the summer, saying he would not get a fair trial, but the court denied the motion [text, PDF; JURIST report], because "the government is entitled to attempt to hold Ghailani accountable in a court of law for his alleged complicity in the murder of 224 people and the injury of more than 1,000 others." The pool of hundreds of potential jurors will be cut down to 12, likely by Monday [AFP report] when opening statements are expected to begin.

US President Barack Obama [official profile] said last year in a speech on national security [transcript; JURIST report] that preventing Ghailani from coming to the US would prevent his trial and conviction and that it is time to see that justice is served. 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 2009 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.




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Guantanamo detainee appeals to Supreme Court for habeas relief
Andrea Bottorff on September 30, 2010 11:26 AM ET

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[JURIST] Kuwaiti Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah [JURIST news archive] on Tuesday petitioned [text, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] to reverse a federal appeals court decision that denied him habeas corpus relief. In his petition for writ of certiorari, al Odah claims that the lower courts violated his right to due process by using an inappropriate preponderance of the evidence standard and misapplying the Federal Rules of Evidence [text] to admit hearsay evidence:
By ignoring the plain language of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which are applicable by their terms to habeas corpus proceedings, and by applying a lower standard of proof than has ever been approved by this Court for review of prolonged detention, the District Court and the Court of Appeals have effectively gutted this Court's holding in Boumediene that habeas corpus is a fundamental right to which detainees in Guantanamo are entitled. This Court should not permit its decision to be undermined by the lower courts through such procedural unfairness.
Al Odah is the first to make such an appeal [AFP report] since the court's 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion text; JURIST report] that Guantanamo detainees have a constitutional right to bring a habeas challenge in federal court. If the Supreme Court grants certiorari, then the case will be heard and decided by summer 2011 [AFP report].

In July, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] released a partially redacted opinion [text, PDF, JURIST report] denying al Odah habeas corpus relief. 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 case has been pending since 2002 and was a companion case in Boumediene v. Bush, as well as 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.




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Federal judge denies rehearing in Guantanamo wrongful death suit
Jay Carmella on September 30, 2010 10:36 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday denied [order, PDF] a motion for reconsideration on claims of unlawful treatment and wrongful death brought by the families of two former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. The two men, Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, were reported to have hanged themselves [JURIST report] in July 2006. The families filed the motion for reconsideration after eye witness accounts from soldiers suggested the men died while being tortured [AFP report]. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle did not find the evidence convincing enough to grant the motion. She wrote:
Nothing in the newly-presented evidence contradicts or distinguishes the Circuit's reasoning - reasoning that gives this Court no choice but to conclude that "the special needs of foreign affairs must stay our hand in the creation of damage remedies against military and foreign policy officials for allegedly unconstitutional treatment of foreign subjects causing injury abroad ..." Nor have plaintiffs demonstrated how additional discovery will distinguish this case from Rasul II such the Court can evade the Circuit's clear holding.
Huvelle added that the question before the court is not whether the allegations are true, but rather who should decide the remedy. According to precedent, the judge determined that Congress must decide if a remedy is appropriate.

Huvelle ruled [JURIST report] in February that the claims brought on behalf of the two detainees were barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF]. The court also found that, since the two men were properly detained, it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The claim was brought [JURIST report] against former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST news archive] and more than 100 military officers and personnel under the Alien Tort Claims Act [text], which provides that district courts have original jurisdiction to hear claims for torts "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." The defendants moved to dismiss the suit based on section 7 of the MCA, which removes the ability of federal courts to hear challenges to the treatment of aliens who have been "properly detained" as enemy combatants.




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Sri Lanka president ratifies ex-army chief's prison sentence
Andrea Bottorff on September 30, 2010 10:35 AM ET

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[JURIST] Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Thursday ratified a prison sentence [news release] for former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Fonseka was convicted [JURIST report] two weeks ago by a court-martial on charges of corruption and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison, although Rajapaksa has called for a 30-month sentence. The court found [AFP report] that Fonseka gave preference to an arms company operated by his son-in-law. Fonseka, who is credited with bringing an end to the 26-year civil war, was arrested shortly after his defeat in the January presidential election in which he ran against Rajapaksa. He has been held in military custody since the arrest. Fonseka's lawyers have accused the court of irregularities, and Fonseka has accused the government of seeking revenge for his decision to run in the presidential elections. According to the Sri Lankan Constitution [text], individuals who have served prison sentences are barred from serving in the government [AP report].

Last month, Fonseka announced his decision to appeal [JURIST report] a separate conviction on charges of engaging in politics while on active duty. Fonseka was accused [JURIST report] of trying to secure a place in a political party before he quit his military position. Accordingly, he was dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank, medals and pension. In July, the High Court of Sri Lanka [official website] conducted the first hearing in a case accusing Fonseka 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 Rajapaksa ordered the killing of surrendering rebel leaders during the Sri Lankan civil war.




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Kenya justice minister denies challenge to ICC investigation
Jay Carmella on September 30, 2010 9:06 AM ET

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[JURIST] Kenyan Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo [official website] on Wednesday denied reports that he asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST news archive] to stop its investigation into the violence following the 2007 Kenyan presidential election [JURIST news archive]. Kilonzo stated that his previous comments, regarding the ability of Kenyan courts to handle cases such as these under the new constitution [JURIST report], were taken out of context [Reuters report]. Kilonzo said that the government still supports the ICC investigation and his statement was merely expressing confidence in the Kenyan government's ability to conduct investigations in the future. Kilonzo acknowledged that the Kenyan courts are not ready to do so under the new constitution. The ICC and the Kenyan government have a signed agreement allowing the ICC to hold trials for those responsible for the violence. Kilonzo wants the ICC investigation to run parallel [KBC report] with the investigations being conducted by the Kenyan justice system.

Many influential Kenyans fear the potential outcome of the ICC investigations. Last week, Kenyan businessman Joseph Gathungu filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the ICC investigation, arguing that it is illegal under the new constitution. Also last week, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] announced [JURIST report] plans to present two cases against as many as six individuals who "bear the greatest responsibility" for the violence. In June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called on Kenya to establish a special tribunal [JURIST report] to investigate post-election crimes. Pillay warned that the ICC's role would be limited to a handful of high-profile cases, which is why the need for a more wide-reaching investigation remains. The allegations of fraud [JURIST report] following the 2007 elections led to violence that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and displacement of 500,000 others, and remains a concern in the international community. The ICC initiated a formal investigation into the violence after Kenya failed to conduct [JURIST report] its own investigation.




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UN Human Rights Council adopts report on Israel flotilla raid
Erin Bock on September 30, 2010 8:37 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] on Wednesday agreed to adopt [press release] a recent report [JURIST report] criticizing Israel's raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla [JURIST news archive] and finding the country committed various violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The UNHRC also adopted the conclusions relating to judicial remedies and reparations and called on the parties involved to abide by these recommendations, which include providing medical and psychological care to those who were tortured during the raid. The UNHRC recommended that the report be considered by the UN General Assembly [official website]. The resolution was passed by a vote of 30-1, with 15 members states electing to abstain from the vote. The UNHRC also passed another resolution urging the Palestinian Independent Commission of Investigations to complete its investigation of human rights violations in the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and condemned Israel for not cooperating with investigations. This resolution was passed by a vote of 27-1, with 19 member states abstaining. The US was the only member state to vote against both resolutions. US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe [official profile] explained before the vote that the US "was mindful for the loss of life on the Gaza-bound ships in May this year" and commended UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] for initiating the review of the incident. Chamberlain indicated that the US would continue to communicate with Israel to "increase the scope of goods going into Gaza" and stated that direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have resumed and "all parties should be working to advance the cause of peace."

In July, an Israeli military probe into the flotilla incident found insufficient intelligence and planning, but concluded that no punishments were necessary [JURIST report]. Israel also established a civilian commission [JURIST report] in June to investigate its response. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] testified before the civilian commission [JURIST report] in August and expressed confidence that the commission would find Israeli actions to be in compliance with international law, explaining the Israeli response to the flotilla in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The incident took place on May 31 when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists—eight Turks and one American.




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EU threatens legal action against France over Roma expulsion
Erin Bock on September 30, 2010 7:34 AM ET

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[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] warned France Wednesday that the country would face disciplinary proceedings and potential legal action if it did not follow EU regulations in its relations with Roma [JURIST news archive] migrants. The warning was delivered by letter [Guardian report], which stated that France needed to abide by the 2004 Directive on Free Movement [Directive 2004/38/EC materials] and incorporate it into its laws. The Commission issued a statement [text] naming freedom of movement as one of the fundamental principles of the EU and stated that France needed to provide "draft transposition measures" and a "detailed transposition schedule" regarding the directive by October 15. The letter also included questions regarding assurances France provided to the Commission that recent laws and measures taken by authorities were not intended to single out a specific ethnic minority, but treated all citizens equally. The Commission reiterated that the integration of the Roma people was a common responsibility among all EU members and stated that it will review the policies of other countries to ensure that they are abiding by the 2004 directive. The Commission also stated that the recently formed Roma Task Force will continue to monitor European efforts to integrate the Roma and will present framework for an integration strategy by next April.

This news comes the day after Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged EU members to stop forcibly deporting Roma migrants to Kosovo [JURIST report]. Also on Tuesday, France's National Assembly [official website, in French] began considering a new bill that would make it easier to deport illegal immigrants and strip immigrants accused of violent crimes of their French citizenship. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] criticized the bill because it targets minority populations, particularly the Roma. Earlier this month, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding [official profile] threatened legal action [JURIST report] against France for its deportation of Roma, calling the intitiave "a disgrace." Also this month, more than 100,000 people in 130 cities across France protested [JURIST report] the security policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], including his decision to deport [JURIST reports] the illegal Roma. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] unveiled a review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The report raised questions about draft legislation that would strip naturalized citizens of citizenship for committing certain crimes and the decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments.




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Rights groups urge Obama to halt use of local authorities in immigration enforcement
Dwyer Arce on September 29, 2010 2:46 PM ET

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[JURIST] More than 500 international, US, state and local human rights and immigration advocacy organizations sent a letter [text, PDF] to US President Barack Obama Wednesday expressing concern over the use of local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The organizations, which included the Southern Poverty Law Center, AFL-CIO, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International [advocacy websites], pointed specifically to § 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 USC § 1357(g)] and the Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien Program [NIC backgrounder]. These programs allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to delegate immigration enforcement authority to local agencies, which the organizations say causes a "dangerous merger of the federal immigration enforcement system with state criminal justice systems." This delegation, according to the letter, takes place without sufficient federal oversight and regardless of whether state authorities have a history of racial profiling. These policies themselves promote profiling of those who "look or sound 'foreign'" in arrests in order to check immigration status, the letter explained:
DHS' immigration enforcement programs have allowed arrests for minor charges, such as driving without a license and petty theft, amounting to no more than a subway ride, to be the gateway for immigration enforcement. ... Once noncitizens are channeled into the immigration enforcement system - regardless of guilt or innocence, severity of the offense or how long ago it occurred, rehabilitation or ties to the community - they face a detention and deportation system with few due process protections. DHS has a bad track record of failing to ensure that immigration enforcement authority is not granted to local agencies with a history of racial profiling or racially disparate enforcement. Similarly, even as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announces measures to prioritize its use of government resources, the agency has no meaningful screening or oversight in place to ensure that it is not relying on the criminal arrest authority of local enforcement agencies with a history of misconduct.
The letter pointed specifically to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who operates with authority delegated by 287(g) and is the subject of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation and several civil rights lawsuits, as a failure of DHS oversight.

The role of local law enforcement in US immigration law has been a point of debate in recent months, since the passage [JURIST report] of an Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], which seeks to create state law authority to enforce federal immigration law, prompting numerous lawsuits assailing its constitutionality. Last month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) filed the state's opening brief [JURIST report] in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asking the court to lift the preliminary injunction issued in July [JURIST report] blocking the law from taking full effect. The injunction came at the request of the DOJ, enjoining 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 for allegedly legalizing racial profiling [JURIST op-ed].




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Bosnia court upholds Croatia lawmaker's war crimes conviction
Sarah Miley on September 29, 2010 2:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina [official website] on Wednesday upheld the war crimes conviction [press release] former Croatian Parliament [official website] member Branimir Glavas [JURIST news archive] for ordering the torture and death of Croatian Serbs in the town of Osijek in 1991 during the Serbo-Croatian War [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The court sentenced Glavas to eight years in prison [Reuters report]. The ruling was in line with Glavas' conviction upheld [JURIST report] in July by the Supreme Court of Croatia [official website, in Croatian], which reduced his 10-year jail sentence [JURIST report] by two years. 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. Glavas has maintained his innocence [AFP report] throughout the proceedings, stating that the convictions are politically motivated.

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.




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India court allows appeal by convicted Mumbai gunman
Sarah Miley on September 29, 2010 2:15 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Bombay High Court [official website] on Tuesday allowed an appeal by Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab [NDTV profile], the lone gunmen to survive the three-day siege of Mumbai [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that killed 166 in November 2008. Kasab, a Pakistani national, filed the appeal in June after he was convicted [JURIST reports] in May for his role in the terrorist attack, which was allegedly coordinated by Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder]. He was sentenced to death after the prosecution sought the death penalty [JURIST reports], citing eight aggravating circumstances. Two alleged Indian accomplices tried with Kasab were acquitted on all charges of helping to plan the attacks. The Indian government is currently determining whether to appeal [PTI report] the acquittals.

Judge ML Tahiliyani, specially appointed [PTI report] in January 2009 to preside over the trial of three suspects detained after the attacks, heard closing arguments [JURIST report] in the case in March. In January, Tahiliyani denied [JURIST report] Kasab's request for an international trial. Kasab claimed that he would not receive a fair trial in India. In December, Kasab withdrew his confession [JURIST report], claiming he was tortured and framed by police. Kasab originally pleaded not guilty last year, but interrupted his trial to confess and change his plea to guilty [JURIST reports] in July. Tahiliyani continued the trial [JURIST report] despite Kasab's confession, ruling that it was incomplete but should be entered into the record.




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China not considering eliminating death penalty for corruption
Dwyer Arce on September 29, 2010 1:39 PM ET

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[JURIST] The National People's Congress [official website, in Chinese] never considered removing the death penalty [JURIST news archive] as a punishment for corruption during the consideration of an amendment to the criminal code, legislator Chen Sixi stated [Xinhua report] Tuesday. The proposed amendment, which would reduce the number of capital crimes [JURIST report], was presented to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website, in Chinese] last month, of which Chen is a member. The current criminal code in China outlines 68 criminal offenses that carry the death penalty. If adopted, the proposed legislation would eliminate death sentences for 13 non-violent economic crimes, including smuggling and fraud-related activities, and would be the first time the number of crimes carrying the death penalty has been reduced since the enactment of China's criminal law in 1979. The amendment also proposes expanding capital punishment exceptions to criminals over the age of 75. Previously, only pregnant women and criminal offenders under the age of 18 were exempt from the death penalty. The proposed legislation is the latest move by the Chinese government to reduce the number of death sentences ordered by the country's courts.

Earlier this year, the Supreme People's Court of China [official website, in Chinese] issued new guidelines for limiting capital punishment [JURIST report] in Chinese courts. The guidelines instruct courts to issue the death penalty only to those who commit "extremely serious" crimes. However, the guidelines also state that reprieves should be issued in certain cases as allowed by law. The consistent use of the death penalty in China has been met with significant criticism from anti-death penalty advocates. Anti-death penalty group Hands Off Cain [advocacy website] has said that China, Iran and Iraq account for more death penalties [advocacy report] than any other country. According to the group, in 2009, China executed about 5,000 people, or 88 percent of the world's total.




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France lawmakers mulling controversial immigration bill
Andrea Bottorff on September 29, 2010 12:17 PM ET

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[JURIST] France's National Assembly [official website, in French] began considering [session summary, in French] Tuesday a new bill [No. 2400 text, in French] that would would make it easier to deport illegal immigrants and strip immigrants accused of violent crimes of their French citizenship. The proposal, which supporters argue will help decrease crime [WP report] in the country, targets immigrants facing murder or other violent charges within 10 years of gaining French citizenship. The bill would also make it easier for French authorities to deport both EU-citizens and non-citizens [France 24 report] who have been in France for more than three months, but less than three years, for lesser crimes like "theft or aggressive begging" and would give local authorities greater power to dismantle and evacuate illegal settlements. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] criticized the bill, urging the French government to reject the proposal because it targets minority populations [news release], particularly the Roma [JURIST news archive]. The open session discussion of the bill will continue through October 12 [legislative materials, in French].

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged EU members to stop forcibly deporting [JURIST report] Roma migrants to Kosovo. AI believes that Roma, as well as other ethnic minority groups, could face persecution or violence upon their return. Earlier this month, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding [official profile] threatened legal action [JURIST report] against France for its deportation of Roma, calling the initiative "a disgrace." Also this month, more than 100,000 people in 130 cities across France protested the security policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], including his decision to deport [JURIST reports] the illegal Roma. However, such policies [JURIST comment] are not new for France. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] unveiled a review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The report raised questions about draft legislation that would strip naturalized citizens of citizenship for committing certain crimes and the decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments.




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ICTY begins project to strengthen region's courts
Andrea Bottorff on September 29, 2010 10:51 AM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday announced a collaborative project that will support and strengthen regional courts in the former Yugoslavia [press release]. The ICTY, partnered with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) [official websites], began the "War Crimes Justice Project" [ICTY backgrounder] this week with funding provided by the EU. The 18-month program aims to improve the region's judicial system by hiring additional support staff, creating training materials, organizing peer-to-peer meetings among legal professionals and providing copies of court documents translated to Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian via the tribunal's Appeals Chamber Case Law Research Tool [materials]. ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic explained the significance of the joint effort [press release], calling it "a key element in the transfer of responsibility for war crimes cases from the ICTY to national judiciaries." In light of the new project, Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic [official profile] this week made a public statement emphasizing the importance of war crimes accountability [Vecernje Novosti report, in Serbian] and the country's ongoing cooperation with the ICTY in prosecuting alleged war criminals.

The ICTY has been active in the region's war crimes trials, including the genocide trial of Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive], which the ICTY announced earlier this month may take another four years [JURIST report]. The same week, current and former international prosecutors signed the fourth Chautauqua Declaration [text, PDF] praising recent advances in international law and urging countries to continue supporting the international courts [JURIST report] in order to maintain the spirit of the Nuremburg Principles [text]. The prosecutors, who have worked with the ICTY, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official websites], as well as the International Military Tribunals, called for continued support and funding of the tribunals and courts as they continue working to maintain the rule of law. They urged countries to fulfill their obligations under international law by investigating and prosecuting, or transferring to the appropriate international court, suspects who violate international criminal law, including sitting heads of state.




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Iceland ex-PM facing charges over financial crisis
Ann Riley on September 29, 2010 9:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Icelandic Parliament [official website, in Icelandic] on Tuesday voted [materials, in Icelandic] 33-30 to refer charges against former prime minister Geir Haarde [official profile, in Icelandic] to the Landsdomur, a special court created to try government ministers. Haarde is the first world leader charged [AP report] in relation to the financial crisis, and, if convicted, he could face two years in prison. Haarde is accused of intentionally or grossly negligently failing to prevent the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis [resolution, in Icelandic]. The Special Investigation Committee (SIC) [official website, in Icelandic], convened in 2008 by Parliament to investigate the collapse of the country's three largest banks, determined that Haarde and former central bank head David Oddsson [official profile, in Icelandic] knew that banks were assuming overseas debt but took no action to prevent or mitigate the effects of the accumulation. The SIC released a report [materials, in Icelandic; JURIST report] in April claiming that seven Icelandic government officials acted with gross negligence in their management of the country's financial system prior to a 2008 bank collapse. The SIC also found that former minister of finance Arni Mathiessen, then-banking minister Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, former Financial Services Authority [official website] director Jonas Jonsson and central bank officials Eirikur Gundason and Ingimundur Fridriksson failed to take appropriate action when presented with information about the poor state of the country's financial sector.

Iceland was hit hard [BBC backgrounder] by the financial crisis [JURIST news archive] that emanated from securities related to the US mortgage market. When Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir [corporate websites] were taken over by the Icelandic government in 2008, they were holding debt equal to more than 900 percent [AFP report] of Iceland's gross domestic product, causing the country's economy to collapse and the government to rely on loans [IMF materials] from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [official website] to meet its obligations. The country began considering [JURIST report] whether to seek EU accession [criteria materials] last year, with Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir [official profile] arguing that adopting the Euro would help stabilize the country's economy. In 2008, the UK used anti-terrorism laws to freeze $4 billion [JURIST report] in assets held by Landsbanki after its takeover by the Icelandic government.




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Federal appeals court lifts stem cell research ban
Ann Riley on September 29, 2010 9:44 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] granted a stay [text, PDF] Tuesday allowing federal funding for stem cell research [JURIST news archive] to continue pending a full appeal. After hearing oral arguments on Monday, the three-judge panel dissolved the temporary stay [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued earlier this month so it could have "sufficient opportunity to consider the merits" of the Obama's administration's emergency motion for stay. The temporary stay was replaced by a long-term stay, which will remain effective until the appeals court decides whether to overturn the preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued in August by Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website]. The appeals court said the Obama administration had "satisfied the standards required for a stay pending appeal." The Obama administration sought the emergency stay earlier this month after Lamberth denied [order, PDF; JURIST report] a motion to stay his preliminary injunction.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that Lamberth's ruling was overbroad, endangering an array of research across multiple programs and centers while only serving a very attenuated economic interest of the plaintiffs in the case. Last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] permitting federal funding for some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Despite the executive order, Lamberth held that evidence showed that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prevail based on existing law. The case was originally dismissed for lack of standing last October but was reinstated [JURIST reports] in June with only plaintiffs who claimed their ability to obtain funding for adult stem cell research was harmed by increased competition for federal funds after they were permitted to also be used for embryonic stem cell research. Those new guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding of embryonic stem cells to only cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community, the previous administration refused changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S 5 materials] that was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill, saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos.




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Ontario court strikes down anti-prostitution laws
Daniel Richey on September 29, 2010 8:21 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Ontario Superior Court of Justice (OSCJ) [official website] on Tuesday struck down [opinion, PDF] several provisions of Canada's anti-prostitution laws, citing the danger they generate for sex workers. Invalidated were provisions of § 210, § 212 and § 213 of the Canadian Criminal Code [texts], which proscribe the keeping of a "common bawdy house," engaging in communications for the purpose of soliciting sex and living "on the avails" of the sex trade. Justice Susan Himel said that those provisions were not "in accord with the principles of fundamental justice" and asked the Canadian parliament to draft new provisions to effectuate constitutional regulations:
These laws ... force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ... In my view [until Parliament can enact new legislation] these unconstitutional provisions should be of no force ... particularly given the seriousness of the Charter violations. ... I recognize that a consequence of this decision may be that unlicensed brothels may be operated, and in a way that may not be in the public interest.
Himel suspended the judgment 30 days, and the Canadian government may seek an extension of the stay. Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Robert Nicholson [official profile] said [press release] that the government is "very concerned" about the decision and is "seriously considering an appeal." Meanwhile, the Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC) [advocacy website] said it was "delighted" [press release] by the ruling. "This important victory gives us hope that sex work will one day be fully regarded as the legitimate occupation it is. ... [Now] we can ensure our safety by working together indoors [and] report abuses ... to the appropriate authorities, without fear of arrest."

Although prostitution is legal in Canada, virtually all of the acts ancillary to exchanging sex for money are not. In 2007, the SPOC initiated an application with the OSCJ [JURIST report] challenging the three provisions overturned in Tuesday's ruling on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Charter. The challenge came on the heels of the trial of Robert Pickton [CBC case backgrounder], who was accused of murdering 26 women [indictment text], mostly prostitutes, in the Vancouver area in the 1990s. Pickton was convicted of six counts of murder [Globe and Mail report] in late 2007.




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Iran court sentences blogger to 19.5 years
Sarah Paulsworth on September 28, 2010 2:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] An Iranian blogger known for popularizing blogs in Iran has been sentenced to 19.5 years imprisonment for cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promoting counterrevolutionary groups and maintaining obscene websites. In addition to serving his prison sentence, Hossein Derakhshan [Ottawa Citizen profile] faces a five-year ban [Mashreghnews report, in Persian] from membership in political parties and fines totaling nearly USD $45,000. Derakhshan, who has been in prison since 2008, has dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship and is widely known in Iran as the country's "Blogfather" [RFE/RL report]. It was previously reported that Derakhshan was facing the death penalty [Global Voices report]. "Such a long jail term has never before been imposed on a blogger in Iran and is indicative of a desire to make an example out of Derakhshan," media freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] said [press release]. "He is the victim of political rivalry within the government and the case against him was fabricated. We urge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to intercede personally in order to obtain his release without delay."

Iran has faced criticism for its efforts to curtail the activities of bloggers and journalists. Earlier this month, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] sentenced [JURIST report] Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], to six years in prison. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrabasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [Mehr backgrounder]. In May, RSF included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profiles] of Iran in a report listing 40 "Predators of Press Freedom" [JURIST report] throughout the world. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.




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Turkish opposition leader sentenced for promoting PKK
Sarah Paulsworth on September 28, 2010 2:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] The co-chairman of Turkey's Peace and Democracy Party, Kurdish rights advocate Selahattin Demirtash [official profile, in Turkish] was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence on Tuesday for allegedly promoting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [BBC backgrounder; FAS backgrounder]. A Turkish court ruled that Demirtash promoted the PKK [Zaman report, in Turkish] during his tenure as a branch head of the non-profit organization Human Rights Association [official website] by publishing a press release drawing attention to the case of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan [BBC profile]. The prosecution also noted that Demirtash made similar statements [Hurriyet report] regarding Oclan on Roj TV, a satellite TV channel broadcasting in Kurdish. Demirtash can appeal this decision. The PKK has been labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey's government and the US State Department [official website].

The Peace and Democracy Party was created on the basis of the Democratic Society Party, which was banned [JURIST report] by Turkey's Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] in December 2009 because the party was cooperating with the PKK. Earlier this year, Turkish politician and Kurdish rights activist Leyla Zana [NNDB profile] was sentenced to three years in prison for spreading terrorist propaganda. Zana was convicted [Zaman report, in Turkish] by a court in the city of Diyarbakir for two speeches delivered at the Kurdish political congress and protest in 2008. Zana has previously been convicted for spreading propaganda under Turkey's anti-terrorism laws, most recently facing a 10-year sentence [JURIST report] in 2008 for supporting the PKK.




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Supreme Court adds 14 cases to 2010 docket
Sarah Miley on September 28, 2010 1:49 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in 14 cases. In Smith v. Bayer Corp. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine two issues. First the court will decide whether, under the re-litigation exception of the Anti-Injunction Act [28 USC § 2283], a district court can enjoin parties from seeking class certification under state procedural rules after denying certification to a similar class, but with neither identical parties or claims as those in the state court. Secondly, the court will determine whether the district court has personal jurisdiction over absent class members to enjoin them from requesting class certification in state court. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the relitigation exception permitted an injunction barring relitigation in state court of a federal court's denial of class certification. The court also held that the protections available to absent class members in the context of an adverse certification ruling satisfy due process and are sufficient to bind them in personam to the district court's certification decision.

The court will also hear the case of Kentucky v. King [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine when lawful police action impermissibly "creates" exigent circumstances that preclude warrantless arrests. The case was appealed from the Supreme Court of Kentucky [official website] to determine which of the five tests currently being used by US circuit courts should be used to determine this issue. The Kentucky court held [opinion, PDF] that the officers were not in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal and, therefore, the exigent circumstances used to validate the warrantless arrest were self-created.

In Astra USA, Inc. v. Santa Clara County [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine whether, in the absence of a private right of action to enforce a statute, federal courts have the federal common law authority to confer a private right of action simply because the statutory requirement sought to be enforced is embodied in a contract. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that a plaintiff as a third party beneficiary has a private right of action under federal common law to enforce pricing requirements under the Public Health Service Act [42 USC § 256b text], even though the sct does not contain an express or implied private right of action. Newly-appointed justice, Elena Kagan, will be recused from this case.

The court will also hear the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] to determine whether exemption 7(c) of the Freedom of Information Act [5 USC § 552 text] protects the "privacy" of corporate entities. The exemption excludes from mandatory disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes when such disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy." Kagan is recused from this case.

In the consolidated cases of General Dynamics Corp. v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and The Boeing Company v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will determine whether, under the Due Process Clause, the government can maintain its claim against a party when it invokes the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] to completely deny that party prima facie defense to the claim. General Dynamics and Boeing had a fixed-price contract to build an aircraft carrier-based version of the "stealth" fighter plane, but ran into difficulty meeting deadlines and producing models. The companies claim that these issues were the result of the Navy's refusal to release access to secret technology about the land-based "stealth" fighter under the state secrets doctrine. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the Navy was justified in canceling the contract because the companies were not fulfilling their contractual obligations.

In J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether a "new reality" of "a contemporary international economy" permits a state to exercise, in
personam
jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer pursuant to the stream of commerce theory solely because the manufacturer targets the US market for the sale of its product and the product is purchased by a forum state consumer. The case involves an accident in a New Jersey scrap metal facility on a machine made by a British company that sold the machine through an unaffiliated distributor. The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled [opinion text] that a foreign manufacturer that places a defective product in the stream of commerce through a distribution scheme that targets a national market, which includes New Jersey, may be subject to the in personam jurisdiction of a New Jersey court in a product-liability action.

That case will be argued in tandem with Goodyear v. Brown [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which the court will decide whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction, on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products placed in the stream of commerce by the defendant. This case involves the death of two North Carolina youths in France when a tire made in Turkey failed and the bus in which they were riding crashed. The Court of Appeals of North Carolina ruled [opinion, PDF] that defendants were subject to personal jurisdiction.

In United States v. Tinklenberg [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the time between the filing of a pretrial motion and its disposition is automatically excluded from the deadline for commencing trial under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 [18 USC § 3161(h)(1)(D) text] or is instead excluded only if the motion actually causes a postponement, or the expectation of a postponement, of the trial. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Jason Louis Tinklenberg's trial violated the Speedy Trial Act. Kagan is recused from this case.

In Stern v. Marshall [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will revisit the estate battle [JURIST report] of model Anna Nicole Smith (Vickie Lynn Marshall).

In Schindler Elevator Corp. v. US ex rel. Kirk [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether a federal agency's response to a Freedom of Information Act [text; JURIST news archive] request is a "report ... or investigation" within the meaning of the False Claims Act public disclosure bar [31 USC § 3730(e)(4)].

The court also granted certiorari in Freeman v. United States, Bullcoming v. New Mexico and Sykes v. United States [dockets].




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Somalia pirate sentenced to death in state of Puntland
Jay Carmella on September 28, 2010 1:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] A court in the Somali state of Puntland [official website] on Tuesday sentenced a pirate [JURIST news archive] to death for murdering the skipper of cargo ship in June. Salah Mohamed Gelle, considered a pirate ringleader, highjacked [AFP report] the MV QSM Dubai, along with seven other pirates, in June. The vessel had a crew of 24 and was headed to Bossaso. Salah was sentenced to death for executing the ship's skipper, Sayid Jacfar, when security forces attempted to board. The other pirates received sentences ranging between 10 and 17 years in prison and fines up to USD $2,000. The state of Puntland has been considered a hotbed of pirate activity [BBC report] over the last decade.

Despite increased international efforts, Somali pirates continue to be a concern in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Last week, a Kenyan court convicted [JURIST report] seven Somali pirates and sentenced them to five years in prison. Earlier this month, a Kenyan court convicted [JURIST report] seven other Somali pirates, giving them the same five-year sentences. The maximum sentence under Kenyan law for piracy is life imprisonment, and the EU Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website], a naval force that has been deployed to deal with the surge of piracy off the coast of Somalia, refuses to turn over suspects unless capital punishment is off the table. In July, a court in Seychelles convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] a group of Somali pirates to 10 years in prison following the attempted hijacking of Seychelles coastguard ship. In June, the UN announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom [JURIST report] in Kenya that will hear piracy cases. The announcement came after the UN announced $9.3 million in donations [JURIST report] to help fund piracy courts in Kenya and Seychelles.




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Rights group urges EU nations to stop forced Roma deportation
Jay Carmella on September 28, 2010 11:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged EU members to stop forcibly deporting [report, PDF; press release] Roma migrants [JURIST news archive] to Kosovo. AI believes that Roma, as well as other ethnic minority groups, could face persecution or violence upon their return. The report emphasizes the tension that has existed in the region over the last two decades and previous examples of persecution. The report also describes the difficulties that ethnic minorities face in Kosovo [BBC report], including extremely high rates of unemployment and limited access to education, healthcare, housing and social benefits. The report says:
Amnesty International considers that acceptable conditions for the return - forcible or otherwise - of people hailing from minority communities ... do not exist at the present time in Kosovo. The organization does not consider that conditions have, as of yet, sufficiently changed on the grounds in Kosovo so as to provide a fundamental (major, profound and stable) and durable change in circumstances. The situation at present and for the longer-term is consequently both unstable and uncertain.
AI concluded by calling upon EU nations and Kosovo to take specific actions in order to secure the safety of the Roma. The Roma are being sent back to Kosovo as part of the readmission agreements [text, PDF] that Kosovo has signed with many members of the EU.

The issue of how EU members and Kosovo should handle the Roma migrants and other ethnic groups has received a considerable amount of international attention, with France being the latest target. Earlier this month, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding [official profile] threatened legal action [JURIST report] against France for its deportation of Roma, calling the initiative "a disgrace." Also this month, more than 100,000 people in 130 cities across France protested the security policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], including his decision to deport [JURIST reports] the illegal Roma. However, such policies [JURIST comment] are not new for France. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] unveiled a review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The report raised questions about draft legislation that would strip naturalized citizens of citizenship for committing certain crimes and the decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments.




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Ninth Circuit halts California execution
Hillary Stemple on September 28, 2010 10:54 AM ET

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[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday ordered [text, PDF] a district court judge to reconsider the stay of execution in the case of Albert Brown. Brown was convicted [NYT report] of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1982 and was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, in what would have been the first execution in California in more than four years. The district judge ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] last Friday that Brown's execution could proceed despite arguments from his lawyers that California's new lethal injection regulations [15 CCR 3349, et seq.] should be fully reviewed by a court of law before any executions are permitted to take place. California had been enjoined from performing any executions since 2006, when the state was ordered to reconsider its lethal injection process [JURIST reports] because it was found to potentially cause undue pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment [text], which protects against cruel and unusual punishment. In its ruling, the appeals court quoted the district judge's opinion, stating that the court was unable to finish litigating the issue of whether the new regulations are valid under the Eighth Amendment. The court indicated that a full finding of fact on the issue of the regulation is required to ensure that Brown's constitutional rights are not violated. The court also noted that the timing of Brown's execution was influenced by the expiration of the state's supply of sodium thiopental, a drug used in lethal injection, and stated that it was "incredible to think that the deliberative process might be driven by the expiration date of the execution drug." The court remanded the case to the district court, indicating that the court should address the similarities between the state's previous lethal injection regulations and their new requirements.

The battle in California over proper lethal injection procedures has been ongoing since 2006 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website], in response to court rulings creating a virtual moratorium of all executions in the state, ordered [JURIST report] his administration to "correct court-identified deficiencies in California's lethal injection protocol to ensure the death penalty procedure is constitutional." Schwarzenegger submitted a proposal in 2007 [JURIST report] regarding changes to the state's protocol, including authorization to construct a new execution chamber. California's new lethal injection protocol became effective on August 29, 2010.

11:00 PM ET - US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel stayed the execution, which had been scheduled for Thursday. While Fogel's decision can still be appealed, if the execution does not take place before Friday, the state will be unable to conduct any executions for several months because of the expiration of the state's supply of sodium thiopental.

9/29/10 - State officials called off the execution Wednesday after a ruling by the California Supreme Court. The execution will now be delayed until at least next year.




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Federal judge refuses to dismiss AIG fraud suit
Carrie Schimizzi on September 28, 2010 10:06 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Monday ruled that a securities fraud class-action lawsuit against American International Group (AIG) [corporate website] can move forward. Judge Taylor Swain refused to dismiss the suit [Reuters report], which is led by the State of Michigan Retirement Systems [official website] and accuses AIG of fraudulent intent to mislead the market and failing to disclose to its shareholders the risks the company was taking in issuing sub-prime mortgages. The group of plaintiffs includes investors who purchased securities issued by AIG between March 16, 2006, and September 16, 2008. The named defendants in the case are former AIG chief executive Martin Sullivan, former executive for AIG's Financial Products [corporate website] subsidiary Joseph Cassano and multiple other former chief and senior executives. The lawsuit is the first fraud-related case against AIG to advance to the discovery stage.

In May, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] decided not to file charges [JURIST report] against Cassano, ending a two-year criminal investigation of several executives from AIG's Financial Products subsidiary, which played a large role in constructing complex contracts known as credit-default swaps [TIME backgrounder] that insured bond losses tied to the US housing market. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] investigation was undertaken to determine whether AIG officials deceived investors and auditors in 2007 by misrepresenting the accounting value of a credit default swap portfolio, which nearly bankrupted the company. In 2009, former AIG executives agreed to settle [JURIST report] a suit [complaint, PDF] brought by the SEC alleging their involvement in inflating the company's reported financial records.




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Philippines military court dismisses mutiny charges for 2006 coup plot
Carrie Schimizzi on September 28, 2010 8:03 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Philippines military court dismissed mutiny charges Tuesday against seven officers allegedly involved in the February 2006 coup attempt [BBC report] against former president Gloria Macapagl-Arroyo [BBC profile]. The seven-member military tribunal determined there was insufficient evidence [Inquirer report] to charge the seven junior officers with committing "overt acts" to overthrow the government. Under court-martial, the seven officers will be able to return to active military service. The court has yet to decide on mutiny charges for nine other officers allegedly involved in the attempted 2006 coup. Their hearing is set for November 17.

The 2006 coup plot [JURIST report] involved five members of the Philippines House of Representatives [official website], soldiers, a communist rebel leader and Philippines Senator Gregorio Honasan [official profile], who participated in other coup attempts during the 1990s. Charges against the five lawmakers were dismissed [JURIST report] in May 2006. There have been multiple other coup attempts [JURIST news archive] in the Philippines in the last decade. In 2007, more than 30 military officers and supporters were formally charged with rebellion [JURIST report] when about a dozen officers on trial in the Philippines in connection with a failed 2003 mutiny [BBC report] walked out of court, took control of a Manila hotel and demanded Arroyo's resignation. Philippine military and police forces subsequently regained control of the hotel after a lengthy confrontation. In addition to the aborted 2007 coup, 54 military officers were sentenced [JURIST report] to seven years and six months in prison for their participation in the 2003 coup attempt. No shots were fired during the 2003 incident, in which 31 officers commandeered a Manila hotel, threatened to set off explosives, and held off police for 19 hours before surrendering.




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France ex-president Chirac settles with Paris in corruption case
Matt Glenn on September 27, 2010 3:12 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Paris city council voted Monday to accept a deal in which former French president Jacques Chirac [official profile; JURIST news archive] will pay the city USD $741,000 in compensation for money he allegedly paid to supporters for whom he created false jobs. In exchange for the compensation, the city agreed to drop out of a corruption suit [France 24 report] against Chirac. Chirac is accused of financing the Rally for the Republic (RPR), now renamed as the Union for a Popular Movement [party website, in French], while mayor of Paris by illegally establishing fake city positions for party members to collect salaries totaling several million dollars. Chirac says the payment is not an admission of guilt. On Friday, a French court will set a date [Bloomberg report], most likely early next year, for Chirac's criminal trial on the corruption charges. If convicted, Chirac faces up to 10 years in prison and fines that could exceed USD $200,000.

In December, a French judge placed Chirac under preliminary investigation [JURIST report]. Chirac was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] on related charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds last October. Chirac will be the first former French president to stand trial [JURIST comment] since the formation of the current Republic in 1958. The charges were originally filed in 2007 [JURIST report] after Chirac's presidency ended and he no longer had judicial immunity. In July 2007, French investigating magistrates questioned Chirac as a material witness [JURIST report] in their probe of the corruption allegations.




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Israel asks UN rights committee to cease probe into 2008-2009 Gaza conflict
Brian Jackson on September 27, 2010 2:58 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Israeli Ambassador to the UN on Monday called for an end to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] investigation into Israeli actions during the 2008-2009 Gaza campaign [JURIST news archive], Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians. The ambassador, Aharon Leshno Yaar, called the UNHRC investigation biased [Jerusalem Post report] and said that Israel was conducting its own investigation to determine whether there was any Israeli misconduct during the campaign. Last week, the UNHRC criticized [JURIST report] the efforts of both Israel and Hamas in investigating any abuses during the conflict. Yaar's opinion of the UNHRC is shared by others [Jerusalem Post op-ed] within Israel who see the council as a "farce," partly because of the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and Libya.

In July, a group of lawyers in Morocco filed a complaint against Israeli officials [JURIST report], including former prime minister Ehud Barak, for violation of anti-terror laws during Operation Cast Lead. A similar complaint was previously filed in the UK, prompting Israeli military officials to cancel a January trip [JURIST report] to that nation amid fears that they would be arrested. Earlier in July, Israel announced that several soldiers would face disciplinary action [JURIST report] for their role in the conflict, including a charge of manslaughter for one soldier.




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Kosovo president resigns after constitutional court ruling
Matt Glenn on September 27, 2010 2:10 PM ET

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[JURIST] Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu [official website] resigned [press release] Monday following last week's Constitutional Court [official website] ruling [press release] that his dual roles as president and head of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) violated the country's constitution. Sejdiu said he did not believe his title as president of the LDK violated the constitution since he was not exercising duties associated with that role. "However," he stated, "since the Constitutional Court has ruled otherwise, I respect its ruling, despite the fact that the ruling rendered by the Court or a reasoning thereto has not been served on me." Sedjiu will be replaced on an interim basis by Speaker of Parliament Jakup Krasniqi [official website] of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). Some fear Sejdiu's resignation could cause strife [AFP report] within the government, since a coalition agreement calls for a president from the LDK and a prime minister, currently Hashim Thaci [official profile], from the PDK. Sejdiu's resignation could also negatively impact upcoming discussions [AFP report] with Serbia.

In July, the Serbian National Assembly [official website] passed a resolution [JURIST report] that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo's independence. Earlier that month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia [JURIST reports] did not violate international law In June, a group of 25 countries that recognize Kosovo's independence urged the government to increase its efforts [JURIST report] to battle crime and corruption after meeting with Sejdiu and Thaci.




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Australia military prosecutor to charge soldiers over Afghan civilian deaths
Brian Jackson on September 27, 2010 2:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] Australian Director of Military Prosecutions Brigadier Lyn McDade announced Monday that she will charge three Australian special forces soldiers [press release] in the deaths of six Afghan civilians during a 2009 operation. The deaths occurred as Australian forces attempted to clear a compound in Uruzgan province, where it was suspected that a Taliban leader was hiding. The men face a variety of charges, including, "manslaughter, dangerous conduct, failing to comply with a lawful general order and prejudicial conduct." The Australian Department of Defence [official website] released its own statement [text], emphasizing the independent nature of the Director of Military Prosecution and laying out some of the procedures and protocols involved in a military prosecution.Two of the three accused chose to make public statements [Sydney Morning Herald report]:
Words will never adequately express our regret that women and children were killed and injured during the incident on 12 February 2009. These were people we were risking our lives to protect. However, it should not be forgotten that the casualties were ultimately caused by the callous and reckless act of an insurgent who chose to repeatedly fire upon us at extreme close range from within a room he knew contained women and children. This forced us to make split-second decisions, under fire, which almost certainly saved the lives of our fellow Australian and Afghan soldiers.
McDade declined to comment on any of the evidence or the merits of the case, and no timeline for the proceedings was revealed.

The announcement by the Australian military prosecutor comes on the same day that a former UN official called for an investigation [JURIST report] into war crimes committed by both the Taliban and coalition forces in Afghanistan. In June, a US soldier was charged with three counts of murder [JURIST report] in the deaths of three Afghan civilians that occurred between January and May of this year. The charges against the Australian soldiers do not represent the first time that personnel from that country have faced scrutiny for actions in Afghanistan. In 2008, an internal probe cleared members of the Australian military [JURIST report] of allegations that they mistreated Taliban detainees.




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China government cites human rights improvements
Ann Riley on September 27, 2010 1:16 PM ET

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[JURIST] The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China [official website, in Chinese] released a position paper [press release, in Chinese] Sunday on the country's human rights record, claiming that it has heightened Internet freedoms and improved civil and political rights. The Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009 [text] white paper cites seven progressions in Chinese human rights areas, including:
China's stable and rapid economic development, improving citizens' living conditions, per capita income, and public health; Strengthened civil and political rights and furthering democracy and the legal system; Improvements to judicial protections of human rights and law enforcement; The Chinese government's promotion of citizens' economic, social, and cultural rights; Equal access to the Chinese constitution and civil rights for all ethnic groups and increased support for minority groups; Increased protection to the rights of people with disabilities; and China's active cooperation and participation in the area of international human rights causes.
The white paper also describes how the Internet has become a tool for the Chinese government [Xinhua report] to promote transparency and consult the public before developing certain policies. While the government said freedom of speech is protected on the Internet, it also attached value to the Internet's role in supervision [Xinhua report]. Last year, China issued its first national plan [JURIST report] aimed at protecting human rights. The National Human Rights Action Plan of China [text] was framed by the Chinese Constitution [text] and based on principles [Xinhua report] found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], which the government has signed [accession chart] but not ratified [JURIST report].

In July, Chinese Internet regulators planned to drastically reduce Internet anonymity [JURIST report] by requiring users to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites, according to documents [text] released by New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website]. 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 that 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.




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Karadzic takes stand as war crimes trial resumes
Ann Riley on September 27, 2010 1:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] as his trial resumed Monday to defend himself against charges of war crimes. According to news reports, Karadzic did not appear to obstruct the process of the ICTY [CNN report], despite repeatedly seeking to have his trial delayed. Karadzic is defending himself against 11 counts [amended indictment, PDF], including genocide and murder, and has denied all of the charges. Karadzic is accused of being responsible for the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in eastern Bosnia.

In September, ICTY judges warned that trial might take another four years [JURIST report], two years longer than expected. Karadzic's trial previously resumed in April, after the ICTY dismissed [JURIST reports] his latest motion to delay court proceedings, in which he argued that there had been a violation of his right to a fair hearing because the court had rejected previous evidentiary challenges. In March, Karadzic lost another motion [JURIST report] to postpone his war crimes trial on charges related to crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. Karadzic claimed that a February ruling increasing the remuneration for his defense lawyers should also give him extra time to prepare for his case. Earlier in March, the ICTY heard opening statements [JURIST report]. Karadzic claimed that attacks against Bosnian Muslims were "staged," denying [JURIST report] any involvement in war crimes. In February, the ICTY rejected [JURIST report] Karadzic's imposition of a court-appointed defense lawyer, claiming the right to legal assistance of his own choosing.




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Former UN rights expert urges Afghanistan war crimes investigation
Carrie Schimizzi on September 27, 2010 9:29 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [JURIST news archive] on Sunday called for an investigation [Guardian report] into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. In his first interview since stepping down from his UN position, Alston urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] to investigate conduct by both the Taliban [CFR backgrounder] and US and British military forces and suggested the UNHRC model the inquiry after the investigation [JURIST report] of the Israeli military's actions in the Gaza Strip last year. In the interview, Alston expressed serious concern over the lack of prosecution for alleged war crimes and the number of civilian deaths during the war in Afghanistan, especially alleged civilian killings by US and British forces, which were recently revealed [JURIST report] in secret military files published by WikiLeaks [website]. Alston said the UNHRC is in a better position to handle the investigation than the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] because the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute [text, PDF] and cannot be held responsible by any ICC investigation:
If states are not carrying out reasonably neutral investigations and prosecutions of what appear to be serious violations, it does leave open the possibility that the international community should be intervening in some way. The problem is that the ICC can't hold the Taliban to account, and nor can they hold the Americans to account in any practical sense.
Unlike the US, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute, giving the ICC jurisdiction over war crimes committed on Afghan territory. More than 1,000 Afghan civilian deaths [JURIST news archive] have occurred in the first six months of 2010.

In August, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan to be tried for war crimes [JURIST report] for targeting civilians. The statement was released following the 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict [text; UN News Centre report] from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website]. The report found that, in the first six months of 2010, there were 3,268 civilian deaths and injuries, 76 percent of which were attributed to the Taliban and allied groups fighting NATO forces and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official profile]. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Afghan government to retract a law granting amnesty [JURIST report] for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Taliban and others prior to December 2001. The law contradicted a plan adopted by the Afghan government [JURIST report] in 2005 to investigate war crimes and human rights violations committed while the Taliban controlled the government.




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UK rights commission concerned over new interrogation guidelines
Carrie Schimizzi on September 27, 2010 8:12 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UK Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) [official website] expressed concern [press release] Monday that the country's new regulations [materials, PDF] regarding information obtained through torture of foreign detainees may still leave intelligence agents vulnerable to legal action for human rights crimes committed by others. The guidelines provide steps that must be taken by intelligence officers before they interview, interrogate or solicit the detention of terror suspects held by foreign governments. The guidance also prohibits interrogation officials from further action if they "know or believe" the torture of a detainee will take place. The EHRC is concerned that the wording of the guidance will mislead interrogators, who could potentially be held personally liable for the torture of suspects. The EHRC said that it sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] advising the government to amend the wording of the guidance in order to ensure the protection of interrogation officials. The letter suggests prohibiting an interrogation officer from proceeding when there is a "serious risk of torture" and provides factors to be taken into consideration by ministers who are reviewing an interrogation situation. The EHRC's Legal Group Director, John Wadham, stated the guidelines are "not consistent" with national or international human rights laws:
In these cases, the guidance suggests that the officer can proceed provided the risks can be mitigated through caveats or assurances or if Ministers have been consulted. ... The government now has the opportunity to bring its guidance within the law so that the intelligence service itself and its individual officers do not unwittingly leave themselves open to costly and time consuming court action.
A spokesperson for the UK Cabinet Office [official website] denied [Guardian report] the EHRC's allegations, saying that the UK government "is confident that the guidance is legal and consistent with domestic and international law." The new guidelines were published in July after several foreign detainees made claims that the British government was complicit in the torture of detainees overseas.

In July, the UK high court announced [JURIST report] that a lawsuit, filed by former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees and alleging that the UK government was complicit in their torture, could 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. Also in July, Cameron announced [JURIST report] the creation of a panel to investigate these complicity claims. A similar lawsuit was filed by the human rights group Reprieve [advocacy website], which had been seeking a review of the country's torture policy. Additional claims of complicity were made against the government in a July report [materials] released 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.




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Federal judge declares mistrial in murder case against Blackwater contractors
Zach Zagger on September 27, 2010 7:45 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] declared a mistrial Monday in a murder case against two Blackwater [JURIST news archive] defense contractors after the jury failed to reach a verdict. The jury notified Judge Robert Doumar Monday morning that they were still split [LAT report] after nine hours of deliberation spread over three days. A new trial [AP/WAVY report] is set for March 1, 2011. Christopher Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Justin Cannon, of Corpus Christi, Texas, are charged with killing two unnamed Afghan civilians in Kabul last year. The defendants argued that they shot at the civilians in self-defense because the civilians' sedan had crashed into another vehicle the defendants were traveling with, flipping it over, and then headed toward them.

In April, federal prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty [JURIST report] against Drotleff and Cannon, but the defendant's could still face life imprisonment. Also in April, a federal grand jury indicted [JURIST report] five former Blackwater executives on charges of weapons violations and lying to criminal investigators. In February, the Iraqi government ordered approximately 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report]. The government was reacting to a US federal court's December decision to dismiss charges against five former Blackwater employees accused of killing 17 innocent Iraqi civilians [JURIST reports] in 2007 because information against the defendants was obtained unconstitutionally. Earlier that month, the New York Times reported that the US Department of Justice [official website] is investigating [JURIST report] Blackwater, now known as Xe, to determine whether the company bribed the Iraqi government to allow it to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts for the protection of US diplomats expired.




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Federal judge allows California to move forward with first execution in 4 years
Erin Bock on September 26, 2010 3:36 PM ET

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[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that the state of California can move forward with plans to execute a convicted rapist and murderer later this week. Albert Brown was convicted [NYT report] of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1982 and is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. Brown petitioned to join a lawsuit filed by death row inmate Michael Morales [JURIST news archive], challenging the state's lethal injection process, and sought a stay of execution. Brown argued that California's new lethal injection regulations [15 CCR 3349, et seq.] should be fully reviewed by a court of law before any executions are permitted to take place. California had been enjoined from performing any executions since 2006, when the state was ordered to reconsider its lethal injection process [JURIST reports] because it was found to potentially cause undue pain and suffering in violation of the Eighth Amendment [text], which protects against cruel and unusual punishment. Judge Jeremy Fogel of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] stated that "there is no way" the court could perform a thorough analysis of the regulation five days before the scheduled execution, as the new regulations are "three years in the making." Fogel allowed Brown to intervene in the suit, but denied his motion for a stay, stating that Brown failed to meet his burden of proving the execution would place him under a demonstrated risk of undergoing unconstitutional pain and suffering. Fogel stressed that his opinion was narrowly focused on the legal question presented and had nothing to do with the death penalty as moral or political issue:
The Court is constrained to point out once again that the instant litigation is not about the wisdom or morality of the death penalty or the tragic suffering of the families and loved ones of those who commit capital crimes. The passions that surround these issues are deep and entirely understandable, but they have little to do with the limited legal question presented here. ... The Court is painfully aware that however it decides a case of this nature, there will be many who disagree profoundly with its decision. The moral and political debate about capital punishment will continue, as it should.
California rights groups, such as the local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Death Penalty Focus [official websites] have voiced their opposition [press release, PDF] to the court's opinion, arguing that executions should not be performed while three other lawsuits regarding the state's lethal injection process are still pending. Brown has appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The battle in California over proper lethal injection procedures has been ongoing since 2006 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website], in response to court rulings regarding the postponement of Morales' execution and a virtual moratorium of all executions in the state, ordered [JURIST report] his administration to "correct court-identified deficiencies in California's lethal injection protocol to ensure the death penalty procedure is constitutional." Schwarzenegger submitted a proposal in 2007 [JURIST report] regarding changes to the state's protocol, including authorization to construct a new execution chamber. California's new lethal injection protocol became effective on August 29, 2010.




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States file amicus brief against California same-sex marriage decision
Dwyer Arce on September 26, 2010 1:18 PM ET

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[JURIST] Thirteen state attorneys general have joined in an amicus curiae brief [text, PDF] urging the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a federal court decision [JURIST report] striking down California's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The brief argues that the district court exceeded its authority because a federal court cannot "reorder this foundational legal and social institution." It goes on to state that homosexuals do not constitute a suspect class requiring strict scrutiny, and have never been treated as such by the US Supreme Court or the Ninth Circuit. Citing a recent Texas appellate court decision [JURIST report], and those of several other state and federal courts, the brief urges the court to apply rational basis review, one which it argues is a determination of law making factual trial court findings irrelevant. The states went on to say that this standard was misapplied by the lower court because it was "logically impossible" to find that Proposition 8 was an irrational action by state voters, who could have rationally determined that same-sex marriage would weaken the institution of marriage. The brief also argues that the Supreme Court had already set binding precedent on the issue:
From a strictly legal perspective, this is an easy case to decide. In Baker v. Nelson, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that limiting marriage to opposite sex couples violated neither due process nor equal protection. The United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for want of a substantial federal question. This resolution is dispositive. ... In any event, voters and legislatures in forty-one states have affirmatively rejected the notion of same-sex marriage, either by constitutional amendment or legislation, and voters or legislatures in four other states have left in place statutes that plainly assume the opposite-sex definition of marriage. Thus, as in Glucksburg, "[t]he history of the law's treatment of [same-sex marriage] in this country has been and continues to be one of the rejection of nearly all efforts to permit it. ... That being the case ... the asserted 'right' ... is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause."
According to the brief, the district court's rationale would have wide ranging logical implications, including imputing constitutional protections to polyamorous and intra-familial marriages.

Last week, officials for Imperial County, California, announced that the county had submitted its opening brief [JURIST report] in an appeal to overturn the district court decision. District Judge Vaughn Walker denied Imperial's request to intervene in the original suit in August, stating that the request was not timely. Walker has cast doubt on the ability of defendant-intervenors in the suit to appeal the district court decision because they are not original parties to the suit and therefore lack the necessary standing. If the Ninth Circuit allows Imperial to intervene, the court will then determine whether the county has standing to appeal Walker's ruling. The state of California, the original defendant to the suit, has decided not to pursue an appeal. Earlier this month, a judge for California's 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that neither Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Attorney General Jerry Brown is required to appeal the decision [JURIST report]. In his decision, Walker held that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional under both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the Fourteenth Amendment.




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Scalia stays Louisiana class action ruling against tobacco companies
Dwyer Arce on September 26, 2010 11:38 AM ET

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[JURIST] US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia [Oyez profile] on Friday stayed [order, PDF] a Louisiana appeals court ruling awarding $241.5 million to the plaintiffs in a class action suit against several tobacco companies. The ruling, issued by Scalia in his role as Circuit Justice [28 USC § 2101(f)] for the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, prevents the tobacco companies from having to carry out the decision, which ordered them to pay $241.5 million to a fund meant to help Louisianans quit smoking. The companies, which include Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, Lorillard Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, Inc. and Tobacco Institute, Inc., were also ordered to pay $29 million in interest and $11 million for the administrative costs related to the fund. The ruling came after the Louisiana court found that the tobacco companies had "distort[ed] the entire body of public knowledge about the addictive effects of nicotine." Scalia held that the case met the stay criteria, finding that it was likely the Supreme Court would grant certiorari, that there was a "significant possibility" of reversal and that there was the likelihood of irreparable harm without the stay. He also held that the case raises due process concerns because, under the Louisiana ruling, the individual plaintiffs are not required to establish that they were harmed by the companies' actions, violating the companies' due process right to present every available defense:
The extent to which class treatment may constitutionally reduce the normal requirements of due process is an important question. National concern over abuse of the class-action device induced Congress to permit removal of most major class actions to federal court, where they will be subject to the significant limitations of the Federal Rules. Federal removal jurisdiction has not been accorded, however, over many class actions in which more than two-thirds of the plaintiff class are citizens of the forum State. Because the class here was drawn to include only residents of Louisiana, this suit typifies the sort of major class action that often will not be removable, and in which the constraints of the Due Process Clause will be the only federal protection.
The companies are expected to file their appeal to the Supreme Court in the coming year.

The companies requested the stay after the Supreme Court of Louisiana refused to hear their appeal from the ruling [text] of the Louisiana Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Phillip Morris has faced other class action litigation related to its sales practices. In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned class action certification [JURIST report] for a lawsuit brought by "light" cigarette smokers against Philip Morris and other light cigarette makers. The class action, which included anyone who has ever bought light cigarettes since they hit the market in the 1970s, had alleged that tobacco companies used deceptive advertising tactics to mislead smokers in response to growing health concerns over the risks of smoking cigarettes. In September 2006, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York certified the class of 50 million plaintiffs [JURIST report] for the class-action suit. Lawyers estimated that sales of light cigarettes brought tobacco companies between $120 billion and $200 billion in extra sales since 1971.




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Federal judge rejects 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' discharge
Daniel Makosky on September 25, 2010 3:53 PM ET

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[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] on Friday ordered that a US Air Force officer be reinstated after being previously discharged under the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] policy. District Judge Ronald Leighton relied on testimony regarding Major Margaret Witt's exemplary record in finding that her sexual orientation did not hinder her unit, and that she should be returned to duty [Reuters report] as soon as possible. The ruling rejects Air Force attorneys' arguments that absolute compliance with military regulations, including DADT, is essential to maintain order and morale. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which represented Witt in the proceedings, praised the ruling [press release] and encouraged additional action, saying that it "underscores the urgent need for Congress to immediately repeal [DADT]."

The Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed an objection [JURIST report] Thursday in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] asking the court not to issue a proposed injunction [text, PDF] that would prohibit the military from enforcing DADT. The court declared the policy unconstitutional [opinion, PDF] earlier this month. Earlier this week, the Senate rejected a cloture motion [JURIST report] on a defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the policy. Last month, a US military officer filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to enjoin the military from discharging him under DADT. In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee [official websites] voted to repeal the policy after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert 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.




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Obama administration invokes state secrets in effort to block targeted killings lawsuit
Sarah Paulsworth on September 25, 2010 1:52 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Obama administration on Friday filed a brief [text, PDF] with the District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit [text, PDF] questioning the legality of targeted killings of terrorism suspects. The lawsuit, filed by the father of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi [NYT profile], seeks an injunction to prevent the government from killing Anwar al-Awlaqi on the basis that it would be an extrajudicial execution. The Obama administration argues that this matter involves "non-justiciable political questions" to be decided by the executive branch and that litigation could divulge state secrets [NYT report]. In a document [text, PDF] submitted to the court, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said:
Despite the fact that some limited information related to al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula and Anwar al-Awlaqi has been made public by the U.S. Government, [the] Plaintiff's allegation in this case implicate other sensitive intelligence information that must be protected from disclosure."
In addition, the Obama administration alleges that Plaintiff Nasser al-Aulaqi, who is a citizen of Yemen and the father of Anwar al-Awlaqi, does not have standing to file the lawsuit. The government said that if Anwar al-Awlaqi wants to have access to the US legal system he should "surrender to authorities and be held accountable for his actions."

The lawsuit [JURIST report] questioning the legality of targeted killings was filed in late August by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy websites]. Earlier that month, the ACLU and the CCR obtained a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) license that enables them to represent Anwar al-Awlaqi, but announced they are still pursuing a legal challenge [JURIST reports] to the licensing scheme. The Obama administration has defended [JURIST report] its use of targeted killings, specifically those made by unmanned predator drone strikes [JURIST news archive]. State Department Legal Adviser [official website] Harold Koh [academic profile] has said the drones "comply with all applicable law" because they target only military targets and enable minimal damage to civilians and civilian structures. Last October, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [official website] noted that the use of unmanned drones by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal [JURIST report].




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Kenya court convicts 7 more Somali pirates
Zach Zagger on September 24, 2010 1:53 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Kenyan court on Thursday convicted seven Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] and sentenced them to five years in prison. The group was tried and convicted [BBC report] in the coastal town of Mombasa where they had been held since their capture by a Spanish warship in May 2009 after attempting to attack the Maltese-flagged merchant ship Anny Petrakis. The Spanish warship was part of the the EU Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website], a naval force that has been deployed to deal with the surge of piracy off the coast of Somalia. This group of Somali pirates is just the second of nine [press release] groups of suspected pirates totaling 75 individuals that EU NAVFOR has turned over to the Kenyan authorities since its deployment. Earlier this month, a Kenyan court convicted seven other Somali pirates [JURIST report], giving them the same five-year sentences. The maximum sentence under Kenyan law for piracy is life imprisonment, and EU NAVFOR refuses to turn over suspects unless capital punishment is off the table.

Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains a major problem despite international efforts to curb it. Though the success rate of pirate attacks has dropped [Montreal Gazette report], the attacks continue. Kenya and Seychelles are the only two African countries that have agreed to try the suspected pirates. In July, a court in Seychelles convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] a group of Somali pirates to 10 years in prison following the attempted hijacking of Seychelles coastguard ship. In June, the UN announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom [JURIST report] in Kenya that will hear piracy cases. The announcement came after the UN announced $9.3 million in donations [JURIST report] to help fund piracy courts in Kenya and Seychelles.




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DOJ asks court not to enforce ruling overturning 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Matt Glenn on September 24, 2010 12:16 PM ET

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[JURIST]The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed an objection [text] Thursday in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] asking the court not to issue a proposed injunction [text, PDF] prohibiting the military from enforcing its "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] policy. The court declared the policy unconstitutional [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] earlier this month. The DOJ stated that any injunction should be limited to enjoining enforcement of the policy against Log Cabin Republicans [advocacy website], the group that brought the lawsuit [case materials; LCR backgrounder], rather than against military personnel as a whole. The DOJ also argued that the proposed injunction goes further than merely prohibiting the enforcement of DADT in that it prohibits taking any action against service members based on their sexual orientation. The DOJ also asked for time to come up with a non-judicial solution, stating in its filing:
As the Court is aware, both the Executive and Legislative branches are actively examining the DADT law and policy. A court should not compel the Executive to implement an immediate cessation of the seventeen year-old policy without regard for any effect such an abrupt change might have on the military's operations, particularly at a time when the military is engaged in combat operations and other demanding military activities around the globe.
Earlier this week, the US Senate rejected a cloture motion [JURIST report] on a defense appropriations bill that would have repealed DADT. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended the filing [press release], noting that the DOJ routinely defends acts of Congress and stating that the "filing in no way diminishes the President's firm commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT - indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy." The Log Cabin Republicans stated [press release] they "are deeply disappointed" with the administration's decision to file the objection.

Last month, a US military officer filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to enjoin the military from discharging him under DADT. In May, the House of Representatives [official website] and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to repeal the policy after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert 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.




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Washington high court upholds state's Internet gambling ban
Drew Singer on September 24, 2010 12:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Washington Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion text] Thursday that a state ban on online gambling [text] is constitutional. Washington resident Lee Rousso gambled online in the past and wanted to continue doing so, arguing that a new statewide ban on online gambling violates the Dormant Commerce Clause, an implication in the US Constitution's Commerce Clause [text] that states cannot excessively burden interstate commerce. The court applied a two-prong test to determine whether the statewide online gambling ban was constitutional, ruling that there (1) was a legitimate state in purpose and (2) the burden imposed on interstate commerce is not "clearly excessive" in relation to the local benefit:
RCW 9.46.240 imposes a burden on interstate commerce by walling off the Washington market for Internet gambling from interstate commerce. The extent of this burden is mitigated somewhat. First, the ban does not prevent or hinder Internet gambling businesses from operating throughout the rest of the world. Second, those businesses can easily exclude Washingtonians. If an individual during registration marks his or her location as the state of Washington, the gambling web site can end the registration there.
The trial court had granted summary judgment for the state, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

While online gambling has always been illegal in Washington, the law, passed in 2006, clarified that the Internet was included in the state and federal ban on remote gambling and also increased the charge from a gross misdemeanor to a felony. Courts across the world have been upholding online gambling bans, most recently in Sweden and the Netherlands [JURIST reports]. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act [HR 4411 materials], a federal act that bans banks and financial institutions from intentionally accepting payments from credit cards, checks or electronic fund transfers related to unlawful Internet bets, came into affect earlier this year.




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DOJ asks appeals court to uphold ruling on Arizona immigration law
Brian Jackson on September 24, 2010 11:49 AM ET

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[JURIST] Attorneys for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday filed an appellate brief [text, PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it enjoined four provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law [JURIST news archive]. In the brief, the US argued that, because immigration is the province of the federal government, the US is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and the injunction issued on July 28 [JURIST report] was not an abuse of the district court's discretion. In their brief, attorneys for Arizona argued that the district court applied the wrong legal standard [JURIST report] in issuing the injunction. In summarizing the government's position, the DOJ attorneys wrote:
The regulation of immigration is intertwined with the national government's exclusive conduct of foreign policy. "[I]nternational controversies of the gravest moment, sometimes even leading to war, may arise from real or imagined wrongs to another's subjects inflicted, or permitted, by a government." It is the national government, not the 50 individual States, that must prioritize the various national interests in such areas because "a single State" that inserts itself into immigration enforcement contrary to federal policies and objectives "can, at her pleasure, embroil us in disastrous quarrels with other nations."
Oral argument before the Ninth Circuit is scheduled to take place in November [Bloomberg report].

In July, soon after the injunction was issued, the Ninth Circuit denied Arizona's request for expedited appeal [JURIST reports]. The preliminary injunction came at the request of the DOJ, which originally filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the law [JURIST report] in July. Judge Bolton of the district court 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 American Bar Association filed an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] in support of the DOJ lawsuit, following the submission of another amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.




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Rights group urges Myanmar to free political prisoners before election
Megan McKee on September 24, 2010 9:04 AM ET

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[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [press release] the government of Myanmar to release all political prisoners ahead of the nation's November elections—the first to be held in 20 years. Myanmar currently holds 2,200 political prisoners, the majority of whom were arrested for peaceful activism. AI's statement marks the third anniversary of the violent government crackdown on activism in response to the Saffron Revolution [Independent, backgrounder], a peaceful pro-democracy movement led by Buddhist monks. Political prisoners will be banned from the upcoming elections and from holding membership in any political party. Benjamin Zawacki of AI said: "[t]hese prisoners constitute a significant part of the political opposition." Myanmar officials announced Friday that detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] will be permitted to vote [BBC report] in the elections, breaking with earlier statements that she would be kept from participating.

Under house arrest, Suu Kyi was previously prohibited from participating in this year's elections. Her detention and previous exclusion from the election have drawn criticism [JURIST report] from the UN and various rights groups. Suu Kyi, who has been in prison or under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years, will be released in November [JURIST report], according to a government official, likely after the elections have taken place. In April, Suu Kyi filed suit before the Myanmar's Supreme Court to contest the dissolution of her opposition party, National League for Democracy [party website], under a controversial election law [JURIST report]. Additionally, the claim seeks to annul the part of the election law that bars political prisoners [JURIST report] from participating in elections and also requests the establishment of a parliament of lawmakers who won in the 1990 elections.




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Pakistani woman sentenced to 86 years for attempted murder of US personnel
Megan McKee on September 23, 2010 2:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Thursday sentenced Aafia Siddiqui [JURIST news archive], a Pakistani woman convicted [JURIST report] of attempting to murder US personnel at the Afghan facility where she was being held, to 86 years in prison. Prosecutors claimed [indictment, PDF] that, while in US custody in Afghanistan, Siddiqui lunged for and grabbed an unsecured M-4 rifle and opened fire on her captors. US personnel returned fire, injuring Siddiqui. Siddiqui denied both handling the weapon and attacking the personnel. In addition to two counts of attempted murder, the jury found Siddiqui guilty of armed assault against US officers and employees, using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and assault against US officers and employees. Siddiqui will serve her sentence in Texas [CNN report], at the facility she was held at while awaiting trial.

At the start of her trial, in January, Siddiqui had to be removed from court [JURIST report] because she began screaming and protesting her innocence. She underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was judged fit to stand trial [JURIST report] last year. Siddiqui, who was extradited to the US in August 2008, was shot in the abdomen during the July 2008 skirmish leading to her charges. Siddiqui's family has insisted that she is innocent and that the FBI publicized misleading information about her. They say that Siddiqui, a former student at Brandeis University and MIT in Boston, may have been a victim of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] after she vanished from Karachi, Pakistan, in 2003. Defense lawyers alleged that Siddiqui may have been wrongly detained and tortured at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was originally taken into custody in July 2008 after she was found loitering outside a provincial governor's compound with suspicious items in her handbag.




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Cambodia opposition leader sentenced over Vietnam border controversy
Drew Singer on September 23, 2010 10:42 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Cambodian court on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Sam Rainsy [party profile; JURIST news archive] in absentia to 10 years in prison following his conviction on charges of forging and disseminating [JURIST report] a false map of the Cambodia-Vietnam border on his political party's website. The map [document, PDF] posted on the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) [party website] website shows an area along the border of the two countries in which Rainsy alleges the Vietnamese government tampered with four border posts, placing them further into Cambodian territory than UN, US Army, Google and French colonial maps specify. Rainsy faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for falsifying documents and an additional three years for posting those documents publicly. Rainsy's supporters contend that his conviction was politically motivated [AFP report] in order to prevent him from participating in the next national election, while government authorities have denied any political motivation. Rainsy and his political party continue to maintain that the current Cambodian government has allowed Vietnam to encroach on Cambodian territory.

In January, Rainsy and two villagers were convicted [RFA report; JURIST report] in absentia on separate charges of inciting racial discrimination and intentionally destroying posts demarcating the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [press release] the closed-door trial of Sam Rainsy and the two villagers a "farce," saying the ruling demonstrates the government's control over the country's judiciary. In 2006, Rainsy received a royal pardon for a 2005 defamation conviction. He is currently self-exiled in France, but remains actively involved [press release] in Cambodian affairs.




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Serbia war crimes court sentences ex-paramilitary officer over Kosovo war killings
Jay Carmella on September 23, 2010 9:07 AM ET

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[JURIST] The War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade on Wednesday sentenced [press release; PDF] former paramilitary officer Zeljko Djukic to 20 years in prison for his involvement in the deaths of 14 civilians in March 1999 during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Djukic, a member of the Serbian paramilitary group known as Scorpion [JURIST news archive], was originally convicted [JURIST report] of the murders in June 2009. The conviction was overturned [JURIST report] earlier this year by a Serbian appeals court. The appeals court demanded a retrial for Djukic because the original verdict was based exclusively on testimony of a protected witness, which is against the Serbian Criminal Procedure Code [text, PDF]. The Higher Court again convicted Djukic on the charges brought by the War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] after it was made clear that Djukic was among the men who committed the murders. According to testimony at the trial, the Scorpions lined up 19 people, mostly women and children, and sprayed them with machine gun fire. In addition to Djukic, Dragan Medic, Dragan Borojevic and Miodrag Solaj have been convicted for their involvement. Djukic will be credited for his time served since 2007.

The conviction of Djukic is another step in the ongoing effort to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the region over the last two decades. Last month, Croatian authorities extradited Sretko Kalinic to Serbia for his alleged connection with the 2003 assassination [JURIST reports] of former Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic [BBC obituary; memorial website, in Serbian]. In July, an extradition hearing [JURIST report] for former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic began in London to determine whether the former leader should be forced to face trial in Serbia for alleged war crimes. In April, Swedish police arrested a Serbian man [JURIST report] suspected of committing war crimes in the Kosovo village of Cuska during the war. In March, a spokesperson for Serbia's Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor announced the arrest of nine individuals [JURIST report] suspected of being members of the Serbian paramilitary group Sakali and accused of the systematic murders of 41 ethnic Albanians in May 1999. The continuing attempt to find all individuals responsible for the atrocities has created a new political tension [JURIST comment] in the region that will not soon go away.




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UN report finds Israel flotilla raid violated international law
Erin Bock on September 23, 2010 8:58 AM ET

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[JURIST] Israel's interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla [JURIST news archive] violated international law, according to a report [text, PDF] released Wednesday by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website]. After conducting numerous interviews with eye-witnesses and viewing other evidence, the fact-finding mission determined that Israeli forces committed several international law violations, including violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Fourth Geneva Convention [texts]. The mission also determined that Israel's interception of the flotilla was prima facie unlawful. The report recommends judicial remedies and reparations, including medical and psychological care to those who were tortured. The report states that the incident must be viewed in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and warns that similar disasters have the potential to occur:
Similar disasters are likely to reoccur unless there is a dramatic shift in the existing paradigm. It must be remembered that might and strength are enhanced when attended by a sense of justice and fair play. Peace and respect have to be earned not bludgeoned out of any opponent. An unfair victory has never been known to bring lasting peace.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] responded to the report [press release] by calling the mission's approach "biased, politicized and extremist." The spokesperson indicated that Israel will not cooperate with the commission, but will "read and study the report."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry [official website] recently submitted findings from its own investigation [JURIST report] to the UNHRC for consideration in the report. In July, an Israeli military probe into the incident found insufficient intelligence and planning, but concluded that no punishments were necessary [JURIST report]. Israel also established a civilian commission [JURIST report] in June to investigate its response. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] testified before the civilian commission [JURIST report] in August and expressed confidence that the commission would find Israeli actions to be in compliance with international law, explaining the Israeli response to the flotilla in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The incident took place on May 31 when Israeli forces raided six ships attempting to deliver more than 10,000 tons of aid to Gaza. The raid left numerous wounded and resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestine activists—eight Turks and one American.




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Florida appeals court strikes down gay adoption ban
Erin Bock on September 23, 2010 7:51 AM ET

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[JURIST] Florida's Third District Court of Appeal [official website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] a state law [63.042 text] prohibiting gay couples from adopting, finding that it failed rational basis review and violated the state constitution's equal protection clause. The case was brought by Martin Gill, a gay man who provided foster care for two boys with his partner. After the boys' natural parents' rights were terminated in 2006, Gill applied to adopt the children and was denied. Gill initiated suit, alleging that the statute violated equal protection because it created an "absolute prohibition," while others, including individuals with histories of criminal activity and substance abuse, were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The court found that experts testifying on behalf of the Florida Department of Children and Families [official website] failed to provide adequate evidence to show that homosexual parents are less effective than their heterosexual counterparts, upholding a 2008 trial court ruling [JURIST report]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] praised [press release] the court's ruling as "a victory for the thousands of children waiting to be adopted in Florida." Liberty Counsel [advocacy website], an organization that filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state, criticized [press release] the court's ruling, stating that "[c]ommon sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and father." The state has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court [official website], but Governor Charlie Crist (R) [official website] has already announced that the state will stop enforcing the ban.

Gay adoption rights have become an issue of international significance. Earlier this week, New York Governor David Paterson (D) [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing unmarried partners, including gay couples, to jointly adopt a child. Last month, the UK Charity Commission [official website] ruled that a Catholic social services agency could not restrict its adoption services [JURIST report] to married heterosexual couples and that the discrimination violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. Also in August, the Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] upheld a Mexico City law [JURIST report] allowing adoptions by same-sex couples, determining that a ban would discriminate against same-sex couples and would violate the Mexican Constitution [text, PDF]. Last year, the Uruguayan Senate [official website, in Spanish] voted to approve a law [JURIST report] legalizing adoption by same sex couples.




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Kenya businessman challenges legality of ICC investigation
Dwyer Arce on September 22, 2010 4:54 PM ET

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[JURIST] Kenyan businessman Joseph Gathungu filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] investigation into the violence following the 2007 Kenyan presidential election [JURIST news archive]. The suit, which was filed in the High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] in Mombasa, argues that the ICC investigation is illegal under the constitution adopted last month [JURIST report]. Gathungu alleges that the investigation violates the letter and spirit [Daily Nation report] of the constitution, usurps Kenyan sovereignty and that the ICC is not a court that has been given competency under the constitution, making Kenya's ratification of the Rome Statute [text] illegal. The case is scheduled to be heard [KBC report] before Justice Jackton Ojwang on October 27. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Tuesday announced plans to present two cases [JURIST report] against as many as six individuals who "bear the greatest responsibility" for the violence following the elections. In March, the ICC's pre-trial chamber granted [press release] the chief prosecutor authority to launch the investigation into crimes against humanity committed during the post-election period. The announcement of Moreno-Ocampo's intent to prosecute those who planned and executed the post-election violence comes just days after Kenya's Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo was heavily criticized for suggesting [Daily Nation reports] that with the passage of its new constitution, Kenya can better handle the prosecution of those responsible than the ICC.

In June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called on Kenya to establish a special tribunal [JURIST report] to investigate post-election crimes. Pillay called the investigation into the deadly violence by the ICC a "major development." She warned, however, that the ICC's role would be limited to a handful of high-profile cases, which is why the need for a more wide-reaching investigation remains. The allegations of fraud [JURIST report] following the 2007 elections led to violence that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and displacement of 500,000 others, and remains a concern in the international community. The ICC initiated a formal investigation into the violence after Kenya failed to conduct [JURIST report] its own investigation.




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Poland prosecutors probing treatment of alleged USS Cole bomber at secret CIA prison
Sarah Miley on September 22, 2010 1:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] Polish prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will open an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of accused USS Cole [JURIST news archive] bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile] at a secret CIA prison [JURIST news archive] in Poland. The investigation is in response to the request [JURIST report] filed Tuesday by human rights group Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) [advocacy website] and al-Nashiri's lawyers. The request asks prosecutors to scrutinize al-Nashiri's detention and treatment in their investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations of a CIA-operated secret prison in the country and to prosecute those responsible for the acts on Polish soil. Earlier this month, an ex-CIA agent confirmed [Spiegel report] that the agency tortured al-Nashiri in 2002 at a secret prison in Poland. OSJI stated that the filing represents the first attempt [press release] by an extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] victim to pursue a legal remedy within the Polish court system. Al-Nashiri remains a detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], despite an announcement last month by the Obama administration that charges against him are not pending [JURIST report] or being considered. The Pentagon formally dropped charges [JURIST report] against al-Nashiri in February 2009, effectively ending his prosecution under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF].

The commencement of the investigation comes one week after former Polish prime minister Leszek Miller denied any knowledge [JURIST report] of a secret CIA prison in Poland and indicated that he will not discuss allegations of torture until the Polish government's investigation is complete. Allegations against Poland came in a June 2007 report [text; JURIST report] to the Council of Europe [official website] by Swiss Senator Dick Marty. The report concluded that numerous European governments had cooperated with the CIA program. In February 2007, the European Parliament condemned more than a dozen European states [JURIST report] for their roles in the program. Several nations have been accused of obstructing European probes into the secret prison allegations, including Poland [JURIST report], which allegedly housed the largest CIA detention facility in Europe [JURIST report].




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Federal appeals court hears case challenging whistle-blower law
Andrea Bottorff on September 22, 2010 11:21 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] heard arguments Tuesday in a case challenging the constitutionality of the False Claims Act [text], which allows citizen "whistle-blowers" to sue federal contractors for committing fraud against the government. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Senior National Staff Counsel Christopher Hansen appeared before the court and argued that the False Claims Act, which calls for court secrecy in fraud cases against the US government, violates the First Amendment protection of free speech, court transparency and separation of government powers. The ACLU, together with the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and OMB Watch [advocacy websites], filed the complaint [text, PDF] last year against the US Attorney General [official website]. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss in August 2009, and the ACLU appealed the case [brief, PDF; reply brief, PDF]. The advocacy groups support open use of the court systems, while the government argues that the act encourages citizens to anonymously report cases of fraud [Bloomberg report] without fear of backlash.

The False Claims Act has recently received attention in the country's highest court. In March, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] 7-2 in Graham County Soil & Water Conservation Dist. v. United States ex rel. Wilson [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that whistle-blowers cannot bring suit under the False Claims Act to recover misspent government funds if the information used in the lawsuits came from state or local agencies' reports or audits. The suit arose out of public record documents that detailed a failure to obtain bids for the clean-up and reconstruction of storm-damaged portions of North Carolina. The ruling could potentially bar thousands of lawsuits by whistle-blowers. However, Congress recently changed the language of the statute [SCOTUSblog report] as part of the health care reform bill [HR 3590 materials] signed into law [JURIST report] in March. It is unclear whether the new wording will affect the case on remand.




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Rights groups sue city of Pittsburgh over G-20 arrests
Ann Riley on September 22, 2010 10:03 AM ET

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[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy websites] on Monday filed a federal lawsuit [press release] against the city of Pittsburgh, Police Chief Nathan Harper and more than 15 police officers on behalf of 25 people arrested during the September 2009 Group of 20 (G-20) Summit [official website; JURIST news archive]. The complaint [text, PDF], filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania [official website], alleges that police officers violated protesters' First Amendment rights of assembly and Fourth Amendment [text] protections against false arrest when conducting a mass arrest using excessive force during a September 25 peaceful demonstration and falsely charging those attempting to obey police orders with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct. ACLU-PA Legal Director Witold Walczak said:
Police declarations that peaceful anti-government demonstrations are illegal and arrest of participants in the assembly are a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, a practice the U.S. rightfully decries when it happens in Iran or Russia. Unfortunately, the same practice occurred in this country during last year's G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, and now occurs regularly at demonstrations involving national security events, like political conventions and international trade meetings.
The criminal charges against all 25 plaintiffs, 13 of which are University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University [academic websites] students, were eventually withdrawn or dismissed. Last year, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. [official website] indicated that some of the University of Pittsburgh students arrested during the G-20 protests [JURIST report] may have been used as pawns [JURIST report] by protesters and those looking to cause damage, when announcing he would drop the charges against four students. It is believed that more than 190 people were arrested during the protests.

Pittsburgh has been greatly criticized for its handling of the G-20 protesters. In December, the ACLU-PA and the CCR extended and continued a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the City of Pittsburgh for allegedly violating the rights of two protest groups during the G-20. According to the amended complaint [text, PDF], Pittsburgh police officers repeatedly violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment [text] rights of Seeds of Peace and Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC) [advocacy websites]. The ACLU-PA and CCR originally filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in September 2009. According to the ACLU-PA, police deployed throughout the city in a manner that prevented lawful demonstrations [JURIST report], suppressed free speech and failed to prevent criminal activity. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) [advocacy website] also questioned the methods used by police during protests in the Lawrenceville and Oakland [JURIST reports] sections of Pittsburgh and noted that individual officers lacked visible identification, frustrating the work of NLG and ACLU legal observers.




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Senate fails to advance 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' repeal
Daniel Richey on September 21, 2010 5:54 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Senate on Tuesday rejected [roll call vote] a cloture motion on the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2011 [S 3454 materials], a defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the US armed forces' "Don't ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) [10 USC § 654 materials; JURIST news archive] policy. The motion was rejected by a 56-43 vote largely along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voted no for procedural reasons, as Senate rules will permit him to raise a motion to reconsider the bill only if he voted with the majority. Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME) [official website], a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] who has publicly supported the repeal, also voted no, citing a desire to entertain more amendment proposals [press release] from Senate Republicans. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) [official website], who also serves on the SASC, expressed disappointment [press release] in the vote, but said he is "confident that we will repeal this policy that is unjust and discriminatory and counter to both our national values and our national security." The defense appropriations bill also contains a rider providing for implementation of the DREAM Act [S 729 text], which would provide a legal path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, such as college attendance or military service. The bill also contains $726 billion in military appropriations, including a pay raise for personnel.

Since its enactment in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of DADT. Earlier this month, a judge in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] struck the policy down [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] on the grounds that it is not necessary to further important government interest in military readiness. Last month, a US military officer filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to enjoin the military from discharging him under DADT. In May, the House of Representatives [official website] and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to repeal the policy after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert 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.




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UN panel criticizes Israel, Hamas investigations into Gaza Strip conflict
Sarah Paulsworth on September 21, 2010 2:32 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN panel of experts [UN materials] tasked with monitoring and assessing investigations into alleged war crimes during the 2008-2009 conflict in the Gaza Strip [JURIST new archives] issued a report [text, PDF; press release] Tuesday criticizing the investigations being carried out by both Israel and Hamas, but positively assessing the work of the Palestinian Authority. According to the report, the Palestinian Authority's work in this area comports with international standards. However the work of Israel is assessed more harshly:
The Committee does not have any information on whether Israel has undertaken investigations into the allegations raised in the FFM report concerning IHRL violations in the West Bank. In this regard, Israel has not met its duty, under the International Covenant or under the Convention against Torture, to investigate these claims. Similarly, there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw "Operation Cast Lead."
The panel was also critical of Hamas' investigatory work:
The de facto authorities in Gaza established two committees of inquiry. The report of the first Committee, made up of officials of the de facto Gaza authorities, makes no serious effort to address the allegations detailed in the FFM report against the de facto authorities in Gaza; it focuses primarily on the allegations directed against Israel. The second report, prepared by three national and three international legal experts, provides some information about the actual measures taken to redress the violations that were alleged, but fails to substantiate assertions that all political prisoners have been released and criminal prosecutions have taken place in response to the FFM report. On the basis of the information before it, the Committee cannot conclude that credible and genuine investigations have been carried out by the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip."
The UN Human Rights Council [official website] is set to discuss the panel's conclusions on Monday.

The report is a follow-up to the Goldstone report [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], which was issued one year ago. In February, the UN General Assembly [official website] voted [press release] to give the Israelis and Palestinians additional time to finish their separate investigations into alleged human rights violations that took place during the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza. In November 2009, the UN had originally adopted a resolution [JURIST report] giving the two parties three months to complete an independent investigation.




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California county appeals same-sex marriage ruling
Sarah Miley on September 21, 2010 2:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] Officials for Imperial County [official website], California, announced Tuesday that the county has submitted its opening brief [text, PDF] in an appeal against last month's federal court decision [JURIST report] striking down California's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. District Judge Vaughn Walker denied Imperial's request to intervene in the original suit in August, stating that the request was not timely. Walker went on to rule that Proposition 8 [text, JURIST news archive] was unconstitutional under both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the Fourteenth Amendment. Imperial appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], defending its right to intervene and the validity of the Proposition 8 legislation. Imperial claims that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right under the Due Process Clause and that Proposition 8 satisfied rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause. Criticizing Walker's legal analysis, Imperial stated in its brief:
The people of California have now acted twice in exercising their initiative power to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The people's vote has twice been challenged in the California Supreme Court and is now being challenged in the federal courts. It is a long held principle in California that is "the duty of the courts to jealously guard the right of the people” to exercise their initiative power, which is described as "one of the most precious rights of our democratic process." The district court in this case failed to recognize his role as a judge as opposed to a policy maker. Before this Court is an opportunity to restore the vote of over 7 million Californians by applying rational basis review, while exercising appropriate judicial restraint.
Walker has cast doubt on the ability of defendant-intervenors in the suit to appeal the district court decision because they are not original parties to the suit and therefore lack the necessary standing. If the Ninth Circuit allows Imperial to intervene in the suit, the court will then determine whether the county has standing to appeal Walker's ruling. The state of California, the original defendant to the suit, has decided not to pursue an appeal of Walker's ruling.

Earlier this month, a judge for California's 3rd District Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that neither Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Attorney General Jerry Brown is required to appeal Walker's decision. Last month, a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit issued a stay [JURIST report] of Walker's decision, pending appeal. Schwarzenegger, Brown and others filed motions [JURIST report] opposing the stay request. Schwarzenegger and Brown were originally defendants in the lawsuit, and their refusal to oppose the stay request left defendant-intervenors Protect Marriage [advocacy website] and other groups to defend the law. The remaining defendant-intervenors have indicated they will, if necessary, appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.




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New York governor signs law allowing unmarried partners to adopt
Jay Carmella on September 21, 2010 11:18 AM ET

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[JURIST] New York Governor David Paterson (D) [official website] signed a bill on Sunday allowing unmarried partners, including gay couples, to jointly adopt a child. The law [A 05652 materials] amends the language of Section 110 [text] of New York's domestic relations law to allow two unmarried adult intimate partners to adopt a child. The New York Assembly [official website] passed the bill in July, after finding that the amended language keeps with the state's policy to ensure the best interests of the child. The new law also removes the phrase "husband and wife" and replaces it with "married couple." This is because, while same-sex marriage is illegal in the state, New York recognizes [NY1 News> report] same-sex marriages from other states. The amended language is as follows:
An adult unmarried person, an adult married couple together, or any two unmarried adult intimate partners together may adopt another person...An adult or minor married couple together may adopt a child of either of them born in or out of wedlock and an adult or minor spouse may adopt such a child of the other spouse.
The Assembly found there to be confusion about whether unmarried couples can adopt a child, especially in cases where one parent adopts the child overseas and the other seeks to in New York State. The law will ensure the joint adoption rights of unmarried couples, and will also provide the child with full benefits under both partners.

The issue of same-sex adoption [JURIST news archive] is becoming an increasingly important topic in the US and abroad. Last month, the UK Charity Commission [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that an adoption agency may not restrict its adoption services to married heterosexual couples. Also in August, the Mexican Supreme Court upheld a Mexico City law [JURIST report] allowing adoptions by same-sex couples. In April, an Arkansas judge ruled that a state law prohibiting all unmarried couples from adopting violated the state constitution [JURIST report] because it effectively prevented same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children. In February, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered [JURIST report] the state of Louisiana to place the names of two fathers on the birth certificate of a boy born in that state but adopted by a same-sex couple in New York. Last November, a French court ruled that a law prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting children in France is discriminatory [JURIST report] and ordered that a single woman be allowed to adopt. In November 2008, a Florida judge ruled that state's ban on same-sex adoption was unconstitutional [JURIST report].




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Lawyers for alleged USS Cole bomber request investigation into detention in Poland
Hillary Stemple on September 21, 2010 10:44 AM ET

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[JURIST] A human rights group and lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile], a Saudi man accused in connection with the 2000 USS Cole attack [JURIST news archive], filed a request [press release] Tuesday with Polish prosecutors for an investigation into al-Nashiri's detention and treatment at a secret CIA prison [JURIST news archive] in Poland. The request asks prosecutors to scrutinize al-Nashiri's detention and treatment in their investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations of a CIA-operated secret prison in the country and to prosecute those responsible for the acts on Polish soil. Earlier this month, an ex-CIA agent confirmed [Spiegel report] that the agency tortured al-Nashiri in 2002 at a secret prison in Poland. According to the agent, al-Nashiri was stripped naked and hooded before a gun and a drill were held close to his head. Al-Nashiri also alleges that he was waterboarded and threatened with injury and sexual abuse. Amrit Singh, a spokesperson for the human rights group Open Society Justice Initiative [advocacy website], involved in filing the petition, noted that the filing represents the first attempt [press release] by an extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] victim to pursue a legal remedy within the Polish court system. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] stated that the investigation and petition are a reminder that the US government has failed to hold those responsible [press release] for authorizing torture accountable for their actions. Al-Nashiri remains a detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], despite an announcement last month by the Obama administration that charges against him are not pending [JURIST report] or being considered. The Pentagon formally dropped charges [JURIST report] against al-Nashiri in February 2009, effectively ending his prosecution under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF].

The request for an investigation comes one week after former Polish prime minister Leszek Miller denied any knowledge [JURIST report] of a secret CIA prison in Poland and indicated that he will not discuss allegations of torture until the Polish government's investigation is complete. Allegations against Poland came in a June 2007 report [text; JURIST report] to the Council of Europe [official website] by Swiss Senator Dick Marty. The report concluded that numerous European governments had cooperated with the CIA program. In February 2007, the European Parliament condemned more than a dozen European states [JURIST report] for their roles in the program. Several nations have been accused of obstructing European probes into the secret prison allegations, including Poland [JURIST report], which allegedly housed the largest CIA detention facility in Europe [JURIST report].




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ICC to present cases against instigators of Kenya post-election violence
Carrie Schimizzi on September 21, 2010 9:31 AM ET

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[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Tuesday announced plans to present two cases [statement, PDF] against as many as six individuals who "bear the greatest responsibility" for the violence following the 2007 Kenyan presidential election [JURIST news archive]. In March, the ICC's pre-trial chamber granted [press release] the chief prosecutor authority to launch the investigation into crimes against humanity committed during the post-election period. The announcement of Moreno-Ocampo's intent to prosecute those who planned and executed the post-election violence comes just days after Kenya's Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo was heavily criticized for suggesting [Daily Nation reports] that with the passage of its new constitution [JURIST report], Kenya can better handle the prosecution of those responsible than the ICC. In his statement, Moreno-Ocampo said Kilonzo had confirmed his "personal commitment to do justice for the victims of the post election violence" and hopes "the Kenyan justice system will ultimately deal with the many perpetrators that the ICC will not prosecute."

In June, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called on Kenya to establish a special tribunal [JURIST report] to investigate post-election crimes. In her statement [text], Pillay called the investigation into the deadly violence by the ICC a "major development." She warned, however, that the ICC's role would be limited to a handful of high-profile cases, which is why the need for a more wide-reaching investigation remains. The allegations of fraud [JURIST report] following the 2007 elections led to violence that caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and displacement of 500,000 others, and remains a concern in the international community. The ICC initiated a formal investigation into the violence after Kenya failed to conduct [JURIST report] its own investigation. In March, Moreno-Ocampo submitted the names of 20 senior political and business leaders [JURIST report] who allegedly "bear the gravest responsibility" for the post-election violence. The ICC's decision to authorize the prosecutor's investigation means that Kenyan leaders may be called before the court.




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Rights expert tells UN Sudan unprepared for January self-determination referendum
Zach Zagger on September 21, 2010 8:47 AM ET

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[JURIST] A human rights expert told the UN Friday that Sudan is not prepared [press release] for its January 9 self-determination referendum that could divide the country in two. Mohamed Chande Othman, a Tanzanian judge and independent expert on the Sudan human rights situation, presented a report [text, PDF] to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in Geneva warning that Sudan does not have the necessary infrastructure in place for the January referendum. The report cites major setbacks, including the suppression of free speech and of the press, restrictions on other civil and political rights, and inadequate protection of society due to a lack of well-trained police officers, prosecutors and judges. The report also states that there are unresolved issues, including border demarcation, residency and voter eligibility, as well as the lack of a referendum commission in the contentious region of Abyei in southern Sudan. There are fears that the referendum could spark civil war [LAT report] and further violence between the largely Christian south and Muslim north. The south is expected to vote for secession. This could cause the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) [party website] of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to try to stop the election because, depending on where the border is drawn, it could result in as much as 80 percent of the nation's oil reserves landing in the new southern state.

The referendum is meant to be the culmination of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) [UN press release] that ended two decades of civil war. Last week, the UN Security Council [official website] issued a statement [text] calling on the CPA parties to take "urgent action to facilitate peaceful and on-time referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people, to respect their results, and to resolve key remaining post-referenda issues." Last April, Sudan attempted to have its first democratic multi-party election in almost a quarter of a century, but it was fraught with controversy. Two political parties in eastern Sudan accused the ruling NCP [JURIST report] of using voter fraud and intimidation in gaining electoral victories in their region of the country during the national elections.




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ICTY prosecutor urges greater effort to arrest war crimes suspect Mladic
Matt Glenn on September 20, 2010 2:28 PM ET

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[JURIST] Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Serge Brammertz [official profile] called on Serbia and other governments Monday to increase efforts to find and arrest former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic [case materials; JURIST news archive]. Brammertz said failure to arrest Mladic would send war criminals the message [AP report] that if they avoid capture long enough, the world will cease to care about bringing them to justice. Brammertz also emphasized the importance of seeking justice for Mladic's victims. Authorities must work quickly to arrest Mladic, Brammertz noted, since the ICTY is scheduled to be shut down in three years.

Mladic is one of two high-level targets still at large under the jurisdiction of the ICTY and faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for allegedly overseeing the Srebrenica massacre and other war crimes violations during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. In June, British Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] and Brammertz marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre by reaffirming their commitment [JURIST report] to bringing those responsible for the deaths of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys to justice. In May, Mladic's family filed a claim in the Belgrade District Court seeking to have him declared officially dead [JURIST report] in order to collect his state pension and sell his property. Earlier that month, the ICTY announced that the Office of the Prosecutor filed a motion to amend the indictment against Mladic [JURIST report] to include 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in order to help speed up court proceedings once Mladic is captured. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said that the ICTY will continue to operate [JURIST report] beyond its originally planned end date, in part to apprehend both Mladic who has been a fugitive since 1995. Ban estimated that it will be necessary for the court to remain open until 2013.




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Seven arrested in China for melamine-tainted powdered milk
Brian Jackson on September 20, 2010 1:45 PM ET

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[JURIST] Police in China's Shanxi province in arrested seven individuals [JCRB report, in Chinese], including the executive of a dairy company, after that company's powdered milk was found to contain melamine, according to Monday reports. In 2008, melamine-tainted milk from China [JURIST news archive] was blamed for the deaths of six infants, and the Chinese government promised that all tainted product would be seized and destroyed. In the current case, the seven individuals are accused of adding melamine to 26 tons of out-of-date powdered milk [BBC report], which was distributed to Hunan and Henan provinces. If convicted, the seven individuals could face the death penalty, as China has recently indicated that it will impose harsh penalties [AP report], including capital punishment, in situations where food safety offenses are particularly egregious.

The problem of tainted Chinese milk is not subsiding, despite Chinese government promises to the contrary. In July, Chinese authorities discovered 64 tons of raw dairy materials [Xinhua report] contaminated with melamine in Qinghai province. In February, Chinese police arrested three individuals [JURIST report] for their roles in the 2008 tainted milk scandal. Two other individuals were executed [JURIST report] in November 2009 after being convicted of endangering public safety and selling toxic food.




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DOJ report criticizes FBI for domestic advocacy group probes
Ann Riley on September 20, 2010 1:31 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] Monday absolving the FBI [official website] of charges that agents conducted investigations of domestic groups based on their exercise of First Amendment [text] rights. The report criticizes the FBI [Washington Post report] for beginning investigations on weak factual predicates, continuing investigations longer than necessary, inappropriately retaining information on file and misclassifying investigations, and probing issues of state, rather than federal, law. The FBI reportedly monitored the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice, an anti-war activist organization based in Pittsburgh, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Greenpeace USA [advocacy websites]. Additionally, the report indicates that Greenpeace advocates were inappropriately added to the terrorist watch list. In a response included in the report, FBI Deputy Director Timothy Murphy [official profile] states that the FBI is "pleased that the Report concludes that the FBI did not target any groups for investigation on the basis of First Amendment activities." Additionally, Murphy said the FBI "regrets that inaccurate information was provided" to Director Robert Mueller [official profile], which he subsequently presented to Congress. During a 2006 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], Mueller refused to answer questions [Mueller statement; JURIST report] about the administration's domestic spying program [JURIST news archive], saying the information was classified.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] reported that there have been more than 100 incidents of political surveillance [report, PDF; JURIST report] and harassment by authorities in 33 states since 9/11 [JURIST news archive]. Earlier in June, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled that the city of New York could withhold documents related to surveillance practices [JURIST report] that led to the arrest of 1,800 protesters during the convention. The court found that the documents needed to remain confidential because their release could compromise future surveillance efforts. In 2006, the FBI monitored gatherings organized by the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice, according to documents [ACLU backgrounder; JURIST report] released by the ACLU. The ACLU contended that the FBI based its investigation solely on the organization's political views, particularly its opposition to the war in Iraq. In addition to the documents released by the ACLU, an FBI report also indicated that agents photographed members of the Thomas Merton Center during a November 2002 gathering, during which members handed out leaflets opposing the war in Iraq. In the wake of a lawsuit from groups including the ACLU and Greenpeace, the DOJ admitted in 2005 that the FBI has thousands of pages of records on file [JURIST report] scrutinizing US civil rights, environmental and other advocacy groups.




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Malaysia appeals court rejects opposition leader's bid to dismiss sodomy charge
Carrie Schimizzi on September 20, 2010 7:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Malaysian Court of Appeals [official website] on Monday dismissed [Bernama report] an appeal by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of the Kuala Lumpur High Court's refusal to throw out the sodomy charges [Bernama report] against him based on allegations that his accuser had an affair with the prosecutor. A three-man panel ruled that, under Section 3 of the Court of Judicature Act (CJA) [materials, text], the appeals court had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the High Court's ruling was not a final decision. The prosecution had objected to the appeal on the grounds that the High Court's decision was procedural and therefore did not constitute a "final" decision as defined by Section 3. Counsel for Anwar will reportedly appeal to Malaysia's highest court [official website], which will further delay his trial [JURIST report].

Anwar is charged with sodomizing his former aide Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008. This was his second attempt to have the sodomy charge against him dismissed [JURIST report]. He has described the charges as a farce aimed at preventing him from taking his seat in Parliament [official website] following the gains made by his party in the 2008 elections. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in February. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Malaysian government to drop all charges [JURIST report] against Anwar. HRW alleges that the trial has been "plagued by serious due process problems and government interference" and that the government should therefore drop all charges against Anwar. Earlier that month, the Malaysian Federal Court rejected Anwar's claim [JURIST reports] that his 1998 removal from office was unconstitutional. Anwar was Malaysia's deputy prime minister until he was fired and then jailed in 1998 following corruption and sodomy charges, of which he was acquitted in 2004. He recently reentered Malaysian politics following the expiration of a 10-year ban [JURIST report] against him for unrelated corruption charges.




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China PM calls for greater action against corruption
Dwyer Arce on September 19, 2010 12:42 PM ET

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[JURIST] Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law, combating corruption and improving transparency in a speech [text, in Chinese] published by the government Sunday. During the speech, delivered last month at a national conference on government administration, Wen explained that the proper adherence to the rule of law is an important step in the fight against government corruption. He also called for greater transparency in the preparation of local city and provincial budgets and greater respect for the rule of law by these local governments, due to their continuous influence in the daily lives of individuals. Wen also called for more legislation and institution building to improve government, adherence to "scientific and democratic" decision-making, the promotion of transparency in government affairs and governance strictly by the law. The Chinese government has been taking steps against government corruption in recent months. In July, the Chinese government instituted new regulations [JURIST report] 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, 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 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 action 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. Also in July, the Chinese government executed a top judicial official [JURIST report] 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 six individuals to death [JURIST report] for their connections with organized crime gangs.




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Man convicted in Air India bomb plot found guilty of perjury
Erin Bock on September 19, 2010 12:34 PM ET

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[JURIST] A man found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the 1985 Air India bombings [CBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] was found guilty Saturday of perjury. Inderjit Singh Reyat was the only person convicted for his role in the 1985 terrorist attacks where bombs were planted in suitcases aboard airplanes leaving Vancouver. One bomb went off in Japan's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers, and another bomb went off on Air India Flight 182 as it flew over Ireland, killing all 329 passengers. Reyat admitted to buying the parts to make the bombs and was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 for the incident in Japan and in 2003 for the incident aboard Flight 182. This most recent conviction is related to the 2003 trial in which Reyat lied under oath 19 times [Montreal Gazette report] during his three-day testimony against alleged co-conspirators Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri. Reyat testified that he could not remember details relating to the bomb plot and could not remember the name of the man that received the bomb parts he had purchased. The men were acquitted [JURIST report] in 2005 of conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder of the passengers and crew of Flight 182 and attempted murder of the passengers and crew due to lack of evidence. Prosecutors alleged Reyat was protecting other individuals involved, while Reyat's lawyer argued he was confused and had trouble remembering what had taken place after 18 years. Reyat is scheduled for sentencing on November 17 [AFP report] and could face a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

In June, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] formally apologized [JURIST report] to the families of the bombing victims for the government's failure to prevent the attack. Harper delivered his apology a week after Canada's Commission of Inquiry [official website] into the bombing released its final report [JURIST report] finding various institutional organizations failed to fulfill their responsibilities before and after the bombing. The report condemned the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) [official websites] for not utilizing available information, failing to enhance security and not cooperating with each other during the bombing investigation. The 1985 bombing was the largest single modern terror attack against a Western target prior to the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] in the US, and it resulted in the longest and most expensive trial in Canadian history.




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Iran court sentences journalist charged with 'warring against God' to 6 years
Dwyer Arce on September 19, 2010 11:54 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge from Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Saturday sentenced Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], to six years in prison. Ahari was sentenced to three-and-half-years [AFP report] for warring against God, known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, two years for conspiracy to commit a crime and six months for propaganda against the government. In addition to the jail sentence, Ahari was also ordered to pay a USD $400 fine [Al Jazeera report] or face 74 lashes. Ahari's conviction on the charge of Moharebeh could have resulted in the death penalty. Her lawyer has stated that he will appeal the sentence. Ahari was released from prison last week [JURIST report] after she posted bail of USD $500,000. Earlier this month, the court concluded [JURIST report] Ahari's one-day trial, conducted by head judge Pyrbasy, during which she faced charges of Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the government and disturbing the public order and having ties to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran [CFR backgrounder], an exiled organization that advocates for the overthrow of the Iranian government. The charges have been criticized by opposition organizations in Iran and rights groups worldwide who have called for Ahari's release.

Ahari was first arrested following the June 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in widespread charges of fraud and nationwide protests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], this is the first time that a journalist has been charged with a capital crime in Iran. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.




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DC Circuit hears arguments in Guantanamo detainee release appeal
Daniel Makosky on September 18, 2010 6:16 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday heard oral arguments in the appeal of a district court ruling that ordered the release [JURIST report] of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Mohamedou Olud Slahi [NYT materials]. The three-judge panel indicated that it is inclined to order that the case be reconsidered [WP report], also suggesting that the appeals court might reverse the decision itself. Judge James Robertson ruled in April that the government had to release Slahi because it was unable to prove that he was part of, or provided support to, al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] at the time of his capture. The panel noted that, since Judge Robertson's order, several pertinent decisions have been rendered that impact the manner in which it determines ties to terrorist organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] called on the court to uphold [press release] Slahi's release, saying that doing so "would demonstrate the vital role of the courts in ... restoring the rule of law."

The court originally ordered the release [JURIST report] of Slahi in March. Slahi was once considered a key al Qaeda leader and prosecutors had sought the death penalty against him. A prominent government prosecutor stepped down from the case [PBS interview] because he did not support the alleged abusive treatment used against Slahi, which was investigated in a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] report [text, PDF]. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the US government can indefinitely hold [JURIST report] an Afghan detainee accused of having ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Last month, a federal judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile], citing a lack of evidence proving that Latif was part of a terrorist organization. In July, the DC Circuit also released a redacted opinion [JURIST report] holding that evidence against Algerian Guantanamo detainee Belkacem Bensaya must be reviewed to determine if he was "part of" al Qaeda.




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Proposition 8 supporters seek standing to appeal
Daniel Makosky on September 18, 2010 5:15 PM ET

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[JURIST] Supporters of Proposition 8 [text; JURIST news archive], California's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], filed a brief [text, PDF] Friday in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] requesting to proceed with an appeal. The brief seeks standing to argue the appeal following a ruling earlier this month that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown [official websites] are not required to challenge last month's federal district court decision [JURIST reports] finding the ban unconstitutional. Alternately, they request that the ruling on Proposition 8's constitutionality be vacated. The filing asserts that Judge Vaughn Walker failed to properly adhere to Baker v. Nelson, a 1972 Supreme Court precedent, and that:
The district court based its findings almost exclusively on an uncritical acceptance of the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs' experts, and simply ignored virtually everything - judicial authority, the works of eminent scholars past and present in all relevant academic fields, extensive historical and documentary evidence - that ran counter to its conclusions. Most importantly, the court ignored an overwhelming body of evidence establishing the common-sense proposition that the institution of marriage has, virtually always and everywhere, been defined as a union of man and woman because its central animating societal purpose has always, and everywhere, been to channel potentially procreative sexual relations into enduring, stable family unions for the sake of producing and raising the next generation.
The deadline for responses to the brief is next month [AP report], and oral arguments are scheduled for early December.

Last month, the Ninth Circuit issued a stay [JURIST report] of Walker's decision pending appeal. Earlier last month, Walker held that the same-sex marriage ban violated the guarantees of due process and equal protection under the US Constitution. Schwarzenegger, Brown and others filed motions [JURIST report] opposing the stay request, which led to Walker's refusal to issue a stay pending appeal. Schwarzenegger and Brown were originally defendants in the lawsuit against Proposition 8, and their refusal to oppose the stay request left defendant-intervenors Protect Marriage [advocacy website] and other groups to defend the law. The remaining defendant-intervenors have indicated they will, if necessary, appeal the case to the Supreme Court.




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US scientist charged with conspiracy to sell nuclear data to Venezuela
Andrea Bottorff on September 18, 2010 11:55 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Friday that a US scientist and his wife have been indicted [text, PDF] for conspiring to sell nuclear weapons information to an individual they believed worked for the Venezuelan government. Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni and his wife, Marjorie Mascheroni, were arrested Friday by the FBI [official website] and appeared [press release] before the US District Court for the District of New Mexico [official website]. The defendants used to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) [official website] and possessed classified nuclear weapons knowledge. According to the indictment, between March 2008 and August 2009, Pedro Mascheroni, who is a naturalized US citizen, negotiated a deal with an undercover FBI agent he believed to be a Venezuelan official in which he would help the country develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for over $700,000. No actual members of the Venezuelan government have been charged in the case. If convicted, the couple faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

There have been several moves toward nuclear non-proliferation [JURIST news archive] worldwide. Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons [JURIST report] in a speech [text] delivered during a visit to the Japanese city of Nagasaki. In his speech, Ban emphasized the importance of eliminating existing nuclear weapons and using political pressure to create stronger nonproliferation treaties. The UN Security Council [official website] voted [JURIST report] in June to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran [press release] for its failure to disband the nation's uranium enrichment program. In April, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedvev [official profiles] signed [JURIST report] the New START Treaty [text, PDF]. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol [text, PDF], both countries would be allowed only 1,550 strategic warheads worldwide, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted.




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Federal appeals court upholds verdict for Shell in Nigeria protest deaths
Andrea Bottorff on September 18, 2010 10:37 AM ET

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[JURIST] Judges for the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] a verdict in favor of Royal Dutch Shell PLC [corporate website] in a case brought by families of Nigerian protesters who were executed [UNHCR backgrounder] by the previous Nigerian government in 1995 for speaking out against the oil company. The court ruled that the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) [text] does not apply to corporations, relieving Shell of liability for alleged complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria. The plaintiffs had accused Shell of enlisting Nigerian military forces to help stop protests in the country, resulting in the violation of human rights [Dow Jones report] among the Ogoni people. Judge Pierre Leval concurred only in the judgment and stated in a separate opinion:
The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights. According to the rule my colleagues have created, one who earns profits by commercial exploitation of abuse of fundamental human rights can successfully shield those profits from victims' claims for compensation simply by taking the precaution of conducting the heinous operation in the corporate form. Without any support in either the precedents or the scholarship of international law, the majority take the position that corporations, and other juridical entities, are not subject to international law, and for that reason such violators of fundamental human rights are free to retain any profits so earned without liability to their victims.
Shell previously reached a $15.5 million settlement [JURIST report] in 2009 with the families of the protesters. Shell did not admit any wrongdoing in the deaths of the nine activists, which included Ken Saro-Wiwa, a well-known Nigerian activist and writer. Saro-Wiwa founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People [advocacy website], an organization that is credited with assisting in ceasing oil production in Ogoniland.

Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a jury verdict clearing Chevron [corporate website] of wrongdoing in the 1998 deaths of two protesters occupying a Nigerian oil platform operated by the company. Protesters Arolika Irowarinun and Bola Oyinbo were killed in May 1998 on Parabe Oil Platform and several others were injured when Nigerian government security forces, called in by Chevron Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Chevron, opened fire on the protesters. The families of Irowarinun and Oyinbo, as well as several injured protesters, subsequently filed a lawsuit under the ATCA, and Nigerian and California law. The appellate court ruled that there were no errors in jury instructions given by the trial court, the trial court properly dismissed the Alien Tort Act claims for wrongful death and survival and the Torture Victims Protection Act [text] does not apply to corporations.




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Rwanda court sentences opposition leader to life in prison
Zach Zagger on September 17, 2010 2:39 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Rwandan court on Friday sentenced opposition leader Deogratias Mushayidi [AI backgrounder] to life in prison for recruiting rebels and trying to incite violence against the government of current Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile]. Mushayidi was also given two additional lesser sentences [AFP report] for a fraudulent passport and for spreading rumors to incite civil disobedience. He has denied all charges and claims he was traveling legally with a Burundian passport. His lawyer said that they will appeal the sentences. Mushayidi is the leader of the Pact for the Defence of the People, the former head of the Rwandan Journalists' Association and a member of the ruling party [BBC report] before becoming a vocal critic. He was arrested in Burundi, where he was living in exile, in March and was extradited to Rwanda.

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




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Switzerland government to consider stricter rules for assisted suicide
Matt Glenn on September 17, 2010 1:36 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Swiss Federal Council and Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) [official websites] announced Friday that they will introduce legislation [press release] establishing stricter rules on assisted suicide [JURIST news archive] after a consultation with local governments, government agencies and other organizations found that 75 percent of respondents favored such a bill [text, PDF; in French]. According to the statement, "[a]lthough a clear majority believes in the need for action at federal level, there is still no consensus about how exactly organised assisted suicide should be governed." The FDJP is charged with drafting a bill establishing a duty of care for those helping people end their lives. Swiss law currently allows euthanasia [FDJP backgrounder] so long as long as those assisting in the death do not stand to gain from the death. Although some respondents proposed banning organized assisted suicide altogether, the Federal Council rejected this option [AP report] partly out of concern that it would violate patients' right to self-determination. Although the right to assisted suicide enjoys broad support in Switzerland, a recent study [SwissInfo report] found that most Swiss citizens oppose foreigners traveling to Switzerland with the help of groups such as the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] and Exit International [advocacy website] to end their lives. The Federal Council also asked the Federal Department of Home Affairs [official website] to look into ways to decrease the number of suicides in Switzerland. The FDJP is to finish its draft by the end of this year.

In February, UK Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer published a policy [JURIST report] introducing guidelines against prosecution of English citizens who travel to Switzerland for assisted suicide. At the end of last year, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide does not violate Montana law [JURIST report], making Montana the third US state, after Oregon and Washington, to allow the practice. Last year, the Swiss Federal Council proposed a number of regulations [JURIST report] that would have implemented additional procedural requirements on a person seeking assisted suicide. Last September, the UK released an interim policy [JURIST report] on assisted suicide that lists factors to be considered in determining which cases to prosecute.




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UN SG urges abolishment of anti-gay laws
Drew Singer on September 17, 2010 12:52 PM ET

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[JURIST] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Friday called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [press release]. The message, read on his behalf by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] during a panel discussion about ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said that laws that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation are human rights violations:
No doubt deeply-rooted cultural sensitivities can be aroused when we talk about sexual orientation. Social attitudes run deep and take time to change. But cultural considerations should not stand in the way of basic human rights. ... No one, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. No one should be prosecuted for their ideas or beliefs. No one should be punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
People face criminal sanctions for their sexual orientation in 78 countries, according to the UN.

In July, the UN Economic and Social Council [official website] voted 23-13 to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] as a consultative non-governmental organization [JURIST report]. The commission, a human rights organization for those discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity, had been working towards accreditation since 2007. According to the organization, it is the tenth gay-rights group [press release] among 3,200 accredited NGOs. Last year, US President Barack Obama endorsed a UN declaration [JURIST report] calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality, reversing the decision of his predecessor. By doing so, the US joined 66 other nations in supporting the document that divided the UN General Assembly. Nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement, including China, Russia, members of the Islamic Conference and the Vatican.




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UN Security Council condemns DRC mass rapes, urges justice
Brian Jackson on September 17, 2010 12:34 PM ET

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[JURIST] The UN Security Council [official website] on Friday issued a condemned the recent mass rapes [text] in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], calling for justice for the victims. In the statement, issued by current Security Council President Ertugrul Apakan, the council reiterated its support for past resolutions on the subjects of security and respect for women and urged the Congolese government to use its full power to prosecute the perpetrators. The Council also called on the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) [official website] to, "enhance its regular interaction with the civilian population, and [draw] attention to the importance of increased community liaison, more patrolling and appropriate communication equipment in areas where they were needed." The statement concluded with a request for a briefing by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on MONUSCO's plan for protecting civilians and strengthening the rule of law in the DRC.

Earlier this month, the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict called for perpetrators of mass rapes, including heads of DRC militias, to face war crimes charges [JURIST report]. Human rights have long been a major concern in the DRC. In June, national police chief John Numbi was suspended [JURIST report] as part of the ongoing investigation into the murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya. In December, Human Rights Watch urged MONUSCO to stop funding military groups [JURIST report] in the country that are committing human rights abuses. In December 2008, Amnesty International reported that rape and sexual warfare have been employed [JURIST report] by both the DRC military and by rebel forces.




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Sri Lanka ex-army chief convicted on corruption corruption charges
Megan McKee on September 17, 2010 9:51 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted Friday by a court-martial on charges of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison. The court found [AFP report] that Fonseka gave preference to an arms company operated by his son-in-law. The court's conviction and sentencing must still be ratified by President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official profile; JURIST news archive], who is expected to do so later this month after returning from the UN general assembly. Fonseka, who is credited with bringing an end to the 26-year civil war, was arrested shortly after his defeat in the January 2010 presidential election in which he ran against Rajapaksa. He has been held in military custody since the arrest. Fonseka's lawyers have accused the court of irregularities, and Fonseka has accused the government of seeking revenge for his decision to run in the presidential elections. He says he expects to be jailed.

Last month, Fonseka announced his decision to appeal [JURIST report] his conviction on charges of engaging in politics while on active duty. Fonseka was accused [JURIST report] of trying to secure a place in a political party before he quit his military position. Accordingly, he was dishonorably discharged and stripped of his rank, medals and pension. In July, the High Court of Sri Lanka [official website] conducted the first hearing in a case accusing Fonseka 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 Rajapaksa ordered the killing of surrendering rebel leaders during the Sri Lankan civil war.




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US judge sentences Guatemala peasant massacre suspect to 10 years
Megan McKee on September 17, 2010 9:45 AM ET

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[JURIST] A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a South Florida man to 10 years in prison and revoked his citizenship for concealing his involvement in a Guatemalan peasant massacre on his US immigration forms. Authorities claimed that Gilberto Jordan committed naturalization fraud [Reuters report] by concealing his military service and involvement in Guatemala's December 1982 massacre in the village of Dos Erres, which left as many as 162 dead. Jordan pleaded guilty to the charge of naturalization fraud in July. The 10-year sentence is the maximum penalty under US law. Human rights activists representing the relatives of those massacred at Dos Erres are seeking Jordan's extradition to Guatemala.

Jordan was arrested [JURIST report] by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] agents in May after he was accused of involvement in the 1982 massacre. He is suspected of being one of 20 Guatemalan special forces soldiers known as "Kaibiles" who killed men, women and children in Dos Erres during Guatemala's civil war. ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said, "[t]hose who commit human rights abuses abroad cannot subvert US immigration laws in order to take shelter in the United States. We are firmly committed to denying human rights abusers entrance into this country, weeding out those that are already here, and will enforce this US government policy of no safe haven for human rights violators."




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US Senate committee approves Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty
Daniel Makosky on September 17, 2010 8:26 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] on Thursday voted 14-4 [press release] to approve the so-called New START treaty [materials; BBC backgrounder] between Russia and the US. Along with 11 Democrats, three Republicans voted for its passage, including the committee's ranking member Richard Lugar (R-IN) [official website]. The new START treaty replaces the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I treaty) [materials], with Russia and the US each pledging to reduce their countries' nuclear warheads by about 30 percent. Under the terms of the treaty and its protocol, both countries would only be allowed to deploy 1,550 strategic warheads, a decrease from the 2,200 currently permitted. The treaty will now go before the full Senate, where it requires a two-thirds majority vote before it can take effect. In a statement, President Barack Obama [official website] encouraged continued bipartisan support [press release], saying the treaty's passage "will advance American leadership in the world, while strengthening our national security interest in the 21st century."

Reaction to the new treaty has been mixed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called it a significant achievement [press release], while Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) [official website] said in April that it stands no chance [JURIST report] of passage this year. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] signed the treaty [JURIST report] in Prague in April. The agreement, reached [JURIST report] in February, is the first nuclear agreement between the two nations in nearly 20 years. The US State Department began negotiating [JURIST report] the treaty with Russia in 2009. Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, whose nuclear arsenals comprise 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, languished during the Bush administration. The treaty is considered a key part of easing tensions between the two countries, which reached a high point after the 2008 Georgia conflict [BBC backgrounder].




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HRW urges Lebanon to protect rights of domestic workers
Megan McKee on September 16, 2010 2:56 PM ET

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[JURIST] Lebanon should improve its judicial system by providing mechanisms to better protect the basic rights of domestic workers [press release] and more ardently prosecuting those who violate them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said in a report [text] released Thursday. The report cites lengthy judicial procedures, stringent visa policies that make it difficult for workers to stay in Lebanon after lodging complaints against their employers and the lack of a viable complaint reporting mechanism as central to the problem. According to HRW, the failure of police and other judicial figures to consider the abuse of migrant and domestic workers as a crime further exacerbates the problem. Beirut director of HRW Nadim Houry said, "[b]y turning a blind eye to violations affecting domestic workers, Lebanon's police and judiciary are complicit in the ongoing violations by employers against this vulnerable group." In the 114 cases HRW reviewed, it did not find one instance in which employers who had forcibly confined workers to the house, confiscated their passports or denied them food were actually charged with a crime. Some 200,000 migrant domestic workers are employed in Lebanon, primarily from Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Nepal.

Lebanese officials, including the ministers of Interior and Labor, have pronounced their intentions to improve the treatment of migrant domestic workers, but only slight reforms have been achieved. In 2009, a modest initiative created a compulsory standard employment contract for domestic workers and their employers. In 2008, HRW reported that migrant and domestic workers still face abusive and exploitative treatment [JURIST report] throughout Asia and the Middle East. The rights group observed that workers in many nations throughout the region lacked access to judicial systems, and often lacked appropriate redress even when granted access. Earlier that year, HRW urged Saudi Arabia [JURIST report] to institute new legal protections for the country's estimated 1.5 million domestic workers.




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US terror suspects plead not guilty to additional charges of aiding al Qaeda
Jaclyn Belczyk on September 16, 2010 2:34 PM ET

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[JURIST] Two terror suspects accused of aiding al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Thursday to three additional charges. On Tuesday, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York [official website] announced [press release] a superseding indictment [text, PDF] against Wesam El-Hanafi and Sabirhan Hasanoff for allegedly providing material support [18 USC § 2339B materials], including money and computer assistance, to al Qaeda. El-Hanafi allegedly traveled to Yemen where we swore an oath of allegiance to al Qaeda and received assignments and instructions. Hasanoff allegedly carried out several assignments for al Qaeda in New York City. According to the indictment:
the defendants, and others known and unknown, unlawfully and knowingly, did combine, confederate and agree together and with each other to provide "material support or resources," ... to a foreign terrorist organization, to wit, al Qaeda, which has been designated by the United States Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization.
The defendants pleaded not guilty before Judge Kimba Wood of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. If convicted, they could each face up to 70 years in prison.

In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] 6-3 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project [Cornell LII backgrounder] that the federal law criminalizing providing material support for groups designated as terrorist organizations is constitutional. El-Hanafi and Hasanoff were originally charged [JURIST report] in April with one count of providing material support to terrorism.




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Two ex-Guantanamo detainees transferred to Germany
Drew Singer on September 16, 2010 12:47 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Defense [official website] announced Thursday that two former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees have been transferred to Germany [press release]. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere [official profile, in German] said that state authorities in Hamburg and Rhineland-Palatinate will help the former detainees adapt to life in Germany as the nation's humanitarian contribution to closing the detention center [AP report]. Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Karl Peter Bruch [official website, in German] did not name the closed facility [DW report] in which the detainees are being held, 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 will be granted permanent residency permits [Spiegel report] that will allow them to live and travel anywhere in the EU. 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.

Germany agreed to take the inmates after negotiations with the Obama administration, which had originally asked Germany to take up to 10 detainees [JURIST report] from the facility. De Maiziere emphasized in July that Germany had informed the US it would not consider any further requests [DW report] to accept detainees. In 2006, Germany also accepted a former detainee who had legal residency in the country [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 Italy, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda [JURIST reports]. There are currently 174 detainees remaining at the facility.




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DOJ ends efforts to retry Merrill Lynch executive in Enron scam
Hillary Stemple on September 16, 2010 11:28 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday asked a federal judge to drop fraud and conspiracy charges against a former Merrill Lynch executive accused of taking part in the Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] Nigerian barge scam. James Brown was convicted [JURIST report], along with three other former Merrill Lynch executives in 2004, in the first criminal trial stemming from the Enron collapse. Brown and his co-defendants were convicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud relating to a deal that allowed Enron to sell shares [WSJ report] in Nigerian power-producing barges to Merrill Lynch, with the promise that Merrill Lynch's interests would be bought out within six months at a pre-determined profit. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] reversed the convictions [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in 2006 "on the legal ground that the government's theory of fraud relating to the deprivation of honest services—one of three theories of fraud charged in the Indictment—is flawed." Brown's retrial was scheduled to begin next week, after the district judge denied [Bloomberg report] the government's request to postpone the proceedings. The government previously ended attempts to re-prosecute Brown's co-defendants on the charges. Brown is currently in the process of appealing his conviction on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice to the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive].

One statute utilized by the government in the original convictions of the executives was the "honest service" doctrine [18 USC § 1346 text], which was recently limited in scope by the Supreme Court. In June, the court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the doctrine is not unconstitutionally vague under a limited construction. In its ruling, the court limited the honest services doctrine to the protection of intangible rights of honest service deprived through bribery and kickbacks. As a result of the ruling, the court vacated the conviction of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archive] under the statute because his misconduct did not fall under either category. The court also vacated the conviction of Canadian media mogul Conrad Black [JURIST news archive] and former Alaskan congressmen Bruce Weyhrauch who were also convicted under the doctrine.




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Cambodia genocide court indicts 4 ex-Khmer Rouge leaders
Jay Carmella on September 16, 2010 10:19 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday indicted [press release] four former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leaders. The indicted leaders, Ieng Sary [JURIST news archive], Ieng Thirith [case materials], Khieu Samphan [JURIST news archive] and Nuon Chea [JURIST report], have been detained since 2007 and are charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and offenses under the Cambodian Criminal Code 1956. These charges include acts of extermination, murder, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture and religious persecution, among other things. All four have claimed to be wrongfully accused. The indictments [Phnom Penh Post report] lead the way to a trial that will be the largest and most complex in the ECCC's history. Due to the age and deteriorating health of the four former leaders, political pressure on the ECCC to prosecute the individuals has increased. The trial is likely to begin in mid-2011.

In April, the ECCC dismissed appeals [JURIST report] by Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samp to block the extension of their provisional detention. The ECCC 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. The ECCC handed down its first conviction [JURIST report] of a former Khmer Rouge official in July. Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch," was found guilty of crimes against humanity and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Last month, lawyers for Duch filed a notice of an appeal [JURIST report] of his conviction. Earlier in the month, the prosecution filed their own notice of an appeal [JURIST report] seeking to increase Kaing's term of imprisonment. The prosecution identified three grounds for appeal, including a discernible error in the exercise of sentencing discretion, an error of law regarding cumulative convictions and an error of law regarding enslavement.




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EU court rules communication between in-house lawyers, management not privileged
Jay Carmella on September 16, 2010 9:07 AM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] ruled [case materials; press release] Tuesday that communication between in-house lawyers and management is not protected by legal professional privilege during competition investigations by the European Commission (EC) [official website]. The ECJ found that, in order for the privilege to exist, the lawyer must be independent, which is not the case for in-house lawyers who rely on the company for employment. The court wrote:
An in-house lawyer, despite his enrollment with a Bar or Law Society and the professional ethical obligations to which he is, as a result, subject, does not enjoy the same degree of independence from his employer as a lawyer working in an external law firm does in relation to his client. Consequently, an in-house lawyer is less able to deal effectively with any conflicts between his professional obligations and the aims of his client.
The ECJ limited its decision only to those cases involving competition investigations by the EC. Individual members state are still entitled to acknowledge the privilege for in-house counsel for cases that are limited to national competition. The ruling could result in a significant increase in legal expenses [The Register report] for companies that are now forced to hire external counsel.

The ECJ was established to ensure that EU legislation is applied consistently across all member states. However, many of the member states have struggled to enforce ECJ rulings, which could lead to future problems if member states continue to allow in-house counsel to enjoy privilege in national competition matters. Last month, the German Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [JURIST report] that German courts must follow precedent established by the ECJ unless it is clearly a violation of the court's power. The court noted that minor violations of the ECJ's authority would not be enough to disqualify a ruling and that a ruling can be disregarded only if European institutions clearly violate the authority granted to them at the expense of the authority of the member states. Earlier in August, the UK High Court suspended the enforcement [JURIST report] of an airline regulation requiring airlines to compensate passengers for flights that are delayed for more than three hours, until the ECJ releases a new ruling on the issue. The ECJ issued its original ruling [JURIST report] on the matter in November, but UK airlines indicated that they believe the ECJ's 2009 ruling was incorrect [trade group report, PDF] and that they would not compensate passengers for delayed flights.




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New York man charged with funding attempted Times Square bombing
Erin Bock on September 16, 2010 8:54 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Long Island man was charged Wednesday with providing funds to the man who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May. The US Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York, FBI and New York Police Department [official websites] filed an indictment [press release, PDF] against Mohammad Younis, charging him with conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business. The document alleges that, in April, Younis unknowingly transferred funds to individuals, including Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], through hawala, a "value transfer system in which money does not physically cross international boundaries through the banking system." The transfer was arranged in Pakistan by Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) [CTC Sentinel backgrounder], the extremist group that allegedly trained Shahzad to make and use explosive devices. Younis was not licensed to perform such transfers or to operate a money transfer business, but authorities admit he was unaware that he was transferring money to fund the attempted car bombing. US Attorney Preet Bharara stated that the charges against Younis should serve as a reminder of how international terrorists operate:
By engaging in the alleged conduct, Mohammad Younis unwittingly funded a terror plot that, if successful, would have caused mass casualties in New York City. These charges remind us how international terrorists use the cover of informal money transfer systems to avoid detection and to inflict catastrophic harm.
If he is found guilty, Younis could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison—five years for each charge.

Last week, Pakistani police announced the arrest of three men [JURIST report] suspected of helping Shahzad plan and fund his failed endeavor. Officials said that the young Pakistani citizens, Shahid Hussain, Shoaib Mughal and Humba Akhtar, who were arrested following a long-running investigation, confessed their involvement to police and are being charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. The men reportedly provided Shahzad with more than USD $13,000 and arranged for him to meet and train with Hakimullah Mehsud [NYT profile], the head of TTP. The suspects are reputed to have close ties to Mehsud. Shahzad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in June to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges relating to his role in the attempted Times Square car bombing. He indicated that his actions reflected an act of war and that the attempted attacks would continue until US forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan.




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Senegal security forces violating human rights with impunity: report
Dwyer Arce on September 16, 2010 8:32 AM ET

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[JURIST] Senegalese security forces are engaging in systematic torture, often leading to the death of those detained, according to a report [text, PDF] released Wednesday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. AI claims that this leaves victims' families with no recourse against security forces because the prosecution of members of the security forces must be approved by the ministries of Interior or Defense. These actions, all of which constitute severe violations of Senegal's international human rights obligations under the Convention Against Torture [text], often go unpunished and are even condoned by courts and government officials, according to the report. The report explains the importance of recognizing human rights and ending impunity:
As long as the state officials responsible for human rights violations know that their status means they almost certainly will never have to account for their acts, every Senegalese citizen or individual on Senegalese territory or within Senegalese jurisdiction risks being subjected to acts of torture and other human rights violations that will put their life at risk. Similarly, as long as the wall of impunity is not broken down, the victims of violations and their families cannot hope to obtain justice and reparations. Ensuring justice represents not only the condition sine qua non of full and complete physical and psychological rehabilitation of victims and their families, but also constitutes one of the foundations of the rule of law.
The report goes on to cite the case of former Chadian president Hissene Habre [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] as a prime example of Senegal's "contempt" for the rule of law. The Senegalese government has refused to extradite [JURIST report] Habre, despite ongoing international pressure to prosecute him for crimes against humanity. The report concluded by recommending several steps that must be taken in order to end human rights abuses in Senegal, including investigating all deaths in custody and torture allegations, instructing security forces to observe international human rights law, ending arbitrary detentions and repealing laws criminalizing homosexuality.

In 2009, the African Court on Human and People's Rights (AfCHPR) [official website] found that it lacked jurisdiction [JURIST report] to hear a case against Senegal on whether charges against Habre should be dropped. Habre has been accused of involvement in the murder or torture of more than 40,000 political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990. He later fled to Senegal after being removed from power in 1990. Belgium has sought to try him under the principle of universal jurisdiction, but Senegal has long refused extradition. Earlier that year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] denied [JURIST report] Belgium's request to compel Habre's extradition. Belgium had accused Senegal of violating international law, including Article 7 of the Convention Against Torture, by not trying Habre in Senegal, where he has lived under house arrest since 1990. The ICJ found that assurances made by Senegal that Habre would remain in custody until trial were sufficient and that "the risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by Belgium is not apparent."




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Kyrgyzstan court issues first convictions for ethnic violence
Dwyer Arce on September 16, 2010 7:33 AM ET

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[JURIST] A court in Kyrgyzstan issued the first convictions Wednesday in connection with the June 2010 ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive], handing down prison terms for eight ethnic Uzbeks. The case stems from the murder of a Kyrgyz police officer during the violence, which resulted in the deaths of 309 people, with an additional 2,000 reportedly injured. Judge Nurgazy Alymkulov of the Nooken District Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] sentenced five to life terms [RFE/RL report] on charges of murder, fomenting ethnic hatred, instigating violence and organizing public unrest. Two others were sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the last was sentenced to nine. Among those given life sentences was prominent Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov. The convictions were later described as politically motivated [Reuters report]. In July, the Kyrgyz government announced that it had opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the violence, and that 106 individuals had been detained, with 97 in custody. Also in July, Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] established a commission [JURIST report] to investigate the ethnic violence against the country's Uzbek population. It will consult with government and international experts and present its findings on the causes and repercussions of the violence in September.

The convictions come the month before the October 10 parliamentary elections. They will be the first since a new constitution took effect in July after being approved by voters [JURIST reports] in a nationwide referendum. In June, the interim government under Otunbayeva announced the constitutional referendum 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].




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EU court rejects registration of Lego red brick trademark
Sarah Miley on September 15, 2010 2:09 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Tuesday denied an appeal [judgment text] by the Danish company Lego [corporate website] to restore its EU trademark for its interlocking toy bricks. The court held that the company's red eight-stud brick is not registrable as a community trademark and "is a sign consisting exclusively of the shape of goods necessary to obtain a technical result." Lego filed the appeal after the European Court of First Instance [official website] upheld [JURIST report] an Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) [official website] ruling that the distinctive nature of the product is its functional shape, and cannot be trademarked under EC 40/94 [text]. The court found that the availability of the trademark for a technical solution would constitute a monopoly. Lego argued that its bricks were not a monopoly, citing the availability of other shapes that could achieve the same function. The ruling falls in line with a statement issued earlier this year by Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi, who said that all of Lego's claims are unfounded [Europolitics report] and the appeal should be dismissed.

The decision brought to rest a 14-year battle between Lego and Canadian-based competitor Mega Brands [corporate website], which manufactures a similar product. Lego initially obtained an OHIM trademark in 1999, which Mega Brands successfully had canceled in 2004. Wednesday's decision was an appeal of OHIM's final ruling in 2006. The dispute between the companies has been litigated in many jurisdictions. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled that Mega Brands had a right to sell its product [judgment text].




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Federal judges approve pilot project to televise civil trials
Sarah Miley on September 15, 2010 12:12 PM ET

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[JURIST] US federal judges reached an agreement Tuesday on a pilot project allowing certain civil trials to be televised [press release]. Federal appellate judge David Sentelle [official profile] said that, while the details still needed to be worked out, the judges agreed that the faces of jurors and witnesses will not be recorded and that either party to the suit can opt out of the trial being televised. The Judicial Conference [official website], the principle policy-making institution for the federal courts, decided to commence the project after the US Supreme Court [official website] denied a request [JURIST report] by California district judge Vaughn Walker to have cameras record the trial that overturned Proposition 8, the California ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archives]. Sentelle stated that, even if the project was up and running during the trial, it would not have been televised since defenders of the ban refused cameras in the court room. A similar pilot project was initiated in the early 1990s and received welcoming reviews from many judges, but the Judicial Conference reinstated its ban on televised proceedings in 1994.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in January that the Proposition 8 trial could not be broadcast on YouTube [website] because the district court did not follow proper procedure when enacting a rule permitting the broadcast. In staying the broadcast, the court ruled that there was a significant likelihood that the district court had not allowed enough time for the public to comment between proposing and enacting the rule, which ended a ban on recording court proceedings in certain cases. The court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed. The Supreme Court itself has a longstanding ban on the use of cameras, but began releasing audio tapes of the proceedings after the Bush v. Gore [text] decision in 2000. Last month, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) [official website], who has long advocated televised Supreme Court proceedings, pledged a floor vote [Post-Gazette report] on the issue before he leaves office at the end of this term.




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France court rejects Rwanda extradition request for war crimes suspect
Daniel Makosky on September 15, 2010 10:10 AM ET

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[JURIST] A French court on Wednesday declined to extradite Dr. Eugene Rwamucyo [personal website, in French] to Rwanda to face charges for his alleged involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The court also granted his release [AFP report]. The ruling is due to suspicions that Rwamucyo would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda, and is consistent with France's handling of previous Rwandan extradition requests. Rwamucyo was arrested in May by French authorities acting on an international warrant [INTERPOL warrant], which his family claimed was politically motivated [press release].

French authorities also arrested [JURIST report] the widow of assassinated Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana [Britannica profile], Agathe Habyarimana, in March on suspicions of complicity in genocide. That arrest came only days after French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; JURIST news archive] visited Rwanda and said that he would cooperate [JURIST report] in finding those accused of genocide. Rwanda continues to try those involved in the genocide, as does the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive]. The ICTR was established for the prosecution of high-level officials responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law during the Rwandan genocide. As of May 2009, it has rendered judgments or has trials underway [completion strategy report, PDF] for 68 suspects, with six suspects awaiting trials, one retrial and 13 fugitives.




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UN rights expert urges investigation into Darfur attack
Ann Riley on September 15, 2010 9:59 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan Muhamed Chande Othman called Tuesday for a thorough and transparent investigation [press release] into the early September attack in Northern Darfur [JURIST news archive] that left many civilians dead. The Janjaweed [Slate backgrounder] militia is suspected of conducting an attack on civilians [UN News Centre report] in a Tarabat village marketplace, killing more than 37 and injuring more than 50 people. The Sudanese Government provided no immediate comment on the situation. It is reported that government armed forces and rebel groups initially blocked [AP report] UN and African Union (AU) [official website] peacekeepers from entering the Tarabat viliage. Othman, who conducted a fact-finding report [statement] on Sudan in February, responded to the attack, saying:
This incident should be investigated thoroughly and impartially and those responsible should be brought to justice. ... I am deeply disturbed about these killings which highlight the continuing deterioration of the situation in Darfur.
In February, Othman noted that many people in Darfur lack access to justice [JURIST report] and that the government often detains people for significant periods of time without bringing charges against them and has failed to bring to justice those suspected of committing war crimes. Also in February, UN and Darfur government groups began work [JURIST report] on compensation for victims of the conflict in Darfur.

While violence has been declining in Darfur, the September incident is one of several recent clashes between Sudanese government forces, militias, and rebel groups marking unrest in the region since President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was re-elected [JURIST report] in April. In July, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] charged al-Bashir [case materials; JURIST report] with three counts of genocide [warrant, PDF] in relation to the Darfur conflict. The chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to conclude that Bashir had committed genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. The genocide charges were added to the seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity that were filed against Bashir [JURIST report] in March 2009. Also in July, Chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] called for the arrest of al-Bashir [JURIST report], saying that he will eventually face trial before the ICC.




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Europe court rules Dutch police violated publication's right to protect sources
Daniel Richey on September 15, 2010 8:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] Police in the Netherlands violated a Dutch magazine's right to free expression by compelling disclosure of documentary evidence relating to anonymous sources, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled [judgment text] Tuesday. The unanimous ruling centered around a 2002 feature on illegal street racing published in the Dutch edition of Autoweek [media website, in Dutch], a property of Sanoma Uitgevers. The magazine's editorial staff promised anonymity to members of an underground racing group to gain access to a late-night race in the Dutch town of Hoorn, including photographs and interviews. Police suspected one of the cars appearing in the photos of being used as a getaway car in a string of bank robberies and demanded the magazine turn over all of the pictures the photographer had taken. When Autoweek refused, authorities arrested Editor-in-Chief Tonie Broekhuijsen. The magazine ultimately turned over a CD containing photographs taken at the race to Dutch prosecutors and filed suit seeking its return. The Dutch Supreme Court [official website, in Dutch] affirmed the state's right to the pictures. The ECHR panel said that the confiscation of the CD violated Article 10 of the Euorpean Convention on Human Rights [materials], which provides "the freedom ... to receive and impart information without interference by public authority." In a statement [text], the court said the process by which the Netherlands compelled disclosure of the pictures was "deficient":
The most important safeguard [against violation of free expression rights] was the guarantee of review by a judge or other independent and impartial decision-making body. It should be carried out by a body separate from the executive and other interested parties, invested with the power to determine whether a requirement in the public interest overriding the principle of protection of journalistic sources existed prior to the handing over of such material and to prevent unnecessary access to information capable of disclosing the sources' identity if it did not. ... In the Netherlands ... that decision was entrusted to the public prosecutor rather than an independent judge. In terms of procedure the public prosecutor was a "party", who could hardly be seen as objective and impartial.
In an Autoweek report [text, in Dutch] Tuesday, which reprinted the photos and an excerpt of the original story, Broekhuijsen said, "It's a matter of principle, and I am very pleased with this ruling."

Many recent disputes have arisen over freedom of the press in Europe, with the ECHR at the center of a number of them. Also Tuesday, the tribunal ruled [JURIST report] that Turkey failed to protect the life of well-known Turkish-American writer and journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], failed to adequately investigate his murder and infringed on his right to freedom of expression. Dink, editor of the newspaper Agos [media website] was killed [JURIST report] in January 2007 after law enforcement officials had been informed that an assassination was likely but did not act on the information. In April, the ECHR ordered the government of Azerbaijan [JURIST report] to secure the immediate release of imprisoned Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatuallyev, who was jailed on what many international organizations claim are spurious charges. Last October, the court ruled that Turkish authorities violated [JURIST report] European human rights laws in shutting down four newspapers accused of publishing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in a ruling also based on Article 10.




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UK military report finds detainee treatment in compliance with domestic, international law
Daniel Richey on September 15, 2010 7:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UK military's handling of detainees in overseas operations is "in compliance" with UK and international law, according to a report [text, PDF] released Tuesday by the Ministry of Defense (MOD) [official website]. According to British Army Inspector Brigadier Robert Purdy, a nine-month investigation of legal documents, army procedures and testimony from personnel showed that UK forces' attitudes toward proper treatment of detainees have changed "significantly" in the two years since the 2008 release of the Aitken Report [text, PDF; BBC report], which attributed responsibility for the deaths of six Iraqi detainees in 2003 and 2004 to the actions of "a small number of individuals." According to the new report, proper handling of detainees "has been an issue that has received direct attention from commanders at all levels in the Army and MOD" since, and "soldiers clearly understand the basic procedures to follow" for the treatment of prisoners. Purdy did identify areas for improvement—primarily the need to more thoroughly ingrain standards for detainee treatment into the training of all soldiers, as opposed to just specialists. Ultimately, though, the assessment found little fault in UK military practices:
There is positive assurance that the UK facilities in Afghanistan are run in compliance with applicable international law, UK regulations and Defence policy. No evidence was seen or obtained to suggest that pre-deployment and in-theatre training are failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling in accordance with the law and policy. On operations in Afghanistan, commanders are clearly focused on this issue; governance mechanisms are in place to monitor and assure detainee handling processes, with any allegations of improper behaviour (including complaints by the detainees themselves) being formally investigated.
Also Wednesday, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] announced [press release] that it and eight other advocacy groups have sent a letter [text, PDF] to Sir Peter Gibson, the head of a forthcoming UK government investigation [JURIST report] into alleged abuses of overseas detainees, calling on UK officials to conduct a transparent inquiry with the inclusion of victim testimony. "[The inquiry] must be independent, impartial and thorough," said AI Europe and Central Asia Director Nicola Duckworth. "[S]ecrecy cannot be used as an excuse to withhold embarrassing information from the public."

In July, a UK High Court of Justice allowed a lawsuit to proceed [JURIST report] that seeks to force the UK government to hold a public inquiry into torture allegations [JURIST news archive] made against the UK military during the occupation of Iraq. The suit was brought by 102 men who claim they were subjected to torture, including hooding, electrical shocks and sexual abuse while being held in UK detention centers. The court held that the accusers had adduced sufficient evidence to suggest that their treatment was systemic. The forthcoming investigation stems from a similar civil action, brought by 12 ex-detainees who allege that British agents participated in their abuse while they were held in prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and other countries. The UK will ask them to drop their lawsuits in exchange for possible compensation and a promise that the impending inquiry will fully investigate their claims. In June, the UK government indicated that it will issue a new set of regulations regarding the use of information obtained via torture [JURIST report] as claims of complicity in torture were made against the government in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [materials] released the same day.




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Europe rights court rules Turkey failed to protect murdered journalist
JURIST Staff on September 14, 2010 4:55 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment, in French; press release] Tuesday that Turkey failed to protect the life of well-known Turkish-Armenian writer and journalist Hrant Dink [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], failed to adequately investigate his murder and infringed on his right of freedom of expression. The court ordered Turkey to pay €100,000 to Dink's wife and three children and €5,000 euros to his brother Hosref, as well as €28,595 for costs and expenses. Dink, editor of the newspaper Agos [media website], was shot and killed [JURIST report] in Istanbul in January 2007. In Tuesday's decision, the court noted that law enforcement officials in both Trabzon and Istanbul, Turkey, and the Trabzon gendarmerie, had been informed of the likelihood of an assassination attempt and even of the identity of the suspected instigators, but failed to act with information, thus depriving Dink of his right to life as envisaged in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The court also held that the investigation into Dink's murder was substandard, violating both Article 2 and Article 13—the right to an effective remedy. Finally, the court considered issues related to litigation against Dink prior to his death stemming from comments he made about the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century. Here the court found a violation of the Article 10 right to freedom of expression, noting that a state must not just refrain from interfering in an individual's freedom of expression, but is also under a "positive obligation" to protect that person's right to freedom of expression from attack, even by private individuals.

Prior to his death, Dink was tried and then put on retrial [JURIST report] for "insulting Turkishness" by writing about the killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire. Dink's son Arat was convicted [JURIST report] of insulting Turkishness in October 2007 after he attempted to republish remarks made by his father before his murder. The prohibition against insulting Turkish identity is found in Article 301 [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. The trial of suspects allegedly involved in Dink's murder began [JURIST reports] in July 2007.




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France senate approves burqa ban
Sarah Miley on September 14, 2010 2:08 PM ET

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[JURIST] The French Senate [official website, in French] on Tuesday voted 246 to 1 [press release, in French] 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 bill was approved [JURIST report] by the National Assembly [official website, in French] in July. The legislation will now be handed over to the the Constitutional Council [official website], which will have one month to confirm the law's legality. Those that oppose the legislation, such as Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], may still challenge the law [BBC report] in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which has the ability to render a binding opinion on France.

Legislation banning the use of Islamic burqas has been a point of contention recently in many countries. Last month, Austria's conservative Freedom Party [official website, in German] called for a special vote [JURIST report] on whether to ban face veils and the construction of minarets, two of the most visible symbols of the Islamic faith. In July, Spain's lower house of parliament rejected a proposal [JURIST report] to ban the burqa and other full face veils by a vote of 183 to 162 with 2 abstaining. Also in July, UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated in an interview that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning the wearing of the Islamic burqa or other face coverings in public. Green stated that banning the burqa would not be consistent with British society, where mutual respect for differences among cultures is important.




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Blagojevich asks judge to override false statements conviction
Sarah Miley on September 14, 2010 1:38 PM ET

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[JURIST] Lawyers for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] filed a motion Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] asking the judge to throw out the sole conviction returned by the jury during his corruption trial last month. Blagojevich was found guilty [JURIST report] of making false statements to the FBI, but the jury remained deadlocked on the 23 additional charges. The motion stated that the government failed to meet its required burden of proof and that cross-examinations by the defense were plagued by "obstructionist" objections [Chicago Tribune report], which the court continuously sustained. Blagojevich's lawyers also noted that the judge could opt to set aside the verdict [AP report] and set a new trial for the former governor. The charges on which the jury was deadlocked included attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by US President Barack Obama, making appointments based on anticipated campaign contributions and taking kickbacks from a number of companies.

In June, a federal judge denied a request [JURIST report] to delay the Blagojevich trial in order for his defense lawyers to review a decision by the US Supreme Court [official website] limiting the scope of the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC § 1346 text]. Zagel held that the trial delay was unnecessary because the Supreme Court's decision in Skilling v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] was unlikely to affect Blagojevich's case. In April, the prosecution was ordered [JURIST report] to release a 91-page government proffer outlining evidence in its case against Blagojevich. In March, Blagojevich pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to eight amended corruption charges. In January 2009, the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously [JURIST report] to convict Blagojevich of abuse of power and remove him from office. Blagojevich and his former chief of staff John Harris were initially arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008.




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Malawi ex-president Muluzi pleads not guilty to corruption, theft
Jay Carmella on September 14, 2010 11:34 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former president of Malawi Bakili Muluzi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of corruption and theft in the Malawi High Court [Britannica backgrounder]. Muluzi, who stepped down as president in 2004 following two five-year terms in office, is accused [Nyasa Times report] of 12 counts of corruption involving a person employed in public office for allegedly stealing 1.7 billion Malawi kwacha (USD $12 million). The money was donated to Malawi as aid from several countries, including Taiwan, Morocco and Libya. Muluzi contends that the charges are politically motivated by President Bingu wa Mutharika [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The trial, which has been repeated delayed because of Muluzi's health issues, is scheduled [Nyasa Times report] to begin on December 8.

Muluzi was arrested [JURIST report] in 2006 and originally charged with 42 counts of corruption, fraud and theft by the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) [official website]. In May 2009, a court barred [JURIST report] Muluzi from participating in the upcoming presidential election. The court held that the Malawi Constitution [text] prohibits Muluzi from running for office after serving two consecutive five-year terms. In January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal struck down [JURIST report] an injunction that had stalled the investigation into the alleged theft. Mutharika has demonstrated his desire to see Muluzi punished for the alleged corruption. In August 2006, Mutharika called for the resignation of the Director of Public Prosecutions after he dropped [JURIST reports] the corruption charges against Muluzi on the eve of his original trial.




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UN report urges heightened regulation of US military contractors
Andrea Bottorff on September 14, 2010 11:08 AM ET

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[JURIST] A report presented Tuesday by the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries [official website] urges the US to increase regulation of military contractors [text, PDF] employed worldwide, citing alleged human rights abuses and the contractors' lack of transparency and accountability. The UN Working Group met with US officials last summer to discuss the actions of US private military and security companies (PMSCs) and to make recommendations on its findings. The report proposes that the US amend the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act [text] to extend the country's criminal jurisdiction to PMSCs abroad, eliminate judicial immunity for PMSCs, pursue investigations into possible human rights abuses and enact the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act [materials] currently before Congress, which would gradually discontinue the use of PMSCs. According to the report, the predominately American PMSC industry generates up to $100 billion per year, constitutes about half of the US military forces sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and needs continued reform:
In the last few years, and largely in reaction to incidents involving PMSCs, the Government of the United States and Congress adopted various measures increasing the Government oversight over PMSCs and expanding and clarifying jurisdiction over offences committed by private militaries and security personnel operating abroad. The Working Group welcomes the adoption of these measures, which have improved the situation, but notes that much remains to be done to ensure effective oversight, accountability and legal remedy when human rights violations occur.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which testified during the UN Working Group's investigation, supported the recommendations and urged the Obama administration to pursue justice for victims [press release] of human rights violations committed by PMSCs.

The US has begun to place tighter restrictions on PMSCs employed in international conflicts. Last month, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Maryland [official website] denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by a group of former Iraqi detainees against US military contractors. The lawsuit, Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla [case materials], filed in June 2008 [JURIST report], alleges that PMSC L-3 Services, Inc. [corporate website] violated US and international law by directing and participating in abuses at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] and other Iraqi prisons. The defendants in the case had moved for dismissal in November 2008, claiming immunity under the laws of war and sovereign immunity, but Judge Peter Messitte rejected their claims and allowed the case to continue to discovery. In April, a federal grand jury indicted [press release] five former Blackwater [JURIST news archive] executives on charges [JURIST report] of weapons violations and lying to criminal investigators. In February, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice [official website] is investigating [JURIST report] Blackwater, now known as Xe, to determine whether the company bribed the Iraqi government to allow it to continue operating in Iraq following 2007 shootings that killed 17 innocent Iraqi civilians [JURIST report].




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Poland ex-PM denies knowledge of CIA secret prison
Hillary Stemple on September 14, 2010 10:41 AM ET

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[JURIST] Former Polish prime minister Leszek Miller on Tuesday denied any knowledge of a secret CIA prison [JURIST news archive] in Poland. Miller's denial came after a former CIA agent confirmed that the agency tortured [Spiegel report] alleged USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [NYT profile] in 2002 at a secret prison in Poland. According to the agent, al-Nashiri was stripped naked and hooded before a gun and a drill were held close to his head. In addition to denying the existence of the prisons, Miller also stated that he believes claims of the prisons will jeopardize the safety of Polish citizens [Polskie Radio report] and members of the military currently serving in Afghanistan. Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski has also denied the existence of the prisons. Both he and Miller maintain that they will not discuss the allegations of torture until the completion of an investigation into Poland's role in the US prisoner rendition [JURIST news archive] program.

In September 2008, the Polish government launched an investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations of a CIA-operated secret prison in the country. Allegations against Poland came in a June 2007 report [text; JURIST report] to the Council of Europe [official website] by Swiss Senator Dick Marty. The report concluded that numerous European governments had cooperated with the CIA program. In February 2007, the European Parliament condemned more than a dozen European states [JURIST report] for their roles in the program. Several nations have been accused of obstructing European probes into the secret prison allegations, including Poland [JURIST report], which allegedly housed the largest CIA detention facility in Europe [JURIST report].




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EU threatens legal action against France for Roma deportation
Carrie Schimizzi on September 14, 2010 9:21 AM ET

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[JURIST] The EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding [official profile] on Tuesday threatened legal action [press release] against France for its deportation of Roma [JURIST news archive], calling the initiative "a disgrace." Reding's statement, which came one day after French media leaked [Le Canard Social report, in French] an interior ministry circular document directing a priority of clearing Roma from illegal camps, criticizes France's discrimination against the Roma and insists that the systematic deportation of the ethnic group is "in violation of EU law." Reding stressed that the European Commission (EC) [official website] has been following the situation in France very closely. Reding said she was "appalled" by the contradicting statements made by French ministers Eric Besson and Pierre Lellouche, who previously assured [French Embassy report] the EC that specific ethnic groups had not been targeted:
I can only express my deepest regrets that the political assurances given by two French ministers officially mandated to discuss this matter with the European Commission are now openly contradicted by an administrative circular issued by the same government. Let me be very clear: Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe. It is incompatible with the values on which the European Union is founded. National authorities who discriminate ethnic groups in the application of EU law are also violating the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which all Member States, including France, have signed up to.
In response to Reding's statements, French Foreign Ministry [official website] spokesperson Bernard Valero expressed [AP report] his "astonishment" at the accusations. Reding says that the next step for the European Commission will be legal sanctions against France, including infringement proceedings for a discriminatory application of the Free Movement Directive [text, PDF]. Formal legal proceedings are expected in the coming weeks.

France has defended its handling of the Roma [Telegraph report], saying only few cases result in forced deportation and that France was helping those displaced reintegrate into their countries of origin. In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [official website] concluded its 77th session by expressing concern [JURIST report] with the discrimination faced by Roma migrants in numerous European countries, focusing on France's recent expulsion policy. Also in August, the EU Parliamentary Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats accused France of violating EU law [JURIST report] with its expulsion policy. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered measures against illegal Roma communities in France and announced legislation [JURIST report] that would make deportation easier. At the time, the French government aimed to dismantle half of illegal Roma camps within three months and to immediately deport all those found to have broken the law.




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Accused plane bomber fires lawyers, inquires about possible guilty plea
Hillary Stemple on September 14, 2010 8:39 AM ET

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[JURIST] Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused of attempting to set off an explosive device on a flight last December, fired his lawyer on Monday and inquired about the process for pleading guilty. Abdulmutallab indicated to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan that he did not believe his lawyers were serving his best interest [Reuters report] and that he would prefer to represent himself. Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds cautioned Abdulmutallab about proceeding without representation and questioned him for approximately 30 minutes regarding his knowledge of the law and criminal procedure. She ultimately allowed Abdulmutallab to dismiss his court-appointed lawyers, although she indicated that she believed the decision was not wise. Edmunds appointed a lawyer to act as an adviser [CNN report] to Abdulmutallab and told him that the lawyer would be able to advise him regarding the proper procedure for pleading guilty. Proceedings in the case are scheduled to resume October 14.

Abdulmutallab faces multiply charges relating to the attempted bombing. In January, he pleaded not guilty after being indicted [JURIST reports] on six counts for allegedly attempting to set off an explosive device on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 bound from Amsterdam to Detroit. The charges [JURIST report], filed in December, include attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted murder within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US, willful attempt to destroy or wreck an aircraft, willfully placing a destructive device on an aircraft, use of a firearm/destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm/destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.




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UN rights chief chides world powers over human rights records
Hillary Stemple on September 14, 2010 7:29 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Monday opened the fifteenth session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] by addressing human rights violations [statement] in countries including the US, France, China and Russia. Pillay began her remarks by noting the current condition of human suffering caused by natural disasters, violence and attacks on individuals and by reiterating the need for protection of human rights in both emergencies and on an ongoing basis. She stressed the importance of human rights groups, social activists and journalists in calling attention to rights violations and the danger these groups face as a result of their work. Pillay specifically addressed human rights in China [JURIST news archive] and the decrease in social activism due to recently implemented laws. She also addressed Russia's lack of progress in bringing perpetrators of violence against journalists and rights workers to justice. In a statement addressed toward the US, Pillay noted that countries must be allowed to protect their citizens from terrorist threats, but that "anti-terrorism measures should never imperil human rights and due process." Pillay also chided the approval of new French policies toward the Roma migrants [JURIST news archive], stating that the measures would "only exacerbate the stigmatisation of Roma and the extreme poverty and exclusion in which they lived."

Last month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [official website] concluded its 77th session by expressing concern [text; JURIST report] with the discrimination faced by Roma migrants, specifically the French exclusion policy. Also last month, the EU Parliamentary Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats accused France of violating EU law [JURIST report] with its expulsion policy. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered measures against illegal Roma communities in France and announced legislation [JURIST report] that would make deportation easier. At the time, the French government aimed to dismantle half of illegal Roma camps within three months and to immediately deport all those found to have broken the law.




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Former IBM executive sentenced to 6 months in Galleon insider trading case
Matt Glenn on September 13, 2010 3:25 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [corporate website] sentenced former IBM [corproate website] senior vice president Robert Moffat to six months in prison Monday and ordered him to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the largest insider trading trading case in US history. In March, Moffat pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to insider trading charges stemming from an investigation centered on Galleon Group [partnership website] hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam [JURIST news archive]. Moffat admitted giving confidential information about Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Lenovo, Ltd. [corporate websites] to New Castle Funds, LLC adviser Danielle Chiesi. Moffat will begin serving his sentence in June 2011 so that he can see his daughter graduate from college in May. Twenty-one people were charged [JURIST report] in the Galleon case, and 12 have pleaded guilty.

In February, a federal judge decided Rajaratnam's criminal trial will begin October 25 [JURIST report]. Former Intel Capital [corporate website] executive Rajiv Goel pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to insider trading charges in connection with the Galleon probe earlier in February. Rajaratnam, Chiesi, Goel and Moffat were arrested in October and charged [complaint, PDF] along with two other individuals and two business entities with insider trading. The complaint alleged that the individuals provided Galleon Group and another hedge fund with material nonpublic information about several corporations upon which the funds traded, generating $25 million in illicit gain. Rajaratnam and Chiesi pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in December after being indicted for insider trading.




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Senate begins impeachment trial of federal judge
Matt Glenn on September 13, 2010 2:35 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Senate Impeachment Trial Committee [official website] began hearing arguments Monday in the case against federal judge Thomas Porteous who is charged with perjury and accepting bribes from lawyers while a judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website]. Porteous's lawyer Jonathan Turley [personal blog] claimed in his opening statement [text, PDF] that "Judge Porteous's actions, while in some instances showing poor judgment, were in fact entirely legal." Each side will have 20 hours to present its case. The committee will submit its findings to the Senate and decide whether to recommend a conviction. If two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict Porteous, he will be removed from office. Last week, the Judicial Council of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] voted to continue Porteous' suspension [Times-Picayune report] from the bench through the remainder of the year. This marks the Senate's first impeachment trial since the proceedings against then-president Bill Clinton [JURIST materials] in the 1990s.

The US House of Representatives [official website] voted unanimously [JURIST report] in March to impeach Porteous. After an investigation [report text, PDF] by a special committee, the Judicial Conference found "substantial evidence" that Porteous had signed false financial disclosure forms, falsified statements in a personal bankruptcy proceeding, made false representations to secure a bank loan and violated criminal laws [text] and ethical rules by soliciting and receiving "cash and other things of value" from lawyers in a bench trial over which he was presiding. Porteous' decision in that case, In re Liljeberg enters v. Lifemark Hospitals, was later partially reversed [opinion text] by the Fifth Circuit, which earlier this year reprimanded Porteous [text, PDF]. A House committee began investigating Porteous [JURIST report] in 2008.The US Constitution gives the House the power to impeach [academic backgrounder] "all civil Officers of the United States" on suspicion of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Thirteen federal judges have been impeached, of which seven have been convicted.




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ICJ begins hearing on jurisdiction over Georgia-Russia conflict
Brian Jackson on September 13, 2010 1:42 PM ET

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[JURIST] Representatives from Russia and Georgia appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday for the beginning of a hearing to determine whether the court has jurisdiction to hear allegations that Russia committed human rights abuses following the secession of two sections of Georgia [JURIST news archive] in the 1990s. The hearing was necessitated after Russia challenged the court's jurisdiction to hear the controversy in late 2009, arguing that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [materials] is inapplicable as Georgia and Russia were not engaged in a dispute over ethnic discrimination prior to the filing of the allegations. Russia has taken the stance that, while it supports the convention, the ICJ should not be used as a political tool [ITAR-TASS report] by Georgia as it attempts to have the Russian military removed [RIA Novosti report] from the two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgian representatives are expected to argue that a long-standing dispute has existed [AP report] between their country and Russia, granting the ICJ jurisdiction over the matter.

The dispute between Russian and Georgia is not limited to the proceedings before the ICJ. In March, representatives from Russia met with prosecutors [JURIST report] from the International Criminal Court to discuss claims of war crimes allegedly committed by Georgian soldiers during the conflict in South Ossetia in August 2008. That conflict occurred when Russia sent its military into Georgia in response to a Georgian bid to strike South Ossetia, an area heavily populated by Russians. The US has taken the position that both nations committed violations of human rights [JURIST report] during that conflict. Georgia initially instituted the case [JURIST report] currently before the ICJ in August 2008, shortly after Russia sent troops into Georgia .




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FBI report shows decrease in US violent crime for third straight year
Ann Riley on September 13, 2010 1:30 PM ET

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[JURIST] Violent crime in the US dropped for the third year in a row, according to the annual crime statistics for 2009 [press release], released Monday by the FBI. The FBI's Crime in the United States, 2009 [text] report showed a total 5.3 percent decrease in violent crimes between 2008 and 2009 to 1,318,398. Specifically, the number of murders dropped by 7.3 percent to 15,241, robberies dropped by 8.0 percent to 408,217, aggravated assaults dropped by 4.2 percent to 806,843, and forcible rapes dropped 2.6 percent to 88,097 compared to 2008 statistics. Additionally, property crime has continued to decrease for the seventh year in a row, specifically with 17.1 percent less motor vehicle thefts, 4.0 percent less larceny thefts, and 1.3 percent less burglaries. The FBI compiled the data from crime statistics from more than 17,985 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies nationwide.

In May, the FBI released its Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report [text; JURIST report] disclosing that violent crime in the nation decreased 5.5 percent and property crime declined 4.9 percent, when compared with data from 2008. The drop in 2009 follows a 1.9 percent decrease for 2008 and a 0.7 percent decrease [JURIST reports] for 2007. That came after two years of increasing rates of similar crimes, including a 2006 increase of 1.3 percent and a 2005 increase of 2.3 percent [JURIST reports].




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Iran judge releases journalist charged with 'warring against God'
Ann Riley on September 13, 2010 12:30 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge from Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Sunday released [CHRR report] from prison Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], after she posted bail of USD $500,000, according to a local press reports. While Judge Pierre Abbasi has not yet issued a final ruling [Kaleme report, in Persian] or announced Ahari's official sentence, defense lawyers for Ahari are pushing for all charges to be cleared. Earlier this month, the court concluded the one-day trial [JURIST report] of Ahari. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrbasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [MEHR backgrounder, PDF]. Conviction on a charge of Moharebeh could result in the death penalty. Ahari was also charged [Al Jazeera report] with ties to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran [CFR backgrounder], an exiled organization that advocates for the overthrow of the Iranian government. The charges have been criticized by opposition organizations in Iran and rights groups worldwide.

Ahari was first arrested following the June 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in widespread charges of fraud and nationwide protests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], this is the first time that a journalist has been charged with a capital crime in Iran. In May, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profiles] of Iran in a report listing 40 "Predators of Press Freedom" [JURIST report] throughout the world. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.




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Iraq unlawfully holding, torturing thousands of detainees: report
Carrie Schimizzi on September 13, 2010 9:27 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Iraqi government is unlawfully detaining and torturing [press release] thousands of detainees, according to a Monday report from Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. The report, "New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detention in Iraq" [text, PDF] estimates that more than 30,000 detainees are currently being held in Iraqi prisons where they are tortured and mistreated, have no access to legal representation and are held indefinitely without visits from family members. Detainees are reportedly tortured during interrogations in order to obtain confessions, which are then used as evidence against them. In addition, many more uncharged detainees are being held despite judicial orders for their release. According to a 2008 Iraqi amnesty law [JURIST report], uncharged detainees are to be released after a period of six to 12 months in detention. The report recommends Iraqi prison authorities follow proposed guidelines to help protect detainees, including immediately halting the ill treatment of prisoners and ensuring the detainees are given full due process rights and access to legal representation. AI also urged the US and Iraqi authorities to respect international human rights law for the protection of prison detainees by immediately releasing any uncharged detainees:
Amnesty International has frequently called on both the US and Iraqi authorities to release detainees held for long periods unless they are formally charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried according to international standards of fair trial. The practice of arbitrary detention flouts both Iraqi legislation and international human rights law.
Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim and a US military spokesman both refuted [Reuters report] the AI investigation, saying that all detainees are being held on judicial warrant and that the report is "baseless" and the claims of detainee mistreatment are "not true."

The repeated reports of detainee torture in Iraq have caused concern among several human rights groups. In June, UN Special Representative to Iraq Ad Melkert urged the Iraqi government [JURIST report] to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text]. Melkert stated that Iraq had made several advances in recognizing human rights violations, but the government's policy implementation still faces several obstacles. The convention was adopted by the UN in 1984 and has been ratified by 147 countries. Iraq remains one of 45 member-countries that have yet to ratify the treaty. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported on the repeated torture [JURIST report] of Iraqi detainees in a secret prison in Baghdad. HRW reported that detainees held at the secret Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days.




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Turkish voters approve constitutional reforms
Carrie Schimizzi on September 13, 2010 8:50 AM ET

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[JURIST] Constitutional amendments [text, in Turkish] previously annulled [JURIST report] by the Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] of Turkey were approved by a 58 percent popular vote [press review] Sunday, marking a major victory for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish]. The vote, which took place on the thirtieth anniversary of the 1980 coup that ushered in the current constitution, permits the implementation of sweeping reforms aimed at limiting the power of the judiciary and bringing the traditionally-secular military and judiciary under government control. The reforms will allow military officers to be tried in civilian court over alleged coup plots and crimes against the constitution and will also limit the power of the judiciary. In his victory speech [text, in Turkish], Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official profile, in Turkish] called the referendum a "historic milestone" that will be a "turning point" for the country.

In July, the Constitutional Court annulled those portions of government-approved amendments, but declined to annul all the amendments as requested [JURIST reports] by Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) [party website, in Turkish]. Proponents of the reforms have insisted they are necessary in order for Turkey to meet the democratic and human rights standards required for admission to the EU. Opponents, however, have argued the reforms are meant to consolidate power and to bring the traditionally secular judiciary and military under control of the government. Turkey has faced several obstacles as it works toward membership in the EU, including opposition to the constitutional reforms, its human rights record, its stance toward political parties and tension [JURIST news archive] between the AKP and the military.




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Iceland commission recommends charges against ex-PM over financial crisis
Erin Bock on September 12, 2010 3:37 PM ET

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[JURIST] An Icelandic parliamentary commission on Saturday recommended that the country's former prime minister and three other former governmental ministers be tried for negligence for their roles in the country's 2008 financial crisis. The nine-member Special Investigation Committee (SIC) published a 274-page report [text, in Icelandic; press release, in Icelandic] confirming a preliminary report [materials, in Icelandic; JURIST report] published in April that found the extremely negligent actions of Iceland's former prime minister Geir Haarde, former foreign minister Solrun Gisladottir [official profiles, in Icelandic], former commerce minister Bjoergvin Sigurdsson, and former finance minister Arni Mathiesen [official profiles] were to blame for the country's financial crisis and the collapse of three Icelandic banks. The report alleges the officials were aware of the country's ailing financial sector, but failed to take the necessary steps to mitigate the impending damages to the economy. The SIC recommended the ministers be "tried and punished" for their actions. The committee will present their findings for debate before the entire Icelandic Parliament [official website] on Monday.

The parliamentary recommendation was handed down just as global bankers met in Switzerland and agreed to new international banking rules [BBC report] that would prevent a repeat of the global financial crisis. The rules would call for some banks to raise more capital from shareholders and could have the effect of limiting lending. The new rules could go into effect if they are ratified by heads of government at the G-20 [official website; JURIST news archive] summit in November. The Icelandic financial crisis began in 2008 as a result of the financial crisis [JURIST news archive] emanating from securities related to the US mortgage market. The Icelanic government took over three ailing banks, which collectively held debt equaling more than 900 percent of the country's gross domestic product. This caused the economy to collapse and necessitated governmental reliance on loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) [official website]. The country considered seeking accession [JURIST report] to the EU after current Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir [official profile] argued that adopting the Euro would help stabilize the economy. In 2008, the UK used anti-terrorism laws to freeze $4 billion [JURIST report] in assets held by Landsbanki [corporate website], one of the ailing banks, after its takeover by the Icelandic government.




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Ninth Circuit rules software reseller cannot invoke 'first sale doctrine' in copyright suit
Dwyer Arce on September 12, 2010 2:44 PM ET

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[JURIST] A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that a second-hand software merchant may not invoke the first sale doctrine [17 USC § 109 text] as a defense in copyright litigation when the software licensing agreement (SLA) specifies that the distributor maintains ownership of the software. The court held that because the SLA specified that the distributor maintained ownership rights and the software user was a licensee, the merchant could not assert the first sale doctrine or essential step defense as defenses against a copyright infringement suit. The first sale doctrine is an affirmative defense to copyright infringement that allows the resale of copyrighted materials, such as software, books and films. The essential step defense allows the owners of software to copy the program where it is an "essential step in the utilization of the computer program." The court held that a software user is a licensee and not an owner of software when the copyright holder "(1) specifies that the user is granted a license; (2) significantly restricts the user's ability to transfer the software; and (3) imposes notable use restrictions." Applying this standard to the case, the court held that the merchant was a licensee and therefore could not invoke the two defenses:
Autodesk retained title to the software and imposed significant transfer restrictions: it stated that the license is nontransferable, the software could not be transferred or leased without Autodesk's written consent, and the software could not be transferred outside the Western Hemisphere. ... Thus, because Autodesk reserved title to [the software] and imposed significant transfer and use restrictions, we conclude that its customers are licensees of their copies of [the software] rather than owners. ... Therefore, Vernor did not [have] title to the copies ... and accordingly could not pass ownership on to others. ... Vernor's sales infringed Autodesk's exclusive right to distribute copies of its work.
The court went on to remand the case to the district court in order to decide on Vernor's copyright misuse defense, which is a defense to copyright infringement when the copyright holder has abused their copyright. Vernor's attorneys have stated their intention to seek an en banc review of the decision [AP report], and may appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The decision overturns the judgment of the US District Court of the Western District of Washington, which granted summary judgment [opinion text] in Vernor's favor. The case was brought against Vernor after he sold unopened copies of Autodesk's software he obtained at a garage sale on eBay. In April, the Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in Costco v. Omega, in which it will review another decision of the Ninth Circuit regarding the first sale doctrine. The Ninth Circuit held in 2008 that the first sale doctrine does not apply to imported goods [JURIST report]. The case turns on whether the Supreme Court has already overturned the Ninth Circuits' jurisprudence on the first sale doctrine in the previous decision of Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L'anza Research International, Inc. [opinion text].




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Serbia prosecutor charges 9 with Kosovo war crimes
Daniel Makosky on September 11, 2010 3:46 PM ET

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[JURIST] Serbia's Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] on Saturday announced charges against nine individuals for their suspected involvement in the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The charges include [AP report] murder, rape, looting, destruction of property and intimidation. The nine, all former members of the Serbian paramilitary group Sakali, were arrested [JURIST report] in March and accused of the systematic murders of 41 ethnic Albanians in May 1999. In all, roughly 200 civilians residing in and around the village of Cuska are believed to have been killed by these and 15 other suspects.

In July, a Serbian appeals court upheld the convictions and sentences [JURIST report] of three members of a separate paramilitary group for the death of 14 civilians in March 1999. Several nations and international organizations have been working together to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred during the Kosovo war. EU officials arrested a suspected war criminal in Kosovo in May, a month after Swedish police arrested a Serbian man [JURIST reports] also suspected of committing war crimes in Cuska. Despite some progress, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] marked the 10-year anniversary of the conflict's end last June by reporting that many human rights abuses that occurred during the war in Kosovo have gone uninvestigated and unpunished [JURIST report].




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ICTY orders former Kosovo PM to remain in custody
Daniel Makosky on September 11, 2010 2:30 PM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Friday ordered [text, PDF] former Kosovo Albanian military leader Ramush Haradinaj [ICTY materials, PDF; JURIST news archive] to remain in custody while awaiting a new trial. The court determined that granting Haradinaj a provisional release would lead to increased media exposure that would "add to the already threatening atmosphere for witnesses." Though stating that Haradinaj himself was unlikely to pose a threat, the court found that the increased attention may incite his supporters to engage in efforts to intimidate witnesses. The date for the retrial has not been set [AP report.]

Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj are awaiting retrials after the ICTY appeals chamber overturned their acquittals [JURIST report] in July. The appeals chamber found that the integrity of the original proceedings was compromised due to the trial chamber's "[failure] to take sufficient steps to counter the witness intimidation that permeated the trial." Last year, 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 [official profile] 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, including murder, persecution and rape, but the ICTY acquitted him of all charges [JURIST reports] in April 2008 citing a lack of evidence. Haradinaj was a senior commander in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], the ethnic Albanian guerrilla force that opposed Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].




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Federal appeals court upholds verdict for Chevron in Nigeria protest deaths
Sarah Paulsworth on September 11, 2010 2:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] a jury verdict clearing Chevron [corporate website] of wrongdoing in the 1998 deaths of two protesters occupying a Nigerian oil platform operated by the company. Protesters Arolika Irowarinun and Bola Oyinbo, were killed in May 1998 on Parabe Oil Platform and several others were injured when Nigerian government security forces, called in by Chevron Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Chevron, opened fire on the protesters. The families of Irowarinun and Oyinbo, as well as several injured protesters, subsequently filed a lawsuit under the Alien Torts Act [text], and Nigerian and California law in 1999 in the US District Court for the Northern District Court of California [official website] against three California-based companies owned by Chevron. During the trial, much controversy centered around whether the protests were violent and if Nigerian forces were acting in self-defense when they shot at the protesters. The jury found that Chevron was not liable for the deaths, and, on Friday, the appellate court upheld that decision. The appellate court ruled that there were no errors in jury instructions given by the trial court, the trial court properly dismissed the Alien Tort Act claims for wrongful death and survival and the Torture Victims Protection Act [text] does not apply to corporations.

In November 2007, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] agreed to a $30 million settlement [JURIST report] of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges against Chevron in connection with the oil company's alleged involvement in a scheme to exchange illegal payments to Iraqi officials under the now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. In August 2005, Unocal shareholders approved [JURIST report] a Chevron takeover. The approval of the nearly $18 billion purchase came after months of negotiations and contentious competition [JURIST report] from China National Offshore Oil Company Ltd. (CNOOC) [official website], an oil company connected to the Chinese government trying to secure resources for China's booming economy.




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Guinea officials convicted of election fraud
Zach Zagger on September 10, 2010 3:12 PM ET

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[JURIST] Two Guinea election officials were convicted Friday of election fraud and sentenced to a year in jail for irregularities with June's presidential primary election. The convictions of Ben Sekou Sylla, president of the election commission, and his top aide, El Hadj Boubacar Diallo, have raised further tensions [AfricaNews report] before the presidential run-off election scheduled for September 19. The verdict was handed down without the presence [AP report] of either official, and Diallo said he did not find out until being contacted by a radio journalist for a comment. In the June presidential election [JURIST report], no candidate received a majority of votes, forcing a run-off election. The fraud complaint was lodged by the opposition leader Alpha Conde who came in second in the primary election with 18 percent of the vote. Former prime minister Cellou Diallo received 44 percent of the vote and is seen as the favorite [BBC report] in the upcoming run-off.

The runoff election has already been postponed after first being scheduled for July 18 [Reuters report] due to allegations of misconduct during 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. The presidential election is seen as the first free election in Guinea since attaining independence in 1958. 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.




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Ninth Circuit rules tattoo parlors protected by First Amendment
Brian Jackson on September 10, 2010 1:14 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Thursday invalidated [opinion, PDF] a municipal ban on tattoo parlors by Hermosa Beach, California, calling it a violation of the First Amendment. The controversy initially arose when Johnny Anderson was denied a permit to open a tattoo parlor by the city, located in southern California. The city does not list tattoo parlors in its zoning code [materials], and, as tattoo parlors must be registered under California law [California Health and Safety Code, text], the city's code in effect outlawed those establishments. The US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] granted summary judgment to the city when Anderson filed his original suit. In arriving at its decision, the Ninth Circuit first held that tattooing is an expressive activity, not merely conduct with an expressive component. Based on that holding, the court further held that tattooing was subject to only reasonable time, place or manner restrictions, and the city's ban was not narrowly tailored to the city's interest in protecting public health and did not leave open alternative channels of communication. The court concluded:
[T]he City's total ban on tattoo parlors in Hermosa Beach is not a reasonable "time, place, or manner" restriction because it is substantially broader than necessary to achieve the City's significant health and safety interests and because it entirely forecloses a unique and important method of expression. Moreover, no genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to the constitutionality of the regulation. Thus, we hold that Hermosa Beach Municipal Code § 17.06.070 is facially unconstitutional to the extent that it excludes tattoo parlors.
The city is currently deliberating as to whether it will appeal the decision [LAT report] to an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, or perhaps even to the Supreme Court.

First Amendment rights have been the focus of numerous court challenges in recent history, often by unpopular groups seeking to have their rights enforced. Also Thursday, the US District Court for the Central District of California, which granted summary judgment against Anderson, ruled that the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy violates the First Amendment [JURIST report]. In August, the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri found that Missouri laws banning protests at funerals [JURIST report] are unconstitutional. That case involved the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, and another case involving the same organization will be heard by the Supreme Court [JURIST report] this term.




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France prosecutors seek to drop police charges over 2005 riot deaths
Matt Glenn on September 10, 2010 1:02 PM ET

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[JURIST] French judges may drop charges against two police officers who chased three teen boys into a power substation where two of the teens died after being electrocuted, according to Friday reports [AP report]. The two officers were charged in 2007 [JURIST report] with "non-assistance to a person in danger" under Article 223-6 of the French penal code [text] for failing to alert anyone that the teens had entered the substation. If convicted, the officers could face up to five years in prison and fines close to $100,000. The teens' deaths set off riots in France [JURIST news archive] that lasted three weeks. According to reports, French prosecutors have submitted a request to drop the case due to lack of evidence. Lawyers for the teens' families, Jean-Pierre Mignard and Emmanuel Tordjman [Lysias Partners profiles, in French], said dropping the case would send a message to police that they will not be held accountable for their actions. Investigating judges will make the final decision on whether to proceed with the case.

In 2006, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin [JURIST news archive] promised to strengthen anti-vandalism laws [JURIST report] in France after a man was injured in violence marking the one-year anniversary of the 2005 riots. In 2006, France began to deport [JURIST report] some of the foreign rioters. In early 2006, France lifted its state of emergency [JURIST report] implemented during the riots. The riots began in late October 2005 and continued into November [JURIST report] of that year.




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Federal judge strikes down 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
Megan McKee on September 10, 2010 9:39 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Thursday struck down [opinion, PDF] the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] policy, which bans openly gay individuals from the armed services. The suit [case materials; LCR backgrounder] was initiated in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans [advocacy website], who argued that the policy violates individuals' First Amendment and Due Process rights. Judge Virginia Phillips agreed, holding that the less deferential standard identified by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Witt v. Department of the Air Force [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] applied to the instant case, rather than the more permissive rational basis standard. Effectively, the government faced the burden of demonstrating that DADT is necessary to further the government's important interests of military readiness and unit cohesion, a burden Phillips held it failed to meet. Phillips is set to draft an injunction against the policy within a week, giving the government a chance to respond. This case presented the biggest legal test for DADT in recent years, and was unique in that it attacked the policy in general rather than on the basis of individual complaints.

Phillips began the trial [JURIST report] in July. Last month, a US military officer filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] seeking to enjoin the military from discharging him under DADT. In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee [official websites] voted to repeal the policy after President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert 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.




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Federal appeals court rejects Pennsylvania city illegal immigration laws
Daniel Makosky on September 10, 2010 8:04 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that two ordinances passed by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania [official website; legal defense website] making it more difficult for illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] to live or work in the town are unconstitutional. The court found that the Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRAO) and Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RO) [texts, PDF] improperly infringe on the federal government's exclusive domain over immigration law, saying that it is "required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress." The employment provisions of the IIRAO conflict with the Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986 [text] and the "careful balance" it strikes between deterring the employment of illegal aliens, minimizing the burden on employers and discouraging discrimination against individuals "perceived as 'foreign.'" The court also ruled that the city exceeded its authority by attempting to "regulate residence based solely on immigration status." Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta stated [press release] that the city will appeal the decision, while the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] called the ruling [press release] "a major defeat for the misguided, divisive and expensive anti-immigrant strategy that Hazleton has tried to export to the rest of the country."

The ordinances were originally struck down [JURIST report] in 2007 by the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website]. Barletta previously testified [JURIST report] that the laws were an appropriate response to illegal immigration and attributed a 70 percent increase in violent crime in the city since 2001 to rising illegal immigration. A federal judge ruled [JURIST report] last month that the Nebraska Supreme Court [official website] should be the first forum to hear challenges to a similar ordinance adopted by the city of Fremont. Also in August, Arizona filed its opening brief [JURIST report] in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] asking the court to lift the preliminary injunction blocking the state's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] from taking full effect.




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Ontario court upholds ban on gay blood donors
Megan McKee on September 10, 2010 7:50 AM ET

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[JURIST] An Ontario Superior Court [official website] judge ruled Thursday that the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is justified in prohibiting sexually active gay males from donating blood. In 2002, Kyle Freeman falsely denied having had sex with other men and subsequently donated blood that tested positive for syphilis. CBS initiated a negligent misrepresentation suit against Freeman after spending $10,000 to remove blood traceable to him from the system. The ruling held that Freeman did not have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] defense against the claim of negligence, as CBS is not a government entity. The court found the CBS ban to discriminate on the basis of health and safety considerations rather than on sexual orientation. Freeman's counterclaim was dismissed, and he was held liable for $10,000 in damages to CBS.

In July, a US government health committee recommended against lifting the US ban on homosexual blood donors. In March 2009, a Tasmanian court upheld [decision text; JURIST report] an Australian Red Cross [organization website] policy [text] to refuse blood donations from sexually active homosexual males. Petitioner Michael Cain tried to donate blood in 2004, but his offer was refused after he affirmatively answered an inquiry into whether he "had male-to-male sex" in the past 12 months. The tribunal held that Cain's complaint was unsubstantiated and that the conduct of the Red Cross did not amount to direct or indirect discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1998 [text].




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Europe court rules Austria gambling monopoly breaches EU law
Megan McKee on September 9, 2010 3:18 PM ET

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[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [judgment text] Thursday that Austria's state gambling monopoly, which blocks foreign casino companies from the licensing process, is incompatible with EU law. The court held that allowing only domestic operators to apply for licenses constituted such a difference in treatment that it constituted discrimination [Bloomberg report] on the basis of nationality. While Austria cited fighting crime as its reason for excluding operators hailing from other nations within the EU, the court stated that numerous less restrictive methods were available. This is the most recent in a series of cases in which the multi-billion euro industry is attempting to break the monopoly held by domestic "game of chance" agencies in many EU member states.

On Wednesday, the ECJ delivered three judgments striking down gambling restrictions in Germany [JURIST report] because the regulations were not designed to protect public interest. The suit was filed by several foreign betting companies attempting to break into the German gambling market. The court held that while monopolies are sometimes justified, Germany's "intense advertising" in its gaming operations cause the regulations to fall outside the intended scope of consumer protection. Lobbying firms for the gambling industry called the decision a landmark due to the recent trend of the ECJ upholding gambling restrictions in other EU nations. In July, the ECJ upheld a Swedish law [JURIST report] that prohibits the promotion of Internet gambling by private operators, and in June the ECJ issued two judgments [JURIST report] against UK betting companies, 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.




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California high court refuses to order state appeal of same-sex marriage ruling
Zach Zagger on September 9, 2010 3:08 PM ET

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[JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday denied a request from a conservative group to order Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown [official profiles] to appeal the federal court ruling that struck down the controversial ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The request was brought by the Pacific Justice Institute [advocacy website] in an attempt to force a state government appeal [San Francisco Chronicle report] of last month's federal court ruling [JURIST report] that found Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. The supreme court denied the request without a hearing and offered no explanation for its decision. A judge for the 3rd District Court of Appeal [official website] declined [JURIST report] a similar request last week. The requests have raised questions of whether anyone has standing to defend Proposition 8 in court. PCJ argues [press release] that the governor and attorney general have a state constitutional duty to defend Prop 8 because it was a "voter-approved affirmation of traditional marriage." The deadline for the governor and the attorney general to appeal the reversal of Proposition 8 is September 11.

Last month, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] issued a stay [JURIST report] of Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Proposition 8 pending appeal. Earlier last month, Walker held that the same-sex marriage ban violated the guarantees of due process and equal protection under the US Constitution, but immediately stayed the ruling. Schwarzenegger, Brown and others filed motions [JURIST report] opposing the stay request, which led to Walker's refusal to issue a stay pending appeal. Schwarzenegger and Brown were originally defendants in the lawsuit against Proposition 8, and their refusal to oppose the stay request left defendant-intervenors Protect Marriage [advocacy website] and other groups to defend the law. The remaining defendant-intervenors have indicated they will, if necessary, appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.




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Federal appeals court temporarily lifts stem cell research ban
Zach Zagger on September 9, 2010 2:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the Obama administration's request for an emergency stay [order, PDF] Thursday, lifting the ban on stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. The Obama administration sought the stay Wednesday after Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday denied [order, PDF; JURIST report] a motion to stay his preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued in August. The appeals court granted the temporary stay so it could have "sufficient opportunity to consider the merits" of the Obama's administration's emergency motion for stay. The court ordered the appellees to respond to the emergency motion by September 14, and the Obama administration has until September 20 to reply.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that Lamberth's ruling was overbroad, endangering an array of research across multiple programs and centers while only serving a very attenuated economic interest of the plaintiffs in the case. According to the filing, the injunction threatens 24 research projects, more than 1,300 jobs and $64 million in funding, as well as potentially millions of Americans who may benefit from medical advances in the field of stem cell research. Last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] permitting federal funding for some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Despite the executive order, Lambert held that evidence showed that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prevail based on existing law.




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China rights activist released after serving 4-year sentence
Andrea Bottorff on September 9, 2010 11:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Chinese prison on Thursday released Chen Guangcheng [HRW case timeline, JURIST news archive], a blind Chinese human rights legal activist who has finished serving a four-year sentence [JURIST report] for damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic." According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], the Chinese authorities have since placed Chen under house arrest and increased surveillance of his home and family, bringing into question the authenticity of his release [press release]. Family members allege that Chen suffers from health problems caused by mistreatment he received while in prison, including beatings and repeated food poisonings [WP report]. Chen claims the charges were retribution for his documentation of forced sterilizations and abortions [TIME feature] performed by Chinese officials to enforce China's one-child policy.

China's questionable human rights record has recently received international attention. In July, HRW charged that Chinese authorities used excessive force [JURIST report] 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. A week earlier, New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website] released documents that suggested that Chinese Internet regulators have plans to drastically reduce internet anonymity [JURIST report] by requiring users to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites. In May, two Chinese human rights lawyers who have represented Falun Gong [group website; BBC backgrounder] defendants were permanently disbarred [JURIST report] after being accused of disrupting courtrooms. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the disbarment hearing [press release], calling it "absurd" and claiming that "[g]overnment authorities in China continue to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers taking politically sensitive cases."




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Guatemala judge orders soldiers to stand trial for peasant massacre
Andrea Bottorff on September 9, 2010 10:51 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Guatemalan judge ruled Wednesday that three soldiers charged in connection with a 1982 peasant massacre [JURIST news archive] that left more than 260 dead will face trial. Of the 17 soldiers accused of committing crimes against humanity during the 1960-1996 Guatemalan civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], three were captured in Guatemala [Reuters report] and four others have been detained in the US by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] for illegally concealing [JURIST report] their past military service and involvement in the killings on US immigration forms. The charges against the soldiers are based on the findings of a Truth Commission investigation [materials] monitored by the UN and completed in the late 1990s, which uncovered vast human rights abuses [report text]. The trials are the first for massacre crimes committed during the civil war years.

Other officials have faced judicial proceedings for crimes committed during the war years. Last December, a retired Guatemalan colonel was sentenced to 53 years in prison [JURIST report] for his role in the disappearance of eight indigenous Guatemalans during the 36-year civil war. In 2005, Guatemala formally apologized [JURIST report] for the government-ordered peasant massacre that occurred in July 1982, where special forces soldiers are accused of killing 268 men, women and children of mostly Mayan descent in the village Dos Erres. Vice President Eduardo Stein made the acknowledgment in a small town north of Guatemala City, expressing remorse for the army's action that "wipe[d] out an entire community." The apology came in response to an order [press release] from the Inter-American Human Rights Court, part of the Organization of American States [official website], requiring an apology and payments to survivors totaling almost $8 million.




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Prominent Iran human rights lawyer detained
Jay Carmella on September 9, 2010 10:01 AM ET

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[JURIST] A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has been detained for allegedly spreading propaganda and colluding against national security, her family said Wednesday. Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is most widely known for representing political activists following the controversial 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive], was summoned to an Iranian prison [BBC report] last week and has not returned home. Her home and office were raided [RFE/RL report] by Iranian officials in August. Several international groups strongly oppose the Iranian government's decision to detain Sotoudeh, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website], which issued a statement condemning [text] the government's action and praising Sotoudeh for her work defending political prisoners.

Sotoudeh has worked on several high-profile cases. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges of mohareb, which means being enemies of God. Rahmanipour was executed [JURIST report] in January. Sotoudeh also represented Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile], a well-known press activist who was sentenced [JURIST report] to four years in prison in 2006 for publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media. Iran continues to be scrutinized internationally for human rights violations. In March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] criticized [JURIST report] the state of human rights in Iran while presenting her annual report. Pillay condemned Iran for the "arbitrary arrest" of, and "harsh sentences, including capital punishment" given to, individuals involved in protests following the presidential elections.




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China anti-corruption official sentenced to death for taking bribes
Jay Carmella on September 9, 2010 9:00 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Chinese Intermediate People's Court in Shandong sentenced former top anti-corruption official Wang Huayuan to death on Thursday for taking bribes. Wang confessed [Xinhua report] to taking 7.71 million yuan (USD $1.13 million) in bribes while he was secretary for discipline inspection for commissions in the Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces. The purpose of the bribes varied from business to employment to avoiding arrest. Wang was detained [AP report] in April 2009 as part of an ongoing effort by the Chinese government to stop corruption [JURIST news archive]. The sentence is suspended for two years and could become a life sentence due to Wang's confession and his return of the illegal assets.

The Chinese government and judiciary continue to stress the need to eradicate corruption. In July, the Chinese government instituted [JURIST report] regulations requiring officials to disclose details about their personal finances and legal statuses of their family members. Also in July, a top judicial official was executed [JURIST report] after a corruption probe revealed he had taken $2 million in bribes and protected 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) [official website, in Chinese], 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.




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Somali piracy suspect pleads guilty in DC federal court
Erin Bock on September 9, 2010 8:25 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Somali man pleaded guilty [press release, PDF] on Wednesday to piracy [JURIST news archive] charges stemming from an attack on a Danish ship carrying cargo from a Texas-based company. Jama Idle Ibrahim pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] to "conspiracy to commit piracy under the law of nations and conspiracy to use a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence." Ibrahim and other Somalis attacked the MV/CEC Future in the Gulf of Aden in November 2008. The group, armed with handguns, rocket propelled grenades and AK 47s, seized the ship and held the crew for ransom off of the Somalia coast for a total of 71 days until the ship's owner paid the ransom amount. The plea agreement states that the parties agree a 25-year prison sentence is appropriate, which is the maximum total penalty for the offenses—five years for conspiracy and 20 for firearm conspiracy. US Attorney Ronald Machen, Jr. said the charges should be viewed as a deterrent to others considering piracy attacks. "Violent acts of piracy on the high seas disrupt international trade and put human life at risk. These charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others thinking of launching pirate attacks. Crimes on open waters in faraway oceans will be punished in an American courtroom." No sentencing date has been scheduled at this time. Ibrahim's plea marks the first plea for a piracy-related offense in the District of Columbia.

Ibrahim was charged with the offenses related to the MV/CEC Future last month, the same day he pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] to charges relating to his role in the April 2010 attack on the USS Ashland. Earlier last month, a judge for that court dismissed piracy charges [JURIST report] against Ibrahim and five other Somali men, determining that the men did not satisfy the definition of piracy under the law of nations because they fired on the ship and did not board or take control of the vessel. Several other 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 related to an April 2009 attack on the US container ship Maersk Alabama. 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]. According to a report issued earlier this year, 2009 marked the worst year for maritime piracy [JURIST report] with 406 reported incidents.




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Pakistan police arrest 3 in connection with Times Square bomb plot
Daniel Richey on September 9, 2010 7:44 AM ET

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[JURIST] Pakistani police announced Wednesday the arrest of three men suspected of helping Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] plan and fund his failed May attempt to detonate a bomb in New York City's Times Square. Officials said that the young Pakistani citizens, Shahid Hussain, Shoaib Mughal and Humba Akhtar, who were arrested following a long-running investigation, confessed their involvement to police and are being charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. The men reportedly provided Shahzad with more than USD $13,000 and arranged for him to meet and train with Hakimullah Mehsud [NYT profile], the head of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) [CTC Sentinel backgrounder], the Pakistani arm of the Taliban terrorist group. The suspects are reputed to have close ties to Mehsud.

Shahzad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges [indictment, PDF] in June, telling the US court that he was a Muslim soldier [Al Jazeera report] and that his actions were an act of war. Earlier this month, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] declared TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) [press release, PDF] as the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced it was bringing charges [JURIST report] against Mehsud in connection to a December 2009 attack on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] outpost Camp Chapman in Afghanistan. The TTP has been implicated in or claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist acts, including multiple assaults on NATO supply lines in Pakistan's tribal region, a 2009 attack on a police station in the Bannu province and the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [JURIST report]. Despite rumors of his death [NYT report], the DOJ considers Mehsud a fugitive at large.




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Ninth Circuit dismisses CIA rendition suit on state secrets grounds
Daniel Richey on September 8, 2010 4:11 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] Wednesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court's dismissal of a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] against a Boeing subsidiary in connection with its alleged role in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive]. The plaintiffs, Binyam Mohamed [JURIST news archive], Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza, Mohamed Farag Ahmaad Bashmilah and Bisher al-Rawi, alleged that San Diego-based Jeppesen Dataplan [corporate website] knowingly aided in the rendition and subsequent torture of terror suspects by the CIA. Before Jeppesen could file an answer to the original complaint, the Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened [JURIST report] and asserted the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive], arguing that fact-finding in the case could jeopardize national security. The district court dismissed the case and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned [JURIST reports] the ruling on appeal. The DOJ then asked the Ninth Circuit to reconsider the case with a full panel, and was granted an en banc rehearing [JURIST reports]. The original Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the state secrets privilege can only be invoked in relation to established evidence in the case, not just at the possibility that such evidence may be uncovered should the case proceed, but Wednesday's 6-5 opinion reverses that position, holding that in some "rare" circumstances, it may be impossible for a suit to proceed at all without inevitably compromising national security:
[T]here are times when exceptional circumstances create an irreconcilable conflict between [liberty, justice, transparency, accountability and national secuirty]. On those rare occasions, we are bound to follow the Supreme Court's admonition that 'even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that [state] secrets are at stake.' ... Here, further litigation presents an unacceptable risk of disclosure of state secrets no matter what legal or factual theories Jeppesen would choose to advance during a defense. Whether or not Jeppesen provided logistical support in connection with the extraordinary rendition and interrogation programs, there is precious little Jeppesen could say about its relevant conduct and knowledge without revealing information about how the United States does or does not conduct covert operations. ... We ... acknowledge that this case presents a painful conflict between human rights and national security.
The majority said that other avenues may be available for the plaintiffs to address their claims, including Congressional investigation of alleged wrongdoing, monetary reparations and the possibility that the executive may "determine whether the plaintiffs' claims have merit" and voluntarily choose to "honor the fundamental principles of justice." The five-judge minority chastised the proposal, saying that "[n]ot only are these remedies insufficient, but their suggestion understates the severity of the consequences to plaintiffs from the denial of judicial relief" and "elevate the impractical to the point of absurdity." ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner also decried the ruling [press release]. "This is a sad day not only for the torture victims ... but for all Americans who care about the rule of law," he said. "To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in court."

The state secrets privilege, which allows the exclusion of evidence based on a government affidavit that such evidence may endanger national security, has been highly criticized by rights groups and others. Julian Sanchez [Cato profile] of the Cato Institute [advocacy website] argued [JURIST comment] last October that Congress should implement state secrets reforms, rather than relying on the DOJ to increase oversight. Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] a number of new state secrets policies seeking to increase government accountability and oversight. Also last year, OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] examining the privilege and other transparency issues, concluding that the current administration has improved transparency [JURIST report], but more should be done.




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EU court strikes down Germany gambling restrictions
Sarah Miley on September 8, 2010 1:01 PM ET

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[JURIST] The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Wednesday delivered three judgments striking down gambling restrictions in Germany because the regulations were not designed to protect public interest [judgments]. The suit was filed by several foreign betting companies attempting to break into the German gambling market. The court held that while monopolies are sometimes justified, Germany's "intense advertising" in its gaming operations cause the regulations to fall outside the intended scope of consumer protection. Due to the broad scope of the regulations, the court determined that the German gambling laws were not compatible with EU law on service provisions and games of chance [Article 49-EC text, PDF]. Lobbying firms for the gambling industry called the decision a landmark due to the recent trend of the ECJ upholding gambling restrictions in other EU nations. The ECJ will rule on a similar case [Reuters report] challenging Austrian gambling restrictions on Thursday.

The judgments come 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 July, the ECJ upheld a Swedish law [JURIST report] that prohibits the promotion of Internet gambling by private operators in other EU member states for profit. 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. 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.




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Sri Lanka parliament gives final approval to remove presidential term limits
Dwyer Arce on September 8, 2010 12:46 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Sri Lankan Parliament [official website] on Wednesday voted 161-17 [press release] to give final approval to the 18th amendment [text, PDF] to the Sri Lankan Constitution [materials], eliminating presidential term limits. The parliament joined the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka and the Cabinet [JURIST reports], which have also voted to ratify the amendment. In addition to removing presidential term limits, the amendment also requires the president to be present in parliament every three months and gives the president greater control over the membership of the Supreme Court, electoral commission and human rights commission by eliminating an independent advisory body and replacing it with a parliamentary council without veto powers over the appointments. The amendment needed 150 votes in the 225-member parliament to become effective, and garnered the support of six members of the opposition party [press release], who voted in favor of the changes. The amendment will allow current President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website; BBC profile] to run for reelection at the expiration of his current term in office in 2016. Following the vote, supporters of the opposition party protested against the amendment [BBC report] outside of parliament. Shortly before its passage, the constitutional changes were criticized by former Sri Lanka army chief Sarath Fonseka [JURIST news archive], who described the pending ratification as a blow to democracy [TOI report] which could result in military rule. Fonseka, who was defeated by Rajapaksa in the January presidential election [NYT report], has been facing charges [JURIST report] of engaging in politics while on active duty, provoking violence and bringing disrepute to the government.

Critics of the president have called the amendment an abuse of power [AP report] and an attempt to "create a family dynasty." Rajapaksa is a popular figure within Sri Lanka, primarily for his efforts in defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive]. That conflict has raised numerous questions about the government's actions during military operations, including the treatment of prisoners and civilians. Last month, the Sri Lankan defense minister defended the government's actions during the conflict by taking every effort to avoid civilian casualties [JURIST report] and providing humanitarian relief. In July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Sri Lankan government to improve conditions around UN offices in Colombo after a UN announcement of an international panel to investigate human rights abuses during the war resulted in days of pro-government protests [JURIST reports] near UN offices.




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Russia judge shot dead in North Caucasus province
Sarah Miley on September 8, 2010 12:08 PM ET

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[JURIST] A Russian judge was killed Tuesday outside his home in the North Caucasus province of Kabardino-Balkaria [BBC backgrounder], according to Russian authorities. District judge Dzhulber Bykov was shot several times [Reuters report] by gunmen suspected to be Islamic insurgents and died at the scene. The Russian government has faced a growing insurgency in the Northern Caucasus, including deadly attacks on government officials in the provinces of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia [JURIST news archive]. Violence has not been as frequent in Kabardino-Balkaria, but has shown a recent increase in attacks. Government authorities blame the increased violence on Muslim rebels, but government opponents blame increasingly harsh policing tactics, including the alleged abductions, beatings and killings [advocacy report, PDF] of suspected militants. Police are still searching for Bykov's assailants.

In June 2009, Aza Gazgireyeva, deputy head of the Supreme Court in Russia's Ingushetia province [official website, in Russian; BBC backgrounder] was shot dead [JURIST report] while taking her children to school in the town of Nazran. It is believed that Gazgireyeva may have been killed for her role in investigating an attack [RTTNews report] on Ingush police forces by Chechen militants in 2004. Gazgireyeva's death came one week after the interior minister of the nearby region of Dagestan was shot dead. In April 2008, another deputy head of the Supreme Court in Ingushetia, Khasan Yandiyev, was shot and killed [JURIST report].




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Philippines court begins trial for November massacre
Andrea Bottorff on September 8, 2010 12:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] Murder trials began in the Philippines Wednesday for individuals charged in connection with the November 2009 massacre [CSM backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that left 57 dead. Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court is conducting the trial in a high-security Manila prison [ABC report] in response to fears of witnesses being threatened. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has urged Philippine President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] to investigate the murders [news release] of five witnesses who had previously agreed to testify at the trial. According to HRW, only 19 of 195 individuals will be put on trial for the murders, while 127 suspects still have not been captured [news release], increasing the possibility of witness intimidation. The massacre case, which many people believe will continue for years, has accumulated nearly 500 witnesses [CNN report].

In April, 11 Philippines policemen and militia members pleaded not guilty to murder charges for their involvement in the massacre, only one month after a Quezon City court dismissed rebellion charges against 24 people [JURIST reports], including Andal Ampatuan Sr., the leader of a Muslim clan in the Philippines' semi-autonomous southern province of Maguindanao, and four of his family members. The Philippines Department of Justice [official website] had implicated Ampatuan and several of his followers in the November slayings [press release] of 57 campaign workers, journalists and supporters of family political rival Esmael Mangudadatu. The Ampatuans and several of their followers are alleged to have intercepted Mangudadatu's convoy en route to declare his candidacy for governor at a regional election office, ultimately forcing his convoy to a remote hilltop where the Ampatuans' group killed and buried them.




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Federal judge declines to lift stem cell research injunction
Ann Riley on September 8, 2010 11:37 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday denied [order, PDF] a motion to stay a preliminary injunction [order, PDF; JURIST report] issued in August barring government funding of stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth had granted the injunction on the basis that the federal funding violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a provision at Division F, Section 509 of the annual Omnibus Appropriations Act [2009 edition materials], which prohibits appropriated funds from financing research that involves the creation or destruction of human embryos. Lamberth rejected the motion to stay the injunction, saying:
Defendants are incorrect about much of their "parade of horribles" that will supposedly result from this Court's preliminary injunction. ... In this Court's view, a stay would flout the will of Congress, as this Court understands what Congress has enacted in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Congress remains perfectly free to amend or revise the statute. This Court is not free to do so. Congress has mandated that the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that Lamberth's holding was overbroad, endangering an array of research across multiple programs and centers while only serving a very attenuated economic interest of the plaintiffs in the case. According to the filing, the injunction threatens 24 research projects, more than 1,300 jobs and $64 million in funding, as well as potentially millions of Americans who may benefit from medical advances in the field of stem cell research.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] permitting federal funding for some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Despite the executive order, Lamberth held that evidence showed that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prevail based on existing law. The case was originally dismissed for lack of standing last October but was reinstated [JURIST reports] in June with only plaintiffs who claimed their ability to obtain funding for adult stem cell research was harmed by increased competition for federal funds after they were permitted to also be used for embryonic stem cell research. Those new guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding of embryonic stem cells to only cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community, the previous administration refused similar changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S.5 materials], which was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill, saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.




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UK government to review controversial extradition laws
Andrea Bottorff on September 8, 2010 10:57 AM ET

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[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Theresa May [official profile] told Parliament Wednesday that the government will review the fairness of current extradition laws [statement] that have stirred controversy in the country. Among the extradition laws to be reviewed are the European Arrest Warrant [materials] and the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty [text, PDF], as well as government's power to release individuals into foreign custody and the proper amount of evidence that must be provided against persons sought through extradition. May explained the purpose of the review process:
There are a number of areas of the UK's extradition arrangements which have attracted significant controversy in recent years. The government understands that these are longstanding concerns and the review will therefore focus on five issues to ensure that the UK's extradition arrangements work both efficiently and in the interests of justice.
Critics of the US-UK Extradition Treaty argue that it is unfairly one-sided [Reuters report], allowing more extraditions from the UK to the US than vice versa. Human rights groups have called for reforms [press release] to the country's extradition laws and some groups have criticized May [UKPA report] for not pressing the matter more forcefully. The review is scheduled for completion next summer.

The fairness of UK extradition laws have been the center of much debate in light of several prominent criminal cases. In July, a UK court blocked the extradition [JURIST report] of former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic [Trial Watch profile] to Serbia to stand trial for alleged war crimes, saying that the extradition request was politically motivated [AFP report] and an abuse of the processes of the court. Earlier this year, May announced that the extradition of alleged hacker Gary McKinnon [BBC profile; advocacy website] to the US would be delayed [JURIST report]. McKinnon was arrested by British police in 2002 and indicted [text, PDF] by US authorities later that year on charges of hacking NASA, Department of Defense, Air Force, Army and Navy computers in violation of US computer laws [18 USC § 1030 text]. At the time, May indicated [Times Online report] she would carefully consider the UK's extradition treaty with the US as well as McKinnon's medical history before she determines if the extradition order should stand.




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Third Circuit rules warrant may be required to collect cell phone location data
Ann Riley on September 8, 2010 9:13 AM ET

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[JURIST] A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that at times the government might need a warrant to obtain cell phone data to track a person's location. The ruling reversed a decision [order, PDF] by US Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan of the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania [official website], which said that that § 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA) [text] does not authorize the government to obtain cell site location information (CSLI) and that prosecutors must always show probable cause to access CSLI at the risk of violating a cell phone users' Fourth Amendment [text] rights. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Delores Sloviter remanded the order to the magistrate judge for further proceedings, while stating that the SCA gives judges the discretion to require a warrant when the government seeks CSLI. The court held that:
CSLI from cell phone calls is obtainable under a § 2703(d) order and ... such an order does not require the traditional probable cause determination. ... The [magistrate judge] erred in allowing her impressions of the general expectation of privacy of citizens to transform that standard into anything else. We also conclude that this standard is a lesser one than probable cause. ... Because the statute as presently written gives the [magistrate judge] the option to require a warrant showing probable cause, we are unwilling to remove that option although it is an option to be used sparingly because Congress also included the option of a § 2703(d) order. However, should the [magistrate judge] conclude that a warrant is required rather than a § 2703(d) order, on remand it is imperative that the [magistrate judge] make fact findings and give a full explanation that balances the Governments need (not merely desire) for the information with the privacy interests of cell phone users.
The court's reasoning closely followed amicus briefs [text, PDF] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology [advocacy websites] opposing the gathering of CSLI, finding that "cell phone customer[s] [have] not "voluntarily" shared [their] location information with a cellular provider[s]," giving up their Fourth Amendment rights.

Courts have struggled with how to apply Fourth Amendment protections to modern technology. In August, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that prolonged use of global positioning systems (GPS) to monitor suspects' vehicles violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Although the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Knotts [opinion text] allows the use of tracking devices to follow vehicles from one place to another based on a lower expectation of privacy on public roads, the appeals court distinguished the instant case by finding that too much personal information is revealed over longer periods of time. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] unanimously held [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that, even if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in work-issued electronic devices, that an employer's search of private text messages does not violate the Fourth Amendment so long as the search is not excessive and is pursuant to a legitimate work-related purpose. In 2009, the Ohio Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that police must obtain a warrant before searching data stored in a cell phone. In 2005, a federal court in Maryland ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that US law enforcement agents must obtain a warrant before obtaining information from a cell phone service on the location of a cell phone user. The court noted that although the Fourth Amendment does not protect cell phone users who use their phones in public, probable cause is still required because the individual targeted by the search may use the phone from their home, which has clearly established Fourth Amendment protections.




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Cambodia genocide tribunal seeks additional funding
Daniel Richey on September 8, 2010 8:03 AM ET

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[JURIST] Representatives from the Cambodian government and the UN met Tuesday with officials from 30 countries seeking additional money to fund the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website]. The tribunal, established by the UN and the Cambodian government to prosecute former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] leaders, faces budget shortfalls of USD $7.4 million and $39 million this year and next, respectively. The court's original budget called for only $56 million over three years at its establishment in 2006, but it is now expected to require $170 million to complete its mission. The ECCC's fundraising efforts have become increasingly difficult of late as donor nations have raised concerns over allegations of political corruption in the court.

In April, Chief Legal Counsel [official website] to the UN, Under-Secretary-General Patricia O'Brien [official profile, PDF], and Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An urged the international community [JURIST report] to provide financial support to the ECCC. The court has thus far yielded one conviction, that of Kaing Guek Eav [case materials], also known as "Duch," who was sentenced [JURIST report] to 35 years in prison for crimes against humanity in July. He later fired his international co-counsel ahead of an appeal [JURIST reports]. The prosecution also appealed [JURIST reports], seeking a longer term than the 19 years to which the court ultimately reduced his sentence.




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HRW calls on Zambia to stop police abuse of prisoners
Sarah Miley on September 7, 2010 2:35 PM ET

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged the Zambian government to investigate the inhumane treatment of prisoners [press release] in the nation's jails and to hold those implicated accountable. HRW claims that Zambian police officials "routinely engage" in abusing and torturing prisoners in order to extract confessions. HRW urged the Zambian government to train officials on non-abusive interrogation techniques and to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy for inhumane treatment of prisoners. In a letter to the Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, HRW stated:
Prisoners we interviewed repeatedly reported that police had beaten them in custody in order to try to coerce a confession, and often inflicted serious injuries. Inmates showed researchers their misshapen fingers—in some cases smashed by hammers or iron bats—and scars on their feet and hands. Many have long-term injuries that require ongoing medical attention, ostensibly due to their treatment in custody. ... Under international human rights law, people in detention retain their human rights and fundamental freedoms. As you will be aware, the most fundamental protection for detainees is the absolute prohibition on torture.
Zambian police officials claim that the use of force against prisoners is not prison policy, but is only used by a "few rotten eggs." HRW disputes this claim, stating that, out of the 246 prisoners interviewed by the rights group, a large proportion were victims of abuse in prison, showing a widespread and systematic execution of inhuman treatment against detainees.

Earlier this year, HRW released a similar statement concerning the alleged abuse of prisoners [JURIST report] in a secret Iraqi prison. HRW stated that detainees held at the Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile] denied the reports of a secret prison, claiming the facility was publicly known and that the reports of abuse are exaggerated. In June HRW lauded the Turkish government for its landmark conviction of several prison and police officials [JURIST report] for the torture and death of anti-government activist Engin Ceber while in police custody. The conviction marks the first time a Turkish court has convicted a senior prison official for the conduct of guards under his command.




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Rwanda genocide tribunal opens trial of ex-mayor
Sarah Paulsworth on September 7, 2010 2:28 PM ET

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday began the trial [press release] of former Kivumu, Rwanda, mayor Gregoire Ndahimana [case materials; Trial Watch profile]. Ndahimana was charged [indictment, PDF] in July 2001 on charges of genocide or, alternatively, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Ndahimana is thought to have played a leading role in the April 15, 2001, bulldozing of the Nyange parish, which resulted in the deaths of 2,000 Tutsis hiding inside, and is also believed to have been involved in other killings of Tutsis that took place at the same parish between April 6 and April 20, 1994. Although Ndahimana was indicted in 2001, he spent more than 15 years in hiding before he was captured [VOA report] in August 2009 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICTR continues to try suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died. In August, former Rwandan regional administrator Dominique Ntawukulilyayo was sentenced [JURIST report] by the ICTR to 25 years in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide. In July, Rwandan pastor Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi [Hague Justice profile; case materials] pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to multiple similar genocide charges before the ICTR. Last October, Ugandan officials apprehended [JURIST report] another highly-sought suspect, former Hutu intelligence chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana [BBC profile; case materials]. Nizeyimana, who pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to four genocide counts [indictment, PDF], still awaits trial. Nizeyimana was one of four two accused sought by the ICTR in order to complete its mission. In June, UN Security Council [official website] extended the terms [press release] of ICTR trial judges to December 31, 2011, and appellate judges to December 31, 2012.




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Rights groups file suit challenging border laptop search policy
Sarah Miley on September 7, 2010 1:48 PM ET

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[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] challenging a government policy that allows border patrol to search electronic devices without reasonable suspicion. The plaintiffs, which also include press photographers and a university student, claim that the law violates constitutional rights [press release] to privacy and freedom of speech:
Electronic devices like laptops, "smart" phones, and external data storage devices hold vast amounts of personal and sensitive information that reveals a vivid pictures of travelers' personal and professional lives, including their intimate thoughts, private communications, expressive choices, and privileged or confidential work product. [The] policies and practices of searching, copying, and detaining these personal devices without suspicion or judicial supervision violates the constitutional rights of American citizens to keep the private and expressive details of their lives, as well as sensitive information obtained or created in the course of their work, free from unwarranted government scrutiny.
American citizen and university student Pascal Abidor had his laptop searched and confiscated while on a train from Montreal to New York. Abidor was interrogated and released without charge several hours later. Documents gathered by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [official website] reported that, under the DHS policy, more than 6,600 travelers, nearly half of whom are American citizens, were subjected to electronic device searches at the border between October 1, 2008, and June 2, 2010.

In 2008, US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] criticized [JURIST report] the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [official website] for warrantless searches and seizures of travelers' laptops and other digital devices at the US border, calling the searches an unacceptable invasion of privacy [hearing materials]. The Supreme Court has held that reasonable suspicion is not necessary to conduct routine searches at the border, but searches of laptops and other digital devices are analogous to more invasive practices such as strip searches, said Feingold.




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Black farmers urge US Senate to fund settlement in discrimination case
Jay Carmella on September 7, 2010 12:48 PM ET

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[JURIST] Founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) [advocacy website] James Boyd, Jr. [official profile] called [press release] Tuesday for the US Senate [official website] to fund a settlement [JURIST report] in a discrimination case involving minority farmers. The request comes a month after the Senate failed to approve [press release; CNN report] over a billion dollars for a settlement between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website] and the black farmers. The US House of Representatives [official website] approved a measure in July that included money to fund the settlement, but the bill failed to pass through the Senate for a seventh time. President Barack Obama has expressed his support [USA Today report] for the settlement agreement between the NBFA and USDA.

The battle by the NBFA to receive an allocation of resources is over a decade old. In 2008, the NBFA brought a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] against the USDA, alleging on behalf of more than 800 black farmers that the USDA improperly discriminated against them. Many farmers were left out of the 1999 settlement [text, PDF; NALC backgrounder, PDF] after missing a filing deadline, and thousands more argued that the terms of the settlement were inadequate. After earlier accusations of unfair distribution of resources, the USDA created the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) [official website] in 2003 to monitor compliance with civil rights laws and to help ensure equality in the administration of the USDA's many programs.




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Spain high court confirms trial for judge Garzon over Franco probe
Jay Carmella on September 7, 2010 11:31 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Criminal Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] unanimously confirmed on Tuesday the lower court order that National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] abused his power and must face trial. Garzon was charged [JURIST report] in April for his attempt to investigate the war crimes allegedly committed under Francisco Franco [BBC backgrounder] during the Spanish Civil War [LOC backgrounder]—charges Garzon claims were politically motivated. The board of judges denied [El Pais report, in Spanish] Garzon's appeal of the order, and he will now face trial later this year. The judges found that the witnesses called by Garzon will produce merely personal opinions and also determined that exhumation of 19 mass graves that Garzon ordered [JURIST report] in 2008 was inappropriate. The ruling comes just days after an Argentine court reopened [JURIST report] the case against Franco for his alleged crimes against humanity.

Garzon has faced turmoil since his 2008 decision. In May, the Spanish General Counsel of the Judiciary (CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] voted unanimously to suspend [JURIST report] Garzon. Later that month, the judiciary oversight committee of the CGPJ approved a request [JURIST report] by Garzon to work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The ICC asked [press release] Garzon to work for them as a consultant for a period of seven months in order to improve their investigative methods. Thousands gathered [JURIST report] in cities across Spain in April in support of Garzon, chanting slogans and displaying flags of the pre-war Republican government ousted by Franco. Garzon is widely known for using universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] extensively in the past to bring several high-profile rights cases, including those against Osama bin Laden and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.




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Kenya court convicts Somali pirates
Hillary Stemple on September 7, 2010 11:23 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Kenyan court on Monday convicted seven Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] on charges related to the attack on a German naval supply ship in March 2009, sentencing them to five years in prison. According to prosecutors, the men attempted to hijack the ship [AfricaNews report] using AK47 rifles and rocket propelled grenades, but the hijacking was prevented by security forces on the ship. Following the attack, the pirates were tracked and apprehended by ships acting as part of EU Naval Forces Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website] before being transferred to Kenyan custody to stand trial. A lawyer for the men urged the court to be lenient [Xinhua report] in their sentencing, stating that the men would be a burden to Kenyan taxpayers. The men also indicated that they have been rehabilitated through their time in prison and that they will actively work to discourage others from participating in piracy. While the five-year sentence is the shortest handed down by Kenyan courts for piracy charges since the country began hearing piracy cases in 2006, the judge delivering the judgment of the court indicated that it would be a strong deterrent for others considering engaging in piracy. EU NAVFOR praised the judgment [press release] as an "important step in the co-operation between European Union and Kenya in the repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia." The men have 14 days to appeal the court's decision.

The international community continues with efforts to fight maritime piracy, both through the funding of UN-backed piracy courts, and through prosecution in multiple jurisdictions. In July, a court in Seychelles convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] a group of Somali pirates to 10 years in prison following the attempted hijacking of Seychelles coastguard ship. In June, the UN announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom [JURIST report] in Kenya that will hear piracy cases. The announcement came after the UN announced $9.3 million in donations [JURIST report] to help fund piracy courts in Kenya and Seychelles. Also in June, a Dutch court concluded Europe's first Somali pirate trial by convicting and sentencing a group of suspects [JURIST reports] to five years in prison. In May, a Yemeni court sentenced six pirates to death [JURIST report] for their roles in an attack on a Yemeni oil tanker in 2009. Charges are also currently pending [JURIST report] against piracy suspects in the US.




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Federal judge allows indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainee
Hillary Stemple on September 7, 2010 10:40 AM ET

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[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [order, PDF] Friday that the US government can indefinitely hold an Afghan detainee at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility. The detainee, Shawali Khan [NYT profile], is accused of belonging to Hezb Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], an anti-American insurgency group active in Afghanistan with ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda [JURIST news archive]. Lawyers for Khan have argued that he was a shopkeeper [Miami Herald report] in Kandahar and not involved with fighting against American forces. They contend that Khan was captured by corrupt Afghans who turned him over to American forces and lied about his involvement with insurgents. The defense also presented evidence that HIG had no presence in the Kandahar region when Khan was captured, making his involvement with the group unlikely. The court indicated that a redacted version of the full opinion will be released at a later date.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the release [JURIST report] of Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif [NYT profile] citing a lack of evidence proving that Latif was part of a terrorist organization. In July, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] released a redacted opinion [JURIST report] holding that evidence against Algerian Guantanamo Bay detainee Belkacem Bensaya must be reviewed to determine if he was "part of" al Qaeda. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg, writing the opinion for the panel, held that there appeared to be no direct evidence linking Bensaya to al Qaeda, and that the government's authority under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) [text, PDF] only extends to the detention of individuals who are "functionally part of" a terrorist organization. Bensayah was the only one of the six petitioners from the 2008 Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] decision who was not granted habeas corpus relief after the Supreme Court remanded the case for further review of evidence.




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Sri Lanka high court approves constitutional changes to remove presidential term limits
Carrie Schimizzi on September 7, 2010 10:24 AM ET

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[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka [official website] on Tuesday approved [press release] a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate presidential term limits, holding that the amendment is not inconsistent with the Sri Lankan Constitution [materials]. The proposed amendment, which would allow current President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] to run for an unlimited number of terms in office, will next be presented for approval before Parliament [official website] later Tuesday where it must pass by a two-thirds majority. Last week, the Sri Lankan cabinet also approved the proposed constitutional reforms [JURIST report]. It is widely believed that Rajapaksa enjoys enough support [Xinhua report] to allow the amendment to easily pass. Critics of the president say he is abusing his power [AP report] and attempting to "create a family dynasty".

While the proposed amendment would allow Rajapaksa to make a bid for an unlimited number of terms in office, his second term has not yet begun, though he easily achieved victory [NYT report] in January elections. Rajapaksa is a consistently popular figure within Sri Lanka, primarily for his efforts in defeating the Tamil Tiger [JURIST news archive] rebels within Sri Lanka. That victory was not without cost, however, as numerous questions have been raised about the government's actions during the conflict, including the treatment of prisoners. Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan defense minister defended [JURIST report] the government's actions during the conflict. In July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Sri Lankan Government to improve conditions around UN offices in Colombo after a UN announcement of the formation of an international panel to investigate human rights abuses during the war resulted in days of pro-government protests [JURIST reports] near UN offices.




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Norway suspect pleads not guilty in country's first terror financing trial
Carrie Schimizzi on September 7, 2010 9:10 AM ET

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[JURIST] A Somalia native pleaded not guilty [Aftenposten report, in Norwegian] Tuesday in an Oslo District Court [official website, in Norwegian] at Norway's first trial under its 2002 terror financing law. The unidentified Somali-born Norwegian citizen has been accused [AP report] of sending at least USD $33,000 to senior commanders of the al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder] rebel movement between August 2007 and February 2008. According to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, the indictment states the accused was in contact with the organization and was informed about its actions, which include plans to overthrow the Somali government. The defense counsel for the accused maintains that his client only intended to send money to the Islamic Courts Union and that he did not understand the group had ties to al-Shabaab. The Islamist al-Shabaab movement has been linked to al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] in the past.

Prosecutors in Norway have yet to win a conviction under Norway's anti-terrorism laws [JURIST news archive], which were passed in response to the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] on the US. In 2008, a Norwegian court acquitted three suspects [JURIST report] accused of planning to attack the US and Israeli embassies in Oslo in the first trial under the anti-terrorism law. Norway's anti-terrorism laws have been criticized [JURIST report] by the US in the past for being too lenient.




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France president proposes stripping citizenship from immigrants who kill police
Carrie Schimizzi on September 6, 2010 11:35 AM ET

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[JURIST] French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] said Monday his government would proceed to draft a law [press release, in French] that would make it easier to deport illegal immigrants and strip immigrants accused of violent crimes of their French citizenship. The proposal targets immigrants who kill or attempt to kill public officials or police officers within 10 years of having gaining French citizenship. The law will also set out financial sanctions for those accused of polygamy and gives local authorities greater power to dismantle and evacuate illegal settlements. The French president's office said the proposals had been "developed in strict compliance with republican principles, the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Council and European law and must be implemented on the same principles." The measures will be part of a homeland security bill (LLOPSI2) [official materials, in French] to be considered in the French Senate [official website] starting Tuesday.

Last month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] concluded its review [JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text], finding that while France has a laudable action plan for eradicating racial discrimination, it must increase efforts to make the plan a reality. The report also questioned Sarkozy's July measures against illegal Roma communities [JURIST report] in France and the legislation aimed at making their deportation easier following riots by members of the Roma community.




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Bahrain officials charge Shiite opposition leaders over alleged coup plot
Carrie Schimizzi on September 6, 2010 11:24 AM ET

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[JURIST] Prosecutors in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] on Saturday charged 23 Shiite Muslims with terrorism-related offenses and conspiring to overthrow the government, claiming that they were acting under the direction of an unnamed foreign government. The suspects, who have been under arrest since August, are charged with undermining national security [NYT report] and planning violence, intimidation and subversion through an international terrorist network. At least 10 prominent Shiite opposition figures were formally charged by prosecution officials, including Abduljalil al-Singace, Mohamed Habeeb al-Saffaf and Abdulhadi al-Mokhaidar, part of the leadership of the the Haq Movement, a Shiite-dominated opposition group. The men were arrested in an operation last month along with more than 250 opposition members [Guardian report], building political tension between the Shiite majority and the Sunni-led government before the October 23 parliamentary election [official website]. Rights groups have criticized the charges as signs of repression .

The Bahraini government has faced repeated criticism over its human rights record in recent years. In February Human Rights Watch claimed the government had reverted to using torture [JURIST report] to gain confessions from detainees after a decade of reform banning such practices. The US State Department deplored impunity for human rights violations and crimes in Bahrain in its 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [JURIST report], The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) [advocacy website] has voiced similar concerns.




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Federal appeals court allows habeas challenge to deportation despite REAL ID Act
Erin Bock on September 6, 2010 10:38 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] issued a decision [text, PDF] Friday allowing two people to file habeas corpus petitions against removal orders from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [official website] despite provisions of the REAL ID Act (RIDA) [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] removing jurisdiction from federal courts to hear such claims when they are late. The government had moved to dismiss the appeals for untimeliness under RIDA, but the petitioners, Worklis Luna and Tasmann Anthony Thompson, alleged they were prevented from filing on time by circumstances beyond their control, including ineffective assistance of counsel and governmental roadblocks. RIDA requires that a petition for review be filed within 30 days of the final order. The court, interpreting the act in a manner intended to avoid reviewing its constitutionality, held that because the petitioners' claims of ineffective assistance and government delays were collateral attacks on the removal orders, and not a challenge to the removal orders themselves, they could seek habeas relief in the district court. Holding otherwise, the court stated, would raise "serious constitutional questions" under the Suspension Clause of the US Constitution [text]:
Petitioners could not have raised their claims regarding the timeliness of their petitions before the BIA because their claims arose after the entry of the final orders of removal. Nor could they have raised such claims in a timely petition in this Court because they only arose upon the expiration of the 30-day period within which they could have filed a timely petition for review. Thus, if the REAL ID Act is interpreted as precluding habeas review over petitioners' claims, there is no forum in which petitioners could seek relief. Moreover, petitioners raise precisely the type of constitutional claims for which habeas review, or an adequate and effective substitute, is most essential.
Jennifer Chang Newell, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] which filed several briefs on behalf of the petitioners, applauded the court's decision in an email to JURIST, stating that the decision "recognizes that fairness applies to everyone, including immigrants. Everyone's most basic constitutional rights are severely threatened when people's ability to go to court is restricted or denied."

In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that RIDA gives a "reasonable opportunity" for judicial review [JURIST report] to those aliens whose removal orders became final before it entered into effect. Prior to RIDA's enactment, aliens convicted of crimes in the US could request judicial review through habeas petitions [28 USC § 2241 text], which were not subject to time restraints. In 2005, Judge William Young, chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts criticized RIDA as a "virtually unprecedented" attack [JURIST report] on judicial independence, placing a "chokehold" on federal courts by removing their authority to hear deportation cases. Young claimed RIDA makes it harder for immigrants to gain amnesty by requiring deportation cases to be heard in a federal courts of appeals. Initially drafted after the 9/11 terror attacks [JURIST news archive] and designed to discourage illegal immigration, RIDA was passed in 2005 [JURIST report].




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Egyptian journalist going on trial for alleged libeling of Foreign Minister
Erin Bock on September 5, 2010 4:53 PM ET

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[JURIST] An independent journalist is expected to go on trial for allegedly libeling Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abult Gheit [official website] according to Sunday press reports. Gheit alleges that Hamdi Qandeel insulted him [AFP report] in an article he wrote for the independent daily Shorouk [official website, in Arabic] in which Qandeel analogized statements made by Gheit to garbage leaked from a garbage bag. Qandeel could face prison time or a fine if found guilty.

Qandeel's case does not mark the first time a journalist has gone on trial in Egypt for publishing remarks regarding government officials. In 2007, editors of four Egyptian tabloids were convicted of defaming President Hosni Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party [official websites] after publishing criticisms in their respective papers, and were each sentenced to a year in prison [JURIST report] and a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (USD $3,500). In 2009, Egypt's Agouza Appeals Court overturned the editors' prison sentences [JURIST report] but upheld their fines. In 2008, an editor of the weekly al-Dustor newspaper, Ibrahim Eissa, was convicted for spreading "rumors" [JURIST report] about the health of Mubarak in an August 2007 report. Egypt's Abbaseyya Appeals Court upheld the conviction [JURIST report] in 2008. In 2006, Mubarak pledged to decriminalize press offenses [JURIST report].




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Argentina appeals court re-opens investigation into Spain crimes under Franco
Erin Bock on September 5, 2010 4:17 PM ET

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[JURIST] An appeals court in Argentina Friday reopened an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Spain during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and the subsequent regime of General Francisco Franco [BBC profile]. The Spanish government adopted an amnesty law in 1977 [JURIST report] after Franco's death barring investigation and prosecution of such crimes. Under "universal jurisdiction" doctrine the Second Chamber of Argentina's House of Federal Criminal Appeals plans to send a "diplomatic request" [BBC report] to the Spanish government to ascertain what action the country has taken in the matter. Members of human rights organizations have applauded the appeals court's decision to look further into the war crimes as a step toward "universal justice" [EFE report, in Spanish]. The case was brought to federal court in April [JURIST report; JURIST comment] by Argentinian relatives of Spanish citizens killed during the Franco regime.

The appeals court decision to move forward with the investigation conflicts with a recommendation [JURIST report] made in May by Argentinian state prosecutor Federico Delgado to dismiss all Argentinian lawsuits arising out of alleged Spanish war crimes because they were being dealt with in Spain. In May, the Spanish General Counsel of the Judiciary (CGPJ) [official website, in Spanish] voted unanimously to suspend [JURIST report] National Court judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for abusing his power by opening an investigation into the war crimes. The Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] charged Garzon with abuse of power based on his 2008 order requiring the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain. Garzon had claimed the indictment was politically-motivated, compromised judicial independence, and sought to impose a specific interpretation of the 1977 amnesty law.




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Craigslist removes adult services section under pressure from state AGs
Dwyer Arce on September 5, 2010 12:26 PM ET

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[JURIST] The classified advertising website Craigslist [website] removed its "adult services" section Saturday, replacing it with a "censored" label after 18 state attorneys general criticized the section in a letter [text] sent last month. The letter, written by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal [official website] and joined by the attorneys general of 17 other states, called on Craigslist to remove the section due to alleged "rampant prostitution advertisements" and because it is supposedly used to facilitate human trafficking of women and children:
The increasingly sharp public criticism of craigslist's Adult Services section reflects a growing recognition that ads for prostitution — including ads trafficking children — are rampant on it. In our view, the company should take immediate action to end the misery for the women and children who may be exploited and victimized by these ads. We recognize that Craigslist may lose the considerable revenue generated by the Adult Services ads. No amount of money can justify the scourge of illegal prostitution, and the suffering of women and children who will continue to be victimized, in the market and trafficking provided by craigslist.
Blumenthal estimated at the time of the letter that Craigslist could be generating more than $36 million in revenue [Reuters report] due to advertising related to prostitution and human trafficking in this section. The change was only made on the US version of the site. Craigslist is expected to release a statement [BBC report] on the change in the coming week.

Human trafficking has been a major concern of US federal authorities in recent years. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Thursday that a Hawaii grand jury has indicted six people [JURIST report] on human trafficking charges. The defendants allegedly enticed approximately 400 Thai nationals to come to the US by falsely promising them job opportunities and then forcing them to work at farms in Washington and Hawaii by threatening economic harm. In June, the US State Department [official website] issued its annual report on human trafficking conditions [JURIST report] across the globe, which found the US "has a serious problem with human trafficking, both for labor and commercial sexual exploitation."




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Iran concludes trial of journalist charged with 'warring against God'
Dwyer Arce on September 5, 2010 11:17 AM ET

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[JURIST] Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] on Saturday concluded the one-day trial of Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive]. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrbasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [Mehr backgrounder]. Conviction on a charge of Moharebeh can result in the death penalty. Ahari was also charged [Al Jazeera report] with ties to the People's Mujahedeen of Iran [CFR backgrounder], an exiled organization that advocates for the overthrow of the Iranian government. The charges have been criticized by opposition organizations in Iran and rights groups worldwide. Shortly before the commencement of the trial, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized the proceedings [press release], calling on the Iranian government to:
[I]mmediately release Shiva Nazar Ahari and drop any charges brought against her solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association. This trial seems to be more about the Iranian security forces seeking to justify the continuation of the clampdown on dissent and human rights defenders than about a genuine process towards obtaining justice. Not granting Shiva Nazar Ahari regular access to her lawyer, or her family, not only dramatically increases the potential for her to be exposed to torture and other ill-treatment, but has also undermined the integrity and fairness of the whole trial.
Ahari was first arrested following the June 2009 presidential elections, which resulted in widespread charges of fraud and nationwide protests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], this is the first time that a journalist has been charged with a capital crime in Iran.

In May, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profiles] of Iran in a report listing 40 "Predators of Press Freedom" [JURIST report] throughout the world. Pyrabasy previously presided over the trial of Mohammad Nourizad, a prominent Iranian journalist and filmmaker, who was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years [JURIST report] in prison and 50 lashes for his activities after the 2009 elections. Nourizad was sentenced for "distributing propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and desecrating the image of thirty years of the Islamic establishment," and insulting the supreme leader, the president, the head of the judiciary and Ayatollah Elmolhoda of the Assembly of Experts. In December, Iranian economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz was sentenced to a nine-year jail term [JURIST report] for possessing classified information and participating in protests following the 2009 elections. Thousands were arrested during the protests following the contested election.




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France protesters rally against Sarkozy security measures
Sarah Paulsworth on September 4, 2010 3:35 PM ET

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[JURIST] Over 100,000 people in 130 cities across France protested Saturday against the security policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French]. The protesters called the expulsion of illegal Roma [JURIST report] and a recent bid to ban the burqa [JURIST report], xenophobic [Le Monde report, in French] and said they make minority groups scapegoats for France's crime problems. The League of Human Rights [advocacy website, in French] released a statement [text, in French] about the protests, saying "Tens of thousands of demonstrators have expressed their refusal of a politics of fear, xenophobia and divisions they cause. The protesters wanted to give a halt to these dangerous tendencies of democracy, for civil peace and the international reputation of France." In a contrasting official statement [text, in French] the head of France's Ministry of Interior [official website, in French] Brice Hortefeux [official profile, in French] called the protests a disappointment for organizers because of low turnout. He added:
Such an eclectic event, which gathered a mosaic of traditional parties, and also small groups of leftists and anarchists, does not reflect policy. Under the pretext of wanting to defend the rights of man, it, in fact, embraces laxity. [...] Under the authority of the President of the Republic, I will continue to work aggressively to roll back all forms of crime and defending the rights of victims, without stigmatizing any community whatsoever.
In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [official website] unveiled a review [press release; JURIST report] of France's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [text]. The report raised questions about draft legislation that would strip naturalized citizens of citizenship for committing certain crimes and a recent decision to dismantle 300 unauthorized Roma encampments. The UN report was revealed 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]. In the same month, the French National Assembly [official website, in French] approved a bill that making it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa or other full face veils in public. Under the legislation, which still needs approval by the French Senate to become law, women who wear the veil would be required by police to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The legislation would also criminalize forcing a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555.





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Canada to spend $105 million on prison expansions in anticipation of incarceration boom
Sarah Paulsworth on September 4, 2010 1:22 PM ET

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[JURIST] Canada has allocated $105 million to build new prison cells at four existing prisons in anticipation of a drastic increase in prisoners over the next several years. The Canadian government's plan [National Post report] envisages the creation of 2,700 new spaces at the prisons within three years, in response to an expected 25 percent increase in the number of people incarcerated. According to a Correctional Service of Canada [official website] spokeswoman, the major catalyst [Ottawa Sun report] for the prisoner influx is the Truth in Sentencing Act [materials], which went into force in February 2010. The act amended Canada's Criminal Code [text; PDF], limiting the credit a judge may allow for any time spent in pre-sentencing custody in order to reduce the punishment to be imposed at sentencing.

Prison overcrowding was a problem in Canada even prior to adoption of the Truth in Sentencing Act. In June 2009 Canadian federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers [official profile] reported that the country's prison system was at full capacity [transcript, DOC; JURIST report] and was unable to handle many new prisoners without expanding. Overcrowded prisons have become a problem in other countries as well. In the US, federal judges tentatively ruled [JURIST report] in February that California must reduce its prison population to relieve overcrowding that resulted in inadequate mental and physical health care for inmates. The judges found that a release order was the only appropriate remedy [18 USC § 3626] for the unconstitutional prison conditions. In October, an Arizona federal court ruled [JURIST report] that overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in Maricopa County correctional facilities violated the inmates' constitutional rights, ordering the country sheriff to take appropriate steps to resolve the conditions. In 2007, the UK Ministry of Justice gave authority [JURIST report] to prison governors to grant early release to inmates to relieve overcrowded prisons throughout England and Wales.




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Hamdan appeal to be heard by full US military commissions review court
Sarah Paulsworth on September 4, 2010 11:31 AM ET

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[JURIST] The US Court of Military Commission Review [official website] will hear en banc an appeal by former Osama Bin Laden [JURIST news archive] driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] according to media reports. The decision was revealed late Friday in a one-page order [Miami Herald report] given to attorneys working on Hamdan's case. Hamdan was convicted [JURIST report] in August 2008 of providing material support for terrorism [charge sheet, PDF] and sentenced to 66 months of imprisonment, but given credit for 60 months he already spent in US custody. Hamdan's lawyers argue that at the time Hamdan was arrested in 2001, providing material support for terrorism was not a criminal act.

Hamdan was released [JURIST report] to his native country Yemen in November 2008 to serve the last month of his prison sentence and is now living freely there. His release alleviated concerns that arose when government lawyers said he could be held indefinitely [JURIST report]. In October 2008, a US military judge denied [ruling, PDF; JURIST report] a request [motion, PDF] by prosecutors that he reconsider a decision that reduced Hamdan's sentence [JURIST report] from five-and-a-half years to six months because of credit for time already served. Hamdan was initially taken into custody in 2001; in 2006 he successfully challenged President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the commission system as initially construed violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [DOD materials], which established the current military commissions system.




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France appeals court upholds judgment against eBay but reduces damages
Zach Zagger on September 3, 2010 4:08 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Paris Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a 2008 judgment against the online auction house eBay [corporate website] for its role in the sale of counterfeit goods but significantly reduced the amount of damages eBay has to pay. The appeals court cut the damages [AP report] to be paid to French luxury goods giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) [corporate website] from 38 million euros (USD $49 million) to 5.7 million euros (USD $7.3 million). The original judgment against eBay [JURIST report] found that the website failed to prevent the sale of counterfeit luxury goods that infringed on registered designs. It established [press release] that in France, eBay is liable for the sale of counterfeit goods or goods that are selected for special distribution. The court dismissed eBay's claim that it was just a mere host for selling services. Both sides are claiming the appeals court ruling a victory. LVMH is pleased that the judgment was not overturned, while eBay is claiming it as a win for it and the French consumers since the damages were so drastically reduced.

US court rulings in online copyright infringement cases have been in stark contrast to those in Europe. 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. In a separate case by LVHM against eBay in February, the Paris District Court [official website, in French] ordered [JURIST report] eBay to pay LVHM 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.




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Canada G-20 protesters file class action suit against AG and Toronto police
Brian Jackson on September 3, 2010 1:19 PM ET

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[JURIST] Two individuals detained during the Group of 20 (G-20) [official website] summit in Toronto in July filed a class action suit [statement of claim, PDF] on Thursday on behalf of 1,150 individuals detained during the summit. The individuals, Miranda McQuade and Mike Barber, named three defendants in the suit, the Canadian Attorney General, the Toronto Police Services Board and the Regional Municaplity of Peel Police Services Board [official websites]. The plaintiffs claim that law enforcement committed numerous intentional torts against those detained between June 25 and June 30, including:
abuse of power, abuse of process, false arrest, false imprisonment, infliction of mental suffering, invasion of privacy and abuse of public office. Alternatively, [Plaintiffs allege] that the defendants were negligent in the enactment of and execution of policies, procedures, directives and orders relating to the G20.
The plaintiffs listed numerous reasons for bringing the suit, including protection of individuals in Canada from violation of their rights as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [materials] and deterrence of similar future actions by the police. The plaintiffs seek $100 million in damages, plus an additional $15 million in punitive damages, but some detainees do not believe that monetary damages [Toronto Sun report] will prevent the same actions from happening in the future. None of the defendants has released an official statement regarding the claims.

Backlash from the G-20 meeting in Toronto began soon after the conclusion of summit. In early July, protesters in Toronto took to the streets and demanded an investigation [JURIST report] into police conduct during the meeting. One week before that July protest, the Ontario Ombudsman announced an investigation [JURIST report] into a local regulation [O regulation 233/10 text] that expanded the scope of police powers during the summit. That investigation is currently ongoing. Soon after the conclusion of the summit, in late June, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called for an inquiry [JURIST report] into police conduct and treatment of protesters.




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DOJ brings charges in largest US human trafficking case
Matt Glenn on September 3, 2010 1:05 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Thursday that a Hawaii grand jury has indicted six people on human trafficking charges [press release]. The defendants allegedly enticed approximately 400 Thai nationals to come to the US by falsely promising them job opportunities and then forcing them to work at farms in Washington and Hawaii by threatening economic harm. According to the indictment, the six people, three of whom work for Global Horizons Manpower, charged the Thai nationals high recruitment fees [Honolulu Star-Advertiser report], which the Thai nationals paid by taking out loans secured by their house or land. The defendants told the Thai nationals that if they refused to work on the farms, they would be sent back to Thailand where they would be unable to repay the loans and risk having their houses and land foreclosed on. Prosecutors also claim that some workers were forced to pay $3,750 to keep their jobs. Two defendants were arrested [AP report] Thursday, two are expected to turn themselves in soon and two remain at large, presumably in Thailand. According to the DOJ, this will be the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the US. The defendants face maximum prison sentences ranging from five to 70 years.

In June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] reported that human trafficking is a growing problem in Europe [JURIST report]. Earlier in June, the UNODC issued a report on the globalization of organized crime, which addressed, among other things, the global economic impact of human trafficking [JURIST report]. Also in June, the US State Department [official website] issued its annual report on human trafficking conditions [JURIST report] across the globe, which found the US "has a serious problem with human trafficking, both for labor and commercial sexual exploitation."




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California appeals court refuses to order state appeal of same-sex marriage ruling
Matt Glenn on September 3, 2010 12:15 PM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for California's 3rd District Court of Appeal [official website] ruled [case summary; San Francisco Chronicle report] Wednesday that neither Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Attorney General Jerry Brown [official profiles] is required to appeal last month's federal district court decision [JURIST report] finding California's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] unconstitutional. Supporters of Proposition 8 [text, JURIST news archive], which banned same-sex marriage in California, had hoped the state would appeal the decision since it is not clear that the supporters have standing [LAT op-ed] to the challenge the decision. Writing for the Pacific Justice Institute [advocacy website], which filed the suit attempting to force a state appeal, attorney Kevin Snider stated [blog post]:
The duty to defend peacefully enacted laws is at its zenith when the voters have amended their own constitution. Should these elected members of the executive branch refuse to defend a constitutional amendment enacted in this manner, the Governor and the Attorney General will have seized an extraconstitutional power by creating what is tantamount to a constructive veto.
Snider said the Pacific Justice Institute will appeal Wednesday's ruling. Schwarzenegger and Brown have both indicated that they will not cause the state to appeal the decision overturning Proposition 8 unless ordered to do so by a judge.

Last month, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] issued a stay [JURIST report] of Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Proposition 8 pending appeal. Earlier last month, Walker held that the same-sex marriage ban violated the guarantees of due process and equal protection under the US Constitution, but immediately stayed the ruling. Schwarzenegger, Brown and others filed motions [JURIST report] opposing the stay request, which led to Walker's refusal to issue a stay pending appeal. Schwarzenegger and Brown were originally defendants in the lawsuit against Proposition 8, and their refusal to oppose the stay request left defendant-intervenors Protect Marriage [advocacy website] and other groups to defend the law. The remaining defendant-intervenors have indicated they will, if necessary, appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.




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Equatorial Guinea president says coup plotters had fair trial
Megan McKee on September 3, 2010 10:28 AM ET

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[JURIST] Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang said Friday that last month's trial of four men sentenced to death for a 2009 attack on the presidential palace was fair. Obiang stated that the country's laws were respected, and procedures guaranteeing a legal, open and fair trial [AFP report], including the guarantee of defense counsel, were followed. Jose Abeso Nsue, Manuel Ndong Anseme, Alipio Ndong Asumu and Jacinto Micha Obiang, all government employees, were executed immediately after being convicted by a military court in Malabo on August 21. Both former colonial power Spain, and the US, condemned the executions.

Last week, the government of Equatorial Guinea defended [JURIST report] the execution of the four men. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] had condemned the executions [press release], claiming that the four men were detained in Black Beach prison in Malabo where they were tortured into giving false confessions. Denouncing the government's judicial procedures, AI reported that these men were convicted after an unfair trial, sentenced to death and executed without having an opportunity to appeal their sentence. AI urged Equatorial Guinea to put an end to the abductions, torture and executions it carries out in the name of justice. The government stands by the conviction [JURIST report] of the four former government officials, stating that they received a fair and open trial before a military tribunal and were provided with counsel.




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ICTY judges warn Karadzic trial likely to continue until 2014
Megan McKee on September 3, 2010 9:24 AM ET

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[JURIST] Judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] warned Friday that the genocide trial of Radovan Karadzic [case materials; JURIST news archive] may take another four years—two years longer than expected. As the UN Security Council [official website] is urging the ICTY to close its doors, Friday's hearing [AP report] was called to discuss methods to streamline what has become the tribunal's lengthiest and most complex case. To speed things up, the prosecution urged the judges to allow prosecutors to enter more evidence directly to judges in writing, while the defense called for charges relating to the ethnic cleansing of some 20 Bosnian municipalities that occurred early in the war to be dropped. No immediate decisions were made on how to increase the efficiency of the case.

In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] said that the ICTY will continue to operate [JURIST report] beyond its originally planned end date in part to apprehend the two indictees still at large—former Bosnian Serb Commander Ratko Mladic [case materials; JURIST news archive] and former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic [case materials]—who both face a significant number of charges. In May, the ICTY amended the indictment of Mladic in order to help speed up the court proceedings once he is captured. In July, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution [press release] extending the terms of office for the judges of the ICTY. Resolution 1931 [text] was welcomed by the ICTY, which has been struggling with staff retention, causing large setbacks in the tribunal's trial schedule. The latest completion strategy [JURIST report] report estimates that all first instance trials will be completed by mid-2012 with the exception of Karadzic. Most appellate work is scheduled to be completed by early 2014.




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UN-sponsored anti-corruption agency opens in Austria
Daniel Makosky on September 3, 2010 8:18 AM ET

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[JURIST] The International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), a joint venture undertaken by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) [official websites], Austria and others, opened its doors [press release] on Thursday. Based in Laxenburg, Austria, the school is designed to educate public and private entities on the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) [materials] and train them in its applications. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] remarked [text]:
Across the world, intolerance of corruption is growing. The establishment of this Academy responds not only to this increasing sense of outrage and injustice, but also to an urgent need to train the experts we need to conquer this global menace. The Academy will build a culture of integrity. It will nurture a new generation of leaders in the public and private sectors - a global network of talented, like-minded professionals. To date, anti-corruption training has lacked specialization. It will lead to more effective implementation of the Convention's measures on prevention, law enforcement, asset recovery and international cooperation.
The academy will cater to a wide range of professions involved in combating corruption, including law enforcement personnel, lawyers and judges It is set to become fully operational next year, though several courses are already in progress.

A 2007 report [text, PDF] authored by the UNODC and the World Bank [official website] placed corruption-related losses to developing nations between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion annually. The UNCAC became effective in 2005 after being adopted by the UN General Assembly [official website] two years earlier. The concept was originally recognized in the Resolution 55/61 Annex [text, PDF] as a means by which to counter corruption separate from organized crime.




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Rights group urges Bahrain to investigate torture allegations
Megan McKee on September 2, 2010 3:23 PM ET

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called Wednesday on Bahraini authorities to make a prompt investigation into torture allegations [press release] made by four Shia activists who have been detained for more than two weeks. On August 27, after 15 days of solitary confinement, Abd al-Jalil al-Singace, one of the detained men, was brought for formal questioning and arraignment by Attorney General Ali Fadhul al-Buainain. Al-Singace told al-Buainain he had been handcuffed and blindfolded the entire time, beaten on his fingers with a hard instrument, had his ears and nipples pulled and twisted with tongs and been subjected to general harsh treatment. The following day, the three remaining detainees intimated similar treatment. Deputy Middle East director at HRW said:
Bahraini authorities should immediately investigate these allegations of torture and guarantee the physical and psychological well-being of the four men. The attorney general has a legal obligation to throw out any coerced confessions and any evidence obtained by ill-treatment, including information that led to the men's indictments.
Prosecutors have charged the four men with several national security crimes and ordered another 60 days of detention.

In early 2010, HRW reported that the government of Bahrain had reverted to using torture [report text] to gain confessions from detainees, after a decade of reform banning such practices. HRW conducted interviews with 20 former detainees who claimed that they had suffered torture [JURIST report] and ill-treatment as early as 2007. The reversion appears to have coincided with the rising political tension between Shia Muslims and the Sunni-run government. The report also claimed that prosecutors have failed to respond appropriately by not launching formal investigations and administering medical examinations. The detainees' allegations were strengthened when a Bahraini court acquitted all defendants on all charges on the basis of medical reports that suggested the defendants had been physically coerced into confessing.




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Prosecutors urge continued support of international tribunals
Hillary Stemple on September 2, 2010 1:39 PM ET

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[JURIST] Current and former international prosecutors on Tuesday signed the fourth Chautauqua Declaration [text, PDF] praising recent advances in international law and urging countries to continue supporting the international courts in order to maintain the spirit of the Nuremburg Principles [text]. The prosecutors, who have worked with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official websites], as well as the International Military Tribunals, called for continued support and funding of the tribunals and courts as they continue working to maintain the rule of law. They urged countries to fulfill their obligations under international law by investigating and prosecuting, or transferring to the appropriate international court, suspects who violate international criminal law, including sitting heads of state. Countries were also encouraged to refrain from the use of military force and to settle disputes in accordance with the UN Charter [materials]. The prosecutors noted the fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive] and the continuing need for accountability. They also recognized the first conviction of an ex-Khmer Rouge leader [JURIST report], which was announced by the ECCC in July. Additionally, the prosecutors applauded the ICC's adoption of an amendment [press release; JURIST report] to the Rome Statute [text, PDF] in June, which included a definition for the crime of aggression and created jurisdictional conditions for prosecution.

Under the ICC's new amendment, the UN Security Council [official website] will serve as the primary body in determining whether a crime of aggression has occurred. If the Security Council fails to make a determination, the ICC prosecutor is authorized to commence an investigation on his own initiative or upon a request from an ICC state party. The Security Council can halt an investigation of a crime of aggression at any time through a resolution, but this resolution must be reinstated every 12 months. Non-state parties do not fall under ICC jurisdiction when the prosecutor initiates the investigation, and state parties can exempt themselves from jurisdiction over the crime of aggression by submitting a declaration of non-acceptance to the court. These exemptions, however, do not apply when the Security Council has determined that a crime of aggression has occurred. ICC nations were initially unable to reach a consensus [JURIST report] on the adoption of the crime of aggression, but compromise was reached as the UN Review Conference of the Rome Statute [materials] came to a close in Kampala, Uganda.




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UN delays release of controversial DRC 'genocide report'
Andrea Bottorff on September 2, 2010 11:14 AM ET

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[JURIST] The UN announced Thursday that it will delay the release of a report [UN News Centre report] that accuses Rwandan forces of committing acts of genocide in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] during the years following the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. According to a statement by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], the report will be released on October 1 to allow time for commentary opposing the alleged findings. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said that she is willing to include such comments in the published report. The Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) [official website] has condemned the report, a draft of which was originally leaked [Le Monde report, in French] last month, and has threatened to withdraw its peacekeeping forces from UN operations [AP report] if the report is made public. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Thursday urged Rwanda to continue its peacekeeping efforts [AFP report] in Sudan in spite of its negative views of the report.

The forthcoming report claims that troops from Rwanda [JURIST news archive] and allied rebels committed crimes in the DRC that could be classified as genocide if proven by the appropriate court. Documenting the extreme violence in the DRC from 1993-2003, the report alleges that tens of thousands of Hutus were killed by Rwandan troops [JURIST report] during the Congo civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Following the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 800,000 primarily Tutsi people were killed in a span of 100 days, Hutu militias and civilians fled to neighboring Congo, then known as Zaire. According to the New York Times, the report documents systematic killings [NYT report] by the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army with the assistance of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) rebel movement, which may legally amount to genocide. While Rwanda and the DRC have continually asserted that Hutu militias were attacked following the 1994 genocide, the report alleges that civilian Congolese Hutus were also the target of violence and killings. Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karagurama [official website] has rejected the report [BBC report], saying that it had no basis.




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Thailand court convicts 'yellow shirts' of defaming ex-PM
Jay Carmella on September 2, 2010 9:10 AM ET

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[JURIST] A criminal court in Thailand on Thursday convicted two members of the pro-government People's Alliance for Democracy Network [BBC backgrounder], known as "yellow shirts," of defaming former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Yellow shirt movement founder and Thai media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul and his former television co-host Sarocha Pornudomsak were convicted [AFP report] of defaming Thaksin during their television show by accusing him of insulting the monarchy. The two were sentenced [Thai News Agency report] to six months in prison and ordered to pay fines of 20,000 baht (USD $640). The court suspended the sentence for two years, during which time both Sondi and Sarocha will be on probation. Thaksin filed the suit [JURIST report] against Sondhi and several others for their claims that he tried to undermine the monarchy.

Thaksin, who is currently living in exile, has faced a variety of legal issues since the 2006 coup [JURIST report] that removed him from power. Last month, the Supreme Court of Thailand [GlobaLex backgrounder] denied his appeal [JURIST report] contesting the seizure of his assets. Thaksin filed the appeal in March after the Constitutional Court ordered that 46.4 billion baht (USD $1.4 billion) of his fortune be seized [JURIST reports] in February. In July, the criminal division of Supreme Court issued a new arrest warrant [JURIST report] against him. Also in July, Thai police recommended terrorism charges [DPA report] against Thaksin and 24 others for their alleged 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," who protested against Thailand's current government and called for elections. The protests ended in May after protesters surrendered to police [JURIST report].




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Federal judge rules against drilling moratorium
Erin Bock on September 2, 2010 8:03 AM ET

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Wednesday denied [order, PDF] the government's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services [corporate website] and several other drilling companies challenging the government's latest moratorium on offshore drilling. The moratorium directive was issued on July 12 [JURIST report] by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [official website] after the district court and US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] granted an injunction against the government's initial directive issued on May 28. The drilling companies maintain that the latest moratorium is substantially the same as the previous one and that it would cause the same financial injury to the industry as the first moratorium. The government argued that the latest lawsuit was moot because the secretary had voluntarily withdrawn the initial directive and the latest moratorium was based on additional information. The initial moratorium banned drilling below 500 feet for six months until November 30, 2010, while the latest moratorium applies to all rigs that use blowout preventers on floating facilities until the same date. Judge Martin Feldman found that there were "no substantial changes" between the initial directive and the July 12 directive, the latest directive was "litigation posturing," the new moratorium did nothing to amend or prevent the wrongs found in the first moratorium, and that the wrongful behavior alleged in the first directive could be reasonably expected to occur as a result of the July 12 moratorium.

Feldman refused to reinstate the moratorium [JURIST report] last month at the request of advocacy groups such as the Defenders of Wildlife [advocacy website], which also argued that the judge should be disqualified from the case because he owned stock in several oil and drilling companies. Feldman refused to recuse himself [JURIST report]. Earlier in July, 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 in issuing the injunction. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a result of an oil well blowout that caused an explosion 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. More than 120 million gallons of oil leaked from the rig's broken pipe causing the spill to surpass the Exxon Valdez [JURIST news archive] as the worst oil spill in US history.




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DOJ files criminal charges against Pakistan Taliban leader
Daniel Richey on September 1, 2010 3:31 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Wednesday that it has charged [complaint, PDF] Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimulla Mehsud [NYT profile] in connection with the December 30 attack [WP backgrounder] on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] Afghan outpost Camp Chapman that left nine people dead. Mehsud identifies himself as the head of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) [CTC Sentinel Backgrounder], a Pakistan-based terrorist cell affiliated with the Afghan Taliban. The filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], charges Mehsud with conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against US citizens abroad. According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Mehsud met with Jordanian physician Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi in Afghanistan shortly before al-Balawi entered Camp Chapman with explosives hidden in his clothing and detonated them, killing nine people, including seven CIA agents. Following the attack, TTP released a video of Mehsud and al-Balawi claiming responsibility for the attack and explaining their motives: "We arranged this attack to let the Americans understand that belief of Allah, the iman [faith] that we hold, the taqwa [piety] that we strive for cannot be exchanged for all the wealth in the world." The men also said that the attack was executed as revenge for the death of former TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud [BBC profile], who was killed [Guardian report] by a CIA air strike last August.

Also Wednesday, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] announced that it has declared the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) [press release] under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) [materials]. "Today's actions put the TTP and its sympathizers on notice that the United States will not tolerate support of this organization," said DOS Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin. "TTP's destabilizing effect in Pakistan's tribal areas has resulted in innumerable civilian deaths and considerable property losses." The DOS also announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Mehsud.

The DOJ says Hakimullah Mehsud is currently "a fugitive believed to be residing in the [Federally Administered Tribal Area] (FATA)" in the southern region of Pakistan. However, reports emerged in January suggesting that he had died [NYT report] from wounds sustained during a January 14 drone attack in the tribal region. Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly assumed leadership [BBC report] of the TTP after Baitullah's death. TTP has been implicated in or claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist acts, including multiple assaults on NATO supply lines in the FATA, a 2009 attack on a police station in the Bannu province and the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [JURIST report], for which Baitullah Mehsud was charged [JURIST report] in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court. According to the DOJ, the TTP is believed to have coordinated most of their efforts with other terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.




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