At sentencing, Mubarak and his family could face the death penalty. Mubarak is currently being held at a hospital [Al Arabiya report] in Tora Prison, Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt's public prosecutor has decided not to transfer Mubarak yet, and conceded he may not be well enough to stand trial in August. Earlier this week, Mubarak was fined USD $90 million [JURIST report] for cutting off the nation's Internet access in January.
Last week, Amnesty International reported that at least 840 people were killed [JURIST report], and more than 6,000 were injured, during the Egyptian protests. Earlier this month, an Egyptian criminal court convicted [JURIST report] the country's former tourism minister, Zoheir Garranah, for corruption and sentenced him to five years in prison. In April, Egyptian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] former prime minister Ahmed Nazif, former finance minister Yousef Boutros and former interior minister Habib el Adly with corruption. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused the former president [JURIST report] and the country's police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations. The joint commission submitted their report to Egypt's top prosecutor for further investigation. The Supreme Military Council of Egypt, which assumed power after Mubarak's resignation, instructed Egypt's top prosecutor to investigate the death of protesters [RIA Novosti report] during the three weeks of demonstrations in the country.
Why is it so important for us to prosecute Ratko Mladic? The answer to this question lies in his position of power and influence during the war. It also lies in the nature and extent of the atrocities committed. Ratko Mladic was a Colonel General and Commander of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army. He was the most powerful military figure in Bosnia during the war. He is charged with crimes that shocked the conscience of the international community. These crimes symbolize the brutality of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Brammertz also emphasized the importance of capturing the final at-large Serbian war criminal, Goran Hadzic [ICTY case materials]. Mladic will face the tribunal for the first time Friday at 10:00 AM [press release].
Mladic lost his final appeal in Serbia to avoid extradition [JURIST reports], and was transported to the Hague late Tuesday night. Mladic faces charges [amended indictment, PDF] of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages. He is most infamous for ordering the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the massacre of Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] during the Bosnian civil war.
[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] Wednesday testified [text, PDF] before the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) [official website] calling for the retroactive application of a new law bringing the sentences for crack cocaine more in line for those of powder cocaine. The USSC is considering retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act [S 1789 materials] signed into law [JURIST report] by President Barack Obama last year. Holder said that the Act "not only reduced the inappropriate 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses ... it also strengthens the hand of law enforcement and includes tough new criminal penalties to mitigate the risks posed by our nation's most serious, and most destructive, drug traffickers and violent offenders." But he argued that more is necessary to ensure equal treatment under the law making it necessary to apply the new sentences retroactively, to prisoners currently serving time for crack cocaine offenses. Holder said:
President Obama and I, along with leaders across the Administration, understand how illegal drugsincluding crackravage communities. Crack offendersespecially violent onesshould be punished. And the Justice Department will make every effort to prosecute them. However, as years of experience and study have shown, there is simply no just or logical reason why their punishments should be dramatically more severe than those of other cocaine offendersa position that Congress overwhelmingly supported with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act.
The USSC is considering reducing the sentences [WP report] of some currently incarcerated on crack cocaine convictions by an average of three years. That could mean the release of one out of every 18 federal prisoners or about 12,000.
The Fair Sentencing Act amended existing law to reduce the current sentencing ratio from 100:1 to 18:1. Under the existing law passed in 1986, an individual possessing five grams of crack cocaine would receive a mandatory five-year prison sentence, while an individual possessing powder cocaine would need to have 100 times that amount to receive the same sentence. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] praised [press release] the bill's passage, stating that the old law also created a racial disparity, with African Americans comprising 79.8 percent of all offenders sentenced for crack cocaine violations. In April 2008, a study released by the USSC reported that more than 3,000 prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses had their sentences reduced [JURIST report] under an amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [materials]. In 2007, the USSC voted unanimously [JURIST report] to give retroactive effect to an earlier sentencing guideline amendment that reduced crack cocaine penalties.
[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] Tuesday approved a settlement agreement [text, PDF] in a privacy lawsuit against Google [corporate website] over its Buzz [website] social networking application, awarding damages to privacy groups previously left out of the original proposed settlement. Judge James Ware approved the revised settlement awarding $500,000 to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website] which had filed a complaint [text, PDF] with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] about Google Buzz, prompting an FTC lawsuit. The proposed settlement [text, PDF; JURIST report] forced Google to place $8.5 million dollars into a common fund to distribute to organizations that provide education regarding Internet privacy. The class counsel submitted a list of organizations, but others were able to apply for inclusion under cy pres, meaning awarding them damages was within the interests of the settlement. The court modified the list adding EPIC, saying:
the Court does not find good cause to exclude EPIC from the list of recipients of the cy pres funds. EPIC has demonstrated that it is a well-established and respected organization within the field of internet privacy and that it has sufficiently outlined how the cy pres funding will be used to further the interests of the class.
The lawsuit alleged that the Buzz application exposed private user data, including contact lists, to other Gmail users. Google stressed that the settlement did not mean that the company was admitting liability for the privacy breach and that the company has since resolved all privacy issues with the Buzz application. In March, the FTC settled a similar privacy lawsuit [JURIST report] against Google over charges that the Internet giant breached consumer privacy rights and was misleading during the launch of Buzz. The FTC alleges that when Google launched Buzz through its web-based email, Gmail, users were automatically enrolled without their consent and were unable to decline or leave the social network and that the Buzz privacy controls were confusing. Google has recently faced a number of allegations of violating privacy laws, both in the US and abroad. In November, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] confirmed that it is investigating [JURIST report] Google to determine if it violated communications laws when its Street View [JURIST news archive] vehicles inadvertently collected private user data, including passwords and URLs, over WiFi networks. In October, the FTC ended an inquiry [JURIST report] into the company's data collection through Street View cars after Google assured the FTC that it did not use any of the collected data and announced that it was committed to compliance with privacy laws [text], instituting new training on privacy principles and appointing a new director of privacy.
[JURIST] Iran's Parliament [official website, in Persian] voted on Wednesday to take President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to court for "illegally" declaring himself oil minister. Last month, Ahmadinejad fired minister of oil Masoud Mirkazemi in an effort to streamline his cabinets and took control of the ministry as a "caretaker." The parliament voted 165-1 with 13 abstentions [Trend report] to try Ahmadinejad in the judiciary, as appointing himself caretaker is an "obvious violation of the constitution." Ahmadinejad's next move will reportedly be an attempt to combine the ministry of oil and the ministry of energy, which has been denounced by a parliament report [text, PDF, in Persian]. Iran is the current rotating president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) [official website], and some have speculated that Ahmadinejad's actions were an effort to lead the OPEC conference in June [Reuters report]. He has agreed to send a different minister in his place.
Parliament's vote came just two days after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, endorsed Ahmadinejad [LAT report] and pleaded for he and the parliament to reconcile. Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the parliament have been at odds for the past few months. It is reported [LAT report] that the current move to become "caretaker" of the ministry of oil is in retribution for Khamenei overruling Ahmadinejad's decision to fire his chief intelligence officer. Although the Guardian Council, a group of clerics and jurists appointed by Khamenei and the parliament, already ruled that Khamenei could not serve as caretaker and president. He ignored their ruling. The president is free to appoint caretakers for ministers, but the caretaker may only stay in office for three months without parliamentary approval.
[JURIST] Bahrain on Wednesday lifted its emergency laws imposed in mid-March that allowed for a crackdown against journalists and opposition leaders. The move may be a sign that the uprising in Bahrain is winding down. Despite the lifting of the emergency laws, Bahrain filed charges [CNN report] against four opposition leaders in the Al Wefaq party [official website]. Parliamentary elections are set for September to replace the Al Wefaq ministers who left in protest of the emergency laws imposed. A day before lifting the emergency laws, Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official website] called on his country to have a national dialogue for reform [Aljazeera report] as the military pulled out of some areas of the capital Manama. But many protesters say that they will remain vigilant until their demands for democratic reform are met.
Last month, a Bahrain court unanimously upheld death sentences [JURIST report] for two men convicted of killing police officers during anti-government protests in March. The court reduced the death sentences [JURIST report] of two others to life in prison. The four men were tried in a special court under the emergency laws, during the Shiite-led protests in Bahrain. The special court and other measures implemented under emergency law have been heavily criticized by various human rights groups. Nabeel Rajab, leader of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights [advocacy website] criticized the ruling, expressing his concern that the cases are politically motivated and an attempt for the government to stop protests. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has urged the government of Bahrain to release detained activists [JURIST report] and exercise restraint against protesters.
[JURIST] Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako said Tuesday that his country would appeal a refusal by the
International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to transfer two cases stemming from post-election violence to Kenyan courts. The ICC announced [press release] Monday that they were denying [decision, PDF] Kenya's request for the cases to be transferred, prompting Kenya to file a reply [text, PDF] Tuesday. Kenya initially asked that the six defendants [JURIST report], called the "Ocampo Six," be tried in Kenya, arguing the ICC should only intervene in situations where the nation is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute, citing article 19(b) of the Rome Statute [text]. The Ocampo Six are facing trial [JURIST reports] for allegedly inciting violence during and after the December 2007 Kenyan elections [JURIST news archive]. The ICC claimed jurisdiction due to doubts that Kenya was willing to fully investigate the matter. In response, the Kenyan government's reply requested that the ICC rule on two other motions they have filed: one requesting a leave for reply [text, PDF] and the other a "cooperation" request [text, PDF], asking for assistance with the investigation. The reply argues that the decision should not have been made without ruling on these other two issues:
These are matters of the greatest concern to the Government of Kenya not just because of the significance of cooperation in domestic investigations and proceedings other than those involving the six Suspects. Whether the Prosecutor should, and will, cooperate with the Government of Kenya is critical to the issue of the admissibility of the two cases presently before the ICC that will be further considered on appeal and/or at some later stage if and when there is any further application by any party to return jurisdiction to Kenya. Only by being allowed to reply to the Prosecutor's grave, but un-evidenced, allegations can the Government of Kenya ensure there is a record before the court of what its present response to those allegations may be, something of great potential importance for the deliberations of the Appeals Chamber and/or the Pre-Trial or Trial Chamber(s) at a later stage.
In his press release [text], Wako denounced the ICC reaching the decision without an oral argument and stated that an appeal is forthcoming. Kenya has five days to file.
The Ocampo Six include several high-ranking members of Kenya's government, the head of operations at Kass FM [official website] in Nairobi and the son of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta [Africa Within backgrounder]. Three of the men are members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) [party website], and the other three are members of the opposing Party for National Unity (PNU). The ODM suspects are charged with fomenting violence against PNU members following the 2007 elections because they believed the election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] to be rigged. In response, the PNU suspects are charged with the conspiring with the Mungiki criminal organization [Safer Access backgrounder, PDF] to attack members of the ODM party. The ICC summoned the suspects [JURIST report] after determining they would not be charged in Kenya for the alleged crimes. In April, Kenya requested that the ICC dismiss the case [JURIST report], arguing that the government is capable of prosecuting the six men domestically. Lawyers for the Ocampo Six called for the timely release of evidence [JURIST report] against their clients that month as well.
[JURIST] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] granted amnesty to political prisoners Tuesday including all members of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB) [party website; JURIST news archive], according to a presidential decree [text] published in Syrian state media. The move is seen as an attempt by Assad to defuse the 10-week uprising to overthrow the government. The decree frees all political prisoners whose crimes were committed before May 31, 2011. The amnesty also includes all members of MB and other political movements. The decree seems to have overturned [WSJ report] a law banning MB from the country in 1980. But opposition leaders have dismissed the move [Aljazeera report] and exiled leaders are meeting in Anatalya, Turkey, to discuss the future of the country. The government has reportedly been trying to put down the uprising using military force that has raised concern from human rights groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday published a report [text] claiming that the government of Syria is responsible for systematic abuse of its people from the beginning of the uprising on March 18. The report says: "[t]he nature and scale of abuses, which [HRW] research indicates were not only systematic, but implemented as part of a state policy, strongly suggest these abuses qualify as crimes against humanity." HRW called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions and, if necessary, hold Syria accountable in the International Criminal Court [official websites].
[JURIST] Spain's National Court on Monday indicted 20 Salvadorans for their roles in the killings of eight people in November 1989. The group is composed of ex-military officials and even a former defense minister. A notorious episode of El Salvador's 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], the "Jesuit Massacre" saw six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter shot dead by soldiers at the prestigious Central American University in San Salvador. At the time, CNN had reported that for years the extreme right of the US-backed conservative government had accused the Jesuits of siding with the leftist guerrilla rebels [CNN report] of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) during the war, and that uniformed troops searched the residences at the University two days before the shootings. Shortly before he was killed, one of the Jesuits spoke to CNN about the war, saying that they had become accused to the violence. Five of the slain priests were born in Spain. The case was filed using Spain's universal jurisdiction [JURIST news archive] law, which holds that some crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere. The court issued international warrants to Spanish police and Interpol, ordering that the accused appear before the Spanish courts within 10 days. Around 70,000 people were killed during El Salvador's civil war before a 1992 UN-brokered agreement brought peace to the country.
In the past decade, the US has made significant strides in prosecuting those involved in the El Salvadoran civil war. In April, the Obama administration charged [JURIST report] General Eugenio Vides Casanova, former defense minister of El Salvador, for human rights crimes committed during the civil war while he served as the country's top military officer. The US was also seeking to deport [La Pagina report, in Spanish] Vides, who retired in Florida after completing his six-year term as defense minister. In 2006, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld a $55 million verdict [JURIST report] against Vides and his co-defendant Jose Guillermo Garcia for allowing torture and other human rights violations during the war. In 2005, a US federal court reached a verdict against Nicolas Carranza, top commander of El Salvador's security forces during the civil war, for $2 million in compensatory damages [JURIST report]. The case was brought by five Salvadoran citizens who alleged torture or had family killed by Carranza's soldier during the war. In 2000, however, the US lost the battle to seek justice for the murders of four American churchwomen [NYT report] during the civil war when both Vides and Garcia were acquitted. The ruling was grounded in the doctrine that the generals, although responsible for their soldiers, may not have had complete effective power to reign in the abuses of their troops.
[JURIST] Russia's Federal Security Service on Tuesday arrested the suspected shooter in the widely publicized 2006 murder [JURIST report] of famed journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Rustam Makhmudov was arrested [CNN report] at his parents' home in Chechnya almost five years after the killing as two of his brothers and a former police officer await trial for the murder in Moscow. A district court acquitted those three men in February 2009 due to a lack of prosecutorial evidence, but the Russian Supreme Court vacated the acquittal and ordered a reinvestigation of the case [JURIST reports]. Makhmudov will also be taken to Moscow as part of the investigation. A human rights activist and fierce critic of the Kremlin, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in an elevator of her apartment building in Moscow as she was returning home on an October afternoon. Politkovskaya investigated human rights abuses in Chechnya and high-level corruption across Russia, and her death raised concerns about the safety of journalists and other critics of the government. At the time she was working for the low-circulation independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta where she was writing reports on Chechnya. Her death was widely believed to be a contract killing.
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