The authors of these abusive acts, which constitute flagrant violations of human rights, will not go unpunished. UNOCI reserves the right to take appropriate measures to prevent such acts in the future, in compliance with our mandate to protect the civilian population.
[JURIST] A judge for Wisconsin's Dane County Circuit Court [official website] on Friday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state's new Budget Repair Bill [Senate Bill 11 text, PDF]. Judge Maryann Sumi's order blocked the law from being published [NYT report], one of the procedural steps towards enacting it. The lawsuit [complaint, PDF] over the bill alleges that Republican legislators did not follow the state's open meetings law [text], a rule requiring 24 hours notice—or two hours if there is an emergency—before a public meeting. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne [official website] filed the complaint [JURIST report] on Tuesday in an attempt to invalidate the law, which strips public unions of the vast majority of their collective bargaining right. A full hearing of the suit will occur on March 29, but nothing in the restraining order blocks Republicans from passing the bill again with the appropriate notice.
Ozanne is the second public official to mount a legal challenge to the bill, following a similar suit filed last week [complaint, PDF] by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk [official profile]. Falk's suit came immediately after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] signed the bill into law last week [JURIST report]. The provisions limiting bargaining rights incensed unions and their supporters, sparking protests which have been ongoing since February 15, when SB 11 was introduced to address the state's $3.6 billion deficit. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin judge ruled that the state capitol building must remain open [JURIST report] to the public during business hours, despite an attempt to close the building to protesters who had occupied it as part of a protest against the proposed restrictions on collective bargaining. The Wisconsin State Employees Union Council 24 [advocacy website] filed the petition earlier in the day in reaction to Walker ordering the capitol building closed and removing protesters.
[JURIST] US immigration enforcement agencies are overly reliant on a flawed detention system, according to a report [PDF] released Thursday by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACH) [official website]. The IACH investigated six immigrant detention centers based throughout Arizona and Texas. The report expresses concern over increased use of detention by the US government, citing a doubling in detention of non-citizens by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It criticizes the US government for viewing detention as a necessity and not as an exception in its enforcement. IACH also found the average 30 day detentions troubling, arguing that it is likely to increase as backlogs of immigration cases increase. The report also criticizes the lack of a genuine civil detention system and use of disproportionately restrictive penal and punitive measures during the detention. IACH also disapproved of contractors handling the management and personal care of immigration detainees and the lack of oversight from the ICE over the private contractors. The lack of representation for the immigrant detainees was particularly troubling for the IACH:
The IACHR observes the significant disparity in access to legal representation for detained immigrants. According to government statistics, in FY2008 approximately 40% of non-detained immigrants were represented in their immigration proceedings, whereas just 16% of detained immigrants were represented by counsel. The lack of legal counsel, the Inter-American Commission observes, has a profound impact on the chances of relief. The Constitution Project reports that just 3% of detained, unrepresented asylum seekers were granted relief.
IACHR identified the lack of access to pro-bono representation in the rural immigration detention locations, lack of interest from private attorneys and difficulty in gathering evidence needed for legal proceedings as factors that contributed to the lack of legal representation for immigrant detainees. The report advocates the reduction of the use of expedited removal, earlier access to counsel and prohibitions against moving detainees to where it would be easier obtain orders of removal.
Absent comprehensive reform at the federal level, illegal immigration continues to be a concern for local governments as well. On Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law. Also this week, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed into law [press release] a package of bills [JURIST report] aimed at both reforming the state's immigration laws and challenging the federal government to take action for reform nationally. One of the four bills, H.B. 497 [materials], is an enforcement law similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law, and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor. The US Department of Justice [official website] in July filed suit [JURIST report] against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] seeking to permanently enjoin the state's immigration law. The complaint states that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling.
[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official websites] warned Libyan government officials on Friday that war crimes prosecution could result for any indiscriminate attacks [video] against civilians in Benghazi. Last week, the UN was called upon to impose a no-fly zone [JURIST report] over Libya in response to reports that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had been using aircraft attacks to combat civilian protesting. Prior to Thursday's UN vote authorizing the resolution, Gaddafi threatened an imminent attack on Benghazi [NYT report]. Moreno-Ocampo's warning follows an issuance of an ultimatum by Libyan government officials that all Benghazi citizens must leave the targeted areas which Libya plans to attack. According to Moreno-Ocampo, "the issuance of such a warning does not provide an excuse to attack civilians. ... The government can control rebellion but cannot attack civilians." Following Moreno-Ocampo's statement, the Libyan government declared a ceasefire to halt international intervention [AP report]. However, according to reports, attacks have reportedly not stopped, and Moreno-Ocampo maintains that there will be no impunity for attacks on civilians.
Earlier this month, the ICC launched a probe to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] by the Libyan government. Moreno-Ocampo specifically identified Gaddafi, his sons and his political allies as targets of the investigation and warned Libyan officials that complicity in such abuses would result in prosecution. Additionally, the UN appointed a team of special prosecutors [JURIST report] to investigate allegations that Gaddafi ordered forces to torture and abduct opponents. Gaddafi is accused of ordering hospital patients' executions, firing on crowds of protesters and using other extreme tactics against his opponents. The UN General Assembly has voted to suspend Libya [JURIST report] from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in response to the violent suppression of peaceful protesters by forces loyal to Gaddafi. The ICC has also said that itwill not grant immunity [JURIST report] to any person perpetrating crimes against humanity in Libya.
[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; press release] Friday that the display of the crucifix in public schools in Italy does not violate Article 9 or Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Article 9 is a right to freedom of religion, while Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 guarantees the right to an education in conformity with personal religious convictions. The parties challenging the display of the crucifix had argued that the religious objects interfered with the right to freedom of thought and that the crucifixes indicated that the government had a preference for a particular religion. The Italian government had argued that the presence of crucifixes was justified based upon tradition and that "beyond its religious meaning, the crucifix symbolized the principles and values which formed the foundation of democracy and western civilization." The court emphasized that member states have a "responsibility for ensuring, neutrally and impartially, the exercise of various religions, faiths and beliefs" in order to maintain religious tolerance and public order. The court ultimately ruled, however, that there was no evidence that the presence of crucifixes would negatively impact school children, and that the lack of evidence meant that no reasonable conclusions could be drawn as to the effect of the crucifixes on children whose convictions are still developing. If the ECHR found that the presence of the crucifix in public classrooms violated the Convention on Human Rights, the ruling would have applied to all 27 EU member states.
The court's ruling overturned a previous decision [JURIST report] in Lautsi v. Italy, which ordered the Italian government to remove crucifixes from state-run schools. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi responded to the initial ban by stating that Italy was not bound [JURIST report] by the ECHR's decision and that he found the decision to be disrespectful [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian]. Berlusconi also indicated at that time that, even if the government's appeal of the decision failed, the crucifixes would not be removed. The Greek Orthodox church also condemned [JURIST report] the ECHR's 2009 decision, urging European citizens to unite in protest of the decision. The Church feared that the Greek arm of human rights group Helsinki Monitor [advocacy website] would succeed in using the ruling to challenge the presence of religious icons in public settings in Greece.
[JURIST] The Obama administration on Thursday filed a brief [PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] contesting a request by plaintiff states to have the health care reform law [HR 3590 materials; JURIST news archive] appeal heard by an en banc court. The states had originally requested en banc review, along with an altered briefing schedule [SCOTUSblog report], on March 10. In its brief, the government asserted that initial en banc review is reserved for "extraordinary cases", where "panel review would be futile in the face of binding circuit precedent," and no such precedent exists in this area. The government also pointed to the fact that the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has denied a petition [order, PDF] for an initial en banc hearing of an appeal on the health care law. The briefing schedule was also a target of the government's brief, as Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys stated:
Nor is it apparent that the briefing schedule would provide adequate time for the Court to review the district court's opinions and the briefs submitted by the parties and their amici. Under the Court's order, briefing will conclude on May 25, which would give the full Court only two weeks before the June 6 en banc sitting to consider an appeal that, in plaintiffs' view, "is unprecedented in its scope, scale, and importance."
While the brief detailed the reasons why initial en banc review is unwarranted, in concluded by stating that the government is prepared to proceed no matter the court's decision.
Last week, the Eleventh Circuit granted [JURIST report] the Obama administration's motion for an expedited appeal, but it had not addressed the states' motion for the appeal to be heard en banc. Last month, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli filed a petition for a writ of certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court [JURIST news archive] asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of the law on an expedited basis, before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rules on the issue, but the Obama administration opposes the petition [JURIST report]. In January, a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a provision of the health care reform law. In October, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the law is constitutional [JURIST report] under the Commerce Clause as it addresses the economic effects of health care decisions, and that it does not represent an unconstitutional direct tax.
[JURIST] General Counsel for the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] on Thursday urged Congress to allow civilian trials [hearing video] of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees, in addition to military commissions. At a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee [official website], General Counsel Jeh Johnson [official profile] called for Congress to explore all trial possibilities for the detainees, including both military panels and civilian trials permitted under Article 3 [text] of the US Constitution. Johnson's comments followed the introduction of extensive detainee legislation [ASC news release] last week that could prevent further civilian trials for Guantanamo prisoners. Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) [official website] introduced the proposed Detainee Security Act of 2011 [text, PDF], which would not allow detainees who are under review for continued detention to have a lawyer, would permit ongoing detention without trial and would prohibit detainees from being transferred or tried within the US.
Last week, US President Barack Obama [official website] issued an executive order [text; fact sheet] allowing military commissions [JURIST news archive] for Guantanamo detainees to resume [JURIST report]. New charges in the military commission system had been suspended since shortly after Obama took office in 2009. The order also established a procedure for establishing a review process for detainees who have not been charged, convicted or designated for transfer. Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] used the death of a Guantanamo detainee to highlight what it claims are problems with the detention system [JURIST report] currently used by the US for dealing with suspected terrorists. The detainee, Awal Gul, who had been at the Guantanamo Bay detention center since October 2002 and was suspected of having aided the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan [DOD press release, PDF], died of an apparent heart attack after he had completed some aerobic exercises.
[JURIST] The Oklahoma State Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved [press release] a bill similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. Senate Bill 908 [materials, PDF], passed by a 29-15 majority vote, gives state and local authorities to enforce any federal regulation or law concerning immigration. The proposed bill delegates police officers the authority to question the citizenship status of any person lawfully stopped for a traffic violation and arrest them without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is in the country illegally. The bill also authorizes police officers to seize any property, including vehicles and personal property, used to harbor or transport illegal immigrants into the US. Some Senate members had disagreed over the controversial bill, fearing it would be deemed unconstitutional [KOCO report]. Senator Ralph Shortey (R) [official profile] praised the approval:
Today's vote sends a message to the people of Oklahoma that we have listened to their concerns and acted accordingly. I authored this proposal because I care about the people of my district and have witnessed firsthand the manner in which illegal immigration can limit economic development, increase crime rates and tear families apart. Passage of this legislation is a strong step toward addressing the issue and a victory for Oklahoma.
The bill will now move to the Oklahoma House [official website] for a vote.
Oklahoma is one of several states that have developed legislation in the past year reflecting the controversial Arizona immigration law. This week, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed into law [press release] a package of bills [JURIST report] aimed at both reforming the state's immigration laws and challenging the federal government to take action for reform nationally. One of the four bills, H.B. 497 [materials], is an enforcement law similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law, and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor. The US Department of Justice [official website] in July filed suit [JURIST report] against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] seeking to permanently enjoin the state's immigration law. The complaint states that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling.
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